Tim Slesinger, CEO and Nigel Dawson, Franchise Director were interviewed this week by Jordan Choo of the Franchise Marketing Podcast.
This fascinating interview can be found here: Building a Strong Moat by Creating a Sub-Niche For Your Franchise
We don’t want to throw out any spoilers, but here’s a ‘time pressed cheat’s report.
The two explained how they met and came together to co-found easyStorage, a franchise business under the well-known easy brand. Whilst in the podcast, they detail their paths to arrive at this point, in a nutshell, Tim had the storage experience; Nigel brought the franchise expertise. The rest is, as they say, history.
Traditional UK storage is massively expensive, mostly because storage is driven by events in the UK. There’s an old storage maxim for what makes people want or need storage: ‘death, divorce and disaster’. In the US, by contrast, storage is more of an ongoing lifestyle support.
By thinking outside the box, Slesinger and Dawson have, as easyStorage, been able to evolve (and to continue evolving) their business model.
In the UK, locations for storage units are traditionally central and expensive propositions. By investing money in more efficient storage spaces, and streamlining processes by using technology to cut costs, they’ve managed to slash prices to around half of what traditional storage would cost AND offer a great service to customers.
"What we're trying to do is we're trying to find a business with a wide and long-lasting moat around it, surround it -- protecting a terrific economic castle with an honest lord in charge of the castle."
This is the quote that Slesinger refers to as part of their strategy.
Because of the investment that would be required to copy their model, they’ve been able to ‘Build a Moat’ around smart self storage (mobile storage). The biggest barrier to entry is the high investment they’ve made.
The team make it clear that the easyStorage offering is price driven. They’re not getting involved in an unsustainable race to the bottom where prices are concerned, and if others want to undercut, let them. It can’t be maintained.
They use data analytics to see what and what isn’t working and constantly adjust their operations and marketing to optimise this.
For example, each franchisee sets their pricing on the basis of their local market. The effect of any price change, any marketing campaign can be instantly seen.
They are fierce about great service. It makes sound business sense as they are well aware that referrals are their best source of new business and that customer service at the right price what persuades people to recommend – and to stay.
Alongside referrals, they partner and reward recommendations, working with organisations such as care homes to reward their customers with discounts and them with a thank you for the referral.
In terms of paid marketing, they rate PPC for driving consumers looking for storage, but warn that this needs managing carefully. For franchisees, word of mouth works just as well as for consumers, but they’re missing the normal franchise exhibitions, and are not huge fans of the online exhibitions that are being tried to replace them.
Nigel is an industry leader, and he and Tim offered fabulously concise advice:
• Clarify your proposition
• Test it out
• Be transparent
• Honesty is the best policy ‘warts and all’
• Understand your obligations to franchisees
• Create sound financial models for both you and for the franchisees
Like every other part of the business: review, test and check constantly.
Even their choice of ‘heroes’ shows just how well matched they are to run easyStorage.
Tim’s personal favourite book is Trailblazer, by Marc Benioff; and within the franchise industry he looks up to Stelios, the company’s brand partners, and Richard Branson, who he admires greatly.
Nigel’s inspiration is, like his marketing, much more personal, citing a former manager James Hogg.
I’ve taken notes for you here, but this was a rich interview, and more fun than the average podcast.
Recommended listening for start up founders, franchisors and markers alike.
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