Tech-Strategies for Self-Storage Builders

Today, Customers Expect Technology

As a self-storage builder, this might sound familiar to you: More and more customers are asking for technology every year.

It was easy enough until now: You know software and gate access systems, and they were easy to recommend - it didn't affect your sale.

A few years ago, though, Janus started selling their Noke entrance system that equip whole facilities, also the units, with smart locks for instant access. By bundling self-storage construction with technology, they've changed what prospects expect.

Your product & services might be superior, but suddenly, customers want you to offer tech to match Janus. And if you don't, you might lose the sale.

It's not fair! After all, as a builder, you're used to solving problems. No matter what cables, locks, or other hardware your customers want - you'll make it work.

But convenience is becoming commonplace. Prospects want bundles. They want you to tell them that you have the tech and everything will be alright.

Your customers want technology. So, where do you start?

Build, Buy, or Partner for Electronic Locks?

Janus bought their access solution, Noke, as a startup; it's safe to assume they paid millions for it. But what's the best strategy for you? Should you build or buy your own?

So, just for argument's sake, let's assume you had the cash in the bank to create your solution - there would be two ways:

  • Build it from scratch. It will take several 100,000 $ to build. A great team of experts will take a year at least; realistically expect two.
  • Buy a startup. It costs millions but will save you a lot of time.

Congratulations! You've either created or bought a computer hardware business. Running it will take new skills, different marketing. You turned yourself into a tech company. Is this what you wanted to do?

In all seriousness, realistically, another option will be the obvious choice for many:

  • Partner with an access solution provider. This sounds like a win-win. You will sell someone else's hardware, make additional revenue, and easily compete with Janus.

If you are fortunate enough, building or buying might actually be an option for you. But, for the vast majority, partnering will be the only choice. So, how do you go about it?

How Selling Smart Locks Changes Your Biz

Imagine you've found the ideal partner. You've negotiated to receive a cut of the profits in hardware sales. In turn, you will take over sales & support in your region.

Well done! So how does this impact your business?

Let's look at the numbers first: At an average self-storage facility size, smart locks cost around 200 $ per unit. Your cut of the profits might be anywhere at up to 30 %.

The profit-side looks good. But how does it affect your sales? Bundling your construction services with smart locks, ask yourself this:

  • Higher Price: With smart locks added to the offer, prices will go up. How will your customers handle this? With complex products & services on offer, sales cycles will take longer, and fewer deals will close.
  • Technical Sales: Selling computer hardware, your buyers will ask you about networks, software integrations, and other IT-related things. You'll figure it out with every sale - but it might be a bumpy process for a while.
  • Electronic Defects: It's not a question of if, but when a lock will fail. Not being able to enter their units is frustrating for tenants. Will operators see you as responsible?

We've seen instances where frustrated operators stopped using electronic locks altogether. But most of the time, it's not that dramatic. After a while, you'll arrive at a good working relationship, with few surprises.

In any case, it's safe to say that a partnership with a computer hardware company will change how you sell and support your clients - and will affect how they see you. Have a look at our list of electronic locks for self-storage for potential partners.

Is Copying Janus a Good Strategy?

Having partnered with tech company, you have now successfully copied Janus' strategy. Granted, a partnership is not as seamless as actually owning your own lock solution, but it's as close as you can get. But is a "me too" strategy a good thing?

Fair enough, selling smart locks is the most obvious thing to do. As an IT consultant, I did it myself for years and saw how clients resisted. For every operator who's excited to buy smart locks, there are ten who don't want to spend that kind of money - or simply cannot afford to.

For all of those - for the vast majority of the market - there's a different solution to their problem. A product that is easy to sell and support saves our buyer a lot of money while setting you apart from your competition - everything while making sure you still get to profit on every sale you make.

The solution you are looking for is combination padlocks. And a simple app.

Solve "Instant Access" with Padlocks & Rubik

When storage units are booked online, tenants want to access them right away. Digital locks are just one means. Imagine a traditional self-storage facility: PIN at the gate, padlocks at the units.

When a unit is vacant, put a simple combination padlock on the unit. Remember its code, and when a new tenant books it, send it to them via email or text. Instant access, solved!

As always, tenants will receive a gate code. The additional unit unlock code will open the combination padlock - and give them access to their unit any time of the day, without the need to hand over keys or deal with mobile apps.

So what's the downside of this approach?

First, you have to put a padlock on a unit when a tenant moves out. Given that you have to inspect units in any case, there is hardly additional work in this.

Second, you'll have a lot of locks to manage - and that's what we've built Rubik for. It's an easy app that helps manage padlocks and gets the unlock code to tenants when they book and notifies managers when a recently vacated unit needs to be locked.

Builder can help operators solve instant access while saving several 10,000 $ on smart locks.

Profit by Partnering with Rubik

When including Rubik in your offer, you can charge a premium for your work and still outcompete competitors that sell expensive electronic locks.

Rubik offers benefits beyond that: As a Rubik partner, you will receive a commission for all business customers you bring - ongoing software commissions as well as one-off shares for lock sales.

Interested? Get in touch with our founder, Sebastian, at to find out how we can work together.

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