Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Increasing Reviews - Preparation

(1:03) One of the most common questions I receive when working with marinas is, "How can I increase my number of reviews." I'm going to take a few Marina Minutes to explore this and look at what has become a critical component of business success today - customer reviews.

(0:55) Whether you are selling a product, a slip, or a service in a marina you can not ignore the role played by customer reviews. The hotel and restaurant industries were the first to enter this arena and after more than a decade have many lessons to offer.

(0:46) First, make no mistake, good, unbiased customer reviews are good for business. The Harvard Business School did a study that showed that a 1-star increase in a restaurant's Yelp rating translates into a 5-9% increase in revenues. This shows that it's not just the number of reviews but also the number of stars that are import. And increasing your average requires some preparation.

(0:34) The best way to get a positive review is to create an experience boaters will find worth talking about. Make sure that expectations are exceeded and consider the amenities or experiences you can offer that will get boaters talking. Never oversell what you offer as this can easily backfire and lead to a negative response which we see often. Rather under-promise and over-deliver. On ActiveCaptain there are as many low-key, basic marinas with high ratings as high as resort style ones.

(0:19) Make sure you have a great team in place and that they are prepared. The more positive interactions a boater has the more likely they are to write a positive review. Your staff needs to understand the importance of reviews and ways to be involved. Set goals and make a habit of sharing boater reviews with your staff so they can see the things being done well and the things that need improving.

(0:06) A focus on consistently providing exceptional service will increase the number of positive reviews you receive.

(0:02) And that's the marina minute.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

There's Nothing Like Free

(0:53) Some time ago I received a phone call from an ActiveCaptain Partner wanting to discuss an idea they had for a special. I love bouncing around ideas and feel great when I can help someone come up with something new and unexpected. I asked what they were thinking of.

(0:46) "We want to offer free slips for a month." After making sure I had heard it correctly, I asked why.

(0:43) It seems the marina had just completed a massive transformation from a rundown boatyard to a stunning state of the art facility. Unfortunately, the slips were practically empty. They felt if boaters could simply experience what they had, they would stay, come back, and tell other boaters. I thought it was a terrific idea.

(0:35) So for one month all the slips were free. Free for one night; free for one week; free for the whole month.

(0:32) You'd think they were crazy - think of the money they were losing. But three months later the marina was practically full of paying boaters and is still that way today, years later. Some boaters came for the free month and stayed. Some came and told other boaters what a terrific facility it was and those boaters came. Some had simply heard the buzz and wanted to check them out even though the slips where no longer free.

(0:20) My point is not that you should offer your dockage for free. My point is that if you want a big change you need to try something big. Too often businesses are paralyzed by thinking of what they believe they are losing rather than thinking about what they can gain.

(0:13) Whether the change you are seeking is huge or modest, it is more likely to happen if you are willing to change and try something different. Think beyond the same tired marketing choices that are so common and uninteresting. Make it your goal to try one thing that you haven't done before. After all, nothing ventured is nothing gained.

(0:02) And that's the marina minute.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Think Different

(1:07) I wrote about how creating a buzz can bring you valuable word of mouth marketing. I believe the best way to do this is to Think Different - provide boaters with the unexpected.

(1:01) Now I'd like to offer some ideas that may be different from what you have considered in the past. Think of them as inspiration and not as an all inclusive list. Think about what you can offer that may be unique for your marina.

(0:54) Do you have a service available that boaters need? Consider wooing them in with a special combining that service with their dockage. Think beyond what you alone offer and consider other businesses in the area - divers, routine engine maintenance, and canvas work are just a few that come to mind.

(0:45) Spend Two Nights, Detail Your Boat: Come in and spend two nights at My Marina and receive 30% off your slip price. In addition receive 30% off the cost of detailing your boat. Requires reservation 48 hours in advance to schedule boat detailing.

(0:38) Team with the local tourist association to help bring in boaters to the community. The boaters filling your marina will also be spending money at the nearby businesses.

(0:33) Sightseeing Special: Stay for two nights at My Marina and receive two free passes to XYZ Museum (or aquarium or other local attraction).

(0:29) Work with a local rental car company to obtain special rates on their slowest day. They rent more cars and you fill more slips.

(0:25) Dock and Drive: Reserve a slip for a Tuesday night and we'll provide a one day car rental so you can provision or just take in the sights.

(0:18) Don't limit the possibilities. Get your staff to brainstorm, talk to other businesses in your community and then give something a try. Don't forget to track your results, modify if needed, and most importantly, keep trying. You won't find success with all ideas but something will click as you explore and learn about what works for your situation.

(0:08) As Wayne Gretzky, arguably the most successful and talented hockey player that has ever played, once stated, "You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don't take."

(0:02) And that's the marina minute.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Create a Buzz

(0:59) Ask five marketers to name the five most critical components that affect sales and you'll get five different lists. But I'm confident all will include successful word-of-mouth marketing as one of the components. Customers talking to customers can be pure gold. And the best way to get them talking is to do something memorable, different, maybe even a bit wacky.

(0:48) You need to think beyond the standard BoatUS or other affiliation discounts. These discounts have become so commonplace that they're hardly discounts any longer. Not only do they fail to have a significant impact, they end up forcing you to provide the same boring special whether you have slips to fill or your docks are full. On the busiest day in July when you're turning away other boaters, you'll still be offering those price breaks. That's not a good way to maximize income.

(0:34) Instead consider offering specials that are timely and out of the ordinary. Doesn't it make more sense to match your specials to your varying needs and your unique advantages? Offer something that makes you stand apart from your competition and not fade into the crowd. You can be in control by offering your specials when you need to generate more business.

(0:25) This requires thinking beyond the standard discounts. It could mean a truly deep discount but can also mean offering something a little out of the ordinary. Think about what your marina can offer that sets it apart. But don't stop there. Is there another business or service nearby that you can partner with to offer a unique experience, a much needed service, or a convenience? The key is in providing what you can offer that is different from the competition matched with something your customers need.

(0:11) Can't think of anything different? I explore some possibilities in the Minutes "Think Different" and "There's Nothing Like Free", some ideas that go beyond the ordinary by combining services and timing deep discounts. Then I'll tell you about one marina that turned things around by offering slips for free. Yes, free. Trust me, it created quite a buzz.

(0:02) And that's the marina minute.