Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Can a Negative Review Be Positive?

(0:55) We all like to hear compliments. This is true personally and in our business lives. While it is always a good sign if your customers are happy and it's helpful to know what you are doing right, you can learn more from one honest negative review than from a dozen positive ones. Do not shrink from a negative review; embrace it, learn from it, react to it, and turn it into a positive for your marina.

(0:45) The issue is not receiving a negative review. You'll all get one sooner or later. It's what you do afterwards. Let's be honest, there's room for improvement in all of us. The best way to find out what you can do better is to listen to what your customers are saying.

(0:38) The reality is that you will find no more honest assessment of your marina than through boater reviews. The old channels of communication with customers tended to create a disconnect making it more difficult to discover your customers' honest feelings. That is no longer the case. Today your customers expect to communicate directly in ways that amplify their thoughts and opinions. You need to be listening.

(0:26) It is critical that you have a strategy for reacting to boater complaints. The simple act of acknowledging a complaint or problem will increase the goodwill boaters have for your marina. After all, we all want to be heard. By listening and responding to boaters' reviews, you can create long-term loyal customers.

(0:18) A study by Maritz Research conducted in 2011 on businesses response to negative reviews found that 83% of the survey participants who received a response said they liked or loved hearing from the company they complained about. Our experience is that many of these boaters will go on to modify their review making it more positive.

(0:10) Do not think of a negative review as all bad. They offer you the best opportunity to find out where you may be letting your customers down or what new amenities they are looking for. Use negative reviews as a guide for what you can do better. Knowing where and how boaters want you to improve allows you to focus on the improvements that will bring you more business.

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

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

To Facebook or Not To Facebook

(0:57) I'm chatting with a marina owner about the best way to fill his empty spaces when he suddenly asks, "Should I get a Facebook page?" "Why would you do that?" I ask. "To get more customers," he replies. "How will that bring you more customers?" No reply.

(0:49) It's easy to feel like you're missing the boat - pun intended - when there's a new idea or medium available that you are not using. But to use any medium effectively you need to understand what it can and cannot do for you.

(0:42) Like any tool, there are things that Facebook does well and things it is not well suited for. In my opinion, having a Facebook page is a good way to communicate and keep your current base of customers happy and loyal to your marina. Remember the adage that it's far easier to keep your existing customers than to bring in new ones. However, I question the likelihood that a Facebook page will actually draw in new customers. After all, my "Friends" are, well, already my friends.

(0:30) If you have an active boater community within your marina - a liveaboard community, yacht/boating club, or other regular group of boaters - then a Facebook page is a great way to let them know about upcoming events and happenings, share pictures of get-togethers, and make them feel more involved and part of the group. These are very real benefits for your marina.

(0:21) If you do decide that it makes sense to create your own Facebook page then make sure that it is regularly updated with news, photos, information about events past and future, etc. In today's world of instant access your customers expect your content to be fresh. A stale Facebook page is worse than no Facebook page at all.

(0:13) So what can you do that will bring in new boaters through Facebook? What you are hopefully already doing. Offer every boater a superior experience. Give them reasons to talk about your marina and some of them will talk about it on their Facebook pages. This will offer another critical word-of-mouth medium that will get your marina in front of new customers in a positive light. After all, many of my Facebook friends are fellow boaters.

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

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Can You Hear Your Customers?

(0:55) Every Monday morning we send out a fuel update email to marinas in our database. If you have fuel and don't receive one please let me know. If you do not carry fuel and still receive one, click on the Edit link to turn them off.

(0:48) After the 10,000+ emails go out we receive a report on the email addresses that have come back to us. Amazingly the number one reason is an "over quota" or "storage exceeded" error. The number two reason is an invalid email address. These errors occur despite being sent to the contact email listed on the marina's website.

(0:38) Now I'd like to think that you are distraught by the mere thought of missing an ActiveCaptain email. But what should really be bothering you is that if our emails are bouncing back then so are communications from potential customers. Make sure that you are hearing your customers when they try to reach you.

(0:30) Check to ensure the email addresses you list on your website are good and that goes for contact forms too. As soon as you finish the Marina Minute go to your website and try to send an email communication. Make sure you do not receive an error and that it has been received by someone in your organization that will reply. If this doesn't happen, put "get the problem fixed" at the top of your to-do list.

(0:20) I've heard the arguments about too much spam, the boater can just call on the phone, etc. That's the wrong answer. You need to communicate in the manner that is the most convenient for your customers, not for you. Today many boaters will make their initial contact via email. Make sure you are not turning them away.

(0:12) Yes, spam is a terrible nuisance, get a good spam filter and just deal with the rest. Did you shut off your phone in the days of telemarketers?

(0:08) Making communication easy, friendly, and responsive with potential and existing customers is critical to expanding your business and keeping the customers you have. Make sure that you're listening whenever and however they are trying to reach you.

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

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Heart Your Customers

(0:51) What if you had a way to offer an invaluable service to boaters, possibly save lives, all while bringing more boaters to your facility? I know a way you can. Offer CPR courses for boaters at your marina.

(0:46) CPR is a life saving skill that should be learned by everyone. It becomes even more important when you spend some or all of your time living on a boat where medical help is just that much more difficult. The skill is simple and chances are you will be saving someone you love.

(0:39) Over the past few years we have developed a 2 hour Medical Emergencies Onboard course. Response from boaters has been tremendous with over 2,000 boaters having attended. It tells us there is a real need to fill. Whenever we are invited to do our presentation I strongly urge the organization hosting to consider including a CPR course as well.

(0:30) I now want to urge every marina to periodically offer CPR at your facility. It is important enough to draw in boaters who want to have this valuable life-saving skill. In addition, the CPR certificate expires every 2-3 years so offering the course will give boaters a reason to come back to your marina again. Having been a CPR instructor, I think it is valuable to refresh one's skills even more often.

(0:20) Finding certified CPR instructors is pretty simple. Contact the Red Cross, the American Heart Association, or your local fire department/ambulance squad. Fees should be very reasonable and sometimes all they ask is a donation to their organization.

(0:14) You can pass the fee along to boaters or offer the course for free if they dock for a day or two at your facility. Either way you are giving them a reason to come to your marina and creating terrific goodwill.

(0:08) Don't forget to train your staff. Everyone at your marina should be skilled in CPR so that they can provide assistance if needed whether for a fellow employee or a boater. Saving someone's life will be one of the best feelings you will ever have.

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

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

My Advertising Philosophy

(1:05) I've been involved in sales and marketing for 3 decades. During that time I have worked for a variety of companies from Fortune 500 to small start-ups, including a few of our own. I received my MBA pre-Internet when ad campaigns where planned out far in advance as companies had to meet the long delays involved in print and other media of the day. Costs where generally high and it was difficult for small players with limited budgets to participate.

(0:54) Back then large established companies generally had the advantage as they could afford the money and time it took to complete an ad campaign. Times have changed and new times call for new methods. Today, small, nimble, and fast can win if you use those characteristics to your advantage.

(0:46) Advertising successfully today calls for greater flexibility and accountability. I believe there are four requirements which must be met to obtain this success:

(0:41) 1. No long term, inflexible advertising campaigns. Long term, expensive, inflexible advertising campaigns are only good for the organization that is selling the advertising. Flexibility is key today and you must be able to change your tactics when they do not work or circumstances change.

(0:34) 2. Advertising results must be immediate and measurable. If anyone tries to sell you advertising and tells you that there's no way to know if there's an impact until months or years have passed, walk away. With results that are immediate and obvious, you can decide what works and what doesn't and then adjust.

(0:25) 3. You must be able to experiment to find what works. The old ways are gone, the new world is evolving. Success requires flexibility, speed, and experimentation. You need to be able to try things, maybe crazy things. That wild idea might just be the thing that speaks to boaters and brings them in. There should be no time constraints when you're experimenting because that limits your explorations.

(0:13) 4. It's all about partnerships. Creating win-win relationships creates a very powerful engine of success. Not only are the organizations around you part of those partnerships, your customers need to be your partner too. That will create long-term, passionate customers who will tell everyone they know about you. And on the internet, everyone talks.

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