Tuesday, January 29, 2013

What's a Bitter End???

(0:56) In my fantasy world every dockhand I encounter would know exactly how to tie up my boat in the manner I like. Well, that and fuel would be 50 cents a gallon and chocolate would have no calories. But now I'm really dreaming.

(0:50) As I've discussed in previous Minutes, the encounter between the boater and the dockhand taking the lines at the dock is critical. It is the first personal encounter and can set the stage for the entire stay. Make sure that every dockhand is well trained, knowledgeable, and listens to the boater.

(0:44) The first two are the easy ones which can be handled with good training and oversight of new dockhands. For example, ensure they know what to do with the line whether they are handed the eye or the bitter end. They should know how to secure my lines professionally. Can they secure the eye so it doesn't bounce off the cleat? Do they know how to properly cleat off the bitter end? The most common mistake we encounter is a dockhand who ties our flared bow in too tightly making it impossible to pull in the stern.

(0:32) The more difficult skill, but also the more important one, is really listening to the boater. A terrific dockhand will follow the boater's instructions, if given, as the boater will best know how their boat handles and what the issues are. If needed, the dockhand can offer advice on issues the boater may not be aware of like an unexpected eddy, for example.

(0:22) A truly skilled dockhand can gauge the confidence and experience of the crew and offer more instruction if needed. Suggest a spring line rather than the bow line, particularly if the current could swing the boat perpendicular to the dock. And if the dockhand knows whether the spring line should go forward or aft they may even receive a marriage proposal.

(0:12) Of course, in the ideal situation you would always be able to hire extremely experienced and knowledgeable dockhands to fill every position. But in the real world that isn't always possible so make sure to take the time to train them properly. After all, they are the first ambassadors the boater meets at your marina. Make sure the boater's experience starts off on the right foot.

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

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Message Timing

(0:59) If you read my Minutes on the ZMOT concept then you understand about how technology and the Internet have changed the way consumers make their decisions. If you missed them you can always find past Minutes on my blog:

(0:51) Traditionally, advertising was heavily geared toward branding of products and services. There was only limited access to the customer at the moment of truth. The long lead times of paper, TV, or other past media prevented closely targeting the message. So companies relied on massive campaigns of repetition with the hope customers would remember them when making their decisions.

(0:43) It's now a whole different world. Newsweek recently printed its last paper copy making it just another of the myriad of traditional media outlets that have changed or folded.

(0:38) The most cost effective way to meaningfully reach customers today and into the future is timing your message to the moment they are making their buying decisions. Splashing your message across magazines, banner ads, and billboards hoping customers will remember you when the time arrives is no longer a wise strategy. Today it is critical to the success of any business that they be present and engaged with the information consumers need at the moment they need it. If you are not there then, you may lose out to someone who is.

(0:25) So how do you reach your potential customers when they are in the process of making their decisions? Don't sit on the sidelines or waste valuable resources. Instead, become part of the customer's experience.

(0:19) According to Kim Kadlec of Johnson & Johnson, "The traditional ad model is interrupting content, but the question now is: 'How do you become a part of the content?' How do you weave into somebody's experience in a way that's beneficial rather than detracting from that experience? That's the challenge and the opportunity."

(0:12) She's right. It's time to get off the sidelines and consider how you can make your message part of the action. It's a subtle and powerful technique. It requires getting in the middle of the content that the customer is exploring to perfectly time the delivery of your message to the moment of their discovery. Make that discovery easy and your phone will ring off the hook with new business.

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

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Adopt a Shoal

(0:58) ActiveCaptain works because it is real. It provides the kind of honest, accurate information that today's consumers have come to expect. Gloss and hype and superlatives no longer work. I've talked about this in my ZMOT series and in advice about presenting your marina in the best light. The most common reason a marina loses stars in a review is when the boater's expectations don't match reality. So it is important that you ensure the boaters experience is positive and that they do not meet with the unexpected, unless of course it's an unexpected positive.

(0:44) Based on boater feedback the ActiveCaptain hazard markers are one of the most appreciated aspects of what we do. Why? Because they help remove uncertainty. They make the inevitable issues boaters encounter along the way more manageable.

(0:37) When we first introduced the hazard markers we had marinas that contacted us wanting the ones near them removed. It didn't happen. They didn't realize that it was the best thing for boaters as well as an incredible benefit to the marina.

(0:29) You see, the hazard, whether it is shoaling, an underwater obstruction, or a missing marker, exists whether there is a yellow marker on it or not. If a boater encounters that hazard on their way to your marina they will be having a bad experience. However, if they can be warned and even offered information about how to avoid the hazard, there is no bad experience.

(0:21) So now there are marinas that have taken on the task of keeping hazard markers near them up-to-date and accurate. Some contact local towing services or the Coast Guard, and some even periodically take a skiff out to measure depths and check on current conditions.

(0:14) If you have areas that boaters will encounter on their way to your marina that can cause problems, don't try to hide them, shine a light on them, and help the boater arrive safely at your facility. Adopt a hazard near you and make it your goal to keep the information current. Put a comment on the hazard with your marina's name to let them know the information is real local knowledge. The boating community will benefit and so will you.

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

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Open WiFi

(1:00) I periodically hear from marinas wanting advice on whether or not they should password protect their WiFi systems. They are typically thinking about it from a sales and marketing perspective. Do they limit the service to only paying customers or is it better to keep access easy and open? It's true that there is a balance between maintaining the value of the services you are offering while keeping the customer experience positive, but in the case of WiFi there is something much more important to consider.

(0:49) You should absolutely have your WiFi password protected. The reason is a technical one that if not followed could lead to poor customer service. If your marina WiFi system is open and does not have a password you are putting every boater who uses it at risk. We've covered this topic in several ActiveCaptain newsletters over the past couple of years telling boaters how to protect themselves. But I felt it was just as important that marinas understand the issues so that you can provide boaters with the best and safest service possible.

(0:34) Leaving your WiFi open exposes unsuspecting boaters to being compromised by hackers or mischief makers (that 14 year old in the condo nearby). It can allow them to gain access to boaters personal accounts such as Facebook or Twitter, and even obtain passwords to their bank accounts or other secure sites. This is a real threat.

(0:25) We have advised boaters on ways they can protect themselves when they encounter open, unprotected WiFi. But by stepping up and ensuring that you are already providing them with the most security possible you are showing them that you are knowledgeable and care about the safety and security of your customers.

(0:18) Best of all, protecting them is actually pretty simple. First, always require a password to use your WiFi system. Second, make sure that your WiFi system is configured with WPA or WPA2 encryption and NOT WEP. If you don't know what that is, ask whoever maintains your system for you. Have them change it if needed. Even if you publicly display the WPA password, all users on the router are protected from the open WiFi hacking.

(0:06) Doing these simple things can help ensure that boaters are protected and have a positive experience will visiting your marina.

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

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

It's a New Year!

(0:33) Personally I am not fond of the idea of New Year's resolutions. Too often they're unrealistic and short lived. But I have always used the mark of a new year to examine my life, assess what I have accomplished over the past year, and think about the coming year. With that in mind I took a look back over the Marina Minutes I had written. I marveled that it has been nearly a year since I started and I thought about which ones had been my favorites. I chose three Minutes that I believe if followed would have the biggest impact on your business. Now's a good time to check them out if you missed them or to read them again if you didn't.

(0:20) Don't Guess, Ask, 01/31/2012 Too many marinas are still unsure of where their business is coming from. Make this the year you stop wasting your valuable marketing dollars. Make sure to ask every boater who comes to your marina what brought them there:

(0:15) The "Wow" Factor, 03/27/2012 The easiest way to keep boaters coming back while generating positive word-of-mouth marketing along the way is to do something different, something more than they expect. Something that will make them go "Wow":

(0:10) Increasing Reviews - Asking, 07/03/2012 One of the most common questions I receive is how to get more boaters to write reviews. Marinas realize that to obtain the biggest bang they need to not only have positive reviews, they need to have lots of them. Nothing will do that faster than simply asking:


(0:04) I wish you much success in the coming year!

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