Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Do Your Discounts Change Behavior?

(1:06) Isn't the point of a discount to change behavior? Whether it's an early bird special to bring in diners when tables are empty or travel discounts during off-peak times, businesses use incentives to attract customers when business is slow.

(0:59) Wikipedia defines an incentive program as "a formal scheme used to promote or encourage specific actions or behavior by a specific group of people during a defined period of time."

(0:53) You may think that this seems obvious, right? And yet, few marinas actually accomplish this. Instead, they rush to offer across-the-board discounts to almost any boating group that requests one. Fed-up with all of these discounts, some marinas now refuse to provide any incentives. Both of these behaviors are a detriment to your business.

(0:45) Carefully planned, executed, and measured incentive programs can add to your bottom line, bring in new and returning customers, and help you stand out. The key is picking an incentive that will actually modify behavior and then timing it so that it adds to, rather than subtracts from, your business.

(0:38) Think about the typical discounts available today. A boater simply claims, or occasionally must show, that they are a member of one of many boating organizations and they receive about a 10% discount off the transient rate.

(0:32) First, these discounts have become so common that they are no longer discounts but simply the new price you are charging. Then you usually must offer these discounts on your busiest weekend as well as on your slowest days. And because of the two previous problems the discounts are so watered down that they no longer truly change behavior. I've been at marina check-in desks where a boater walks into the office to pay and then asks, "Do you have XYZ discount?" Let's face it, they were coming to the marina already. The discount failed to do its job.

(0:16) Given the variety of factors that go into selecting a transient stop, is 10% enough to modify my behavior or simply something I will ask for when I'm going there anyway?

(0:10) I believe there's a better way. A way to focus your discounts to gain maximum impact and have an actual positive effect on your business. It may take more time, more thought, and more planning, but it will also be more rewarding.

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

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Make Sure It's Right

(0:54) Occasionally, I see reviews that deduct stars because of incorrect information in the Details section of a marina marker. We regularly instruct our users that the proper way to correct inaccurate data is to fix the data by editing the information themselves.

(0:48) When I'm alerted to these I will email the reviewer asking them to correct the information and then to modify the review based on their experience with the marina. It usually concludes with something like, "If the data is wrong, give ActiveCaptain a bad review, not the marina." But really that's not entirely accurate. The accuracy of the information in your marina marker is your responsibility as well.

(0:41) A marina has the same editing access to the information in ActiveCaptain that boaters have. I would argue that you have a greater obligation to keep your information accurate and up-to-date. After all, you have the most to gain.

(0:34) It is in the control of every marina to ensure that the data items in their marker are accurate. I would go so far as to say that if you truly cared about the boaters experience you will make it a priority to regularly check and update your marker information. Set a schedule and make it someone's job to do the checking. For most information, monthly or quarterly checks are probably often enough. If you sell fuel, the check should be done daily, weekly, or whenever your price changes. Don't leave it to chance. Set a reminder in your calendar.

(0:21) Start right now by going to your marker and checking every field in every tab. If a field is blank, fill it in. If it is incorrect, fix it. Make sure you are being accurate and realistic. Do not fudge or exaggerate. False information may bring a boater in but false expectations will only lead to a poor experience and a bad review.

(0:12) Remember, the Details section of your marker is for factual information only. Avoid subjective embellishments such as, "the best."

(0:06) Show boaters that you want their business. Give them the information they are looking for.

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

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Get Out On The Water

(0:58) A common complaint we see in marina reviews concerns boaters having difficulty when approaching the marina. I've done several Minutes concerning the importance of those first boater interactions. From the initial contact via phone or radio through tying the final line are arguably the the most important interactions you will have with a boater. Make sure that everyone at your marina who may be involved is knowledgeable enough to confidently direct the boater into your marina. The best way to do that is to ensure they have actual experience.

(0:46) Every person who's job involves communicating with a boater before or during their approach to your marina should be intimately familiar with how to make that approach from any direction. They should know where the water may be skinny, what landmarks there are to assist in spotting entrances, how the current will impact the approach. These are examples of information that must be conveyed accurately, confidently, and professionally. I think there is no better way to accomplish this than to have every staff member get out on the water to experience the approach first hand.

(0:32) Things look very different from the water. Landmarks that are obvious from shore can be hard or impossible to see from the water. Not only is the perspective different but visual indicators you take for granted can get lost in a mass of objects onshore all of which are new and unfamiliar to the boater. For example, we've received instructions that provided a specific boat name to dock behind; unfortunately, the boat was positioned so that the name was not visible from the water. This causes confusion and worry to the boater - the exact things you want to avoid.

(0:18) Make it an event. Take your staff out on the water and approach your marina in the same way a transient boater will. Look for buoys that are confusing or hard to see and know what side the boater must be on. Think about the instructions that are typically given and make sure they make sense from the water side. If not, make modifications to make them easier to follow. Write down those instructions so they are consistent and clearly delivered.

(0:08) Is there a hazard such as a shoal area or obstruction? Include warnings along with instructions about how to avoid the problem. Make a boater's approach to your marina a positive experience and you will set the stage for the entire stay. That will lead to return customers and positive reviews.

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

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Give Them What They Ask For

(0:56) A few weeks ago we did a piece in our ActiveCaptain newsletter about updating markers with fitness information. Several boaters had emailed us with the request for more information about where and how they could stay fit while cruising. Knowing there's no better source of this sort of information than ActiveCaptain users we put the request out. We were blown away by the response. It was the largest we ever received for a newsletter item.

(0:43) On the chance that you are still not receiving our weekly newsletter or if you need to hear something more than once for it to have an impact, listen up. Make sure that your marker has complete, up-to-date information about the fitness options at or near your marina.

(0:37) For some of you this will mean including information about facilities you have on site. We have stayed at marinas with very nice workout rooms, pools where you can do laps, and grounds that have terrific paths for walking or jogging. Let boaters know about these important amenities.

(0:30) But it doesn't stop there. Make sure you are aware of what is available in the surrounding areas. YMCA's, gyms, workout centers such as Curves, public pools, classes, parks, etc. can all offer boaters a way to get a workout while at your marina. Consider places a boater can walk or bike to, as well as places that are accessible by public transportation or a courtesy car. You may need to do some snooping to turn up all the possibilities but it can be worth it if it helps bring in the boaters.

(0:19) And don't forget resources that may be available within your liveaboard or transient communities. We heard from many fellow cruisers who are trained yoga, Zumba, Tai Chi, Martial Arts, and other types of fitness instructors. Do you have a place where classes could be offered? We've been at a marina where a yoga class was offered in a lovely field by the water.

(0:10) I think boaters are speaking loud and clear that staying fit while underway is increasingly important. Make sure you are listening to their request and giving them what they're asking for. It can mean more business for your marina because it will often cause a boater to stay longer than a night or two.

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