Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Welcome Packet

(0:54) I've touched on the concept of the Welcome Packet in previous Minutes. It's a grossly underutilized marketing tool that is so important I decided to dedicate a few Minutes solely to them.

(0:48) After visiting hundreds of marinas over the years, I have found that 75% do not provide a Welcome Packet at all. Most of the other 25% provide something that's inadequate, outdated, or both. That means the vast majority of marinas are missing out on an incredible opportunity.

(0:41) You may be wondering how it could impact your marketing given the boater is already at your facility. It's basic. What you offer boaters is a service and any service industry is all about the customer experience. Providing a great experience will bring boaters back again and again. We all know it's far easier to keep an existing customer than to win a new one. The best way to keep boaters coming back and increase your word of mouth marketing is to offer the best customer experience possible.

(0:30) The typical transient boater coming into your marina knows little to nothing about the features available in and around your marina. Yet we are all looking for a variety of services, amenities, and activities while we are there. Who better to inform us than you? After all, this is your home port. It's not enough to grab the lines and point to the marina office. As one fellow cruiser told us recently, "What peeves me is that they don't tell you everything."

(0:19) Boaters are then forced to seek out what they need (trash, showers, laundry) and are likely to miss the great unexpected things, such as a boaters' potluck, a Tuesday night special at a local restaurant, a hot tub, exercise facilities, or an exceptional local ice cream shop. And let's face it, it's the great experiences that we all remember and talk about.

(0:10) Don't treat your Welcome Packet like a checkoff item. Make it something boaters will find appealing. Make sure the content is relevant and up to date. And even offer something unexpected. Do it well and you will be rewarded many times over with repeat business and new referrals.

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

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Don't Be Afraid

(1:02) Fear is a powerful motivator. It is something that marketers know and sometimes utilize. Who hasn't seen an ad for the nightly news that says something like, "Something in your home right now can cause sudden death. Tune in at 11 to find out what it is." Now excuse me, but if they truly cared about my well-being they'd just go ahead and tell me what it was.

(0:52) I'm not bringing this up because I think you need to use fear to attract more boaters. Quite the opposite. We're out here on the water to enjoy ourselves.

(0:47) I'm discussing it because I repeatedly see "internet and social media marketers" preying on marinas' fears about negative reviews. I've received emails that say, "We all know that only unhappy customers write reviews." Oh, really? Or, "Online review sites make it easy for disgruntled customers or competitors to do damage to your brand."

(0:38) It might be OK if what they said was true. It's not. And there are plenty of statistics to prove it. According to Google, 80% of all reviews online are four or five stars - 80%. Closer to home, our own experience with ActiveCaptain shows these same results. As soon as there are more than a couple of reviewers for a given facility, most reviews are overwhelmingly positive.

(0:30) So despite the continuing "sky is falling" claims of companies vying for your marketing dollars, the vast majority of what consumers have to say is positive. If you are running a quality business you have nothing to fear and everything to gain from encouraging boaters to leave reviews.

(0:21) Of course, even the best marinas eventually receive a negative review. But even that is not to be feared. They can help you improve, bring out renewed support from your fans, and actually will have little, if any, impact on your online reputation. I've covered how to handle negative reviews in previous Minutes.

(0:11) Don't be afraid of the review process. Embrace it and benefit from it and be sure to work those positive reviews.

(0:07) On the other hand, if your marina offers poor customer service and has bad facilities with no desire to improve, then you should be very afraid.

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

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

It's All About Customer Service

(1:02) Some time ago we asked ActiveCaptain boaters for feedback about what they wanted most from marinas. The number one request was for dockhands who can properly tie up a boat.

(0:55) From all the feedback there was one suggestion that makes so much sense that it stopped me in my tracks and made me realize that every marina should implement it for a variety of reasons.

(0:50) Milt Baker, a well known and respected cruiser, and long time friend gave the suggestion: dockside check-in/check-out. His notion was reenforced just a couple of days later when we checked in dockside at Halifax Harbor Marina in Daytona Beach. It was terrific.

(0:44) I think Milt said it best: "Something I'd like to see a lot more of at marinas: check-ins/check-outs right at the boat, as opposed to the skipper having to hike all the way to the office (and often wait in line) to have his credit card imprinted, then make the same trip again on check-out. It is, or should be, all about the marina serving the skipper, not the other way around. The skipper is the customer and ought to be treated like he or she is valued highly by the marina. At-the-slip check-in is easy with today's technology and it's a no-brainer!"

(0:33) He's right. Show boaters from the start that you are about serving them. The best customer service is about giving customers what they need or want as simply as possible. Successful high-end businesses do this all the time. Think about when you go out for dinner to a high-end restaurant and they take your credit card at your table. They want you to stay, enjoy, and talk and don't expect you to walk to a counter and wait in line. It is one of those subtle marks of quality.

(0:23) The good news is that today it is trivial to do. There are an abundance of credit card swiping devices that are made for the mobile environment. Your merchant bank can offer a variety of portable solutions.

(0:17) If possible, consider credit card processing that provides a normal receipt for signing. This mechanism will greatly expand the number of boaters who will add tips to the receipt as it plays into the normal tipping environment that we're used to and is more comfortable for boaters like us who never carry cash. Your dockhands will race down the dock to help when they start seeing that.

(0:08) Remember - providing full service dockside is more than just collecting the money. Make sure boaters receive a Welcome Packet and other helpful information they would normally receive in the marina office. You do have a Welcome Packet, right?

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

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Meaningful Incentive Programs

(0:58) What can you do that will make better use of the money you are currently "spending" on discounts? And let's be clear, if your discounts are simply offering money off to boaters already coming into your marina, you're just writing a check and getting nothing in return.

(0:52) The first thing you need to do is to determine where you want or need to grow your business. Are there services you offer that are underutilized? Is there a day of the week where business is usually slow? Or a month? Or a season? Is there a specific type or size of boat you wish to attract? Until you decide what behavior you wish to effect, you can't develop a meaningful incentive program. Make a list on paper as a starting point for what you want to change.

(0:42) Once you have decided what you wish to accomplish then you can begin working on the incentive that will produce the desired behavior. For example, if you have times when your marina is under-filled you can offer deeper discounts to boaters during those times with no discounts for the remaining times. This allows you to focus your discounts so that they can be large enough to actually attract and change behavior.

(0:33) It doesn't always have to be a straight monetary incentive. Do you have a new or under utilized service, maybe a restaurant, maintenance capabilities, or a hotel? Think about offering packages where boaters can experience the service. Encourage them to write a review to let other boaters know about it.

(0:25) Think about attracting groups of boaters traveling together. This is the marina equivalent of "going viral." If you provide enough incentive for 3+ boats to come in pre-reserving space together, they'll talk up the opportunity to their friends to try and put the deal together. That puts your name in front of more people in a way where they do all the work to make the stay possible.

(0:16) By approaching your discounts in this fashion you can not only make far better use of your resources, you can do things that will get you remembered long past the offer. Honestly, I couldn't begin to tell you which marinas we've visited offered a BoatUS discount and which did not. But I still remember the marina that offered free dockage.

(0:08) Make your incentive programs count. Do them strategically, thoughtfully, and with specific measurable goals in mind. It takes more effort up front but it is far more likely to deliver the results you want.

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