Tuesday, April 30, 2013


(1:09) I know many of you also receive our weekly boater's newsletter which comes out every Wednesday. Last week we began getting boaters prepared for eBoatCards, a new website we will be launching shortly. It will offer many powerful new capabilities for boaters and marinas. I'd like to ensure you are prepared to take advantage of these capabilities and will be dedicating some Minutes to getting you familiar with eBoatCards also. I'll start with a basic introduction and explore various features and possibilities in future Minutes.

(0:59) eBoatCards.com is a soon-to-be-released website with new capabilities for the boating community. We are currently putting the finishing touches on the first release. It's useful and needed all on it's own. But when it is combined with the other ActiveCaptain data, it will offer some incredible new functions.

(0:53) ActiveCaptain was originally designed around three P's: planning, places, and people. eBoatCards brings in the people component. At it's most basic it is a way to receive, sort, organize, and utilize the many boat cards boaters receive from fellow cruisers.

(0:47) Boaters will be able to identify other boaters as their friends and exchange information about what they are doing, where they are located, and even ask questions and receive advice. There will be Groups they can join including affiliations with cruising organizations, boat types, cruising locations, and more.

(0:38) Privacy settings allow boaters to control the people who are able to see their information including their current GPS location. eBoatCards is sort of like Facebook for your boat. But while there are many similarities there are also significant differences.

(0:30) eBoatCards will work with other apps such as the ActiveCaptain Companion to display the current location of friends or other boaters in a Group on maps and charts. This allows boaters to more easily find and meet up with their boating friends. They can also make their location and travel plans available to marinas which provides some very new and interesting marketing opportunities.

(0:20) eBoatCards will allow a boater to add photos and videos to their reviews and we will be interfacing that capability back into ActiveCaptain. This will provide incredible benefits and new challenges.

(0:14) I envision a variety of ways that marinas can utilize eBoatCards to reach out to boaters in powerful ways. But I'll be honest - there is nothing like this so we are all going on an adventure together. Finding the best way to use and manage these new tools will take some experimentation. I look forward to working with our Sponsors to explore these new marketing capabilities. Let's find success together.

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

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Welcome Packet - Extras

(0:59) So far I've covered the items that I think are required for a great Welcome Packet. Now let's consider how you can make it truly memorable by going that extra step, maybe even offering the unexpected. It's something I call the Wow Factor.

(0:52) Over the years we have seen all variety of items placed into Welcome Packets. The key is to include things that are useful, interesting, and/or unusual. Consider using some of your promotional/advertising budget to add items if you have it but also explore what nearby businesses might contribute as a way to get in front of the boater.

(0:44) Coupons for discounts at local restaurants and shops, savings on admission to local museums, theaters, and events, promotional offers on services in the area such as haircuts, marine service, exercise classes, massages, etc. are items boaters will appreciate. Businesses may be willing to offer samples to include in your packet. We have received a sample of biscotti from a local bakery, a small handmade soap from a local merchant, and a variety of marine cleaning product samples.

(0:33) Consider your own coupons too. How about helping to create a habit by offering a discount on a return stay or on services you offer?

(0:29) Some Welcome Packets we have received contain an item with the marina name. Who doesn't like to get a gift? But make sure your dollars keep on working by providing something that will be used and not discarded later on. Remember space on a boat is precious and if I don't use it, I'll lose it. Talk to boaters to find out what items they would find most useful. Something I have found very useful are small notepads, a handle for carrying plastic grocery bags, and velcro straps for tying up hoses, etc.

(0:18) By far the most common item we see is a floating key chain. While these are very practical and definitely something every boater uses, it has frankly been overdone. Coffee mugs are another popular item but these are bulky and unless it's something special it is not likely to make the cut. For example, we stayed at one marina that provided stainless travel mugs that we can use for free coffee in their take away shop. That's a very nice gift and a way to get customers into the shop.

(0:07) A good Welcome Packet can be an excellent marketing tool, not only keeping happy boaters coming back but also spreading the word as one boater tells another. That's critical, word-of-mouth marketing.

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

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Welcome Packet - What's Happ'n

(0:58) If you've read the previous Minutes, you've put together or revamped your Welcome Packet to include information about the amenities available at your marina as well as information about services that are nearby. If you do this, you'll make the boater's experience better by making sure they are aware of the services available.

(0:51) Now let's think about how you can make your marina a destination boaters will plan for - one that will make them want to stay a bit longer, and may even get them to come back. How? Events.

(0:46) Some of our most memorable stops have been when we have attended a festival, seen a show, or joined in a boaters' potluck or party. One of our worst frustrations has been missing one of these events because we just didn't know when they were occurring. Few boaters want to simply sit at the dock. They want to get out and do something.

(0:38) Make sure your Welcome Packet includes information about events that boaters can attend. Think about this broadly and include all you can find. Not only will interests be widespread but seeing an event calendar that looks full and varied can entice overnight transients to extend their stay or plan on a longer one in the future.

(0:29) Like the rest of the Welcome Packet begin with what is happening at the marina. Include regular happenings, such as a Friday night potluck or your monthly party, and special events, like a Super Bowl Party.

(0:23) Then move out into the nearby community. Start by checking with your local city or town hall to see if they maintain a calendar. Ask your Chamber of Commerce. Contact local theaters, historical societies, and other organizations to see if they have a brochure of their activities you can include. Check the local paper - many have events calendars for the area.

(0:14) Make sure to include regular events like a weekly farmer's market, exercise classes, and even that Wednesday Ladies' Night at a local restaurant. Get the word out that you are willing to promote these events to boaters and you will find the events coming to you.

(0:08) No one wants to miss out. Make sure every transient knows what's happening during their stay. After all, who wants to hear about that great Mardi Gras party the morning after? Show boaters a good time and they will reward you with repeat business and positive reviews.

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

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Welcome Packet - Check Out the Neighborhood

(1:10) Unless you are a marina that caters exclusively to overnight transients, boaters will be drawn to your marina by what is available in the area. Cruising is about experiences and new places. Once you've covered what you offer on site at your marina you need to branch out and look at what is offered outside the marina.

(1:03) Think of yourself as a host with out of town visitors looking for something to do. If you are in or near a city or very populated area you need to direct them to where they can find a variety of shops, restaurants, museums, etc. You can offer a few suggestions for popular, unusual, or unknown places. We love finding out where the locals go. If you are more remote or in a less populated area you may simply list the businesses that are accessible. In either case make sure to include how to get there, a walking map, information about courtesy cars, cabs, or public transportation, etc.

(0:52) But don't stop there. Include information about all the services a boater may be looking for. These may include drug stores, grocery stores, hair salons, churches, medical services, hardware stores, veterinarians, rental car companies, and more. Don't forget fitness options such as gyms, yoga studios, even walking/biking trails.

(0:45) If you don't provide repair and maintenance services in-house, do you have a list of approved or suggested providers? Or if you are not comfortable recommending someone, consider a rack or bulletin board where local businesses can leave information.

(0:38) Provide boaters with a map, ideally suitable for someone who is walking, that can direct them to specific businesses or business areas. Highlight the best routes taking into consideration traffic, safety, and visual appeal. I would rather walk through a lovely neighborhood with little traffic than down a busy highway. Help me to understand the options that are available - and the place to do that is in your welcome packet.

(0:28) Seek out resources in the community to assist you in creating your welcome packet. Many communities have Chambers of Commerce that may have maps, pamphlets, or lists including businesses in the area. Work with them to compile a pleasing mix of materials.

(0:21) Finally, don't forget when you are providing your local knowledge to include critical information about safety. Are there areas boaters should avoid going to? Is it safe to walk after dark or should I take a cab? Consider what you would tell a friend or relative who is visiting. I know some will balk that it could make your marina look unwelcoming. Not so. A good marina will warn me of a shoal area on the approach and this is no different.

(0:10) Assuring that boaters have an enjoyable stay is the best way to bring them back and to ensure they tell other boaters. A good welcome packet can help. A great welcome packet can get it done.

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

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Welcome Packet - Start at Home

(1:14) I've urged every marina to have a Welcome Packet. I believe it is a grossly underutilized marketing tool. I want to begin exploring what to include because a poor Welcome Packet is as bad as no Welcome Packet.

(1:08) Most Welcome Packets I've seen give the impression that the staff simply threw in whatever was lying around the office. I've received maps that were years out of date and glossy brochures that had nothing to do with my needs. What you include will obviously vary from marina to marina but every marina must start with what's available right on your site.

(1:00) The first component that should be in every packet is a welcome - after all it is a Welcome Packet. There should be a brief letter from the marina manager, harbormaster, mayor, or owner welcoming the boater to your facility and stating that your goal is to offer first class service. Ask them to contact you if there is anything you can do to make their stay better. Then provide a reliable way for the boater to contact you if needed.

(0:50) A common complaint I hear from marinas that have received unfavorable reviews is that they never knew there was a problem. It is your job to make it easy for boaters to contact you with a problem so that you can address it before they write that review.

(0:44) Include a detailed, accurate map of your facility so that the boater is aware of the amenities that are available and doesn't need to wander around. Make sure everything is covered from the basics - the office, bathrooms, laundry - to the extras - jacuzzi, tiki bar, fitness room. Remember to provide the information I need to access your services - the WiFi password, codes to access secure areas, hours of restaurants or shuttle bus service.

(0:33) And don't forget the events that might be happening while the boater is there. But this is a much larger topic and will be presented in a future Minute.

(0:28) At a minimum offer the marina map to me dockside with the most important services highlighted. As I've discussed before, docking the boat is often the most stressful part of my day. Waving an arm behind you while saying "The marina office is over there" will often be forgotten by the time I've finished securing my boat, shutting down the systems, and setting up my power and water. So a map with the office highlighted would be useful.

(0:16) Finally, make it someone's job to review this facility information on a regular basis, perhaps once a month, to ensure it is still accurate. Make sure to include new services and adjust hours-of-operations as needed.

(0:09) If you follow these suggestions you will be well on your way to ensuring that the boater's experience is the best it can be.

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