Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Keeping Up Appearances

(1:03) Do you know how you appear to boaters coming to your marina for the first time? I mean, do you really know? Often it is the little things that can send the biggest message. I've seen marinas go to great lengths to provide a welcoming, positive impression only to tarnish it with some small detail.

(0:56) Last winter we spent time at Titusville Municipal Marina and found it to be one of the most dog friendly marinas on the US east coast with a large dog park adjacent to the marina, lots of walking paths, and staff that were as nice to our canine crew as to us. Unfortunately, that was not our first impression.

(0:49) As we came down the dock with our four-legged crew members we were greeted by an ominous sign directing us across the street to a scruffy looking piece of grass and threatening us should we not pick up after our pets. All the while the dog park was just a short walk down the sidewalk.

(0:42) The message sent was that our pets were not welcome. Perhaps they would be tolerated.

(0:38) But I knew the Marina Manger and didn't believe that was the image he wished to project. I pointed out the sign and within a month he had sent me a picture of a new sign with a welcoming message, directions to the dog park, and clean-up bags provided. A perfect solution that provided the information and made pet owners feel wanted.

(0:29) This week I saw a picture of another sign at a different marina. It was posted on a boater's eBoatCard blog and has generated quite a discussion. It involves a sign about usage fees for anchored boats and boats at the boatyard. You can see it here:

(0:22) I am not interested in addressing the issue of fees. Rather, I wonder if a different, more upbeat and positive sign might have led to a different result. This sign is loud and unwelcoming. Why is "Attention" all in caps, "pay" is bolded, and "fees" bolded and underlined? What is the real message? This is not informational; it's confrontational. I feel unwelcome by that sign.

(0:15) Maybe the marina wishes to discourage some visiting boaters. If so, they're being successful but are missing a golden opportunity to win new customers by presenting their marina in a positive light. Even as a transient at that marina, I'd find that sign to be too aggressive.

(0:08) So take some time and stroll the grounds of your marina. Try to see things through fresh eyes and consider the messages you are giving. Do they give the appearance you want or are there unintended messages coming through?

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

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Where are the pay phones?

(1:08) I often write about how technology has changed the way consumers and businesses interact. These changes have been quite dramatic as digital technology has caused the rapid decline of paper media and consumers become more demanding in the type of information they desire and how they wish to receive it. If you're new to the Minute check out the ZMOT series on the blog:


(0:57) But it isn't just promotional messages that have been impacted. Pretty much every aspect of our lives has changed. And this goes for some of the amenities that transients have come to expect. Last December I talked about WiFi service:


(0:50) This is still a topic every marina we visit wants to discuss. Invariably it moves to a discussion about costs, how much to pay, whether to spend money upgrading, etc. What we've found is that many marinas are hanging on to expensive, out-of-date technologies such as cable TV and even phone hookups when this money might be better spent improving their WiFi.

(0:43) When we began cruising over ten years ago it was common for a marina to promote that they had pay phones. Many cruisers used PocketMail to receive their email. A pay phone allowed them to do that and call home. But try and find a pay phone today, anywhere.

(0:35) Today's transient cruisers have multiple cell phones, sometimes from multiple carriers to ensure they can always phone home. They have satellite domes for TV anywhere, even offshore. Many watch movies and their favorite shows via the Internet. And they use Skype to call and video conference with their family.

(0:28) So looking at all the communications technologies that a marina might have where does it make sense to invest more money?

(0:24) If you still have cable TV and/or phone connections on your docks, now is the time to evaluate the expense of these services verses the return. Then consider how funds spent on these could be better used. We've found that many marinas can vastly increase the quality of their WiFi at a fraction of what they are spending for these other services.

(0:16) Talk to boaters to find out what services they are actually using. Ask if they would prefer cable TV on the dock or faster Internet. Determine if it makes sense to continue services, stop them, or simply just stop spending money to upgrade them.

(0:09) Just like your need to evaluate whether your old ways of promoting your marina still make sense, make sure that you are investing in the services that will bring boaters in and lead to positive reviews.

(0:04) Give boaters what they want and your business will increase.

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

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Peggie Hall

(1:07) When I'm trying to understand a new concept, I like examples. It helps to place the concept more firmly in my mind. I've spent the past few weeks writing about how today's marketing requires that you add value and not simply tout a message. It's more subtle than in the past and therefore can be more difficult to wrap your arms around.

(0:59) So this week I'm going to discuss an example of someone who used the Internet brilliantly to market their product. She retired a few years ago and I never actually met her so I don't know if she was a marketing genius or if she was just doing what she loved. Either way, it worked.

(0:52) Peggie Hall, also known as the Head Mistress, worked for a couple of major manufacturers who produce marine sanitation products. She was the undisputed expert about anything having to do with waste systems and holding tanks on boats. She even wrote a book about it.

(0:45) What Peggie did that was a brilliant marketing move was to freely and openly share her knowledge throughout the boating community. If there was a boater question or comment about a black water system anywhere on the Internet, you could count on Peggie to provide an informed and thoughtful reply. She never just gave a marketing pitch about why boaters should use products from her company.

(0:36) Peggie provided real, honest information that became highly valued by the boating community. Sometimes that meant pointing out a problem or issue with her own product. Sometimes it meant helping with a competitor's product.

(0:29) The key was that what Peggie said was true, honest, and real. Boaters grew to count on it and seek her out. So when Peggie said to do something, well, we did it. This conferred much goodwill for the companies she worked for because not only did it get their name out there, it did it in a positive way.

(0:22) There was an overwhelming feeling that someone of Peggie's knowledge and integrity would certainly work for a good company. This was further reinforced by the fact that they gave her free reign to address issues as she believed were right. And the companies she worked for became the largest ones in the industry. In wasn't a coincidence.

(0:14) It was successful because Peggie worked for companies that produced quality products. Her actions reinforced the idea that the companies were interested in the boater. And enough of the time, they'd use their products.

(0:08) Think about what you know. Think about how you can contribute. It could be knowledge about a local area, particular boat systems, or the events happening in an area. Be the one helping boaters and they'll seek you out as a partner.

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

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Walk Before You Run

(1:08) I'm happy to see many marinas jumping in and trying eBoatCards (eBC). The enthusiasm we're seeing from both boaters and businesses exploring this new medium has led to many spirited discussions here on aCappella about the capabilities and how to best use them. And like any new technology or medium, the users push and pull it in ways the creators may not have envisioned.

(0:59) It's great if you have jumped in early to eBC. The site is not 3 weeks old and as the users and groups grow, I would urge you to take this growth period to explore the possibilities and form a plan for how you can offer the most value to the eBC community. Remember, adding value will make you part of the content and not simply a distraction.

(0:51) Start by thinking about the areas of expertise you or your employees possess. Then consider how this expertise can be offered to the boater in a way that is beneficial. Peruse the eBC groups for ones that match your expertise. Remember, we are adding new groups daily so periodically check back.

(0:44) Consider suggesting a group that both fits your expertise and adds value for boaters. Let us know if you are willing to admin the group.

(0:40) Here are some possibilities. They are not all inclusive and my real hope is to get you thinking in new ways.

(0:36) 1. The Cruising Areas category is the place to educate boaters about why they should come to your area. Interesting events that are coming, attractions they may not know about, a weekly farmer's market accessible to boaters, a local restaurant that only the locals know about, or a nearby dog park are just a few things that are difficult for boaters to find out about. Make sure to check the posts often to find out what information boaters are seeking. Then use your own local knowledge to help them out. You will know you are successful when they begin to seek out your knowledge.

(0:23) 2. Boat Products & Systems are always an area where boaters are looking for help. Boatyards have an advantage here and should absolutely offer their expertise. Are you a certified John Deere or Westerbeke center? Consider offering to be an administrator for that type of group.

(0:15) 3. There are Interest areas that are forming with many possibilities still left. Does your staff have canvas expertise? Maybe someone is a master chef with a pressure cooker or knows celestial navigation. Wherever you can participate and contribute in a meaningful way you can gain valuable exposure.

(0:08) Every posting you make and every boater you help will have your marina name tagged along showing them (and everyone else) where the information came from. Make yourself a valuable contributor and you will reap the benefits.

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