Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Just Say No, to Banner Ads

(1:06) A few months ago I wrote a Minute entitled "Embrace Failure" - you can find it on my blog:

(1:02) My point was that true innovators are not afraid to face failure on their way to success. But there is a difference between failing, learning, and trying again, and simply failing. Much of what I write about in the Minute is the new order brought about by technology, the internet, and the new ways we interact and seek information. If you've followed the Minute for some time then you should know I am not a fan of online banner ads. I don't believe they work because your customers just ignore them.

(0:50) Well, it seems that banner ads are even more destructive than I thought. Last week the University of Michigan released its annual American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) E-Business Report which stated customer satisfaction with social media sites and search engines has fallen to its lowest level since 2003. They placed part of the blame on online advertising.

(0:42) Data was compiled from interviews with 70,000 consumers to determine their satisfaction with 230 companies across 43 different industries. 22% sited online ads as what they least liked about the sites. 3 out of 5 stated they do not pay attention to online ads and 1 in 5 said the ads actually interfere with their experience. Ask yourself how you like banner ads jumping out on the websites you visit. How many have you clicked on? Have you ever made a purchase decision based on them?

(0:32) If you are still spending your valuable marketing dollars on online banner ads, now is the time to reconsider those actions. Stop being merely ignored or, worse yet, viewed as an irritating distraction. Think back to the series on ZMOT I began last July. Become part of the content as a resource and give boaters what they are looking for - the information they need to make sound decisions. This will gain a boater's attention.

(0:19) I think it was said best by Kim Kadlec, worldwide vice president of Global Marketing Group for Johnson & Johnson:

(0:15) "We're entering an era of reciprocity. We now have to engage people in a way that's useful or helpful to their lives. The consumer is looking to satisfy their needs, and we have to be there to help them with that. To put it another way: How can we exchange value instead of just sending a message?"

(0:06) It's clear that online banners ads are not fulfilling that need. Think about how you can add value instead and win customers.

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

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What Your Fuel Price is Telling Boaters

(1:00) Fuel price display is one of the things we hear about most often from marinas and boaters. Marinas stress over providing their fuel prices while boaters always want to know as much as possible. I think that the price you have listed for fuel right now says a lot about your marina.

(0:53) One point that I have stressed before is to focus on your strengths - those things you can do better than your competition, and don't stress about what you don't or can't do. You can't be all things to all people and don't need to be.

(0:47) There are marinas that compete on their fuel pricing, there are many that do not, and others that choose not to offer fuel at all. All of those choices are correct. No matter which you choose make sure you are giving your customer all of the information they want.

(0:40) When we first began sending out our weekly fuel update emails we heard from many marinas that didn't want their pricing revealed. They were afraid their competitors would know. This attitude is not only silly, it is counterproductive. The fact is that any competitor that wants to know your fuel price, knows it. However, the message you are giving boaters (your customers) is that you are not willing to give them what they want, which is the current price.

(0:30) No customer is going to make a purchase, especially one as large as the typical fuel purchase, without finding out the price. So by attempting to keep your price secret you are only forcing boaters to call you and find out the price anyway. Well, except for one marina I once called who refused to tell me the price over the phone because I might be a competitor. Smart move. That was over ten years ago and I have to this day never visited that marina. They sent me the strong message of poor service.

(0:16) If you're wasting time worrying about your competition finding out your fuel price, you're, well, wasting time. Instead focus on the boaters. Send a positive message by giving them the information they seek, even if you can't compete on fuel price.

(0:09) There are many factors that go into selecting a transient stop. Highlight the ones where you excel but don't try to hide information. In today's world I will find out anyway and then only feel neglected by you.

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

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Three Dimensional Pricing

(1:16) I believe to be successful today you need to be able to think different. Look beyond the staid. Consider new and unusual ways to grab your customer's attention and get them to give you a try. I've offered examples in the past - free dockage, combining services, and working with nearby businesses.

(1:07) You want to grab a boater's attention and create that critical word-of-mouth buzz that gets you noticed and remembered. Three dimensional pricing is one way to do this.

(1:02) We're all familiar with those ubiquitous 10% off for this or that club or organization. Yawn...sorry, I drifted off and so do your customers. You can do better.

(0:56) It's very common to offer slip discounts for weekly or monthly dockage. This fits my criteria of a discount that changes behavior. Boaters will seek out these deals and it is no wonder why when you compare the cost of single night dockage rates to a weekly or monthly rate. Those single nights are an expensive way to cruise.

(0:48) So why not take this same discount philosophy where a boater commits to more dockage and receives a discount, and then push that into a third dimension? The third dimension could be either a time split or multiple boats traveling together.

(0:42) Here's an example. We worked with a Partner marina that offered a "split week." They're located at a popular river cruise destination and close to provisioning. Stopping there for a couple of days allows boaters to come in and get ready for their river cruise. When coming back, they'll stop again to finish out their pre-paid week. By letting them split the weekly rate, the made it a no brainer for boaters to pay for a full week instead of just one or two nights.

(0:31) If you're somewhere along a snowbird migration path, consider a "split season" offering. Boaters pay for a week or a month and can split the time at both ends of their cruising season. You're locking them in, creating habits, and getting them to stay for longer periods of time than normal.

(0:23) Or why not take your weekly rate and offer it to multiple boats that come in together for one night? For example, if you typically offer a weekly rate that is 7 days for the price of 4, why not charge 7 boats that come in together a transient rate of 4/7ths? That 42% discount will get noticed quickly. I can easily argue that you are not only getting the same monetary value, you are also getting 7 times the exposure to boaters who will then write positive reviews and spread the word. It all happens by using a third dimension in your pricing.

(0:08) It's time to think outside the usual. Try new things, measure your results, and learn what works.

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

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Imagine You Have No Car

(1:09) We were having dinner with some fellow cruisers and the conversation turned to things they look for when selecting a marina. One of the boaters said, "Every marina needs to imagine what it's like without a car." The comment received instant support from the other boaters.

(1:02) Do you know what it's like to live at your marina without a car?

(1:00) If you are a marina that wants transients to stay for more than just one night, you need to understand the issues surrounding transportation for boaters. The best way to do that is to experience it yourself. There is no faster or more accurate way to understand the issues. Once you truly understand them, you will be better positioned to offer solutions that transients will love.

(0:52) One day this week leave your car in the parking lot and see what it is like to live without a car. Take a walk to that grocery store that is "just up the road." Fill several bags and walk back. Consider how safe the roads are for walking and biking. Is there a better route you might suggest?

(0:45) Actually take the bus that stops nearby and find out how easy, or hard, it is to get where you want. Learn what stops are best and understand how any transfers that are needed work. Call the local taxis service and see how long it takes and how much it costs. Really understand the options that boaters have.

(0:38) Then you will be ready to provide all of the information I want and need. This will likely encompass a wide range of things.

(0:34) Real distances to the nearby services is the most critical. I can't count the number of times we have been told that a store is "only 5 minutes away" only to discover that might be true if we were in a car driving 50 mph. The difference of one half versus one mile to someone on foot is huge. So don't guess the distances. Actually measure and record them. Then include that information in your welcome packet. Let me decide if I can walk, bike, or need motorized transportation.

(0:22) Providing a map is great but at a minimum offer a list of services and amenities nearby with the address, phone number, and real distance from the marina.

(0:18) Know all possible transportation options available including bus, taxis, rental cars, and rental bikes. Provide contact information and other details, such as the bus schedule, in your welcome packet. Make it easy for a transient boater.

(0:12) I've written about this before. If access is difficult and options are few, consider offering a courtesy car or a shuttle service. This is an amenity that is becoming more common and definitely something that transients look and plan for.

(0:06) Solving boaters' transportation issues can bring in more boaters and get them to stay longer which means more revenue for your marina.

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

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The New Reality

(1:04) Last week I talked about some examples of how you might be sending messages to boaters that are unintended. It's easy when you walk past things every day to fail to see them as others do, or to not see them at all. If you missed last week's Minute you can always read past Minutes on my blog. The link is on the right.

(0:55) The second example I gave included an image posted by a boater of a questionable sign at a marina. He didn't simply describe the sign he didn't like. He showed a picture of it. How many of you felt a shiver when you saw that? You can see it again here:

(0:47) It's no longer the paparazzi who can snap unflattering photos and publish them. With YouTube and Facebook, and yes, even eBoatCards, anyone can document their experiences and publish them for the world to see. Of course, they can post positive images also and many do.

(0:39) When we first released ActiveCaptain we found some marinas weren't happy with the notion of having boaters write reviews. It took some time and some education but they came around. The quality marinas actually came to embrace the new reality of customer reviews. They have thrived is this new world.

(0:31) Unless you've somehow missed the advent of Facebook and blogs and YouTube, it should come as no surprise that customers are now documenting their experiences with more than words. They are using pictures and video to show their peers what they are experiencing, both good and bad. The blog entry I referred to last week is a good example.

(0:23) Are you prepared for the new realities coming as your customers start to document your facilities? In the same way that customers have turned away from self-proclaimed experts for service and product reviews, boaters are looking to their peers to provide the real story in visual form. Remember what they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

(0:14) We all know that visual media can be powerful. Make sure that your facility can measure up. Make it someone's job to ensure that your facility is clean and appealing. If you didn't walk the grounds and check your signage after last week's Minute, don't let another week go by. And as you look around think about how it would look as a picture on the Internet. Now's the time to make your marina picture perfect.

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