Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Are You Listening?

(1:10) I mean really listening. Nothing is more important to any relationship than listening. Yet very few of us actually do it well. I know it is difficult for me. Too often we listen through our own beliefs, desires, and biases. We hear what we think someone is saying or even what we want them to say, but not necessarily the message that the other person is trying to convey. Or we're busy thinking about what we want to say and miss what is being said altogether.

(0:58) If you and your staff are able to hear what your customers are telling you whether it be a frank compliant or compliment, or more often the subtle messages they give in their general communications, you will be able to harvest a wealth of valuable information.

(0:51) It's pretty obvious that you should pay attention when boaters enter reviews. I've done many Minutes about reviews, good and bad, and how to handle them. After all, if a customer has taken the time to write about their experience, you need to pay attention and learn all you can. But there are also more subtle communications that can let you know what you are doing right, where you can improve, and even new opportunities you may have.

(0:39) Listen for these gems from the very first boater communications. Hearing the same or similar requests often can cue you into changes you should consider. When boaters call to inquire about your facility, is there a request or comment that is happening frequently? For example, are they asking about weekly or monthly rates and you do not offer them? Maybe they're telling you they'd stay longer if you did.

(0:29) If boaters are frequently hailing you on the radio confused about the approach, you may need to improve your entrance markers and provide more detailed instructions in the Approach section of your marker.

(0:22) Do you receive a lot of questions about transportation for provisioning or to a nearby attraction? Think about a courtesy car or shuttle van. Or make sure you have car rental information in your welcome packet. Consider talking to a local taxi or rental car company about discounts.

(0:13) The same is true when a boater is checking in or simply chatting at the dock. Listen to the questions boaters ask and the comments they make to determine what you're doing well and where you can improve.

(0:07) It is often the quiet, subtle comments that can provide you with the new discoveries that can help you win more business.

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

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Marketing Downtime

(1:02) Many marinas have an off-season. It's a time for taking care of all those things you just never found the time for when your season was in full swing: dock maintenance, equipment repairs, upgrading amenities, and other tasks. You know these tasks will ensure that you are ready for the seasons to come. But don't forget to use this downtime to do maintenance on your marketing plans as well.

(0:52) The end of a busy season is the perfect time to stop and look at the boater data you've collected because I know you've been following my advice and asking every boater what brought them to your facility. Start by looking at where you are spending your marketing dollars. Stop wasting them on programs that aren't working. Start thinking of new and different ways to use that budget money to bring in boaters.

(0:44) Examine the different specials and offerings you may have used to determine which ones were winners, which were losers, and which need to be tweaked a bit. Brainstorm and come up with new ideas. It's a great time to set up a list of special offers. Think about the various situations you face where a deal or special could help. Your slow day of the week, the shoulder seasons, or upcoming special events are just a few possibilities.

(0:30) Take a hard look at your promotional messages. Remember, most transients are doing their cruise planning 3 to 6 months before they actually pull into your harbor. It is critical that you have the information they need when they are deciding where they will travel. Keep in mind that the information they are looking for during their early planning is likely different from what they need to know when approaching your marina.

(0:17) Consider modifying your messages to include events and attractions that might bring boaters to your harbor or town. When a boater is in early planning mode, the most important competitor might be a nearby town rather than a nearby marina. Make sure everyone knows why coming to your town is the best choice and how you can offer them the best experience once they get there.

(0:06) Some pre-planning in your downtime when you have more time for reflection and brainstorming can pay off when your next season kicks in.

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

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Know Your Competition

(0:49) I've often promoted the importance of managing your reviews online - working positive reviews, handling negative ones, getting more reviews, and having a review strategy. I believe that the advent of online customer reviews is a huge benefit to quality businesses. They are critical to your success as digital reviews have surpassed traditional word of mouth in customer decisions.

(0:37) There's another benefit of online reviews that I believe is too frequently overlooked: checking out your competitor's reviews. Knowing what your competition is doing well and where they can improve is almost as valuable as your own ratings.

(0:30) Finding out what boaters like about other marinas can cue you into changes you should consider at your marina. It could be something new and innovative, or just a small touch that you've overlooked or forgotten. There's no shame in copying a successful idea or using it as an inspiration for your own unique twist.

(0:23) It's also important to note what your competition is doing poorly. This can reveal the competitive advantages you have. Or it can highlight a service or amenity you should add to give you a leg up.

(0:17) By combining the information customers are providing in all nearby reviews, you can form a picture of what's important to your customers. This provides you with guidance about the features to promote, the capabilities to improve, and can even help you decide if you're spending money on the right things.

(0:07) By keeping an eye on all reviews coming from your potential customers, you can make better decisions, spend your money more wisely, and capture more business.

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

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

"Hope You Enjoyed Your Stay With Us"

(1:08) Last spring we pulled into Southport Marina in North Carolina to spend a night or two on our way back north. It wasn't our first time there and as always we had a pleasant stay. On the morning we left the dockmaster handed me an envelop with, "Hope you enjoyed your stay with us" handwritten on the outside. Once we pulled out and I had finished putting things away I opened the envelope to find a photo of me and my dog on the bow of our boat as we were first arriving. It brought a huge smile to my face.

(0:55) It was a small and simple thing but it had sincere meaning. You see, there's nothing special about pictures of us on our boat - we take hundreds of them. But we have almost no pictures from a dock of our boat approaching. It's a view we never get to see and Southport gave us a permanent reminder of it. Showing us coming into their dock was artistry marketing. The whole thing made me feel special. It was great customer service.

(0:43) Taking a digital picture and handing the owner a hardcopy is special. It was smart, inexpensive, and easy to do. They also emailed the picture which, of course, we posted on Facebook and all of our friends saw a unique view of our boat docking. And again, it was docking at Southport Marina. There is no better advertising Southport could purchase and not because it was us, but because our friends saw a real picture of our own boat at a beautiful marina.

(0:32) I've often touched on customer service issues reminding you that every interaction has an impact on the customer's perception of your facility from the first radio contact, to handling dock lines, to the interactions during a boater's stay. There's no reason that ends when I pull out of your marina. Finding a way to let the customer service live on after I'm long gone is icing on the cake.

(0:23) Continuing good customer service beyond my stay will increase my positive feelings and can make it more likely I'll write a good review. Do that in a way that is memorable and you will increase your chances even more. You have to be creative but there are hundreds of ideas out there.

(0:16) There are many possibilities that come to mind. A simple "Thank You" card left on the cockpit the morning I check out. Maybe include a discount coupon for a return visit. Is there something your town is known for? In Lyons, NY they gave us a small vial of peppermint oil, a reminder of the industry that built the town. It's now a month since we've been there and we still remember Lyons because of it. That is marketing gold.

(0:07) Think of ways to keep me thinking of you long after I've gone and I will be more likely to return, to tell other boaters about my experience, and to give you a great review.

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