Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Theory vs Practice

(0:59) Both of my parents are from Missouri, the Show Me State. Maybe that's why, even though I enjoy reading articles about marketing ideas and theories, what I really love is seeing if the theory works in practice. There are a few concepts that I feel are not only crucial to marketing success, they are also frequently overlooked. They are measuring what you do, and offering incentives that actually change behavior and are meaningful to boaters.

(0:44) I recently discovered a real life example that followed these concepts to a tee giving the marina more business by using the same marketing dollars in a different way. I think it's a great example of taking the theory and making it work in real life.

(0:37) The marina had for some years been sponsoring an event at an annual rendezvous to the tune of thousands of dollars. They began to question whether that money was actually getting them the recognition and business they wanted. Could there be a better way to spend the money that would bring them measurable results?

(0:29) Fortunately for them, their thinking went outside the box. The magic happened when they realized they could use the same money they were spending on these events, money from their advertising budget, and use it to offer a fuel discount to the same group of boaters.

(0:22) The boaters came, purchased fuel, and stayed at the docks in greater numbers than they had in the past. Plus the marina was in front of the boaters in a far more meaningful way than a sign on a breakfast table or a mention in the back of a program. The beauty was it cost them no more than it had before. But now they could see the results. As an added benefit, the cost was directly related to their success. If no one came, they still had their dollars.

(0:12) In today's world "advertising" means far more things than it has in the past. Cutting through the mass of data that is thrust upon us every day is a daunting task. Make sure that you are spending your dollars on ways that actually get you noticed and are meaningful enough to modify a boater's behavior. Oh, and don't forget to measure results.

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

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

50% of Your Customers...

(0:54) We all have the experience of not noticing things that are right in front of us day after day. It often takes someone new with a willingness to openly say what they think to receive fresh input. I think a fresh look is critical if you wish to improve and be more successful.

(0:46) One thing that we do when we visit a partner marina is talk to them about the things we see as we walk around and use the facilities. I think everyone can be helped by a new set of eyes and ears taking it all in. We often see things, good and bad, that the marina never thought about or even noticed. It is often the small things that mean the difference between a 4 and 5 star experience for a boater. And that difference can mean more or less business for you.

(0:36) Something that I've seen increase over the years are large screen televisions placed in or around the marina office. It's a nice touch and gives boaters something to look at while checking in or waiting for help. Some even have seating nearby so boaters can sit and watch if they like.

(0:30) What surprises me is the large number of marinas that run one of the 24 hour news stations. I assume the intent is to offer something interesting while providing boaters with a chance to catch up with the news. The problem is that no matter what station you select, you are at risk of annoying or even offending 50% of your customers.

(0:22) Good or bad, these stations have become politically polarizing with individuals often having strong feelings for or against a particular station. I do not believe there is one that would be seen as neutral by everyone or even by a majority of your customers. Why risk turning off half your customers? You might think you know the political leanings of your customers. But in reality, you don't. Transient boaters are coming from places far and wide with great diversity in their backgrounds.

(0:11) A far better alternative is to run the weather channel. Now that's information that every boater is interested in. As a plus, rather than creating the potential for a political divide, you will bring boaters together. After all, what boater doesn't like to talk about the weather?

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

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

MM Classic - Negative Reviews - Have a Good Offense

(1:10) Eventually every marina will experience a negative review. No matter how high your standards or how closely you adhere to them, occasional mistakes are made by every business. It's also true that some customers just can't be satisfied. The issue isn't receiving the negative review, it's having a solid strategy for handling them.

I have written multiple Minutes about negative reviews which you can find on my blog. But the first and most effective steps you can take to deflect a bad review are the ones made prior to its occurrence. Here are three steps to take now to reduce the impact of negative reviews coming in the future.

(0:50) First, make sure customer expectations are realistic. The most common reason for a negative review is not that the marina lacked a pool or a 5 star restaurant. Negative reviews happen when the customer's expectations do not match the services or quality found. Honestly present your strengths. Do not tout capabilities you cannot deliver. Price realistically. And ensure that what you do offer is clean, well-maintained, and matches the descriptions.

(0:36) Second, make sure satisfied customers speak out. There is no better way to reduce the impact of a negative review than to have it lost in a sea of positive ones. It is important that you actively encourage positive reviews from your happy customers. How? Ask. Many marinas feel funny about asking. But you shouldn't. Most people like to offer their opinions and are happy to support the businesses they like. Surrounding a lone negative review with honest positive ones makes the negative review disappear.

(0:16) Third, treat every customer well. You are in the service industry. You must provide good service if you want happy, returning customers. Be helpful and courteous. Go the extra step to make every boater feel like they are welcome. Arriving into a slip is one of the most terrifying parts of most boater's experience on the water. Make it feel safe and welcoming. It's hard to write something negative about a friend.

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

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

I'm Your Customer, Not an Interruption

(1:05) "A customer is the most important visitor on our premises, he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so." That is a quote from Mahatma Gandhi.

(0:54) We once had a very bad experience pulling into a marina. It was our first time in the harbor so everything was unfamiliar. In addition, we were trying to get in ahead of a bad storm that was approaching. For nearly 30 minutes we hailed the marina on the radio and called on the phone with no response. When someone finally showed up, instead of an apology I was told that this was a "no complaints" marina. Following up with the management we suggested that employees carry handheld radios only to be told, "If they had VHF's, they might be interrupted when they were doing something else, like cleaning the bathrooms." That's a direct quote. I still have to stop and shake my head when I read that.

(0:36) I am not an interruption. I am your customer. Ultimately, you work for me and I pay the bills.

(0:32) There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that is more important than responding to and helping boaters coming into your marina. Would a restaurant not seat a customer because they had onions to chop? Would a retail store not ring in a purchase because they were organizing the racks?

(0:25) Of course, this an extreme example. However, there are a hundred smaller more subtle ways that customers are treated like interruptions. Not breaking off a phone call when a boater walks into the marina office or stopping other tasks. If someone can't always be at the front desk, have a bell sound or some other way help can be quickly summoned.

(0:16) If you see a boater wandering around the marina with a trash bag in hand, stop what you're doing and walk over to show where to put it. Or take it from his hand and put it there yourself. Answer questions courteously even when you think they are silly or obvious. Always treat the boater better than they expect and do more than you have to do.

(0:08) Yes, I know that budgets are often tight, staffing is sometimes short, and everyone has too much to do. But without the boaters coming in, there would be nothing to do at all.

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

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Think Like an Entrepreneur

(1:03) This Marina Minute was inspired by an article I read in Entrepreneur by Jeff A. Lamb about how to create marketing buzz on a shoestring budget. It touches on topics I have addressed before but ones I feel can never be discussed too often. Plus I liked the way the ideas were described.

(0:58) He states, "Determine when your customers want your product. This is critical and easy to mess up. Nobody wants a product all of the time. Throughout the day, consumers' desires change. Personally, I don't want food when I'm not hungry. I don't want to sleep when I'm not tired. I don't want to replace my car when mine is working just fine. When I'm searching for cheap flights to France, I am not particularly interested in buying a French press."

(0:47) So the question is where are boaters and what are they doing when they are most likely making their decisions about where to stay? Unless you have been on a deserted island for the past 5 or 10 years, you know that word of mouth has become more important than ever. Consumers use the internet to seek out the real unvarnished and uncensored opinions of others. The impact of this powerful marketing tool has increased exponentially making customer reviews critical. It is how their decisions are made.

(0:34) Boaters will seek out reviews when they are in that decision mode. Make sure you have been cultivating reviews so that you have not only a high star rating but a high volume of reviews. After all, which restaurant would look more appealing on Urban Spoon: a 5 star restaurant with 3 reviews or a 5 star restaurant with 100 reviews?

(0:26) Mr. Lamb goes on to write, "Be at the right place, at the right time. So how do you get there when consumers want your product or service? All other moments and ways of getting to them will never compare to marketing that finds its way to this magic instant in time."

(0:18) The old way of marketing where you plaster your message everywhere in hopes of being remembered doesn't apply today. There is far too much information out there and it is way too easy for consumers to turn you off. The key is having relevant content presented when the boater is exploring charts, planning routes, and even underway. These are the moments when decisions are made.

(0:08) Remember, your promotional messages are displayed in every marine navigation application that supports ActiveCaptain data. Use them to tell boaters why your marina is the best choice for them.

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