Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

(0:56) Last New Year's I chose 3 of my favorite Minutes from the past year and highlighted them. Your response was so positive that I decided to do the same this year. Below are the 4 Minutes that received the most feedback including one series that you found most helpful. Now is a good time to check them out if you missed them or to read them again as you enter the new year.

(0:46) What's a Bitter End?, January 29, 2013

It's often the most basic things that we overlook. But it is also the basics that will have the biggest impact on boaters impressions of you and your facility. Make sure that your staff is trained to impress from the moment they grab a boater's lines:

(0:38) The Welcome Packet, March 26, 2013

Without question, this series is the most requested Minutes of all time. A Welcome Packet is a valuable marketing tool because it enhances the boater's experience. A positive experience leads to positive reviews which provides critical word-of-mouth marketing. Now's a good time to make sure your Welcome Packet is up to snuff:

(0:24) Embrace Failure, May 7, 2013

I was pleased that so many of you loved this Minute. The word "failure" is such a negative term that I feared you would balk or think I was a bit daff. But having the courage to face the possibility of failure can lead to your greatest successes:

(0:16) Embrace Customer Complaints, November 26, 2013

Embrace Customer Complaints, November 26, 2013
This was another Minute that looked at something most of us would rather not deal with. But there is no better or faster way to improve your business than to let your customers tell you where you need to change. Make it easy for them to provide feedback, listen to and act on their complaints, and you will see more business:


(0:07) Make sure to read tomorrow's ActiveCaptain Newsletter for a run down on our plans for 2014. I wish you much success in the coming year!

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

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

It's the Experience

(1:04) I've been thinking about what makes a marina stand out or be a place a boater wants to return to - one the boater will write a positive review about and recommend to fellow boaters. What kept coming to mind was "the experience," that somewhat intangible thing that makes me feel positively towards a place.

(0:57) The good news is that an experience can encompass many and varied things. That means that pretty much any place can increase the boater's experience by focusing on and playing up their assets. It often goes far beyond what you offer right at your facility and can often make up for less than perfect docks or some missing amenities. Here are some examples that I have experienced directly as a liveaboard boater.

(0:46) The dog park at Titusville Municipal Marina in Florida was an amazing gem. A large friendly dog park literally next door to the marina. A place where we could give the canine crew a break. We found this on our own but after pointing it out to the marina, they've been promoting it on ActiveCaptain and putting up signs directing pets and owners to the park. The response has been terrific. And we can't wait to go back again.

(0:35) The boater's lounge at Dowry Creek Marina in Belhaven, NC turns a simple marina with decent yet basic facilities into a must stop location. Every night boaters gather for docktails, or a potluck, or a party. Mary, the owner, lets you know when you check in what is happening and invites you to join in. It feels like home.

(0:27) We've discovered most of our favorite restaurants when an employee has recommended a lesser known place loved by the locals. Basil Thai Restaurant in Charleston is one of our all time favorites which we visit again and again. Just last week we needed a place for a business lunch in Panama City, FL and were pointed to Bayou Joe's. We're already planning our return trip.

(0:16) The Commodore Theatre in Portsmouth, VA takes the rare movie theater a boater can walk to and ups the stakes by adding a beautifully renovated art deco interior and comfortable seating around tables with food service. We'll pretty much stop in there and watch anything that's showing.

(0:09) There are many, many more examples I could give but the secret is to find your special attraction and work it for all it's worth. Make sure you can point boaters towards your special gems and they'll help you turn those gems into more revenue.

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

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Entertain Me

(1:05) Over the past few weeks we have been enjoying the bustle of civilization after spending weeks on the major rivers. One of the things we love doing is walking through the town centers and squares, looking at shops and restaurants and other entertainment choices.

(0:58) It got me thinking about the importance of a walking map to draw transient boaters to your facility and to ensure that they have a good time when they visit. If you are close to a pretty town, an interesting shopping experience, or have any kind of entertainment, you should develop an appealing walking map.

(0:50) It's easy to focus only on the things provided by your marina when you think about your marketing plans. You highlight your amenities, point out your services, maybe even talk up the staff. And those are all important to a boater deciding where to stay and can certainly make boaters choose your marina over the one next door.

(0:42) But that depends on the assumption that a boater is coming to your area. For many of you, your competition isn't simply the marinas nearby, it's the towns and places all around your location. So it's important to let boaters know what there is to do if they come to visit. This is particularly relevant for attractions within walking and biking distance of the marina.

(0:33) We've been to places like The Wharf Marina in Orange Beach, AL that has restaurants and quaint shops, a movie theater and even a Ferris wheel. Transient boaters fully appreciate a movie theater they can walk to. We saw our first movie in many months at The Wharf. We nearly passed by Pensacola where we walked off the boat into the beautiful city with almost endless possibilities. The same is true of Panama City where the Marina Civic Center is literally right next door. We missed seeing Bonnie Raitt by 2 days!

(0:19) It is worth spending some time on your walking map and working with the local businesses who may also help put it together. Encourage them to include specials, discounts, and more in your packet. Use this tool to help a boater's stay become exceptional which leads to good reviews, word of mouth, and return visits. But also use it as a marketing tool. Include a PDF of the walking map on your website to help show what's available in your area. That let's boaters know why they should come to your town or community.

(0:07) Show me that I will have a good time and I will visit. Then help me have a good time when I arrive and I will come back and tell other boaters.

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

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

How Can I Help?

(1:04) I have often written about encouraging, even embracing customer complaints. What many fear is having a negative exchange in public. I think most of us would prefer to be criticized in privately.

(1:00) There are several things you can do to encourage your customers to let you know if you've fallen short, so you can make things right before they sit down and tell the world. It all goes back to creating an environment where feedback is encouraged. Let your customers know that you want to offer them exceptional service and also want to know if it's not happening. So send them that message right from the first interaction.

(0:51) From the dockhands grabbing the lines to employees passed on the dock to the moment a boater leaves, every employee should be looking for ways to make that boater's stay exceptional. After helping a boater settle in, and handing them a map of your facility, the dockhand's final words should be, "Please let us know if you need anything else."

(0:43) Your check-in procedures and Welcome Packet are another important opportunity. Your Welcome letter should state that you are striving to provide exceptional service and let boaters know who to contact if they have a problem. This should also be communicated verbally, again, "Please let us know if there's anything you need."

(0:29) But don't make it just lip service. Every employee needs to be trained on the importance of eliciting feedback. Make sure that every employee asks boaters about their stay. How can I help? Is everything alright? Do you need anything? Ensure they know what to do with the information, good or bad. It doesn't work to ask the questions without follow through.

(0:21) I'm reminded of an experience when renting a car that was less than expected. When I returned it I was asked by the attendant who was busy checking me out on the computer, "How was your rental?" I proceeded to tell him about the few things that weren't right, whereby he looked up like a deer in the headlights, mumbled what I think was "Sorry" and finished the transaction. While he'd been told to ask the question, there was clearly no desire to really hear my response, let alone deal with it.

(0:07) Let boaters be heard and responded to while they are still at your docks, when you have a chance to make things right, and you will be rewarded with more positive reviews.

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