Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Food Glorious Food

(1:04) It seems pretty obvious that if you provide the things your customers really want, your business will improve. Old customers will keep coming back and word of mouth and positive reviews will bring in new customers. Something I have often mention in Minutes is the importance of thinking beyond what is offered at your facility. Make sure to take in the nearby town and surrounding area. Any service offered within walking distance or accessible by courtesy cars and public transportation is a service you can promote to cruisers. The needs of cruisers are as widely varied as cruisers themselves and can sometimes be hard to predict. The best way to learn is to listen to their requests.

(0:48) But there is one need that is universal no matter what a cruiser's age or inclination or special needs. We all need to acquire food on a regular basis. I've probably belabored this point enough that you know to include the locations of nearby grocery stores in your welcome packet. Each listing should include distances for walking and/or information about available transportation.

(0:40) Something we are seeing more and more frequently are local farmer's markets popping up. As we all become more conscious of what we eat and its impact on us and our environment, local farms and other businesses are organizing to offer their fresh products directly to consumers. Keeping good, fresh produce onboard is a challenge for any liveaboard, so this is great news for cruisers. But only if we are aware of it.

(0:31) Make sure that you know about farmer's markets that are accessible to cruisers. Have directions, times, and other information available in the welcome packet, on your website, and in your ActiveCaptain marker. Easy access to a farmer's market can influence my decision to visit your marina and even cause me to extend my stay.

(0:22) If the market is out of reach via walking or public transportation, try organizing car pooling with a sign up sheet. Most marinas we visit have long term liveaboards who often offer transportation to transients. It's a great way to meet interesting people.

(0:19) Will this really make a difference? Yes it will. We always look for farmer's markets when deciding where to stay. It's often the small but significant things that influence boaters' decisions. Make sure they have the information they need to select your facility. That will bring you more business.

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

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

You're Different

(0:56) One question that often comes up when we are talking about WiFi performance with a marina is, "Why can Hilton and Starbucks and other businesses provide good reliable WiFi but we seem to have problems?" The answer is that marinas and boatyards are different in some significant and important ways.

(0:48) The most obvious difference is that you provide WiFi service out in the elements. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night shall keep the WiFi... you know the quote. Things like wind, rain, and even temperatures can cause interference in an outdoor WiFi setup, particularly if it has not been designed and set up to work in this harsh environment.

(0:40) There will often be components that must reside out in the elements exposing the equipment to extreme temperatures and moisture. In many marinas there is saltwater which is even more corrosive. Even if you are able to place your equipment undercover, it is still more exposed than devices installed in a hotel or coffee bar.

(0:32) Then there are the ever changing conditions of boats coming and going. Think of a sailboat alone at a dock who's WiFi signal is great until they become surrounded by two large double-decked power boats that block their signal.

(0:27) You might have covered slips with metal roofs causing interference or a large storage or work shed between the boater and the signal source. Few marinas sit in a densely packed basin but are more commonly spread out along the water.

(0:22) Now let's assume you can provide a strong reliable signal out to the dock. What happens when that boater who was sitting in the cockpit surfing the web wants to go below and surf from the iPad in their stateroom? Will the signal remain strong as they move below?

(0:16) It is no wonder that systems designed for orderly, predictable, indoor applications fall apart when tried in a marina setting. You are different. You need designs, equipment, and layouts that have been designed to satisfy the complexities of your environment. You are different, so make sure your WiFi provider has experience in marina installations because it doesn't matter how many hotels or doctor's offices or Starbucks they have worked on. If they don't understand your unique situation, they will not be able to offer the service your customers demand.

(0:05) Satisfied customers means more business for you.

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

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

May We Help You?

(1:30) We've seen quite an increase in new ActiveCaptain Sponsors lately. I work with new Sponsors providing Getting Started information and helping them take full advantage of all that ActiveCaptain offers. This past week it occurred to me that it was a good time to remind everyone of the ActiveCaptain tools a marina can use to help bring in more business. So whether you are new to ActiveCaptain or one of our earliest supporters, take a minute to make sure you are doing all you can.

(1:19) The Marina Minute newsletter/blog provides a short weekly message covering some area that I feel can help marinas be more successful. If you are reading this from your inbox, you are either already signed up or someone has forwarded it to you. You can sign up for the weekly email by clicking "Join our Mailing List" on the right. You can always find past Minutes on my blog: www.themarinaminute.com

(1:09) The Marina's Guide to ActiveCaptain is a document covering ActiveCaptain's features with an emphasis on how they can be used by marinas to increase business. It includes directions for the most common functions a marina should be using. You can find a pdf version of the document here:

(1:02) The Fuel Update Email is sent out every Monday morning and is a reminder to update your fuel information. If you carry fuel and are not receiving this email, let me know and I will help you get on the list. It is important to respond to the email every week, even if your fuel price has not changed as all pricing has a date. Of course, you can always change your price by going to your marker or saving the Fuel Update Email to use any time. Sponsors can update pricing on their Sponsor page.

(0:51) The Wednesday ActiveCaptain newsletter goes to all users and is the best way to stay up-to-date with what is happening in the ActiveCaptain community. It's important for you to be familiar with what we are communicating to boaters. We're covering areas that are important to your customers which should make it important to you. You can sign up for the newsletter by logging into the ActiveCaptain website, selecting "My Account" in the upper right, and clicking the "Subscribe to newsletter" checkbox.

(0:39) Boater Messaging provides a private and secure way for you to communicate with ActiveCaptain users. Every boater who leaves you a review, good or bad, should receive a message from your marina. You can find instructions for sending a message at the link below:

(0:33) ActiveCaptain Sponsors have access to special promotional tools including a Promotional Message (Pro-Op), Cross Promotion text, and Time Sensitive Boater Specials (Co-Op). Make sure to utilize these features to tell boaters why they should bring you their business. It's important to remember that your messages are not static and can quickly and easily be changed to fit your season, special events, or to experiment to see what makes an impact. Please contact me if you have any questions about using your Sponsor features.

(0:22) ActiveCaptain Reviews are the most valuable feature of ActiveCaptain for boaters and marinas alike. It is the honest and uncensored reviews of fellow boaters that makes ActiveCaptain data the number one resource for boaters. It is the same reason it should be your number one source as well for finding out what you are doing right and where you can improve. Make sure you know what the community is saying about you, read your reviews. ActiveCaptain Sponsors can utilize their customized Review Cards to bring in even more boater reviews. Contact me if you need more information.

(0:06) Make sure you are familiar with the resources we offer. Let us help you bring in more business!

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

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

It's a Digital World

(1:19) What do you think was Apple's fastest growing product in 2013? If you guessed the iPhone, you'd be wrong. And it wasn't the iPad, the iPod, or i-anything else either. It was Apple TV which generated $1 billion (yes, "b") in sales last year, with sales nearly doubling over 2012. This should get your attention. The world is digital and it's not going back.

(1:09) One of our boat projects this winter was to replace our entertainment system on our boat. We had a couple of goals - high definition, HDMI components, using equipment that was smaller and used less power, and installing a Smart TV system.

(1:02) If you're not familiar with Smart TV, it's a television that receives normal over-the-air programming but also directly connects to the internet over WiFi. It lets me watch TV, movies, browse the web, keep my photos, and much more. In short, it allows me to cut my ties to cable and satellite TV. Of course there are ways for "dumb" TV's to become smart through the addition external boxes such as the Roku...and Apple TV. This is a mainstream trend and not something geeky or technical.

(0:52) Users of Smart TV will be placing an even higher demand on your WiFi. The good news is that you can offer far more performance than they need by diverting money you spend on cable to your WiFi setup. In general, you'll actually save money doing this. I know many of you are thinking that cutting your cable TV capability will cause a revolt. But that's not necessarily true, and here's why.

(0:42) Fewer and fewer transients are utilizing the cable connections offered by marinas. We know this from talking to marinas and boaters, and from observing how many boats actually have a cable running out to the dock. This trend will continue and only accelerate in the future.

(0:35) We have heard from marinas that their long term/yearly slip holders, particularly if the marina is their home port, are the most frequent users of cable. For those customers, there is a fantastic solution that will give them more and better functionality at a reduced cost to the marina. It's the perfect win-win situation.

(0:26) There are devices, such as SlingBox, that allow boaters to remotely view and control their home's cable, satellite, or digital video recorder system from their boat over the internet. What that means to the boater is they can have access to all of the entertainment options they have at home. That includes any premium channels such as sports, HBO, etc., that the marina is unlikely to provide. Plus they can do cool things like watch a DVD they've placed in their home player or watch shows they've saved on their DVR/TIVO. These are things they can't get at the marina today but will soon want.

(0:14) All of these features hinge on having exceptional WiFi which is possible and affordable today. Now is the time to begin getting ready. Don't guess - find out how many boaters are actually using your cable setup. We'll help you educate boaters about the advantages of "cutting the cable."

(0:06) Begin planning for this new generation of WiFi. It's coming and if you don't offer it, your competitors will.

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