Tuesday, April 29, 2014


(1:04) I've written about the importance of a boater's first interactions with your marina. Often this is with your dockhands whether communicating on the radio or handling lines as a boater pulls in. Not long ago I overheard a radio exchange that got me thinking about this critical component of the boater's experience.

(0:58) It was a blustery day at a marina that has strong river currents. As a boater approached and began his communications with the dockhands, he began asking a series of questions. He wanted to know the wind strength and direction at the marina. He said he was new to his boat and was concerned about the conditions. He asked if the current, which was running strong, was any less at the slip, and what was the direction.

(0:49) As I listened I was quite impressed with the care the boater was taking to gather important information before he entered the marina and was in tight conditions getting into a slip. The conditions were certainly tricky. The dockhand described where the slip was and the boater asked, "Do you think it will be difficult getting in there?" The dockhand responded, "Well, that depends on your skill level."

(0:40) Wow, I really can't think of a worse reply. Best case, the boater may feel insulted by that remark. Worst case, he might feel challenged to try a maneuver he is not comfortable doing. That could easily wind up being a bad day for the boater which will mean an even worse day for the marina.

(0:33) Boaters come in all levels of skill and confidence. And every one of them deserves to be treated with respect. Every last one of us was new and inexperienced at one time. There is no shame in that. This particular boater in acknowledging his inexperience was showing great wisdom. He will likely become an accomplished boater quickly and boat for many years to come.

(0:25) Which leads me to my most significant point. A new and inexperienced transient boater coming into your marina should be viewed as a golden opportunity. This is a boater who is learning and discovering the places to go. He hasn't developed habits about where he stops. And you have the opportunity to give him an exceptional experience that will make him want to return. That will make you a part of his new habit.

(0:13) So while all boaters should be treated with respect and professionalism, take extra time with that newbie who may feel a bit nervous and need a little more guidance. Answer his questions respectfully and help him increase his confidence. This is an investment in the future. The average long-range cruiser cruises on his boat for 10 years. Handle him well today and you will be rewarded with his business for years to come.

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

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Create an Irresistible Offer

(1:12) I've written about the role that specials should play in attracting boaters to your marina. Discounts should be offered for only one reason: to change a boater's behavior. Remember, you don't need to change behavior when you are full or overbooked. When you need more business, that is the time to provide incentives for me to come in.

(1:03) Timing is critical to ensure you are getting the most out of your discounts. But the offer itself is as important, if not more important. After all, if you expect me to do something different than I was planning, you'd better make sure your offer hits home. Think of it as the bait that will draw in the boater. Before you can determine what your offer should be, you need to think about a few things.

(0:56) First, it is imperative that you have a clear idea of what you are trying to achieve. Are you looking for boaters who are new to your marina? Do you need to fill in business at specific times? Are there new or underutilized services you wish to promote? Are you targeting transients or longer term slipholders? You must know what you want to accomplish before you know what to offer. You also have to know how you will measure the results.

(0:47) Next, you need to understand the audience you wish to target and the motivations needed to change their behavior. If your offer is not perceived as valuable and relevant to them, it will be passed over. Think about the target, what they need, what's important to them, and then come up with an idea that's relevant, timely, interesting, and genuine.

(0:40) If you're looking to fill your storage space, you might offer a free month when the boater pays for X months. Alternatively, transients might be attracted by a free dinner at your restaurant. You could introduce your boatyard capabilities with a free short haul for new customers.

(0:34) Make sure your offer is concise and clear. Simple is better. Simple makes me read your offer and allows me to quickly understand it. Be bold about what I save. It's fine to tell me the price but then follow up with, "that's a savings of..." Don't make me figure it out.

(0:28) Give me a clear call to action and set a deadline. "Must reserve by" or "Only 5 slips are available" will motivate me to take the next step so I won't miss out. Plus it allows you to control your discounts so they are more likely to achieve your goals and maximize your revenues.

(0:22) Your offer must communicate clearly and concisely the thing that is special and what sets you apart from your competition. Your offer must be sufficiently appealing to make me stop and take note. It should motivate me to take action.

(0:16) Don't forget to consider other businesses you might partner with to sweeten the deal even more while benefiting each of you. Consider combining dockage specials with service work to fill in the downtimes for both businesses. Or help introduce a new restaurant to the transient community with a dock and dine special. Be creative, be unique, and stand out.

(0:08) Special offers can bring you new business and incent boaters to use you during slow periods. This can boost your revenues and bring you more exposure. That's good for business.

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

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Show Off!

(1:06) I've recently published a couple of Minutes on marina WiFi. Response has been strong. I think there is little doubt that good, fast, reliable WiFi is necessary if you want to be a preferred marina to all boaters.

(1:01) From talking to many marina managers, everyone sees the importance of being able to stream video along with having reliable web access to pay bills and communicate with friends and family. We've now been involved with a couple of marinas cutting over to new technology and the new WiFi setups we have been involved with have performed even better than we expected.

(0:53) So that got me thinking about other advantages of super fast WiFi - advantages to you, the marinas. WiFi becomes a marketing tool in ways you might not have thought about. And I'm not just talking about promoting fast WiFi for boaters.

(0:48) Consider this. If boaters are now able to stream movies into the boat, watch YouTube, and use the full capabilities of Skype, well that means you can stream video out as well. Think what can be done with some well placed webcams at your site.

(0:43) First, cameras can become an amenity you can promote to your long-term and transient boaters. The ability to look in on my boat from home or other locations is not only comforting but is an added safety measure. We did just that this past winter when we left the boat to travel to relatives for the holidays.

(0:38) The marina we choose to leave the boat at not only had security gates but they also had a variety of webcams placed around the marina. We could go to their website and select the webcam near our boat and then zoom and pan to zero in on her. My husband left an AC light on in the pilothouse so we could easily confirm that the boat was still getting shore power. He checked it every night.

(0:29) That's a simple and inexpensive way to give me a reason to leave my boat at your marina. Another terrific use is as a direct marketing tool for your marina.

(0:25) To the joy of quality businesses (at the expense of poor ones), the internet has provided consumers with a better way to get the real story. In the same way that paper guidebooks written by self-proclaimed experts have been replaced by the real experiences of actual boaters, your glossy brochures and professionally crafted photo shoots are being replaced with real photos on blogs, Facebook, and YouTube.

(0:15) You can take part in this as well. Let prospective customers look around your marina using your webcams. They'll know they're seeing the real deal and can check back at various times to see what's happening.

(0:10) Of course, this requires having confidence in your facility. The fact is if you are concerned right now whether you want to let boaters take a peek at your marina, any day, any time, then you have some work to do. If you know that your marina can pass that test, then be proud and show boaters what you've got!

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

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Muffin Man

(1:05) Whenever I run across a marketing or sales experience that grabs my attention, whether good or bad, I start thinking of how that might translate into something marinas can use or learn from. We spent a week at Marineland Marina, a terrific small marina that does so much right. When they let us know about the Tuesday morning farmer's market, we made plans to attend. Then in a communication with a fellow boater who'd passed through the week before, we were told to visit the "muffin man."

(0:54) Tuesday morning as we walked down the dock to the market we passed boaters with containers of muffins. We just had to see what this was all about. We met Hugo who makes dozens of different kinds of "Vegan and Gluten Free Muffins." Now I know that many of you are wrinkling a nose. But then you probably haven't met Hugo.

(0:47) Right away he begins chatting in the most pleasant way and without you realizing it, he has determined some critical information. Are you Vegan, counting calories, or just looking for a tasty muffin? Do you live nearby or will you be moving on? This information lets him know what to offer you. He has long stainless-steel tongs and quickly begins tearing off pieces of various muffins offering a taste. He tells us they freeze well and gives instructions for freezing them for later. He notes that my husband is interested in the calorie count and rattles off the calories for each muffin sample he gives.

(0:34) The bottom line. We went there to purchase two muffins for breakfast and walked away with enough to fill the freezer. And at $27 a dozen I still feel great about my purchase.

(0:28) So what can you learn from this? First, Hugo had an excellent product. Without that the rest would have been just showmanship. Then he gave every customer the feeling that he cared about them and their needs. He wasn't just selling terrific muffins, he was selling a healthy food option, or a Vegan lifestyle, or a reasonable calorie count, along with a wonderful taste. He focused his sell on what was important to me. He had the confidence in his product to give some away knowing it would lead to more sales.

(0:17) You can use these same skills when bringing in boaters. When you are crafting your promotional message think about the many different reasons boaters might come to your marina. Don't hesitate to offer specials during down times to bring in new boaters allowing them to "sample" your product. Be confident that they will come back and tell others when they experience what you offer.

(0:09) Understand the needs of boaters as individuals and try to meet those needs. Make it easy for them to get what they are looking for. Learn from these interactions to craft and modify your promotional messages to focus on what boaters care about. Give me an exceptional experience and I will not only return but will tell others.

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

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Welcome to the Neighborhood

(1:04) I live on my boat. It is my home. So when I pull into a marina whether for a night, a week, or a month, that becomes my neighborhood. It is the place where I will shop, eat, take my canine crew for a walk, and maybe even use a doctor, dentist or hairdresser. Are you making sure that every transient feels welcomed to your neighborhood?

(0:57) I remember when I was growing up that there was a sort of ritual that took place whenever a new family moved into our neighborhood. If you were born after the 1960's it may seem quaint or old fashion but it was real. Women from the neighborhood would visit the new family. Over coffee they would get to know each other. And yes, there was often a cake or cookies involved.

(0:48) An important part of the meeting was an exchange of useful information about the area - we'd call that, "local knowledge" today. Which grocery store was best, who were the good babysitters, and information about upcoming events. It helped bring the newcomers into the neighborhood and made them feel wanted and welcomed.

(0:40) Now I'm not suggesting that you meet every transient boater with a cake and expect to sit down for a chat. Although a cake would certainly get you an invite onboard my boat.

(0:35) I was reminded of this ritual recently as we pulled into a marina and were politely and professionally greeted by the dockhands. We had been there before with a big draw being the nearby dog park. I thought how perfect it would have been if one of the dockhands seeing our two dogs straining over the bow would have said, "Welcome! Did you know there's a nice dog park right nearby?"

(0:26) That simple gesture would have made me feel truly welcome and special and told me that they really wanted me and my crew to enjoy our stay. It would have been a preamble to the Welcome Packet I would receive at check in.

(0:19) There are so many different ways you can add that personal touch. I've writte about farmer's markets. "How long are you staying? There's a great farmer's market - or local theater or craft fair - tomorrow."

(0:14) It could simply be, "If you're looking for a place to eat, we have some great suggestions in our welcome packet." Or, "Don't miss our downtown, it's lovely." Or even, "Let me know if you have any questions about the town."

(0:09) Make sure you are aware of what is happening nearby so that you can let boaters know. Treat me like a welcomed member of your neighborhood and I'll come back to visit again and again. I'll also let other boaters know what a welcoming place you have. And that will translate into more business.

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