Tuesday, September 30, 2014

On the Front Lines

(1:04) I know that many of you pass along some Minutes to your staff. I love when that happens because most of my Minutes are as relevant to them as they are to management. Maybe even more relevant. After all, they are the ones on the front lines interacting with the boaters every day in real and meaningful ways. This is a valuable asset I fear many marinas are overlooking.

(0:55) Yes, I know that a good manager will get out of the office, walk the docks, and meet and greet the boaters. But unless you are a very small, maybe family run facility, you are spending much of your time doing, well, management things.

(0:49) So your staff becomes valuable ears and eyes letting you know what your customers are thinking. Not only are they typically the first encounter a boater will have with your facility, but they can fend off problems before they turn into a negative review and let you know what is being chatted about among boaters. They know what is working and where the problems lie.

(0:41) I have been to marinas where the staff was actually discouraged from interacting with boaters. One employee told me, "We've been told not to talk to the boaters who come here." I was stunned. I can only assume that management was afraid an employee would say the wrong thing. That's a training and leadership issue.

(0:33) Of course, there is a balance. Few boaters would want someone hanging around their boat just shooting the breeze. But everyone should greet boaters cordially, making them feel welcome. Dockhands should make sure I am comfortably settled and have the information I need to have a pleasant stay. If I'm standing on the dock with a trash bag in hand looking confused, offer to help. If you're working on my boat and I question something, check it out.

(0:21) I know that each of us has different interpersonal skills and styles, but any employee can be trained to listen and follow through. No employee should be discouraged from approaching management when they find something that isn't right. After all, they are most likely to see the minor problem before it becomes a major issue.

(0:13) Finally, the employees are the ones who will likely hear any discourse happening among boaters. Are they talking about the dirty heads? Your employees should alert you.

(0:08) Empower every employee to take ownership in the success of your marina. Listen and communicate from management and owners to staff through to boaters. We all want the boating experience to be positive and enjoyable. That's good for everyone.

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

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Work the VHF

This week is a timely repeat of one of the most popular Minutes.

(1:13) The VHF radio can be one of your best marketing tools. No, I'm not saying that you should send ads out on the radio - that would be against the law and would probably just irritate boaters. But that doesn't mean that lawful, helpful, and professional use of the VHF radio can't enhance your reputation, get your marina in front of boaters, and help bring you more business.

(0:59) Every marina that accepts transients on their docks must ensure that someone is always available to promptly, courteously, and professionally answer the radio. Every boater who hails your marina must receive an immediate response. Remember, often this is the first interaction the boater has with your marina. Don't leave boaters with the feeling you don't want them because you're not responding to their call.

(0:44) I have often heard a boater who repeatedly hails a marina with no reply and then hails a competitor's marina. If you are unable to have someone stationed in the office at all times, then invest in some handheld VHF radios (with belt straps).

(0:34) But the usefulness goes beyond responding to a boater's call. Every time your marina's name is broadcast on the VHF most boaters within a 5 to 20 mile range hear the call. Make sure everyone who uses the radio knows the protocols and projects a professional and friendly image.

(0:22) Consider responding to the calls for a radio check with, "Your call was heard by My Marina in My Town." Not only is your marina name heard by all boaters but you appear engaged and ready to help.

(0:14) Every interaction with a boater has an impact on their impression of your marina and therefore on the review they may write. Make sure that every one is projecting the image you want, including the ones on the VHF radio.

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

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Bring 'Em Back

(1:07) Last week I discussed an exceptional experience we had with a boat detailer at a yard. This experience had us already planning how we can come back in the future. It reminded me that there are many things a marina or boatyard can do to bring customers back again and again. It would be wise to find your exceptional service. What can you offer that will make boaters include you as a regular in their cruising itinerary?

(0:57) It could simply be a great fuel price. For boatyards it might be some of the routine maintenance we all need to do again and again. Waxing, detailing, paint/gelcoat repair, and bottom painting quickly come to mind. The beauty there is if you make the experience exceptional, you can bring them back for those bigger jobs as well.

(0:50) That doesn't mean you have to be a boatyard to take advantage of this type of repeat business. I know boaters who return to a marina year after year for mobile work including engine maintenance, detailing, and canvas work. So if you are a marina, consider cultivating a list of quality contractors that can help draw boaters in for these repetitive tasks if you don't perform them in-house. The key is providing an exceptional experience to the boater.

(0:40) Don't forget annual events. What cruiser on the US east coast doesn't know about the Thanksgiving dinner event at St. Marys, Georgia or the Spoleto Festival in Charleston? Are you aware of all of the events going on near your marina?

(0:34) It could be something of a more permanent nature, like a theater or arena. Some places have a restaurant or park or simply the town or city where the marina is located to create an attraction. Don't forget the natural beauty and opportunities available to explore that may be nearby.

(0:27) It's easy to have tunnel vision and only focus on what is available within your property and sometimes that is terrific enough. We've been to marinas with spas and gourmet restaurants which make them a destination in themselves. But more typically, what a marina itself can offer is good docks and boater amenities. Important, yes, but not necessarily enough to ensure I'll be a regular.

(0:17) If you honestly can't find anything then consider doing what Dowry Creek Marina does. Make boaters feel so welcome that they feel sorry if they can't make the stop. The boater's lounge turns a modest facility into a must stop location. Every night boaters gather for docktails, or a potluck, or a party. Mary, the owner and facilitator, lets you know when you check in what is happening and invites you to join in. It feels like home.

(0:07) Figure out how to make your facility a place I think about every time I plan my stops and you'll be rewarded with more business.

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

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Levi is a Salesman

(1:05) Over the years we have had dozens of people do work on our boat, from bottom painting, to engine work, to electronics, to detailing. What we have found is that people tend to fall into one of three categories - those who want to get the job done, those who want to do a good job, and those who want to make the boater happy. The last group is what customer service is all about and, alas, is rather rare. So when I run across someone from the third group, I take note, not only for future work on aCappella, but as an example in these Minutes.

(0:50) We had our boat washed and waxed while having work done at a yard which is how we met Levi. Levi manages 2-3 guys and does the detailing work for the yard. Prior to his arrival at the boat I was chatting with a fellow boater who told me, "He's not cheap but boy is he worth it. It will be the best waxing job you'll ever have." That peaked my interest. It can also be dangerous to have such high expectations. But in this case, our expectations were actually exceeded. aCappella hasn't looked this good, ever.

(0:38) That led me to analyze what it was about Levi that made the experience and the outcome so exceptional. Like so much in life, it was the little things. But it all boils down to the fact that Levi's goal is to make every boater he works with happy.

(0:32) It starts with his attitude. He's happy, he's friendly, he's interested. You sense he loves his work and takes great personal pride in what he does. He engages you, finding out what it is you desire, including things you may not realize. For example, he asked about our cruising plans, discovered we were heading to the Bahamas, and said, "With all that sun you'll want a heavier coat of wax, so we'll do the hull by hand as that leaves more wax behind than a buffer." Levi provided us with something we didn't even know we wanted because he took time to understand us.

(0:19) The relationship doesn't end when he leaves the boat either. He stopped by to ask if we were happy with the job. He pointed out a few problem areas we need to work on. He described how we could best maintain her to help the waxing last longer. He even agreed to stop back and go over the various products we had accumulated over the years to show us which to use and which to avoid.

(0:10) He made me feel that my boat, my home, was important to him. The result is not only a very happy customer - mission accomplished Levi - but someone who will make this a destination to come back to again and again. Levi probably thinks of himself as a detailer. But really, he's a fantastic salesman.

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

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Zero Moment of Fuel

(1:04) A couple of years ago I did a series of Minutes based on the ebook Zero Moment of Truth or ZMOT written by Jim Lecinski of Google. If you missed them or simply wish to refresh yourself, you can find them in my blog. The first entry is here:

(0:56) The book explored how the internet has changed the way consumers search out and purchase goods and services. It should come as no surprise that the impact has been monumental. The world has changed in ways that make the old way of doing things obsolete. ZMOT has completely changed the rules. As I stated in the series:

(0:48) "To successfully navigate your customers' ZMOT, you need to understand what information they are looking for, and where and how they will find it. You no longer have the choice of simply presenting them the message you want them to hear. Consumers want real information, in real-time, whenever they want it. Provide them that and you can win."

(0:39) The good news is that I've witnessed huge changes in the ways marinas and boatyards are communicating information to existing and new customers. They are finding success by acknowledging and accommodating their customer's wishes. However, as we have been rolling out the new changes in fuel pricing, I've discovered more resistance in this one area.

(0:30) Boaters feedback to the new fuel features has been overwhelming. Hundreds of emails last week created one of the biggest responses we have ever received. They want quick and easy access to fuel pricing information and will use that to make their purchasing decisions. They don't want to call by phone to get fuel prices any longer. If your price isn't available, they'll go elsewhere. But some marinas are still in the old world of "I don't want my competitors to know my price."

(0:19) If you compete on fuel, your competitors already know your price and it didn't take the internet to get it. Be honest, don't you know your competitors' prices?

(0:15) Refusing to publish your pricing where your customers want to see it doesn't hurt your competition. It's only hurting your customers. And many today, if not most, will go elsewhere.

(0:10) I think Jim Lecinski says it best: "There are two heroes: the consumer who does the research, and the marketer who is smart enough to be there at the moment the shopper is looking for them."

(0:05) Make sure you're there when boaters are looking for you.

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