Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Strut Your Stuff

(1:04) Are you presenting your marina in its best light? To be perfectly frank, I see too many Pro-Op messages that are dull, lack appeal, and are repetitive, or are missing altogether. I don't mean to be harsh but if you are wasting this valuable real estate simply restating the amenities that are already detailed in the rest of your marker or if you have failed to create a promotional message at all, you are missing a terrific opportunity to let boaters know why they want to stop and see what you have to offer.

(0:51) The Pro-Op message is a feature that is only available to our Sponsor marinas. Only a Sponsor can have a promotional message that allows them to show off a little, letting boaters know what they will be missing if they pass you by. Don't waste this valuable resource.

(0:44) The Oxford Dictionary defines promotional as, "of or relating to the publicizing of a product, organization, or venture so as to increase sales or public awareness." It's tooting your horn!

(0:38) The best messages are about what makes you different and appealing, not what makes you just like everyone else. So don't tell me you have showers, heads, and laundry. Most marinas do and that's covered under the Services section of the ActiveCaptain data anyway.

(0:31) Before the holidays I saw the perfect promotional message when Denis Frain at Gulfport Municipal Marina updated his Pro-Op. It starts out:

(0:26) "We've been called funky, eclectic, artsy, charming, progressive, welcoming, warm, and yes, even weird. We are a small town, but we have a big heart. It's easy to make yourself at home here. Visit us and we think you'll agree."

(0:19) That certainly gets your attention. It goes on to describe what makes Gulfport different, unusual, appealing, and worth visiting. After reading the Pro-Op I am intrigued and have a sense that this is a place not to be missed.

(0:12) You can see the full Pro-Op message here. It is just beneath the contact information.

(0:08) Think about what makes your marina a special stop. Give boaters a reason to visit and you'll be rewarded with increased sales. Don't hesitate to strut your stuff!

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

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Make It Personal - II

(1:19) I tend to have pretty high expectations about what makes for good customer service. I'm always attune to examples of good and bad in my personal and business life and like to analyze why an experience succeeded or failed.

(1:13) One of my all time favorite companies for outstanding customer service is Chewy.com. Many of you are likely aware that we cruise with two Labrador Retrievers. If you have met our crew or follow their blog then you probably know that they have a special life which includes special food. Purchasing dog food at a local grocery store or Walmart is not an option. So over the years I have used multiple online companies to deliver food to marinas where we take our boat.

(1:03) That changed a couple of years ago when I discovered Chewy.com and now there is only one source that I use. The reason is they have the most exceptional customer service I have ever experienced. I have been impressed over and over again with the way they have handled a variety of situations.

(0:56) Well, this week they were able to blow me away again.

(0:54) As I sorted through a mail drop which included several holiday cards from businesses we work with, there was one from Chewy.com. But this was not your typical card with a pre-printed signature. It wasn't even a card that had been hand-signed. It was a card with a handwritten, personal multi-paragraph message.

(0:45) The note addressed me by name, mentioned my pets, and thanked me for my business. It wished me happy holidays and was signed by the co-founders.

(0:40) Now I don't pretend to know that it was actually the founders who wrote this message but to me that doesn't matter. It was that obvious effort that went into the gesture that had its impact.

(0:34) I also don't necessarily believe that everyone who purchased from Chewy.com last year got a similar card. I have two Labradors and buy a lot food, treats, and other things from this business, so maybe this is for their best customers only. I really don't know.

(0:27) My point is not to run out, purchase stacks of holiday cards, and start writing. But think about the things you can do that are very personal to your customers. There is no better way to create customer loyalty and motivate word-of-mouth marketing. We all tend to talk about things that surprise us. Consider the large amount of free publicity Chewy.com has received from me today. I bet if you have a pet you'll be checking out the site in a moment.

(0:16) Think about ways that you can bring that personal touch to boaters. A couple of years ago, a dockhand took a picture of me and my dogs as our boat arrived at the marina and gave it to me. That's an easy, wonderful gesture since most boaters have few pictures of their own boat underway. How about a handwritten thank you placed on the cockpit the day they leave? Use your imagination!

(0:06) Make me feel special and I'll be back and tell all my friends. You can't buy that kind of incredible exposure.

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

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Honest Reviews

(1:04) I've always felt that one of the biggest mistakes you can make in your business is to underestimate your competition. I often say, "Always assume they're smarter than you are." I think there's a similar message when dealing with your customers. It's never a good idea to think you can fool them.

(0:54) Last week I discussed being honest in the presentation of your marina. It's just as important to be honest about customer reviews. If boaters sense they can't trust the reviews you have, they will not trust your business.

(0:48) This is so critical to us that we have a variety of ways to sniff out "dishonest" reviews. And trust me, it's not difficult. For the record, we have found that it is far more common for there to be false positive reviews than false negative ones.

(0:40) To ensure that you are gaining the most benefit from the review process, make sure you are encouraging boaters to be honest in their assessment, and yes, that means pointing out your warts as well as your charms.

(0:34) A balanced assessment that details your goods points and not so good points will be given far more credibility than an over-the-top glowing account. Plus, without knowing where you need to improve, how can you become better?

(0:27) Honesty in the review process is becoming more important than every. Last year, a consumer study by BrightLocal found that 85% of the consumers surveyed read reviews before making buying decisions, 73% said positive reviews made them trust a business more, and 79% stated they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. But all of this hinges on whether the consumer trusts the review source.

(0:17) We've known this from the start. You can't beg, plead, or pay us to remove a review that is real and honest. We've even lost ActiveCaptain Sponsors over this fact. So if another site tells you they'll "fix" your reviews if you pay them for advertising, don't waste your time or money. Boaters are smarter than that. They know which sites have review integrity. The rest...they ignore.

(0:07) The best way to build trust with the boating community is to seek out honest feedback, thank every boater who gives it, and listen to what they tell you.

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

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Be Honest

(1:07) I've written how the fastest way to a negative review is to have a boater's expectations not match reality. It's so important that you make sure you are presenting your marina in an honest light.

(1:02) This was brought home to me as we approached a marina who rated poorly in ActiveCaptain but was the only choice for our Thanksgiving stop. The weather was cold and predicted to get colder. Reviews indicated that power at the transient docks was a problem so we inquired over the radio. We were told, "We've called the electrician to come fix it but because it's raining today, I don't think he'll make it."

(0:52) Really? There's no power because it's raining today. Yet the marina's reviews back as far as January all mentioned power problems. Later we found out from locals that the power went out following a bad storm in 2008. No, that's not a typo. Is it possible it has rained every day since 2008? Not likely.

(0:44) This was a bad interaction on many levels. First, you can no longer assume your customers are naive to your weaknesses. I knew coming in we were not likely to have power but being misled in that manner made me doubtful of anything else this marina might tell me. Plus the lack of candor did not make me feel sympathetic to their situation. Had we been told, "I am sorry we do not provide power on the transient docks," I would have respected the honesty.

(0:33) I trust such a gross example is not relevant to anyone reading my Minutes. But consider the small "white lies" we all can be inclined to tell. After all, who doesn't wish to be seen in the best light. But even a slight exaggeration can set up for a failed expectation and that can easily lead to a poor review.

(0:26) A common example of this is grocery stores. I frequently find this field set to "Yes" with something like, "XYZ store is 3 miles away." Unless there is a courtesy car or some other form of transportation to the store, that facility does not offer access to a grocery store for the typical boater. If you doubt that, then next time you do your own grocery shopping, try carrying it 3 miles.

(0:16) However, entering "No - The closest grocery store is 3 miles away." gives a truly honest answer that any boater can use. Maybe I have bikes with baskets and don't mind that sort of run. Or maybe I'll decide to rent a car or call a taxi. You've given me the information I need to make my decision honestly. Boaters will appreciate that.

(0:08) Consider the information you are providing boaters as the information they'll use to make decisions. Is it what you would want and need? It's simple - treat your customers how you wish to be treated. I think we all learned that in kindergarten.

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