Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Reputation is Everything

(0:58) It has always been the case that your reputation, whether personal or business, is one of the most important assets you have. Building a good reputation takes time and hard work. Ruining one can take a moment.

(0:53) When asked about the importance of protecting one's business reputation, Warren Buffet said, "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently."

(0:46) I've come to realize that when I read a boater review, I'm witnessing the building or diminishing of a business's reputation. How can you protect yours?

(0:40) First and foremost, be honest about how you present your marina to boaters. Overstating your amenities or exaggerating about the area is more likely to result in a reduced review than presenting a modest marina as, well, modest. Poor reviews happen when a boater's expectations are not met, not because you don't have a pool or a 5 star restaurant.

(0:31) Remember that just like with restaurants and hotels, consumer's needs vary from person to person and from circumstance to circumstance. Help me best determine if you meet the need I have right now by presenting me with a realistic view of your facility. That allows me to set a realistic expectation for my experience.

(0:22) Then make sure that you meet and hopefully exceed my expectations. I'd rather use a shower that is modest yet clean then one that is luxurious but dirty. Your pool and restaurant won't make up for a poor dockhand.

(0:16) Know the niche you fill and make sure you do the things that meet that niche very well. Let other marinas fill other niches. Never try to be what you are not.

(0:10) I believe there is a place for every marina, small, large, simple, luxurious, remote, or fast-paced. The key is to find your niche, communicate your place to boaters interested in your niche, and meet the needs exceptionally. If you can do that you will receive more positive reviews and that will lead to more business.

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

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Keep It Current

(0:57) Last week I told you to check your contact email addresses. If you haven't sent a test, then stop reading this and do it now. It's that important.

(0:52) One of my readers reminded me of a related Internet faux pas that is all too common - out of date websites. I've written about this before but it's a topic that bears repeating. When was the last time you updated your website? When was the last time you checked every page for accuracy and completeness?

(0:45) Today's digital mediums are popular because they are vibrant and dynamic. To compete, you need to ensure your website is as well. Do you have someone who is responsible for this?

(0:40) It is critical for your website content to be easily modified by someone in house. If you can't, then fix that issue first. Then setup a schedule and get to work on making your website vibrant and dynamic. Here are some of the most common issues I find:

(0:34) Information that is completely out of date.
Home pages that show events from last week, last year, or even years ago. Pricing lists that do not have current prices. Lists of amenities with missing services or things that are no longer offered.

(0:27) Web links that no longer work.
Whether it is a link to another page on your site or to an external site, it is frustrating to click on a link that is broken.

(0:22) An out of date copyright.
It is disconcerting to visit a website and see a copyright footer from several years ago. I have no idea if the content is truly that old or if you've simply neglected to keep the date current. Either scenario does not reflect well on your business. Also consider tagging each page with a "Last updated" date.

(0:13) Finally, consider updating content on a regular basis. Change images to reflect the seasons or to include photos from a recent event. Include tips or recipes or some other bits of information boaters might find useful.

(0:08) If you want to stay competitive, your website is not something that you can just setup and forget. Make it useful, interesting, and compelling and you will see more traffic. And that can mean more business.

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

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Check Your Email

(1:00) Every week we send out tens of thousands of emails to marinas - fuel updates, boater review notifications, questions about details, etc. While I know that an email address can change over time, what continues to amaze me are the number of email addresses that bounce but are listed on the marina's website as the contact email address.

(0:53) I'm not talking about my email not receiving a response. I'm talking about it bouncing back with "email not found" or "unknown user" or some such other jarring response. If I can't get through, then neither can your customers.

(0:47) For many marinas this is not a one time problem. It occurs week after week. I believe the implications of this are broad and can actually be quite damaging to your business.

(0:42) I can hear several of you thinking, "Well, that's not a problem, they can just call us." That is the wrong answer. Maybe they'll call or maybe they'll follow up with your competitor who did respond to their email.

(0:35) Good customer service requires that you make it easy for customers to reach you by whatever means they prefer. And you need to respond promptly. More and more often that is happening by email. Not having a correct email address, monitored, and answered is bad for your business.

(0:28) And it's not only a lost dockage or service fee. Having emails bounce back in this fashion makes you look disorganized, unprofessional, and out of touch. Would you want to work with a business who never answered their phone, or worse, whose phone number was disconnected? How long would you wait to correct your phone number? Today your email address is more important than your phone number.

(0:18) Now before you think to yourself, "We don't have this problem," when was the last time you tried your contact email? Take time out today and send an email to all the addresses listed on your website and on ActiveCaptain. If you have one of those contact forms on your website, try sending a request there as well. Make sure it goes through and make sure someone responds in a timely way.

(0:09) I have spoken to many marinas who had no idea these email addresses were not working. Don't leave it to chance. Make sure you are getting and responding to every boater inquiry no matter how it comes in. That's good for business.

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

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Preparing for Luck

(0:49) "Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."
Seneca the Younger, Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, and dramatist, born 4 BC.

(0:45) My husband quit his job when we started our first company. We took out a second mortgage on our home. Eventually, I quit my job at Apple Computer to take on the sales and marketing for our medical imaging software. We worked 7 days a week, 12-16 hours a day for 7 years before we became "an overnight success."

(0:37) When our small business was acquired by a pharmaceutical company we repeatedly heard, "You guys are so lucky!" I used to reply with the above quote until I realized it didn't really matter how others perceived our success.

(0:32) I also realized that most people believe in "luck" and therefore spend their careers and lives waiting for luck to find them. Meanwhile opportunities continue to pass by.

(0:28) We worked hard, we sometimes failed, we listened to our customers, provided exceptional service, and we constantly sought ways to be better. Most of our successes were small but incremental. When other pieces in our industry fell into place, we were able take advantage of them and win. Were we lucky when the pieces fell into place? Maybe. Are you ready?

(0:20) Yes, there are things that you cannot control. The economy, fuel prices, and the weather. But there are far more things you can impact. Affect the things you can, always. Use the downtimes to prepare for the next opportunity.

(0:14) Maintain and improve your facilities, hone your staff, add new amenities, seek out the attractions around you, and ask for boater reviews. Use every opportunity to better understand your customers. Study your past reviews, study those of your competitors, talk to boaters in your marina, and learn what you need to be successful.

(0:06) Ensure you are primed and ready for that next big opportunity. Then sit back and listen to others tell you how lucky you were.

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