Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Best of the Bay

(0:45) When we created ActiveCaptain, it wasn't simply a new technology for boating. We saw it as a new information source for boaters and a new marketing model for marinas/boatyards. Until that point, the information available to boaters was typically not real. The content in most magazines and guidebooks wasn't editorial. It was mostly paid advertising. Boaters' knew that as well. We knew that accurate information combined with boaters' actual experiences would change, forever, the way marina services were promoted.

(0:31) Chesapeake Bay Magazine takes a similar view in their annual Best of the Bay survey. They don't have an "expert" select the winners or stack the deck by limiting entrants to only those who buy advertising. Since the early 90's they have simply asked the boating community to tell them who they think is the best in a variety of categories. They then present the results in their June issue.

(0:21) In 2012 they added two new categories: Best Boating Website and Best Boating App. That year, ActiveCaptain rated #1 for Best Boating Website and #3 for Best Boating App. We were excited to be so honored.

(0:15) Last week, the 2015 results were released. We are proud to have been chosen as #1 for Best Boating Website for the 4th year in a row. In addition, we are thrilled to have received the #1 position for the Best Boating App. You can see the results here:


(0:08) Sure, we'll bask in the tribute for a little bit. But we won't rest on our laurels. Being #1 has its responsibilities. There are so many exciting things coming. I look forward to working with you to keep us all on top.

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

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Know Your Place

(0:56) Any US east coast cruiser who has traveled the ICW knows Coinjock Marina. It lies to the north of the Albermarle Sound and south of the Chesapeake Bay. I wouldn't describe it as luxurious but it serves it's purpose very well. They average over 4 stars with well over 100 reviews.

(0:48) Coinjock Marina knows exactly where they fit in the cruising experience. Louis Davis, owner of Coinjock Marina, can precisely describe who his perfect customer is. And just as important, he can describe who isn't their customer. Having that knowledge allows him to focus his resources on meeting the needs of his target customer and not wasting those resources on features that are irrelevant.

(0:38) Louis' skills are why you will typically find his dock packed during transient season with boats even rafted together to accommodate the overflow. It is why his marina consistently rates highly in ActiveCaptain reviews even though there is no pool, no spa, and it is in the middle of nowhere.

(0:30) With sincere respect, I call Coinjock Marina the Red Roof Inn of the ICW. It is that spot along the way where you can conveniently pull in for the night, fuel up if needed, have dinner at the onsite restaurant, get a good night's sleep, and be on your way in the morning. And it is executed to near perfection.

(0:23) Are you able to define your perfect customer with the same precision? If not then you have some important work to do.

(0:18) Think about the characteristics of your perfect boater. The one who can't help but stop at your marina. What kind of boat? What size? What experience level? How long is the typical stay? Do they provision, want repairs, etc? What time of year? It is just as helpful to define who is not your target boat.

(0:10) Every one of us has things we do well and things that we don't do well. Knowing where you shine lets you know where to spend resources and where to conserve. And most importantly, being able to set and satisfy boater expectations will lead to more positive reviews which means more business for you.

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

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Do You Hear Me?

(0:59) Lately I've been noticing boater reviews complaining about poor marina communications. Some have been about a lack of response on the VHF as they approach. Some about not answering the phone and returning messages. Some have complained about both.

(0:52) I've read about boaters who after several attempts have given up and moved on to another marina. In each case, the boater's frustration led to a diminished review. Don't let that happen to you.

(0:46) I have addressed this issue in various ways in multiple Minutes in the past including the two below:


(0:40) All marinas, especially those who court transient boaters, must have a way to monitor the VHF radio. There is no excuse. And this means always monitoring the traffic. If you don't have someone in the office at all times, then get your dockhands portable radios.

(0:33) I've heard the excuse that dockhands may drop them overboard or lose them or break them. And that will happen from time to time. But it's still a small investment compared to the potential return.

(0:27) I just checked Defender and you can buy a floating handheld VHF for around $100. What's your typical nightly charge for a transient? How many nights are you willing to lose to save the price of the radio?

(0:20) The real point is that boaters expect you to be available on the VHF radio, instantly. Every effort should be made to accommodate that. If I can't reach you via VHF, I'll wonder why. And if I then turn to my cell phone and still receive no response, I very well may move on.

(0:12) I'm not unreasonable. It's not necessary that you take care of me right away, but you do need to acknowledge me, let me know you will get to me shortly, and then do that.

(0:07) There is absolutely nothing more important than responding to a customer. Let me know I'm being heard and I'm more likely to give you my business.

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

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Impress Me

(1:04) Do you want to know the fastest and simplest way to impress a transient boater? It's something that I would estimate only about 25% of the marinas we visit provide. It's not a spa or a pool or even a courtesy car.

(0:57) Make sure that every dockhand knows how to properly tie a cleat hitch and that they do it every time a boat arrives.

(0:52) The moment I hand my lines to your dockhand, it sets the tone for the rest of the visit. While it is common to encounter a dockhand who is friendly, courteous, and helpful, it is quite unusual to find one who has correctly tied my boat to the dock with a cleat hitch. It is the main reason you see captains retying their lines once the dockhands have left. It's the first thing my captain checks when he steps onto the dock.

(0:41) If you're unsure how it is done, check out the Chapman's Piloting Seamanship & Small Boat Handling section on knots. Or search online for "cleat hitch" and you'll find dozens of descriptions, pictures, and even videos. It's a very simple knot to master and most dockhands think they know how to tie it. But they don't.

(0:31) In fact, it is the first knot written about in the Chapman's section on knots, "One of the simplest knots, certainly the most used aboard a boat, involves nothing more than turns around a cleat."

(0:25) No dockhand should go out on the dock without being able to quickly and reliably execute this knot. It's more than just the safety of the boat and crew, although that is the foremost reason to learn this knot correctly. It is a clear indication of the knowledge and experience of the person handling my lines. It sets the stage for instilling confidence in the marina and its employees. It's far more important than Flemishing the lines. While a Flemish looks nice, the cleat hitch will hold my boat fast yet allow for an easy release. I think of it as substance over flash.

(0:09) Nothing will draw me back to a marina faster than knowing that my boat will be handled professionally. Take a stroll down your docks a see how many boats have been tied with a proper cleat hitch. Then gather up your staff, grab some line, and start practicing.

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