Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Tell Me Whatcha Got!

(1:06) Marinas often want to know what they can do to bring in more boaters. Of course, there are the obvious things - clean bathrooms (the number one reason for a negative review); friendly, competent dockhands; sturdy safe docks.

(0:59) But once you've nailed the basics what more can you do? Let boaters know whatcha got.

(0:53) There are almost as many reasons a boater selected your marina as there are boaters. And what one boater is looking for today can be very different next week. So its important that you let boaters know everything that is available to them. That "something" which might seem unimportant to you, could be just the thing I'm looking for.

(0:46) Make sure that your ActiveCaptain marker describes all of the services that are available to a boater both at and nearby your marina. If I can walk, use a courtesy car, or hop on public transportation to access a service or amenity, it should be listed in your marker.

(0:38) Often these services will influence which marina I choose. I might be celebrating an anniversary and looking for a nice restaurant. I could be looking for a dentist, a hairdresser, or a post office. My pet may need a veterinarian. Maybe I need to buy a birthday gift. The list is almost endless.

(0:29) Some service areas are so common that ActiveCaptain has specific items for them, such as Restaurants and Grocery. Services not listed should go under the Other Services category. And don't forget Attractions.

(0:23) Is there a museum, hiking trail, park, or simply a lovely town to visit? Make sure you note it.

(0:19) Don't stop your entries by just listing the services. Make sure to include addresses, phone numbers, websites, and even directions with distances. The surrounding services you provide will make it easier for me to put them into my plans and choose your marina. And don't forget events. That farmer's market, art walk, or jazz festival might be just the thing that steers me to your marina.

(0:10) Make it someone's job to update this information in ActiveCaptain, on your website, and in your welcome packet.

(0:06) Tell boaters whatcha got and they'll have more reasons to choose you over your competition.

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

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Where's Your Welcome Packet?

(0:53) I would say that fewer than half of the marinas we visit have a Welcome Packet for their transient boaters. It's an important tool to help ensure that boaters have the best experience possible. And we all know what a good experience leads to.

(0:46) Keeping you customers satisfied means more will return, tell their friends, and write positive reviews. Do you have a quality, up-to-date Welcome Packet?

(0:41) I first wrote about this a couple of years ago when I did a series of Minutes on Welcome Packets. You can find them on my blog here:

The Welcome Packet
The Welcome Packet - Start at Home
The Welcome Packet - Check Out the Neighborhood
The Welcome Packet - What's Happ'n
The Welcome Packet - Extras

(0:33) Your Welcome Packet can provide you with marketing benefits beyond a single transient's visit. Some boaters will pass the information along to other boaters as they talk about the positive experience they had at your marina. Others will file it away as a reminder of a place they wish to visit again.

(0:26) In the past I've had marinas tell me they were discouraged to find their packets in the trash. Don't be. Some boaters will dispose of the contents as they leave to maintain order within a limited space. So finding your packet in a trash bin does not mean it was not used. Quite the opposite. Most boaters I speak with find a good Welcome Packet invaluable.

(0:18) The often missed potential is putting some or all of the contents of your Welcome Packet on your website. Now you have a terrific and practical sales tool. Boaters can see what you have to offer at your marina and in the surrounding area. They can plan their stay, maybe even deciding to stay longer to take it all in.

(0:10) As many of you are approaching your off season make it a priority on your to-do list to create a dynamite Welcome Packet or to update your existing one.

(0:05) The effort you put into it now will payoff well into the future.

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

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Small Stuff

(1:04) The majority of time we spend on the radio with a marina is receiving directions about where to dock. When a boater comes into an unfamiliar marina, it can be very daunting trying to figure out which fairway to go down, how the docks are laid out, as well as having to think about wind, current, and other docking issues.

(0:57) My experience of docking at your marina is most likely the first impression I will have of your business. And we all know how important a first impression is for setting the tone for a boater's stay. Anything you can do to improve that experience will translate directly into more positive reviews.

(0:49) I thought about this as we pulled into Spring Cove Marina in Solomons, Maryland. We have been to Solomons many times over the years. It is a busy harbor with many nice facilities and it can be confusing finding the marina you want, let alone your specific slip.

(0:43) While we have been to Spring Cove Marina several times in the past and know where it is located in the harbor, it can still be challenging to find the exact slip we will be in. But Spring Cove found a way to make it much easier.

(0:37) As the harbormaster was directing us in over the radio, she told us to, "look for the blue flag at the end of the dock." That's when I noticed that the T-heads for each dock row had a large flag. Each row used a different color. It directed us right to the spot we needed. We could then see the harbormaster waving us in. It was brilliant.

(0:28) The next evening we had some friends over for a drink, cruisers who were also staying at Spring Cove. It was their first visit here and as they talked about how they were enjoying the facilities, they mentioned the flags.

(0:22) A couple of days later, they wrote a 5 star review:

(0:20) "Agree with the other favorable reviews. Very comfortable environment and services. Pool a plus. But to me the best thing is the great signage on the docks including large colored flags unique for each dock (e.g., 'look for the green flag at the end of your dock'). With the slip map online, the flags and good directions, finding our slip was a breeze reducing docking anxiety."

(0:11) A flag on the dock may seem like a small thing but notice how the ease of finding their docking space dominated the review. It really is that important.

(0:07) Think about how you can make a boater's docking experience better and you will see the results in your reviews. And better reviews means more business.

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

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


(1:06) Taking time to train your staff on customer service issues is always time well spent. Basic courtesy to boaters is fundamental. A friendly word, a helping hand, or any action that makes them feel like a welcomed guest. You can start with "Hello".

(0:59) I realized something else about this most basic of courtesies on a recent afternoon while waiting for lunch.

(0:55) We had gone to Moe's Southwest Grill, a restaurant I was unfamiliar with. It's a Mexican version of Subway. While we waited for our burritos to be prepared, I noticed that each time a customer came through the door the staff would shout, "Welcome to Moe's!"

(0:48) It was obviously part of their branding and meant to create a welcoming environment. I'm sure as part of the new hire training they are instructed in this ritual and that's not bad. The problem was that the greeting was insincere. Having worked fast food in my youth, I understand the problem. These employees really don't care much about their job. It showed.

(0:39) Thinking about that experience, I realized that "Hello" can be a good barometer of employee satisfaction. And nothing is more difficult than providing good customer service with dissatisfied employees.

(0:33) When I arrive at a marina I begin getting a sense right away. I've written about this in other Minutes but I have focused on training and supervision - not to imply those are not important.

(0:27) The revelation I had at Moe's was that you can learn volumes about how satisfied your workers are by simply observing how they interact with your customers.

(0:22) A happy, satisfied employee will naturally be in a good mood. That shows and will tend to spill out into their interactions with the boaters. A sincere smile and warm greeting speak volumes.

(0:17) Try this test. Simply observe your staff in a nonjudgmental and open way. Watch and listen to how they interact with boaters - it will show your employees' attitude.

(0:12) If you don't like what you see, then think about some more customer service training but think even harder about what you can do to make your employees feel valued and welcomed.

(0:06) Accomplish that and you will more easily accomplish terrific customer service.

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

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

3 Star Reviews

(0:52) Lately I've been paying attention to the 3 star reviews that come in for marinas. I began thinking about what they mean. Are they bad? Are they acceptable? How can a marina best learn from them?

(0:47) In general, I find that they are not what I would consider negative reviews. They typically mention positives about their experience and sometimes mention where the customer was disappointed. In fact several of them conclude with "we'll be back." And a returning customer is definitely a positive.

(0:40) What most of these reviews are saying is that the boater's most basic expectations have been met but they weren't exceeded. As I've written before, reviews are heavily tied to a boater's expectations of what their experience will be. There will be one expectation for a $1 per foot marina in a remote location and quite another for a $3 a foot marina that calls itself a "resort".

(0:31) The important message to take from a 3 star review is that while the experience was not necessarily seen as negative, you didn't provide an exceptional experience. You didn't "Wow" the boater.

(0:26) There are several things you should do when that 3 star review comes your way. First, study it, maybe even more than your other reviews. Often, the boater will tell you why you missed a couple of stars. This is invaluable information. Remember, this boater isn't necessarily unhappy with you, so they're not angry or ranting. They're just giving you a real assessment.

(0:20) Then you should consider reaching out. For example, "Thank you for staying at our marina. Here at XYZ Marina we are always looking for ways to improve the boater's experience. Please let us know how we can make your next stay with us a 5 star experience. We look forward to seeing you again in the future."

(0:08) Any good business knows that it is only through honest and thoughtful feedback from your customers that you can improve. Three star reviews can be the perfect opportunity to do this.

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