Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A Dose of Honesty

(1:10) I recently ran across a marketing ebook titled, "The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing" by Al Ries & Jack Trout. Its focus is on product marketing but I found several points that I believe are equally relevant to service marketing. I'm going to use a few Minutes to discuss them.

(1:02) Law # 15 - Candor: Anytime you admit a negative in your marketing, the prospect will treat that admission positively.

(0:58) I know many will bristle at this and be reluctant to accept the notion. Who likes to focus on our negative points? But I believe there is some real merit here.

(0:54) According to Ries & Trout this adage is true for 3 reasons:

  1. Because it's unexpected.
  2. Because people instinctively open their minds to problems and close their minds to glib positive statements.
  3. Because everyone is naturally cautious about what a salesman tells them, and admitting to a negative is very rare in the commercial world.
(0:46) The key is to admit to a negative and then to turn that into a positive for the customer. When you are honest about something where you do not excel, you open the mind of your customer for your positive message.

(0:40) Too often I see marketing messages that go over the top in trying to convince the customer of their positive attributes. This is problematic for a couple of reasons. First, most of us dismiss these messages as unrealistic hype. However, should a customer buy in to the message only to find the reality less than the hype, you risk greater dissatisfaction resulting in negative reviews.

(0:31) Ries & Trout further explain, "this must be achieved carefully to be fully effective. The prospect must feel some instant agreement with the negative, or else confusion will rein. At the same time, the marketing should move quickly on to the positive, before the benefit of admitting the negative is lost."

(0:22) For example: Our marina may not be located downtown but we can offer you the peace and quiet of nature, while our shuttle can get you there if you desire.

(0:17) A lack of marketing candor is one of the driving forces behind the rise to prominence of customer reviews. We are all desperate for honest, realistic views of the products and services we seek. It is why survey after survey reveals that customer reviews are the primary source used when making a buying decision.

(0:07) Make sure your marketing message has credibility by choosing candor over hype. Set realistic expectations, exceed them, and you will see more business.

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

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

We're Partners

(1:09) We started the ActiveCaptain Sponsor program in 2011. At the time, many discussions ensued about what to call it. We chose Sponsor because we knew that it would take financial support from marinas to make the project grow.

(1:03) There are many costs involved in running a service like ActiveCaptain. We now spend more for our internet servers each month than we spent in our first two years. It's because of the support of Sponsors that we can continue to enhance the capabilities that we provide. It allows us to be out there in the cruising community, full-time, living the life rather than sitting in an office thinking about it.

(0:55) More and more as I talk with marinas about what becoming a Sponsor means I have found myself uncomfortable with the term "Sponsor." I realized it doesn't accurately describe the relationship we have with you.

(0:50) A Google search turned up this definition for sponsor: a person or organization that provides funds for a project or activity carried out by another.

(0:46) That's wrong. It implies a separation between you and us that I do not believe exists. An ActiveCaptain Sponsor is so much more than simply a source of revenue. We're partners.

(0:41) Our success depends on your success. We strive to work with you to help you build your business by understanding what is important to boaters and how to satisfy their needs.

(0:36) So we are changing the name to ActiveCaptain Partner. I know there will be some who will say, "It's just a word." But it's more than that to us.

(0:31) We don't accept every marina who wants to be a partner. We want quality marinas shown either by strong reviews from boaters or a will and a plan to improve. We love to help marinas step up. That's because we want to make a difference, not just cash your check.

(0:24) I was recently copied on an email from a marina we refused to work with. It was sent to a staff member and in part said, "Why are you requesting permission to becomes a sponsor? Just get it filled out and paid." I'm sorry but we don't work that way.

(0:16) So if you want a company that simply wants to take your money and throw up a banner ad or featured listing, send me an email. I can give you several of them.

(0:11) If you want a partner who is invested in helping you be more successful, who wants an exchange of ideas, who hopes to educate you while also learning from you, then you are in the right place reading this.

(0:06) After all, it's not just a business for us. It's our life. And when you win, we all win. I'm proud to call you Partner.

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

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

"You Should Tell Them..."

(0:57) This past week we attended the Krogen Rendezvous in Solomons, Maryland. It is one of our favorites for a variety of reasons - great people, good events, and a terrific party on the final night. But one thing that always stands out in my mind is how much these boaters really use their boats. No "dock potatoes" here!

(0:49) As I was giving talks and mingling with the other boaters, I received comments about my Marina Minute newsletter. Some boaters receive these Minutes and some had just heard about them. The feedback they gave all started with, "You should tell them" and then followed with a pet peeve or an outstanding experience - some bit of advice they wanted me to pass along to marinas to make their experiences better.

(0:40) As I listened I found that there were actually just a few things that were being said over and over. I also realized that each one was something I had written about in a Minute - more than once.

(0:35) So listen up. The following are the three things that active cruising boaters, your customers, want you to know are important. I've included links to the most relevant Minutes for each.

(0:30) 1. Improving dockhand skills including listening to the boat owner and basic line handling skills:
Calming a Boater's Nerves - Part 1 of 2
Calming a Boater's Nerves - Part 2 of 2
What's a Bitter End???

(0:24) 2. A Good Welcome Packet - I've referenced this series many times but apparently not enough:
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
And just 3 weeks ago, Where's Your Welcome Packet?

(0:16) 3. Easier ways to find slips and marina staff:
Straight From the Horse's Mouth
Small Stuff

(0:12) Nothing here is complicated or expensive to provide. Each is easily within reach of any marina to accomplish. Think honestly about how you measure up on each of these items and what you can do better.

(0:06) Give your customers what they want and they'll give you more business.

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

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Preparing for Locations

(1:10) I first introduced you to the ActiveCaptain Locations app back in June. If you missed that Minute you can find it on the Marina Minute blog here:

(1:04) This week we are announcing the next release of Locations with enhancements to Groups capabilities. Additional features will be coming as well.

(1:00) There are currently over 500 Groups in ActiveCaptain covering a wide variety of areas. These Groups include boat types, such as Beneteau sailboats and DeFever trawlers, and cruising areas, such as the Chesapeake Bay and Cuba, and areas of special interest like pets onboard and liveaboard cruisers.

(0:53) What does this mean to you?

(0:51) As boaters join groups of other boaters with like interests, they are letting us know what is important to them. And knowing what is important to your customers is the first step to satisfying their needs. We all know that a satisfied customer will not only return but they'll tell others through their reviews and conversations.

(0:44) I believe this feature offers a powerful way to reach out to targeted groups of boaters. The next release of Locations will have a Messaging feature allowing boaters to easily communicate with one another. It will also offer a way for ActiveCaptain Sponsors to reach out with information and specials. The key will be to reach out in ways the boaters will see as useful and not spam.

(0:35) To do this you need to understand the needs of boaters - deciding who is, and who is not your customer. Successful businesses always know exactly who is their "perfect customer."

(0:30) Knowing what you do well and what you are not able to provide allows you to focus your marketing efforts. You won't waste money on promotions that miss the mark. Instead you can spend money on promotions, events, and amenities that will satisfy your target boater's needs.

(0:22) Can you describe your perfect customer? That boater who would be crazy not to spend time at your marina? Think about it. It encompasses the boat, the boater, and the specific needs the boater has.

(0:16) Now is the time to begin defining who is your perfect customer. Read through your reviews to understand what boaters like and don't like about your marina. Walk the docks and notice the boats and people who are there. Chat with boaters to find out more about them. Gather you staff together and brainstorm.

(0:08) The better you can define the boaters that you can truly satisfy, the better you will be able to craft a message that will draw them in. And that will mean more business for you.

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