Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Unique Selling Proposition

(1:06) The concept of a Unique Selling Proposition was first put forth in the 1940's by Rosser Reeves, a pioneer in television advertising. The phrase has largely been replaced with the term "positioning." I find the older phrase more descriptive and thus more useful.

(0:58) My favorite definition is from the Entrepreneur website: The factor or consideration presented by a seller as the reason that one product or service is different from and better than that of the competition.

(0:52) The key here is "different from and better than". I love the emphasis on being unique. And love even more a quote from
entrepreneur and marketer Corbett Barr, "Companies often strive to be the best, but the first thing they should do is merely be different."

(0:43) This is not to say that being the best isn't a good thing. But all good businesses strive to be the best.

(0:40) If you are competing merely on being the best, you continually run the risk of being overtaken by your competition. However, if you find a way to be different from the competition, in a way that is meaningful to a segment of boaters, then you have essentially eliminated the competition.

(0:32) How can you begin to discover what your Unique Selling Proposition should be? Here's what Entrepreneur recommends:

(0:29) - Put yourself in your customers' shoes: Step back from your daily operations and carefully scrutinize what your customers really want. The answer might be quality, convenience, reliability, friendliness, cleanliness, courtesy, or customer service.

(0:21) - Know what motivates your customers' behavior and buying decisions: You need to know what drives and motivates customers. Go beyond the traditional customer demographics, such as age, gender, race, income and geographic location that most businesses use to analyze sales trends.

(0:12) - Uncover the real reasons customers buy your product instead of a competitor's: As your business grows, you'll be able to ask your best source of information - your customers. You will be surprised how honest people are when you ask how you can improve your service.

(0:05) Discover how you can stand apart from the competition in a meaningful way and you will see more business.

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

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Best Isn't Enough

(1:09) Being the best marina or boatyard isn't enough. Boaters have to actually believe that you are the best. Of course, you could simply tell them you're the best but frankly they're unlikely to believe you.

(1:02) While it has always been the case that customers are skeptical of what a business says about themselves, it is more so today. The advent of online reviews, Facebook, boater blogs, and a myriad of other ways that consumers now share their experiences makes it far easier to find out what others think of a business.

(0:51) Today, if you're going to make a claim you'd better be prepared to prove it.

(0:49) Don't think you can fool boaters with beautiful pictures and flowery prose. And if you think you can point to an "expert", be careful. As the line between advertising and the editorial content in magazines, guidebooks, and other traditional media continues to blur, boaters have become only more skeptical.

(0:39) The key is providing your potential customers with real information backed up by reviews from your actual customers. A testimonial page may peak my interest but you'd better be able to back it up with an unbiased source as well.

(0:32) Make sure your claims are concrete. For example, You might state, "We're the ideal location for provisioning your boat." Then back it up with, "A grocery store, hardware store, etc. are a 10 minute walk." Or "Use the courtesy car to visit the local Publix, Walmart,..."

(0:22) But mostly make sure your claims are real and supported by the boating community. After all, it’s easier to convince people that what you say about your business is true if it really is.

(0:15) Before you start promoting the advantages of your marina take the time and money to invest in making sure all aspects are top notch. You will typically have one shot to prove your claims. Don't put yourself in the positions of needing to convince boaters they are mistaken about what they believe to be true.

(0:04) Give boaters real advantages with concrete proof and you'll see more business.

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

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Selling the Experience

(1:17) Marketing today has become almost obsessed with Customer Service, how to teach it, how to measure it, how to improve it, and even defining what it is. Customer service is important to every type of business and doubly (triply) so to a service industry. I think it is more true today than ever before.

(1:07) Much of this is due to the dominance of the internet and the ease with which customers are able to share information. Review sites like ActiveCaptain, Amazon, and Trip Advisor have both satisfied and fed the desire of consumers to find more reliable information about the products and services they buy. But what does that really mean to boaters?

(0:58) Unless an encounter is outstandingly good (or bad), I rarely hear boaters talk about how the customer service was at a marina. Instead, what they describe is an experience. The combination of the amenities, staff interactions, other boater interactions, etc., that made up the whole of their experience.

(0:50) Recently I read a description of an "Aha" moment from Westin Hotels. They realized that what they were really selling wasn't a room with internet access and a good restaurant. The most important experience for the customer was a good night's sleep. So they improved the beds, linens, pillows, any aspect that could lead to a better night's sleep. And it paid off.

(0:39) Think about the experience a boater is looking for when they come to your marina. Be able to define that experience and then understand what components go into that experience and how to make it better.

(0:34) Remember, there is no one size fits all here. My experience at one marina can be very different than my experience at another. An example might help.

(0:30) The experience I want at Coinjock Marina in Coinjock, NC is a secure spot where I can easily pull in for the night and quickly leave in the morning as I move along the US ICW. Boaters were getting just that experience as they pulled in each night but the mornings were typically a bit chaotic as boaters attempted to squeeze out of their spots. The owner starting having staff on hand to assist during the morning departure times. The boaters experience improved and so did the reviews.

(0:14) For other marinas the experience might be a destination location, a safe haven from a storm, or a resort vacation. If you're not sure what your experience should be talk to boaters, especially ones that are repeat customers. Find out what it is that brings them back.

(0:07) You are not defined by your list of amenities and features. Understand the experience you provide boaters. Then work to improve and promote that experience. You'll see more business and more positive reviews.

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

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Taking Stock

(1:15) Early in our marriage my husband and I started a tradition. Some time during the first week of the new year we would sort through all of our paper files from the previous year. We would discard, organize, and store the mass of bills, canceled checks, and other items we had received the year before. It was amazing how much paper was there. Of course, that was before most of these things were done electronically.

(1:00) Not only was it a way to keep things from getting out of hand, it was a time to look back at what has transpired and use that information to plan forward.

(0:56) When was the last time you took stock of your marina?

(0:55) Every business should have a time when they can go through a similar exercise. If the new year is your busy time then pick a time when you typically have a lull.

(0:50) Gather the statistics you have collected over the year. It should include the more traditional measures such as revenues, assets, and costs. But just as importantly it should include boater feedback, events and highlights, changes in boater profiles, and insight from your staff. Don't forget one of the most important statistics, how are boaters finding you?

(0:36) By looking beyond the traditional accounting numbers, you will find new opportunities that are emerging and stop expending resources on areas not providing a return.

(0:31) Items that are often overlooked are:

(0:30) - Boater Reviews. Are they improving, declining, or holding steady? What are the most common complaints and compliments?

(0:25) - Boater Demographics. What type of boats are you seeing - trawler vs sail vs sport fish, etc.? What size boats? Where do they come from? You should even look at boat manufacturers. Have the ratios changed in any significant way?

(0:17) - Boater length of stay. What are your nightly, weekly, monthly, seasonal, and annual ratios? How does this change by season? What percentage are return boaters vs first time visitors?

(0:010) If you can't produce some of this data then now is the time to put procedures in place so that you have them for next year.

(0:06) It is only after you know where you have been, that you can look forward and plan for where you are going.

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