Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Don't Spread Yourself Thin

(0:59) Good reviews are great. And there's no doubt they are critical to your business success. But it takes more than a positive review or two to be successful.

(0:55) Today's consumers are Internet savvy. They use TripAdvisor to find restaurants and hotels, Amazon reviews to purchase goods, and Angie's List to select plumbers and electricians. They know how to "read" reviews to separate the wheat from the chaff.

(0:48) So while every positive review you receive is important, equally important is the number of reviews your have and the consistency of those reviews.

(0:43) A marina that averages 5.0 stars with 2 or 3 reviews will not be taken seriously. Most of us could accomplish that by appealing to our family members. But a marina with an average 4.3 stars and 146 reviews will make a boater sit up and take notice.

(0:36) Recently, we have seen many previous naysayers suddenly discover the value of real boater input. They have begun to accept boater reviews. I've been asked if it is best for a marina to list every possible review source or not. My answer is no because you'd be spreading yourself too thin.

(0:28) Unless you have an angry boater on a crusade, no one is going to write more than a single review for your marina. How likely are you after even the best meal to sit down and write several different restaurant reviews on several different review sites?

(0:22) When you reach out to boaters requesting a review you need to tell them where you have chosen to concentrate your online reputation. You do not want to spread your positive reviews so thin they loose their impact.

(0:17) Take some time to analyze where your business is coming from. Ask boaters what brought them to your marina. Don't guess or assume or even listen to what businesses tell you - including me at ActiveCaptain. Ask.

(0:11) Only then can you intelligently select which boater review source you want to encourage boaters to use. Then promote that source and watch your reviews grow.

(0:07) You've worked hard to cultivate a good reputation for your marina. Don't spread yourself so thin you become invisible. Concentrate your power. Then watch your business grow.

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

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Solid 3 Stars

(0:58) I've spoken to marina managers who tell me they only want 5 star reviews. Maybe that's an honorable goal. It's hard not to encourage someone to strive for excellence.

(0:54) But I would also argue that if you're not getting critical reviews now and again, then you're missing an opportunity. And it's not just that none of us are perfect or that boaters have varying needs or even that some people are never satisfied. No, it's that non-5-star reviews can alert you to problems you may have and give you the opportunity to fix them.

(0:43) Three-star reviews 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 outcome.

(0:36) To a truly astute marketer, they can clue you into the boater demographics you should be targeting and those you should not. This is critical information that was not readily available before.

(0:31) What I find interesting about 3 star reviews is that they are often where you will see emerging services and amenities that will make up the requirements in the future. I believe this is a critical area that is too often overlooked. Remember, this is not really an unhappy customer, just one that could be happier if only... Understanding the "if only" part will give you your most valuable information.

(0:22) When we began cruising 13+ years ago, courtesy cars and WiFi were an unusual treat. But as more and more marinas began offering these amenities, boaters began knocking a star or two off their reviews if they were missing. They were sending a clear message that these amenities were important, something they would seek out and could lead to selecting one marina over another.

(0:13) I believe that a 3 star review can be the most important review you receive. Next time you receive one, take the time to examine it carefully. Determine why the boater's experience was just OK and not phenomenal. Did you stumble? Fix it. Are you falling behind your competition? Step up.

(0:05) The more you can learn from this valuable boater's feedback, the better you will become and the more business you will have.

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

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Do Some Competitive Research

(0:53) When was the last time you checked up on your competition? If you want to effectively market your services, you need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors and how you stack up.

(0:49) You can't know these things unless you have taken some time to research your competition. Don't depend on what you believe to be true or have heard from others. Find out first hand. Go to their website, make some phone calls, maybe even pay them a visit.

(0:42) You should begin with prices, fees, discounts, the special offers they have, plus what amenities they provide. Then step back and look objectively at your offerings and determine how attractive they are to boaters. How can you improve them to beat out the competition?

(0:35) Next, turn to boater reviews. Do boaters agree with your assessment? Is there a critical point you are overlooking, under estimating, or simply being unrealistic about?

(0:31) It's easy to assume that the services and pricing you offer boaters are superb, when in reality they might be pretty average, or lacking, when compared to your competition. Often a business will depend too heavily on what they hear from the competition's unhappy customers.

(0:25) Relying on negative comments can give you a biased and worst case view. Instead, you'll learn far more by knowing what boaters who are happy with your competitor have to say. There is no better way to obtain an objective view of you and your competition than by reading boater reviews.

(0:18) Finding out what boaters like about other marinas can cue you into changes you should consider at your marina. It could be something new and innovative, or just a small touch that you've overlooked or forgotten. There's no shame in copying a successful idea or using it as an inspiration for your own unique twist.

(0:10) Also note what your competition is doing poorly. This can reveal the competitive advantages you have. Or it can highlight a service or amenity you should add to give you a leg up.

(0:06) By keeping an eye on all reviews coming from your potential customers, you can make better decisions, spend your money more wisely, and capture more business.

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

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Noise, Noise, Noise, Noise

(1:00)  It is not uncommon to see boater reviews complaining about noise at the dock, particularly late night noise. Yes, most boaters realize that docks are fairly close quarters so we will be hearing more of our neighbors than we would on land. However, there is an expectation that noise is not so loud or so late as to disrupt our stay.

(0:51) It doesn't matter if the noise comes from a barking dog on another boat, the nearby bar playing music well into the night, or a party on the dock. If the noise is felt to be a disturbance, it will backsplash on your marina and could lead to a negative review.

(0:45) I realize that this can often be difficult to manage. But there are some things you can do, and should do, if you want to be a good host to the boaters at your marina.

(0:42) You should have a noise policy and enforce it. I can't tell you exactly what this should be as it will depend somewhat on your particular environment. A marina in the midst of a tourist destination with an active nightlife will have a different standard than one in a remote location with little nearby.

(0:35) Whatever you choose, ensure that transients are aware of the expectations. Be as specific as possible. What time is "quiet time" and what does that mean? No music playing, parties must move inside, etc.

(0:30) A courteous noise level to one person might not be to another. Try not to leave it to chance.

(0:28) Make sure that the proper expectations are set prior to the boater arriving. For example, include information that Wednesday is karaoke night at the bar onsite. It will draw in some boaters, while others may chose to come in on Thursday instead. State when the event ends. I might not mind if I know it will stop at 10 pm.

(0:19) Make sure to include special or unusual events. If there's an upcoming celebration with fireworks commencing at midnight, make sure boaters know. Again, some will come just for the event while others may stay away to come later.

(0:14) Whatever requirements you determine, it is critical that you enforce them. Do not make boaters act as the police. If parties should leave the dock by 11 pm, there should be marina staff that can politely remind them at 11:05 pm.

(0:09) It all comes down to my expectations and personal preferences. Some like being in the midst of things and others just want peace and quiet. If you give me the information I need to decide for myself, you'll have a happy customer. That means a better review and that means more business for you.

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

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Style over Substance

(1:02) We've all fallen into the trap of being unwisely swayed by style over substance. I think it's human nature to be drawn to a shiny penny. There are many willing to take advantage of this quirk. They will try to wow with some snappy graphics, important sounding words, a little flair, and hope that you don't notice their lack of substance.

(0:52) We have a good friend who has many fine qualities but logical thinking isn't one of them. He has had some property for sale for a few years now. He was recently bemoaning his inability to sell it. "Maybe, you should look at a different real estate agent," I said.

(0:46) Oh, no. He launched into a fawning description of all his current agent was doing for him. The crux of it was a weekly report the agent gave him with graphs and maps and pictures showing how many buyers where looking at the online listing.

(0:40) "So, how many people has he shown the property to?" I said. "None," he said. "None? You mean not a one?" At which point he resumed telling me about the beautiful reports he received each week.

(0:35) Now, I can't say if this agent was intentionally doing a flimflam on my friend or not, but I do know the agent's lack of substance will never be made up by his impressive style.

(0:31) I'm not saying that your marketing messages shouldn't have style. Style is more than flash. Good style shows professionalism and caring and will definitely draw boaters into your message. The same holds true for the mediums you choose to deliver your marketing messages. Are they just glossy facades or do they reach your target audience in a meaningful way?

(0:21) What I am saying is don't be fooled that style alone will win you business. Make sure your message has substance and content that boaters care about, not just pretty pictures and important sounding words. Choose your medium carefully and make sure it can deliver real results.

(0:13) Don't be fooled by a shiny penny with claims to bring you riches. Test your message, test your medium. If it's not working, change it. Discover what is bringing you customers. Ask boaters, keep track of their answers, and adjust accordingly.

(0:06) Finding the right combination of a solid, meaningful marketing message, and the right medium to present it takes effort. But if you do it right you will see more business.

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