Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Solutions Not Problems

(0:53) Dealing with a negative boater review can be stressful. Good marinas try hard to provide boaters with a great experience. It's a natural reaction to feel defensive, especially if you think a complaint is unfair.

(0:48) I speak from experience. Among the hundreds and hundreds of emails we receive every week, there are invariably one or two that are complaining about something. Sometimes the complaints are unfair or unreasonable, but more often there is something relevant to take away and consider.

(0:42) You determine where you will focus your attention, on the problem or on finding a solution.

(0:40) Fixating on the problem can bring negative emotions. These emotions will only stand in the way of finding your solution. When our judgement is clouded by negative feelings, we are far more likely to make poor decisions. When I see a marina response to a review that is defensive, sometimes even attacking the reviewer, I know they have allowed those negative emotions to take hold. It never has a good outcome.

(0:29) Instead of seeing a negative review as an attack, view it as an opportunity to find a solution for making you marina better.

(0:26) Consider this. A boater that feels he had a less than positive experience at your marina exists whether he took the time to write a review or not. Either way you have an unhappy customer out there in the boating community talking to other boaters. The fact that he took the time to write a review often indicates that all is not lost.

(0:17) The overriding emotion that I see in most negative reviews is disappointment. The boater was hoping for a good experience but felt let down.

(0:14) How you choose to focus your attention will determine your emotional state - positive or negative. Choosing the negative path can lead to less self-control which typically leads to poor decisions.

(0:09) Choosing to focus on the actions or solutions you can take to make the situation, your marina, and even yourself better will lead to positive feelings and better reactions. You will always be most effective when you focus on solutions rather than problems.

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


(1:02) "You had me at Hello." I imagine most of you recognize that line from the 1996 film, Jerry Maguire. For me, it speaks to that moment when we first meet someone and impressions begin to form. There's a reason your mother schooled you about first impressions.

(0:56) First impressions really are important. They set the stage for every interaction that follows. It's not to say you can't overcome a bad first impression, but you will certainly have your work cut out for you.

(0:51) So why not start every relationship on a positive note? Create a great first impression. For a marina, this almost always happens with your dockhands.

(0:47) I continue to be amazed at dockhands who fail to welcome boaters as they pull in. I've been horrified to watch a dockhand assist a boater with lines without a word and then turn and walk away. This sends the clear message that the boater is not welcome.

(0:40) It's so easy to start with a simple, "Hello!" Offer a smile, make the boater feel that you are glad they came to your marina.

(0:37) Of course, there is a certain finesse to the interaction. I'm not looking for an involved conversation as I'm securing my boat to the dock. This is especially so if the conditions are difficult or I've had a long, maybe rough, journey. But every boater can receive a smile and a "Hello, welcome to XYZ."

(0:29) Once, we are securely tied you can follow up with an offer to help along with providing useful information about the marina and surrounding areas. The more you learn about the boat, the better service you can provide them.

(0:24) Be sensitive to the boater's needs. If your offer of help is turned down, smile and tell them where they can find you if they need anything. Our routine is to tie up and settle some things onboard before we connect to power or water. So we decline that help and are happy to handle it ourselves later.

(0:15) Research shows that we size up a new person in somewhere between 30 seconds and 2 minutes. And that a first impression will tend to dominate even when future interactions are different. This is true for both positive and negative impressions.

(0:07) Don't saddle your marina with a bad first impression. Make sure your staff is trained to welcome every boater and provide excellent service from the start. That will payoff in positive reviews and more business.

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

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

After the Storm

(0:51) As most everyone knows, the US east coast was hit by Hurricane Matthew this last week. Fortunately, it struck with less intensity then had been predicted. However, that is of little consolation to the areas that suffered severe storm damage and loss of life.

(0:44) An event of this magnitude has led to much uncertainty and concern on the part of boaters beginning their winter migration. Immediately, we began receiving communications from boaters wanting to know the state of the waterway, marinas, and anchorages to the south.

(0:38) It reminded me of the increased importance of communicating with the boating community following a major event of this nature. There are few things that are worse for a business than uncertainty on the part of your customers. In the face of uncertainty many boaters will become paralyzed and not move.

(0:30) That is why it is imperative that every marina and boatyard impacted, even tangentially, by a major weather event must come out quickly to inform boaters about the state of your facility and the waters nearby. What was the impact to you and the surrounding waterway? Which services are available and which are not? If there was no impact, make sure you let boaters know. Silence only feeds uncertainty.

(0:20) This is a time to use every available outlet to get the message out. ActiveCaptain Partners can use their Pro-Op message to update boaters about your status and to keep them updated as repairs are made.

(0:16) If you are not a Partner, you can put a review in from the marina providing information. In both cases make sure to keep your message current and update it frequently.

(0:13) Ensure you use other outlets as well. If you use Facebook or Twitter or a newsletter to communicate with boaters, make sure your message is going out there also. Place updates on your website. Use all means available.

(0:07) Yes, Hurricane Matthew could have been worse and we are glad to see him go. But we all know there are always other events coming. Should you find your marina in the path of one, stay safe, weather the storm, and when it is over communicate, communicate, communicate.

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

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Embrace Change

(1:01) Previously, I wrote about change and the importance of monitoring and reacting to change to keep your marina relevant. Too often we approach aspects of our business with a "set it and forget it" attitude. I believe this is particularly true of the things we are not fond of doing. And I know that, for many marinas, marketing often falls into that category.

(0:52) I have yet to meet the marina or boatyard operator that said, "I got into this business because I love marketing!" You love boats and the sea and messing about with engines. But the reality is, if you want to keep doing the things you love, you must do some effective marketing as well. That requires not letting your marketing focus, message, or how you deliver that message stagnate.

(0:42) It means doing things differently than you did 5 years ago, 1 year ago, and maybe even last week. It is why it is so important to know what is working and what is not. Talk to your customers and know why they came to you. Read their reviews to know where you are doing well and where you need to change.

(0:33) Put all aspects of your marketing plan on the table and examine it critically. Ask yourself what you would do if today was your first day with no past baggage. Would you select the marketing mix you have right now? Be critical and brutally honest.

(0:25) Change can be unnerving - the familiar tends to be soothing, giving us a sense of security. However, it is a false sense of security because, if you're standing still, you're falling behind.

(0:18) "Your success in life isn't based on your ability to simply change. It is based on your ability to change faster than your competition, customers, and business." - Mark Sanborn

(0:14) Does that mean you should throw out your past experiences and start anew? Of course not. Experience is a very valuable asset.

(0:11) The most successful businesses will take that experience and apply it to today's boaters. They will understand what to keep, what to modify, and what to throw out.

(0:07) "It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change." - Charles Darwin

(0:04) Don't avoid change. Run into its arms and embrace it.

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