Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Accentuate the Positive

(1:00) Positive reviews are what you strive for. Honest assessments by happy boaters are worth more than pages of glossy pictures and professionally written prose. To make the most out of these marketing gems, you need a plan. Here are five things you can do to maximize your positive reviews.

(0:52) 1. Say thank you. Thank the boater for taking the time to write a review. This simple act not only reinforces good feelings, it will make them more likely to visit again and to tell others. Use ActiveCaptain's messaging feature to send a personal message. Don't forget your Partner Management Response but make sure you respond to both positive and negative reviews.

(0:41) 2. Involve your employees. Share positive reviews with your staff. A 4 or 5 star review is not possible without them. If you are part of a large organization make sure management knows, especially if a staff member is called out in the review.

(0:35) 3. Show boaters. Don't hesitate to let boaters know what other boaters are saying. Display reviews on your website. Reviews from the ActiveCaptain site can be displayed on other sites as long as the source is acknowledged to fulfill copyright requirements and a link is provided back to the site. It is best to provide a link directly back to your marker. There's no easier way to encourage additional reviews.

(0:23) 4. Consider how you can improve. While compliments certainly make everyone feel good, this is not the time to rest on your laurels. Even 5 star reviews can mention an area that needs improvement. Sometimes a boater compliment can reveal a needed service. Was there an effort mentioned that was out of the ordinary? Consider making it part of your offerings.

(0:13) 5. Keep asking for reviews. Use your ActiveCaptain Partner review card to remind boaters how important reviews are to your business. Shying away from new reviews should be a red flag. Do your best, always improve, and ask with confidence.

(0:06) Good reviews are good for business. Make sure you are making the best of them.

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

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

How It's Done

(1:24) Marinas often ask us how boaters choose a marina. The question comes in various forms:
Will more reviews help?
If I add amenity XYZ, will more boaters come?
What should I include on my website?
(1:19) You should understand the process a typical boater goes through before calling for a reservation. This can help you decide where to put resources and what kind are needed. Here is how we make our marina decisions on Red Head.

(1:13) First, we decide on a general area or an event we'd like to attend. It could be a city or town we had heard about but not visited or returning to an old favorite. There might be a boat show or a festival we'd like to attend. It could also be an area based on distance as we're moving along to get to another destination.

(1:04) It is key to have general marketing of your area and events. If there is a Chamber of Commerce or other similar organization, make sure you are working with them. Encourage them to promote aspects that are of interest to boaters. Use our Pro-Op message to highlight these directly to boaters who are looking at your marina. Give me a reason to come to your area and stay.

(0:55) Next, we use ActiveCaptain to check out the general area. What marinas are there? Anchorages or mooring balls? The approach, depths, and other navigational issues are looked at. We use the Details to determine what amenities are offered. Some may be requirements - fuel or groceries - and some may be a bonus - a pool or good restaurant. This generally narrows it down to 1 or 2 choices.

(0:44) It is important that your data is accurate and current. List all available amenities, including those available nearby. You never know the key one that's needed by the boater at that moment so list everything. And don't fret about those services you can't offer. My needs are not always the same. I'm happy to visit a quaint out-of-the-way location with few services if my galley is full.

(0:35) Include all pricing. Daily, weekly, monthly, and fuel prices should be current. Don't tell me to "check your website" or, worse yet, "call for pricing." You only make me wonder what you are hiding and if the boat next to me got a better deal. Be transparent about this key criteria. Always list weekly and monthly pricing - having that is what often makes us think about staying longer, especially if the prices are attractive.

(0:23) Then, we'll check out the reviews. This gives us an idea of what it's really like. We look at the overall rating, how many there are, and typically read the most recent ones. Never stop asking for reviews.

(0:18) Finally, we'll use the website link to go to your website. Here we're looking for pictures - make sure yours are current. Website quality gives a branding feel - make it match the feel you have. You should note from this process that your website will rarely be where I initially find you but it can be where you close the deal.

(0:06) Providing what a boater needs at each step of the process will help lead them to your marina. And that is good for business.

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

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

It's a Gift

(1:10) Last week I saw an excellent example of how a marina can take a less than positive experience and, with a little effort, turn it around. A review came in for St. Johns Yacht Harbor in Charleston, SC updating a previous review from 2015.

(1:03) The boater originally gave the marina a 3 star review due to some issues with inadequate information about their slip. It led to a problem getting from the boat to a short finger pier, making it difficult for them to get on and off the boat. The boater felt, rightly so, that more information about the slip could have avoided the problem.

(0:54) The marina followed up the 3 star review with a sincere apology and an invitation to give them another try. The boater did just that, changed his review to 5 stars, and wrote the following:

In November 2015, I wrote a 3 star review that prompted marina management to contact me and encourage our return.  We returned 5/10/17 and experienced excellent docking assistance, on a tee dock this time, and took time to enjoy the setting and facilities. Would have extended our stay but hurricane damage (under repair) and other transients with reservations prevented another night's docking.  Look forward to the next time when we can stay longer.

    (0:34) The marina followed up with:

    Captain Bentley,

    We appreciate the opportunity to correct your original experience. We hope to see you again. Your feedback is a gift.

    SJYH Crew & Capt Stan

    (0:28) There are so many things I like about this interaction. The fact that the marina owned up to their shortfall and asked for another chance. Then they ensured the boater’s return experience would be excellent. The implication that a lesson was learned leading to better experiences for all boaters in the future.

    (0:20) But what I think I like best was Captain Stan’s final sentence, “Your feedback is a gift.”

    (0:16) Yes, all feedback from your customers is a precious gift. Never forget that.

    (0:13) It’s easy when the feedback is positive but it is actually negative feedback that is the greatest gift. Remember, whether the boater takes the time to write a negative review or not, the experience is still there. The boater will carry that experience forward to other boaters, all to your detriment.

    (0:06) However, by letting you know about the experience you are being given the opportunity to correct it. What a wonderful gift indeed.

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

    Tuesday, June 6, 2017

    Making the Most of Expectations

    (1:07) In the past I have written about managing boater expectations for your marina. It is unmet expectations that typically lead to poor reviews.

    (1:03) It is also possible to turn boaters' expectations into a great opportunity for your marina. Managing boater expectations is far more than simply avoiding damaging errors. The most successful businesses are those that exceed their customers' expectations in unexpected ways.

    (0:55) First, ensure that you always present your marina in a real fashion. Creating your own unrealistic expectations will only set you up for failure. It reminds me of a review I read years ago. The boater stated he was shaving off a star because the bathrooms failed to live up to their claim of having "the best bathrooms on the Chesapeake Bay."

    (0:45) No one likes to feel they have been misled. Such a tactic is sure to backfire. Sure you may woo me in the first time but I'm unlikely to be back and more likely to spread negative word-of-mouth and write a bad review.

    (0:39) The reality is that doing everything right isn't enough. Accurately taking my reservation, helping to bring my boat safely to your dock, and a friendly greeting are what a boater expects. Accomplishing that will avoid a negative experience and most likely provide a positive experience. But will it offer a memorable experience. The kind of experience that leads to great reviews and lots of word-of-mouth recommendations.

    (0:26) You need to understand what is expected or normal for boaters within your area and price range. Then determine how to provide something that goes beyond what is normal. The key here is that you don't need to have some over-the-top amenity or dramatic change. You simply need to exceed what boaters consider normal or standard.

    (0:15) Take some time to analyze what is being offered by your competition. An easy way to do this is to read boater reviews for other marinas. This can help you uncover ways your competition is falling short. Then look for ways you can meet unmet needs and improve on what has become "standard fare".

    (0:07) Make sure you are creating satisfied boaters. A happy long term repeat customer is a business's most valuable asset. And that starts with the customer's expectations.

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