A Blog To Help The Marina Owner Understand Online Marketing

CMO, DIY, or a Marina Marketing Agency: What’s Right for You?

Jan 23, 2024 | Marina Advertising, Marina Management

marina event

This is not a chess match in sun-dappled Central Park. This is one v. one v. one. A cage match. Chairs and ladders. Pay-per-view television. Only one marketing option makes it out alive.

Alright, so it’s not that dramatic. But once you decide it’s time to make an assertive decision to expand your marina marketing efforts, the choice arises as one with gravitas. This person or team will be in charge of the way you’re perceived, the words you say publicly, and your entire image.

You are entrusting a Chief Marketing Officer or agency with your livelihood.

Before you choose an external expert (or choose yourself) to develop and execute a marina marketing strategy, this is homework that’s helpful to approach from multiple angles. Experience, cost, personality, ego, turnaround time. These are all factors that can stagnate your marketing or launch you into a new tier of income.

Today, we explore the upsides and downsides of three marina marketing directions: Chief marketing officers, marketing agencies, or the old-fashioned do-it-yourself.

Do-it-yourself: Time, energy, control

Potential obstacles to consider:

  • Time expenditure
  • The mental strain of adding an entire division to your workload
  • Potential lack of expertise and knowledge of marketing strategies

Potential Benefits:

  • Minimal financial overhead
  • Complete autonomy over creative direction and outcome
  • Sense of pride and achievement

Here’s a biased take, but one with merit: the time a manager spends personally brainstorming, organizing, developing, and executing a marketing strategy, could outweigh any of the benefits. The logistical number of hours required to oversee marketing–especially for a marina with 100+ slips and a restaurant–presents a palpable tension with a manager’s other daily duties.

The upside of a do-it-yourself marketing approach? It’s a viable option for small marinas with a baseline of amenities who need something simple. Maybe this marina has a long-time clientele, all their slips are booked year-round, and what they need is a social media presence and occasional email campaign to maintain their base.

The do-it-yourself marina manager may also gain a greater sense of emotional investment in their business. They’re doing everything, this is their brainchild, and the manager has a direct arterial relationship between the product and any future growth.

marina US flag

Marina Marketing with a Chief Marketing Officer

Potential obstacles to consider:

  • A CMO may not have the same breadth of abilities as an agency (web design, maintenance, blog content)
  • Depending on marina size, the workload could foster an environment where the CMO is “stretched too thin” and work is delayed or diluted
  • Cost of an additional full-time salary

Potential benefits:

  • Familiar, close relationship with the person in charge of your marina marketing
  • A known face and point of contact to represent your marina in marine industry networks
  • A presence that can adapt to your marina’s culture from the inside and promote the marina with deep authority
  • Adaptive to marina culture

A core upside of hiring a chief marketing officer is that the manager has just hired a person who is going to get their hands dirty in building new relationships and expanding the marina’s reach. They are the “point person” for marketing, and therefore could potentially handle events, emails, customer comments and complaints, and social media. This person is a familial, integrated piece of the marina that can adapt to your culture and serve as a voice for the marina’s brand and direction. Achieving success with a CMO means getting the hire right is imperative.

A restriction of hiring a CMO is that their bandwidth is limited. Say that the manager has an ownership stake in five marinas, and each of these marinas has a daily social media presence, an active blog, restaurants, short-term rentals, and events. This is an unwieldy workload and one in which the CMO may not have the expertise to cure certain hiccups. Maybe the CMO excels in social media but is inefficient with event planning, or perhaps they are a great relationship-builder but cannot troubleshoot the issue personally when a website goes down.

marina marketing agency

Marina marketing with an agency (like Hammer & Nail)

Potential obstacles to consider:

  • Higher monthly cost than DIY
  • They may have less hands-on knowledge of your waterfront and therefore cannot capitalize as well on the character or marina nuances

Potential benefits:

  • Utilize a team with a deep well of abilities, from web maintenance to blog writing
  • Efficient project turnaround time
  • May have a deeper network of established marine industry connections
  • Ability to take the marina “above and beyond” with advanced SEO and long-form content capabilities
  • Flexible to develop strategy for a wide spectrum of marina brands

A primary hangup with hiring a marina marketing team could be the budget. If a marina has eight slips in a tiny cove in the corner of a lake, it may be more cost-effective for the marina manager to shoulder the marketing efforts at the expense of reach and ability. However, for many marina managers, their size means nothing here. Quality is everything. They want experts and the best group of creative minds to lead their business.

A prominent upside of hiring an agency is that the manager has just hired a Swiss Army knife. They’ve got website maintenance, design, social media, blog content, strategy, and event promotion, all working with lean efficiency. The manager has peace of mind and a business actively moving closer to their vision.

Do your research!

That’s the most important factor in a marina’s marketing evolution. A manager can make evaluations based on:

  • Who the person/company has worked with previously
  • What are people saying about them?
  • What are their breadth of skills?

Most of all, a manager goes to work every day with a pile of tasks and potential stressors. It’s important to simply find a person or team that you like, that you work well with, that wants to enthusiastically adapt to your vision and help you get to where you want to go.

Hammer and Nail Marketing


Hammer and Nail Marketing is a boutique marketing firm that helps small to mid-sized marinas get noticed by boaters. If you’d like to focus on operating your marina without the additional responsibility of marketing, get in touch with us.

We’re boaters ourselves from a background of operating a family-run marina. From a group of experts who know the water, let Hammer and Nail Marketing help you be the waterfront your local boaters see every time they cast off.


No spam, we promise! Just the latest marina marketing tips.


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