THE BOARD

A Blog To Help The Marina Owner Understand Online Marketing

How to Market a Marina: What Marina Managers Should be Doing to Increase Boater Traffic and Sales

May 3, 2022 | Marina Growth

boats in marina air view photo

Imagine a team in pressed suits standing quietly in an elevator. They stare confidently ahead, the elevator dings, and they stride through a madhouse trading floor with scurrying secretaries and salesmen frantically screaming into landline telephones. The team enters a comfortable mahogany-walled conference room that overlooks Manhattan. The table, crafted from a polished piece of an old shipwreck, is waiting stocked with warm coffee and cool bourbon.

This is not what marina marketing looks like.

The steps to a successful marina operation do not live in the portfolios of a fictional marketing team on the fifteenth floor of a television show set (If you move your marina office to a Manhattan high-rise, no one is judging you here). Some of the most effective marina advertising measures consist of simply staying on top of the platforms on which you are visible and through which you communicate with customers. We’ll explore five of the simplest ways that help a marina engage its clientele, maintain a responsive and credible image, and foster increased visibility to potential customers.

Don Draper from Mad Men marketing marinas

Keep an Active Events Calendar

Marina Dock Age recently wrote about marketing emotion to your boaters. It’s a deeply resonant concept—you are not simply selling your boat slips for the weekend. You are selling the experience. Holding events at your marina gives you a chance to be the setting where those work acquaintances had a first date at your “Evening brews on the water” event or the time that family’s children got to sit in a bobbing boat and watch Finding Nemo on a boat-in movie projector. You are selling future memories.

Besides the emotional connection, keeping an up-to-date calendar of consistent events provides a recurring opportunity to expand your customer base. Long-time boaters bring new friends and family, and you have a valid excuse to be highly active on social media and via email. Post your events in an easily visible location on your marina website’s home page. If you use email marketing (you should), start four to six weeks out (or several months if you’re hosting a boat show or fishing tournament) and countdown to your event. Create a few sentences you’re comfortable with, find a good picture, and post to your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and email campaigns. You don’t need to host the Catalina Wine Mixer—the core idea is to offer your facilities to host local events. You don’t need to organize the event, but simply invite local businesses to use your location. Start small (like a monthly farmer’s market), network with your local business peers, and be a pleasant setting for your community’s weekend activity.

dockwa

Allow Boaters to Reserve a Slip Online

Boaters treasure convenience, and convenience in the digital age means they should be able to place a slip reservation at 4 a.m. on your website if that’s their desire.

A study by Dockwa claims that “35% of dockage requests are made after business hours.”

The two most popular online booking platforms are Marinas.com, which is partnered with Dockwa, and Snag-A-Slip.

Dockwa is a partner with the enormously popular (and free) ActiveCaptain network, which was created by Garmin. A detailed rundown of how the vast ActiveCaptain community benefits marinas can be found here, and check out Hammer & Nail’s explicit guide on how to install and maintain the ActiveCaptain reservation form directly on your marina website.

Putting a reservation form directly on your home page involves choosing the platform that appeals to you most and spending an hour or two of your time installing a button or having your web administrator do it for you. Dockwa will set up your button for you within 24 hours if you contact their online help desk. Snag-A-Slip is a newer marina management and booking platform and doesn’t yet carry a custom form to embed, but it’s a simple fix to log into your site’s content management system (CMS) and insert a picture with a hyperlink to the Snag-A-Slip reservation page for your marina. Both Marinas.com and Snag-A-Slip allow you to create a listing of your marina in their database for free, as their cut comes from a percentage fee charged on top of the reservation.

Platforms like ActiveCaptain and Snag-A-Slip provide direct interaction with thousands of users who access the apps to learn details about their local waters and marinas. To be engaged with your listing on ActiveCaptain, you’ll need to create a free account and “claim” your marina on their platform. All you need to do to be visible on the Snag-A-Slip community is contact them and ask to have your marina added to their website.

A potential 35% boost in reservations is well worth the time spent tinkering with your marina’s website to implement a reservation form.

social media for marinas

Be Responsive with Your Telephones and Social Media

It seems so fundamental, doesn’t it? Answer the phone!

Let’s call back to that distant factoid two paragraphs ago where I mentioned that 35% of all slip reservations occur online. That means the other 65% go directly through your front desk during business hours. Punctual customer service is a priority in any industry, and if you don’t pick up the phone, your boater likely won’t call back four or five times.

They’re going to go online and see where the next closest marina is located.

Subconsciously, the boater will also note the fact that you weren’t reachable, and next time they might think about contacting your competition first.

The same concept applies to your social media presence but being unresponsive in the digital hemisphere will have a much greater effect on customer perception of your reliability.

Your marina’s bathrooms had a bad day on Wednesday and Jimmy K. leaves a negative review. You were swamped that day and had no chance to clean, and the bathroom looks like a tornado dropped a muddy pig into it.

The review stagnates online for weeks with no response.

Potential customers browse your page and see that Jimmy K.’s rant about your missing toilet paper has gone unrequited, and their perception is that you have poor customer service and an absent web presence. Maybe they even think that you don’t have toilet paper in your bathrooms.

On the other side of it, if Jimmy K. posts his complaint and you hop on within 24 hours and provide a sincere apology and explanation, your service is now seen as honest, available, and Jimmy K. might be amenable to forgiving your bathroom debacle.

Facebook and Instagram’s algorithms also recognize your responsive engagement, and are more likely to show your business in user feeds as an active account.

If you’re too busy for direct customer engagement, then hiring an extra body to keep tabs on the phones and social media will be well worth it in the long run for maintaining customer relationships and capturing your full potential of slip reservations.

how to get your marina on the map

Build Visibility and Consistency with Business Listings

According to a marinas.com marina marketing flash course, your website will only dominate one or two results in a search engine query, even if you’re an SEO wizard.

By creating business listings across multiple search and travel platforms, you’ll maximize your visibility in search results and create a deeper sense of active credibility with potential customers. They’ll think, “Oh, I see this marina everywhere with up-to-date and comprehensive information—they must be legitimate”, rather than, “I’ve only ever seen this marina advertised once on a faded wooden post on Route 22 past Madisonville—seems kind of shoddy”.

It’s worth an afternoon of your time to create listings with Yelp, Trip Advisor, Google Business, LinkedIn, your Facebook page, and Instagram.

Go through each listing and make sure your phone number, your physical address, and web address are correct. The worst thing for a potential customer is to click on your website link and be directed to an “Error 404” page.

Beyond the major review and social media platforms, claiming your marina on the major marina advertising conduits is crucial. These include marinas.com, ActiveCaptain, and Snag-A-Slip. Go on the website or app, create a free account, then search for your marina in their database. It will come up as a visible location for you, but there won’t be any nuanced info attached because you haven’t claimed it as yours yet. When you claim it, the site will verify that you’re the business owner (marinas.com uses a phone call with a security code), and then you can fill out your profile with pictures, personalize your marina’s image, and interact with customer questions and reviews.

Finally, go back and make sure your marina website has your contact info in an eye-catching location. Many sites bury their contact info on the bottom, and patrons often simply go on looking for an address or phone number. Make it easy for them.

marina website design and development

The Foundation: An Easily Navigable Marina Website

Each of the previous four segments has a thread in common: They’re all geared to direct customer leads to your website to be converted into sales.

Having a website that’s slow to load is like driving a Ferrari on three flat tires. It doesn’t matter how awesome your marina is—the website needs to be user-friendly.

Maybe you’ve taken a gorgeous 4,000 X 6,000-pixel photo of the docks with your Canon DSLR, but unwieldy photo sizes bog down page load times and leave users frustrated.

400- to 600-pixel photos are fine, and you don’t want to go smaller than that or you’ll detract from the compelling nature of your images.

A professional web developer should make your website responsive and adaptable for any format.

Your site needs to be mobile-friendly, and you can test your webpage on Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. To be mobile-friendly the site should use minimal text, have an uncrowded navigation panel, and avoid multiple occurrences with bulky media formats, like stacking several Youtube videos on top of each other.

The home page should be a clean, simple layout with concise text and a message that clearly directs the boaters to the next step. “BOOK YOUR SLIP HERE”. Yes, that works. “Call this number to speak directly with one of our marina experts”. Sure, that works, too. Your web page should be built around a clear headline, visible contact info, and a call to action. The call to action could be your Dockwa reservation button, or a simple request to give you a phone call and discuss how you can accommodate their needs.

growing your marina’s website and online presence

The Common Thread in Marina Advertising: “Simple and Consistent” is Still Plenty Effective

“How will I possibly have time for all this marketing stuff?” is an easy question to ask when you’re running the logistics of a marina full-time.

The methods above are time-efficient strategies to integrate into your daily workflow that will show gradual but steady positive growth. A few minutes here to update your website, a few minutes there to maintain your relationships with your boaters on social media. Paying attention to the little things will reflect in how people talk about your marina. Some action is better than not doing anything.

Be visible. Be consistent. Keep it simple.

If you’d like additional support in maintaining and growing your marina’s website and online presence, get in touch with us. Hammer and Nail Marketing is a boutique marketing firm that helps small to mid-sized marinas get noticed by boaters. 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.

WHAT IS HAMMER & NAIL?

Hammer & Nail specializes in marina marketing. From small to mid sized marinas, we design custom, targeted strategies to help build and expand client bases.

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