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4 Creative Promotion Strategies to Attract New Boaters


A great deal, or as I like to say a "bahgain"(Massachusetts native), speaks and works for itself. From $17.76 oil change prices at Goodyear Auto Service during Fourth of July Weekend, to 25% discounts on L.L. Bean outerwear in January, successful promotions don't require consumer investigation to recognize their value. Successful promotions are both simple and compelling in their offer, so their value resonates immediately with consumers.

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That's why promotions that provide unmatched value to a customer are one of the oldest and most effective tools to turn disinterested parties into customers - with minimal effort input by the business owner, at that. This absolutely applies to marinas and yacht clubs. If you're looking to increase your marina's occupancy, maintenance work or overall marina awareness, you may want to consider incorporating a promotional calendar into your business's marketing plan.

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Offering and marketing discounts on dockage during holidays and the off-season are certainly smart, and intuitive promotions - but we know we don't need to tell you that. If you're looking for new, creative ways to attract boaters with promotions, read on to discover four alternative promotions to run at your marina.

1. Offer a Preferred Marina Membership

One of the most comprehensive ways we've seen marinas use promotions to attract new boaters and retain existing boaters is with "preferred" marina memberships. Think of it like a premium credit card - for a yearly fee, a credit card could provide entry to airport lounges, extra points back on certain purchases, and early access to purchasing concert tickets. Should you fliy frequently, spend with the card often, and attend highly-anticipated concerts, the fee you pay for the credit card could pay for itself.

West Marine's Gold Rewards Membership, at $24 a year, is a retail membership program that follows this "pay to earn" rewards model. For every $250 spent by a Gold Reward Member at West Marine, they receive a $10 gift certificate. As long as any Gold Member is already spending more than $750 at West Marine each year, the $24 membership fee is worth it. 

Marinas, too, put this strategy to use with their boaters.


Take Safe Harbor marinas, for example. When boaters sign up for Safe Harbor's Annual Black Card Membership, they receive:

  • Fuel discounts at every Safe Harbor-owned fuel dock
  • Discounts on houseboats, charter boats, hotels, & cabin rentals at Safe Harbor locations
  • Transient Nights discounts: 8 free transient nights & an additional 10 nights at 50% off
  • Access to Safe Harbor boat insurance

Not only does this membership create an attractive reason for new boaters to dock with Safe Harbor, it also offers Safe Harbor an extra stream of revenue, and encourages continued engagement from existing boaters.

Read What Safe Harbor Marinas Like About Dockwa

2. Create a marina loyalty program

Similar to a Preferred Membership, but free to participate, Loyalty Programs reward returning customers for their patronage. Each time I visit Dunkin' Donuts for my large Cold Brew (at least once a day), I receive points that eventually add up to the delightful reward of a free coffee. And while one could arguably get the equivalent of a Dunkin' Donuts cup-o-joe at just about any coffee joint (I, of course, would argue against it), the free coffee at the end of the Dunkin' rainbow is always in my mind when selecting a coffee provider. And that's why I'm a shameless Dunkin' For Life-er (cue obligatory Dunkin' Donuts SNL clip).



At the Seaport Inn and Marina, the more you stay, the more points you accrue, which add up to rewards such as free food, gift cards, and ferry tickets to Martha's Vineyard. If you're looking for a rewards program accessible for all boaters, this may be a good promotional approach for your marina.

And if you're looking for a way to track boater loyalty: Dockwa becomes a digital record of your boater visits when they book directly through Dockwa or when you manually enter a visit into the app. With just a few clicks, you'll be able to see how often your boaters are visiting your marina, to easily reward individuals for their returns. You'll also see in Dockwa which boaters have not been to your marina recently - those are the boaters you can target with special offers, such as discounts on dockage, to get them to return.

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3. Become a BoatUS partner marina

If you already offer, or plan to offer, discounts on dockage or fuel, consider becoming a BoatUS partner marina. Boaters use the BoatUS Member Service and Discount Locator to seek out marinas at which they know they can find a great deal for their transient stay. By partnering with BoatUS, your marina will have the captive audience of boaters actively seeking out marinas that offer discounts. That's free marketing for your marina, and more boaters' eyes on what you have to offer.


Already a BoatUS partner marina? Listing on Dockwa markets your marina and its BoatUS discounts to even more boaters looking for both transient and long-term dockage options.

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4. Use Dockwa to offer coupons to boaters

A subscription to Dockwa's Connect software allows you to offer dockage discounts to boaters however you see fit. Whether you're running a promotion for all boaters, or want to give a special discount to an individual (birthdays, anniversaries, just for kicks), Dockwa lets you reward your boaters whenever and however you like.

How are you using promotions at your marina to attract new boaters? Share in the comments below!

Katharine Kirk

By: Katharine Kirk

Published on 1/17/18 7:47 AM