For better or for worse, we live in digital age.
It used to be that technology, the web, and social media could give you a leg up. These days, if you're not leveraging these channels, you're doing your business a huge disservice.
You can hide behind "the marine industry has always been slow to change..." as long as you like, but you can’t deny that change is upon us.
Here are five things the best marinas do to stay at the top of their game, and what you should be doing to stay on top of yours.
1: They Keep Their Customer Data Secure
Successful marinas have their acts together and have their guests' best interests at heart. This applies online as well as offline.
This sense of duty is no different than the reasons you keep your marina clean and up to safety codes. For example: If one of your docks started to show signs of decay, you wouldn't ignore it. If, left unrepaired, this dock caused harm to one of your guests or his vessel, you would be responsible.
The same holds true for the digital age, in which data is king. When you hear about Yahoo!, LinkedIn, or other companies suffering from data breaches, it's not the time to bury your head in the sand and think it couldn't happen to your business. If a hacker were to get hold of your customer data, it would come with serious consequences.
The most successful marinas recognize that they need to modernize systems and digitize their processes not just to get ahead, but to keep their customers' data safe.
2: They Use Technology to Drive Operational Efficiency
Yes, pens still work. Paper still works… technically.
But in truth that depends on how you define "work." Pen and paper may still perform their respective functions, but if you're using them to literally run your business, you should prepare yourself for a rude awakening: They are not working for you. They are not helping you; in fact, they are creating more work for you.
If you are using pen and paper, or even Excel, your data is not stored correctly or securely. That means you are:
- wasting hours of staff time and resources
- negatively impacting your guests' experience when you need to track down their information
- in danger of losing years of data
Edgartown Harbormaster Charlie Blair realized he was paying staff to simply answer phones and sift through piles of mailed-in or phoned-in reservation requests for weeks each year. He proactively searched for a solution that would allow him to eliminate some overhead and speed up the process. The new system was so efficient that they were able to extend the 2016 season by a full month, increasing his marina’s nights served and resulting in a 30% increase in revenue compared to last year.
3: They Pay Attention to How Their Customers Use Technology
The most successful marinas aren't successful simply because they have a fantastic location. These businesses keep their ear to the ground and listen to their guests.
Listening is particularly key as you begin your foray into leveraging technology for your business. Ask your customers:
- How did you hear about us?
- What caught your eye on our website?
- What was frustrating about reserving?
Taking the answers to these questions to heart as you employ technology strategies will not only speak volumes to your guests, it will help guide the steps you take in your tech game-plan.
Some people in the marine industry like to think that boaters are a different breed, a group of consumers who are less inclined to use new gadgets or apps. In reality: Customers in every industry expect more than they did 10 or even two years ago. Instant (or near-instant) gratification through services like Netflix binge-watching and Amazon one-day shipping have upped the bar.
Even those boaters who are on the water full-time don't live under rocks; most of them have come to expect a certain level of service, a shorter timeframe of doing business, and a basic understanding of technology.
If you've only ever accepted cash, and a guest voices that he or she would prefer to pay with a credit card, listen. And then consider how many customers haven't voiced that feedback and simply kept cruising by. If you've only ever answered the phone between 9am and 5pm, and a boater emails you disappointed that he couldn't reserve, consider the number of calls you've missed.
4: They Listen to Their Peers in the Marine Industry
Tune in. Brewer, Suntex, Westrec, Stock Island Marina Village, Safe Harbor... Look to your peers in the industry to see the trends that marinas – not just boaters – are embracing.
You can't attribute their success to one move or one decision, because they're always moving. They're always making decisions that propel their business forward. It's the accumulation of these movements and the spurning of stagnation that make them successful.
So pay attention to who they partner with. Pay attention to when and why they show up in the industry news feeds. Pay attention to what technology they're using, who they look to for guidance, where they're advertising, and where they're not advertising. Leading marinas are leveraging technology to make the most out of every dollar spent on operations and marketing.
5: They Embrace Change
50% of the Fortune 500 from the 1950s are out of business. It turns out, “That’s the way we’ve always done things” is the most expensive term in business.
Bringing your business into 2017 is not an option. You can't afford to be lazy or intimidated by technology. (Or, if you can, you're still leaving money on the table for your competition!)
When Edgartown Harbor embraced change and stepped into the digital age of reservations, they increased their revenue by 77% from the previous season. Even without competition, they saw the writing on the wall, opted for the win-win, and made everyone's lives easier while bringing up the bottom line.
No employee, boater, or Dockwa blog post can make you budge if you're firm in your belief that technology is a fad or you’re stuck in the "that’s just the way we’ve always don things" mentality. Eventually, though, money talks, and when your boaters stay at the marinas who do use technology to their advantage, take notice.
If this post has you interested in bringing your business into the current day and age, get in touch.
By: Matt Fradette
Published on 1/18/17 11:00 AM