How to Make Your Marina Stand Out
Monday, February 6, 2012 at 3:08PM
Dennis Kissman in 2010, Customer Service, Design, Industry Articles, Maintenance, Management, Marketing, Profit Centers

This article, by Dennis Kissman, was published in Marina Dock Age –  January 2010. 

In a world of 24-hour news, escalating unemployment, and wars at home and in the far corners of the world, it’s the job of marina operators to provide and maintain an escape for their customers. By delivering the boating lifestyle in a clean, safe, and friendly environment, marinas will be able to keep their existing customer base in these tough economic times.

For marina customers, their boats and accompanying amenities are the ultimate escape, an oasis that provides an outlet for relaxation, recreation, and socialization. The marina is often the host of these activities and should not lose sight of this responsibility even during difficult economic times. It can be very easy for marinas to get caught up in the negativity of the down turning economy and loose sight of what is most important to their business and livelihood. 

To help marina operators create and maintain the boating lifestyle in 2010, here are some inexpensive, yet very effective improvement projects. 

Sprucing It Up

The first step to make your marina standout in 2010 is to prepare a plan. Since this article coincides with winter, this is the perfect time to reflect on the past season’s events, review what marina patrons enjoyed, and focus on doing similar activities that should be branded to create maximum impact for minimum dollars. 

Maintenance-Operators should identify opportunities and methods to improve the customer’s perception of your property. Look specifically at tasks that do not have to break the bank. For example, marinas can repaint an area that looks soiled or worn from continued use. Don’t be afraid to update the colors to more vibrant and inviting hues to make boaters feel like they are truly “away from home.” Replace the stained carpet in the lounge or the waiting area and resurface the primary countertops to spruce up your “look.” 

Lighting is always a maintenance challenge, but customers and marina office staff will thank you for the updated lighting and related fixtures in the restrooms, showers, and office spaces. Remember your marina is an oasis – an escape from reality for the weekend or holiday – so create a carefree environment. 

Trim it up and add a splash of color-Annual flowers are colorful and an inexpensive way to spruce up your marina. Operators should pay particular attention to marina entrances, as well as defined areas within the marina, such as islands within parking areas. Annual flowers are always welcome at outdoor customer waiting areas and areas that need to be shielded from a customer’s view.

The Coffee Machine–Gathering spots at the marina aren’t always at the dock, and the coffee pot is always a good place to meet up. Look for a good quality commercial grade coffee machine like those that dispense a single cup of fresh brewed coffee and dedicate it to your customers. This is not the machine you want your employees hanging around, so make sure they know this.

Fresh looking employees- An easy way to put the customer at ease is by giving a new clean look for the employees through the use of a uniform dress code that incorporates a name tag. Name tags help customers feel at ease because then they are able to address employees by their correct names. This also allows for more interaction and opportunity for employees to address the customers about up-selling opportunities and value driven relationships. 

A uniform dress code does not necessarily mean supplying uniforms to employees. What it does do is set a standard as to how you expect your employees to present themselves in the workplace.

Other areas for improvement

Look beyond the marina industry –To enhance your appeal to customers, marinas need to look at other hospitality industries for ideas. For example, the hotel industry has gone to great lengths to study and research the psychology of scent. Do some research of your own and identify how you can use scents to improve customer satisfaction and retail sales in your marina. Pay particular attention to the restroom, shower, and laundry areas where mildew can be a problem. You’ll be surprised at the reactions of boaters who have visited your competitors and then visited your marina. They will not only stay longer, but also bring their families by the marina, thereby creating more opportunity at your facility.

Security-Maintain your security system and procedures to put customers at ease. Nothing turns off a boater more than the thought that that their family, guests, and personal effects, specifically their pride and joy, could be in danger by staying at your marina.

Add value-Hospitality ventures are proud of offering value-added stays, and the same holds true for marinas. Operators need to promote preventive maintenance programs to their customers because a broken boat can equal a bad weekend. A great way to ensure that the motor turns and the props can spin on the holiday weekends is by providing value added maintenance services to your customers and facilitating their ability to get work done on the boat (especially during the week). Make sure your staff members are trained to jumpstart boats or have a mechanic on call and available to diagnose and fix small problems that might happen to boats before they leave the marina.

Stay connected-Make sure to have an area that provides wireless internet for your customers while they wait. We all are “connected” nowadays so make it easy for your customers. Your wireless service needs to provide adequate, reliable coverage to your marina and common areas. In today’s technological age, it is unacceptable to drive customers away from your property to find a wireless signal.

Positive mental attitude

Above all else, marina operators need to instill a positive attitude among their staff and customers. Creating a positive environment for your customers means removing any negative stimulus from the property. Here’s a simple thing marina can do for little cost. If the local newspaper is filled with negative stories on a constant basis, look at identifying a subscription news service that will provide an alternative. Some marinas are using a service called the Times Fax, which provides an overview of the world’s news and a much sought after crossword puzzle. Turn the News Channel off at the bar or lounge and rely on sports channels or other lighthearted and fun networks.

Marina operators can’t avoid the tough times, but they can still keep up with the times and entertain their customers.  Don’t let the tough economic period everyone is experiencing keep your marina business stagnant. Make changes in a calculated fashion. See how your boaters react. When the economic climate starts to change, those boaters will fondly recall the “happy place” you made for them and will come back to your marina.

Dennis P. Kissman, president of Marina Management Services Inc. in Boca Raton, FL can be reached by phone at 561-338-5800 or via e-mail:

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