This article, by Carl Wolf, was published in Marina Dock Age – May/June 2016
The first impression your marina makes will set the tone for a possible future relationship for a new customer. When a potential customer stops by your marina, you’ve already achieved a significant marketing victory. A first impression can be what a person views as their car pulls in to the marina’s parking lot or as they enter your marina by boat. But it can include a lot more. Everything that a person sees, hears, smells, feels and tastes, could possibly be creating that first impression, which can be a lasting impression. Put yourself in the position of a first time customer visiting your marina. What do you expect when you arrive?
Take a Marina Tour
You, as the customer, enter the marina parking area and you notice the property is inviting with professional signage; landscaping that is being maintained, and lawns and flower beds that are edged and weed free; the property has been policed for litter, and the trash cans are not overflowing. The parking lot, curbs and sidewalks are swept, litter free and maintained.
As a customer visiting the marina by boat, you observe that the marina’s exterior and signage are welcoming, and the entrance is well marked and maintained. Inside the marina, you can feel the calm waters, compared to the wave action outside the marina. The fuel dock is inviting, clean, well-maintained and staffed with courteous uniformed employees. The waters within the marina are free of litter. The docks are tidy with coiled lines, washed down decks, cleaned and maintained power pedestals, and wood (decking, uprights and fender boards) that is solid, and hose bibbs that are drip-free.
As you enter the marina building to visit the dockmaster’s office, you notice that the building is well maintained, was recently painted, and the grounds are free from trash. The windows are clean, the floor has been recently waxed, and the brochure rack is organized and clutter free. Walking through the store aisles, the displays are clean, professionally organized, dusted and stocked with new inventory. The counter is open, with minimal obstructions and arranged in an orderly fashion. The uniformed marina employee is courteous, informative and responsive to your inquiries. When offered, you accept a fresh cup of coffee from a separate counter that is clean, with milk that hasn’t expired.
While the employee summons the dockmaster, another employee is competently replying to a boater’s inquiry over the marine radio. Listening to the marine radio, it’s quite apparent that this employee is aware that her voice is being publicly broadcasted over many miles and heard by many boaters. Her voice is one of confidence and professionalism.
After being contacted by the counter employee, the dockmaster greets you with a firm hand shake and escorts you into her office. The dockmaster’s office is professional in appearance, has a relaxing atmosphere, distraction free, comfortable chairs and organized with no loose stacks of paper.
After discussing what the marina has to offer, the dockmaster takes you on a tour of the marina. The restroom and shower facility is clearly maintained on a regular basis, and the facility is clean, has no out-of-order signs on any of the fixtures, clean lavatories/sinks/urinals and showers with no hair plugs on the floor drain or soap melting in the soap dish. The air has great circulation, minimal humidity and smells fresh. The floors are spotless, dry and have no stains under the urinals or lavatories.
As you walk the docks, the decks are firm, lines are neatly coiled, electrical cords are not hanging in the water, and the wood is splinter free. The docks and piers are clutter free of unused boat gear, batteries, bicycles, grills and old dock parts. The floating docks are stable, while the fixed docks are solid and in good repair.
As your tour takes you through the boatyard, you notice the boats are neatly stored and organized on boat stands and cradles. Unused cradles, trailers and boat stands have been removed from the property and stored elsewhere. The service/parts department reception area is fresh, organized and free of obsolete magazines and newspapers.
While observing the hoist hauling out a yacht from the water, you notice that the equipment has been recently painted, has new cables, and is quiet and free from oil stains and rust. The technicians and equipment operators are wearing clean, stain-free uniforms, proudly representing their marina. The marina’s vehicles have been recently washed, are free of dents and scratches and parked in assigned parking spaces. The marina’s work boat is free of water and trash in the bilge area, and is waxed and has new lines.
You need to invest time and effort into creating an inviting first impression culture. Your marina needs to define, train, test and continually reinforce your staff of the importance of a positive first impression. Create a continued dialogue between management and employees on ways to improve the first impression. It is your opportunity to create a long-term valuable relationship with your customers. You must view and act accordingly as though each and every impression made to a customer visiting your marina will be their first impression. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.