Marinas offer far more than just storage for avid boaters. And yet, when it comes to increasing revenue, this is one of the first places marina managers and operators look for answers. In reality this narrow approach leaves a lot of money and opportunity on the table. If you’re chasing overhead costs by increasing slip fees, you might lose your competitive advantage and turn away customers.
So how can you increase sales and earn more income? You’ve got to go back to the basics… and start thinking outside the box. We’ve identified some strategic steps and changes you can make to help drive more business to your marina and increase revenue throughout the year.
Start with Excellent Customer Care
Easily one of the most important things any business can offer is customer service and support that goes above expectations. This may seem like a basic first step, but customer care is often misinterpreted for plain kindness. It’s not about saying hello and using formalities like “sir” and “ma’am” — although courtesies like these can go a long way. Customer care first and foremost ensures your customers’ needs are met.
One of the most common customer complaints marinas receive is about cleanliness. From the way your docks look to ensuring water, sand and mud stay off the bathroom floors, following the core tenets of customer care help create loyalty to your marina and long term growth. Be sure to build this customer-centric environment by recognizing employees who consistently go above and beyond.
Focus on New Amenities
Customers are coming to you for more than just the storage, care and maintenance of their boats. Think about the reasons people purchase a boat to begin with — it’s not to stow it away. Boating is often a family experience or a social gathering of friends. It’s a time to go out and enjoy the water.
So how do you capitalize on the positive feelings people associate with their boat and translate that to the rest of your marina? Turn to new amenities that will help you create a destination for your customers. From adding free Wifi hotspots to craft cocktail service or dockside cable TV, these upgrades will be a greater competitive advantage than your location alone.
Expand Your Services
Unlike amenities, which help establish long-term customers, your service offerings are a way to attract customers who aren’t necessarily big-time boaters. Offering new and unique attractions and continuing to innovate your services will help you generate more sales, even in the slower seasons.
So, open up your market for new customers by taking a step outside of boating. Look at what’s popular for your area and the customers you serve. Would stand up paddle board rentals and storage services attract an emerging market? Are you a family-focused marina? You may want to offer kids party packages that give access to boating tours. Create more reasons to come visit.
Diversify Your Products and Inventory
We’ve covered several strategies that speak directly to long-term changes for year-over-year growth. But for many marinas, adding back to the bottom line needs to start sooner rather than later. Beyond your amenities and services, retail is a great way to easily generate more sales and revenue. The right retail assortment adds convenience to your marina and introduces new or useful products that target your customer’s needs. Your merchandise can become a major selling point, painting your marina as the one-stop-shop for all water related activities. Consider emerging categories like floating “party pad” mats or floating eyewear. Rheos is a Charleston, SC based company that makes 100% UV protected and polarized sunglasses that float in water, a unique product with low-cost and low-risk wholesale pricing.
Avoid Equipment Downtime with Preventative Maintenance
Improving profitability doesn’t always mean finding new ways to increase sales. Through efficient operations and strategic maintenance, you can help curb risk and potential losses. But there is one caveat. You need to make sure you aren’t spending more per year on maintenance than the depreciated value of your assets. Closely monitor how often boats, docks and equipment are reviewed and repaired. You may find that even pricey maintenance needs will cost your business far less in the long-term than replacement costs.
Remember, hurricane and storm preparedness plans can also be part of your strategic maintenance plan. Understanding where you’re most at risk — be it through equipment issues or a natural disaster — can help you develop a system that minimizes the impact it has on your business.
Above all else — know the reason “why.”
Before implementing any of these strategies, analyze the numbers. Where are you generating the most revenue? Where are you losing money? How much will your gross profit increase over time if you make a specific change? How will it affect your carrying costs? What about employee costs and benefits? Looking at the bigger picture will help you determine the best avenue to take for your business.
Most marina owners have to navigate a very seasonal business model, which makes it tough to remain profitable throughout the year. By implementing these strategies, you can increase revenues and stay ahead of risk to boost your business.