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Marina Management Basics

Managing a marina is not as easy or glamorous as it may sound. It can be the most satisfying and most stressful endeavor you’ll ever take on. A marina is not a storage place for boats, but rather a gathering place for boaters. It’s a capital-intensive service business and it has multiple profit centers that require a variety of expertise. It’s also a business where service, convenience, professionalism, cleanliness, and security are key. It’s downright complex! Add to the typical challenges of marina management, today’s post-pandemic landscape (or seascape). With existing customers impatient to return to “normal”, and unprecedented numbers of first-time boaters swarming in, marina demand is at an all-time high.

As all other management areas, it’s not all choppy seas and high winds. Marina management can be smooth sailing with the right tools – which is why more and more marinas are realizing that working in partnership with a marina management organization is a desirable option.

Whether you go it alone or work as part of a team, here are a few tips for managing a successful marina that will help you sail through peak times and stay “steady as she goes” during the off-season.

Take time to know your business – or get reacquainted

As a marina owner or manager, it’s critical that you have a clear understanding of what your business does, what needs it meets, and who your target market is. This information allows you to make solid, informed decisions about where to allocate your resources and how to position yourself in this competitive market. Additionally, knowing your business bow to stern helps you communicate its value to customers and partners more effectively.

Stay on top of maintenance

A marina must be well maintained and regularly inspected to ensure that it’s safe. It also needs to be designed and constructed to minimize hazards for your staff and boaters. Hand-in-hand with proper maintenance is ensuring that your marina is in compliance with all regulations.

Part of your safety maintenance needs to address your marina safety policy. This important document outlines the protocols that highlight all aspects of safety at the marina – from fire and personal safety, to environmental. It also clearly outlines the processes for reporting and responding to accidents. In addition to protecting your customers and staff, it also helps protect the marina from liability in the event of an accident.

Develop a comprehensive marketing program – and implement it

The development of an overall marketing strategy, and applying the resources needed to execute on it, is essential. But before you start creating, you need to analyze current marketing activities, market conditions, customer feedback and more, to determine what is, and isn’t, working. Then you need to map out a plan that incorporates a variety of marketing techniques, from traditional to digital, in order to differentiate your marina from your area competition.

Included in this strategy should be a website – no exceptions. You need to meet your customers where they are – and they’re searching online. Without a website, you lose trust and credibility among customers. And, just as you would never neglect your marina, it’s important that you keep the content and design fresh. Here’s another tip, make sure your website and all its functionality is mobile-optimized. Most boaters today choose smartphones as their preferred mode of transaction.

Crown customer service as king

Customer service should be a fun, social, and consistent experience for you and your boaters. If boaters are having a great time at your marina, you will too.​ You need to create and implement policies to ensure that your customers are receiving the best service possible from your employees and vendors. And remember, a positive customer experience starts the moment a slip is reserved and doesn’t end until checkout. If you have the resources, it’s very fruitful to conduct market research to determine what boaters want most in a marina to ensure that your marina meets and exceeds expectations.

Manage your inventory well

Running a marina requires logistical dexterity. There’s a constant flow of goods and services between your marina, your customers, and your vendors – and it needs to be correctly managed. An inventory management system that will help you minimize the total cost of your inventory while maximizing the ability to service your customers is what the job calls for.

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Gunpowder Cove Marina, Joppa, MD 2022

Be environment-friendly

Although things are getting better, marinas have historically had a negative impact on the waters. A United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) report , states that marinas are substantial contributors to pollution in lakes, rivers, and coasts. Being conscious of this and taking steps to go green will lower your marina’s environmental impact. Today, boaters are more inclined to patronize environmentally-friendly marinas.

Hire good people

Hiring good people and investing in training them is the best advice of all. A marina is only as good as its staff. Training and development will take new hires and turn them into invaluable assets.

Final thoughts

There’s a lot that goes into successfully managing a marina, including maintenance and service to hiring the right people and choosing the right software. The tips we’ve shared are a good place to start.

If you’re interested in taking your marina to the next level by partnering with a marina management organization like Oasis Marinas, click here to learn more. Written by: Jo Montgomery