An article in Nature science journal detailed the finding of a Mesolithic boatyard on the Isle of Wight from more than 10,000 years ago. The takeaway is that when marinas were birthed, so were marina managers. Anyone is still welcome to sail in a wooden skiff that could’ve been pieced together in 8,000 B.C., but the technology they will use to reserve their slip is digital. Cloud-based marina-management software options have made anything else feel primitive, and marinas must keep up or consider themselves a fossil in the marina-management landscape.
So, how do marina managers grow their business in the digital age?
“Entering the digital age” is like staying healthy as a human—get your sleep, get some exercise, eat right. The sleep-exercise-nutrition of marina management is grounded in a basic approach: be visible everywhere online and immediately accessible.
A marina without a properly formatted website leads to a poor first impression for a boater Google-searching local marinas. Squarespace and WordPress offer easy-to-navigate platforms with clean template designs and a low annual cost. Google even offers a mobile-friendly test that will scan your site to judge how well it translates to the viewer. Your site needs contact info in a clear and bold place at the top of the page with a font that is large enough to view easily on a mobile device. Dockwa even allows you to embed a reservation form right on your home page, so boaters are a click away from reserving a slip.
Marinas.com reports that 80% of its traffic comes from search engines like Google. Most destination research starts at a Google search box with a blinking cursor. Creating a web presence that ranks highly in search results is an affordable method to increase attention and demand in your marina. The foundation of this web presence begins with a Google business listing.
Start by accessing the Google Business page and going through the steps of “claiming” your business.The manager verifies their marina with Google via phone or email and then curates a profile with a website URL, hours, and contact info. After Google reviews your listing (this process can take up to seven days), you’ll receive a notification and you can now create posts, respond to reviews, and edit your profile at any time.
When boaters search for local marinas, your marina is now tagged in its proper location on Google Maps with a visible public profile. Besides its practical function, the listing immediately establishes the perception that this is an active and credible business that is proactive about the customer relationship.
An established web presence also means expanding to where boaters congregate to network and research. Marinas.com is a directory site and because of its vast authority in marina bookings and research, it has a prominent ranking in search results. Marinas.com allows owners to claim their marina (for free) and craft a profile that directly procures the perception that this is a professional and appealing destination. Yelp, too. Having multiple profiles skyrockets your standing in search results, and a Marinas.com profile allows you to respond to boater interest directly and translate their research to sales with 24/7 online bookings.
Utilizing Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter shows that your business is active, you’re relevant, and you’re doing things that customers don’t want to miss out on. Post videos on Tik Tok or Instagram Reels to provoke an audience into visiting your marina by viscerally showing them the experience you can offer. A picture of the waterfront or a kid holding up a recently-caught 20-inch flounder—they all translate a visual sense of the memories that begin at your docks.
Uber, Airbnb, whatever it is—we demand gratification in the moment. Cloud-based marina management software platforms like Dockwa dramatically streamline the mobile customer experience with quick and simplified transactions.
A Marina Dock Age study from January 2022 provided astounding research that E-commerce grew 44% in 2020 to $861 billion in revenue, and half of that was done through a mobile device. Focusing that down to a boater with a phone in their hand, a Dockwa study found that 35% of marina bookings occurred during evening hours, when marinas are often closed. Dockwa’s marina management software enables the client to reserve a slip 24/7 from a securely encrypted in-app account, and set up a one-time or recurring bill payment from anywhere.
You can also extend this wallet-less transaction experience onsite for things like fuel and boat supplies. When you digitize a marina through management software and point-of-sale tools you can set up house accounts for repeat visitors. This enables them to securely charge a card on file without ever having to wait for you to run to your dock office.
“I’ve got to drive over to the marina to set up my boat’s winter storage. It will just be a couple hours.” That’s something you’ll never hear from a customer with a slip at a marina using Cloud-based marina software. A more comprehensive software like Dockwa’s allows mobile management of winter storage reservations, transient slips, and an E-signature contract that is finalized in the Dockwa app.
The way marina management software provides customer simplicity on the front end is how it melts away significant hours of tedium from a marina manager’s back end.
It’s a simple three-step process to eliminate the need for scrolling through spreadsheets or written contracts. The manager collects the customer’s details and they agree to enter their credit card on a secure page. Then you earn money and can watch in real-time from a computer screen as recurring payments are deposited.
This process also applies to integrated fuel sales. The same technology that allows customers to enact wallet-less transactions at home also extends to a secure onsite experience for things like fuel and boat supplies. Dockwa integrates fuel and other products directly into their point-of-sale tool. The customer sets up a “house account” that allows them to securely charge a card anytime. Transactions are automatically stored in the customer’s record, the customer gets an email receipt, and the marina manager has a reservoir of neatly filed and automated transaction records.
One of the most relieving aspects of Dockwa is that it crunches your numbers. The manager can view financial forecasts for upcoming months based on existing reservations in the system, compare past sales, and each slip is conveniently categorized to let them know which slips are in use and how many are available.
Back in that boatyard on the Isle of Wight 10,000 years ago, the Mesolithic marina manager did not have a Cloud-based platform. They were probably hunched over a tablet onshore, stressing over tabulating their slips.
Today, a marina owner no longer needs to continue that tradition. A simple website and marina-management software such as the platform produced by Dockwa gives you and the customer ease of use, immediate satisfaction, and the sense that in 10,000 years, archaeologists might be saying: “Cool, marinas are still run like this today.”