Marinas and yacht clubs have two functional layers to manage.
The first layer is pretty obvious, the physical. For most marinas, this layer is the primary focus. The physical layer includes facility upkeep, boater compliance (billing, boat insurance, boat registration, etc….), potentially base boat services (fuel, pumpouts, repair yards, etc….), external services (restaurants, bars, nautical stores, etc….) and things like coordinating boat launches if you have dry storage.
The second layer, community, is less obvious. This layer tends to be the primary focus for yacht clubs, and a secondary focus for most marinas. This includes managing Wednesday night sailing races and race events, poker runs, onsite socials, community newsletters, sailing schools and general boater education sessions. Sometimes this is done through a casual or loose community management style, and sometimes it involves rigid dress codes and rules.
Some bigger marinas who focus on sailing house yacht clubs. These symbiotic relationships allow the marina to focus on managing the physical while the club manages the community. Great when it happens, but most marinas don’t have the luxury, and can find themselves competing with a marina/club hybrid for boaters.
In the past, it was enough for most marinas to focus on managing the physical layer of the marina. Because there was little competition for people’s free time, and places like marinas and golf clubs were important for social and professional networking, people were motivated to buy a boat to be part of the marina community. This outside social pressure motivated boaters in the marina community to volunteer their time to manage the community for the marina.
Technology’s changed things by winning the battle for people's’ attention; this is why technology is such a big story in the 21st century, and the reason mature tech companies are worth so much money. Whereas before, the focus of people’s free time was social gathering spots like marinas and golf courses, church, social clubs, bars and sporting events, now a lot of that time is taken up with social media, online gaming, YouTube, and streaming services like Netflix.
Marinas are now competing with these technology companies for our time and can no longer treat community management as a side project. In the past, we had a comfortable position where people were motivated to shape their lives with the marina as a central force. Now, the paradigm has shifted.
The question is how is your marina working to include itself in people’s lives?
There’s no easy answer to this question. If you want your marina to attract new boaters, attract young people to boating, and engage your current community of boaters, you’re going to have to raise your game and put in the work.
You’re going to have to get better at communicating with your boaters in the ways that they want to be communicated with. You’re going to have to provide information to your boaters about the specific things that interest them or are relevant. Otherwise, they’ll tune you out.
You’re going to have to be active on Facebook and Instagram, at a minimum, to make sure you’re top of mind among all of the distractions. You’re going to have to proactively organize events, entertainment, education sessions, and bring in happenings that entice people to visit the marina.
As mentioned, you’re not alone here. Churches, golf clubs, after-school programs, recreational sports, volunteer-based organizations and a myriad of others are dealing with the same issue.
At Swell Advantage, we’re building a modern marina management system to help you manage both layers of your marina, but if you want your marina to stay relevant in the future, you’re going to have to put in the work.