One of the core principles of TransEurope Marinas is the offer of reciprocal berthing discounts for berth holders. This is of course a highly appealing benefit for berth holders but a less obvious benefit is the sharing of best practice ideas between marina managers.
With over 70 marinas participating in the scheme there is a huge pool of experience and expertise amongst a diverse range of marina installations in nine different countries. In the past couple of years Mayflower Marina in Plymouth has reaped an astonishing number of awards, achieving recognition on local, regional and national levels. So we decided to talk to Charles Bush, Mayflower Marina’s Managing Director to find out more.
Mayflower Marina is a rare example of a yacht harbour owned by a number of shareholders, the majority of whom are berth holders. This is probably a unique situation in the marina industry and one that immediately elevates customer service and facility to the top of the priority list. As Charles Bush says “with constant scrutiny from our Shareholders and monthly Board meetings there are no hiding places!” This may sound like a manager’s worst nightmare but actually it works very well as Charles Bush explains, “we are not a ‘cash cow’ for some other business entity and we do not have a ‘profit at all costs’ approach. What we do have is a budget that allows us to broadly spend what is required to help achieve our aspiration and this, coupled with a loyal team of experienced staff, a good number of whom have achieved over 20 years’ service, means that we have the resources to help deliver the standards we and the Board aspire to. If we were to let standards slip, having one’s knuckles rapped by a company share-holder is a pretty effective wake-up call!”
Throughout the economic recession Mayflower Marina maintained a high level of occupancy that Charles attributes largely to the customer-centred approach. They did however employ some external marketing assistance to raise brand awareness and to ensure that their success in the inaugural 2014 Marina of the Year competition received the publicity such an award merits.
Many of the marinas participating in the TransEurope Marinas group are independently owned and more often than not they do not have the marketing clout that bigger organisations have. It is therefore difficult to ensure that marketing messages and PR are not drowned out by organisations with significantly bigger budgets. One of the initiatives suggested by Mayflower Marina’s marketing consultant was to enter tourism competitions, as Charles Bush explains: “The first non marina industry competition we entered was the Devon Tourism awards, I was a bit reticent at first, the form filling was time consuming and answering questions about equality and diversity was testing and then we had the mystery shoppers! However, my staff responded really well to the challenge and then in December, hearing that we had won our category was not only a great morale booster but a tremendous opportunity for our now retained marketing personnel to bang the Mayflower gong. A win in the South West Tourism awards followed several months later providing similar marketing opportunities. What was also interesting about these non-industry awards is that they raised awareness of wider customer care issues and the importance of customer service training”
In Plymouth, Mayflower Marina is one of four marinas that hold The Yacht Harbour Association’s 5 Gold Anchor Award and with pricing broadly similar, to the uninitiated there is not much difference between them. Winning awards puts a different slant on that as Charles Bush explains “We know every marina is different and often when potential new customers walk into the office enquiring about berth availability and prices, it is clear that they have done the rounds and are asking, or indeed need something to help them choose between our marina and the others. In such circumstances it is good to be able to explain in our sales pitch that we have won a number of customer service awards which I feel helps to validate our offer.”
With other TransEurope Marinas members interested in learning more about the key to their success, the manager was able to explain a little more about steps the marina has taken in the last couple of years to constructively raise Mayflower’s profile:
“Embracing social media was something I thought we’d never do. A straw poll at our berth holders meeting in May 2014 suggested that only about 2% of our customers used social media in some form or other. The following year the number had increased to nearly 60% and whilst I am not sure whether there is a direct commercial return it is a great way to keep our name out there and to communicate news to our berth holders”
The Ocean City of Plymouth is a magnificent sailing destination but for many it prompts images or warships and unimaginative bland architecture after the City was hastily rebuilt after the war. The City Council is trying hard to reverse negative stereotype and clearly Plymouth Sound is the City’s USP. The waterfront Partnership and Destination Plymouth, both Council-funded marketing initiatives, were eager to latch on to Mayflower Marina’s successes as these were seen as good news stories for the City thus adding weight, albeit in a small way, to Plymouth’s visitor credentials. The City had less interest in Mayflower’s success in retaining its 5 Gold Anchor Award, possibly because the significance of the award is lost on those outside the marina industry whereas the tourism awards are widely understood.
Visit the Mayflower Marina website to find out more: www.mayflowermarina.co.uk