WHAT I LEARNED HOSTING MARINA DAYS
Last year I was able to participate in a local Marina Days event. It’s not surprising that it took some planning and there were a few surprises along the way. So here are a few insights and what I learned hosting Marina Days.
It’s fun, rewarding, and worth the effort. Working with a local marina and after many months of planning, our Marina Days was a huge success. It was also the pinnacle event for the marina that year. It was celebrated as a Marina Days/Customer Appreciation celebration. We were able to get a live band, a beer garden, pulled pork sandwiches and ice cream, face painting, and we even had a local radio station broadcasting live. The most talked about event was the cardboard boat race.
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SO HOW DO YOU GO ABOUT HOSTING YOUR FIRST MARINA DAYS EVENT?
Budgeting & Collaboration
A budget is first and foremost and establishing a budget early on will help determine the scope of your event. The owners of Campbell Point Marina wanted to host it as a free event. They involved other businesses to help offset the cost. In this case, Campbell Point Marina co-hosted the event with their marina builder, MariCorp U.S.
Boat dealers, boat clubs, and other water-related complementary businesses can also be brought onboard. A lot will depend on your relationship with your local businesses. Any marina owner knows that having good vendor relations can make operations run smooth. Likewise, with you as their customer, they have a vested interest in your success. Any increase in business for you means an increase in business for them.
And don’t forget your neighbors. They stand to gain as well as you from your event. Ask them if they would like to offer complementary services. Restaurants could provide food and drinks or even an event branded drink or coupon. If what they offer is not exactly complementary, discuss and work out a way to involve them. Happy neighbors are the best neighbors. Whether or not they participate, it helps for them to know ahead of time so they can schedule proper labor.
SCHEDULE WELL IN ADVANCE – DON’T GET CAUGHT SHORT
The trickiest task was booking the live band. In essence, their availability set the date of our Marina Days. We wanted to book a very popular and in-demand local group for the event, but most of the band’s summer was already booked up. If you’re looking for live music, and don’t know first-hand of a source, there are a variety of sites that can help.
You don’t want to schedule your Marina Days event the same time as another local event that might draw a crowd. Competition for customers could lead to a poor turnout. Marina Days is just that – any time between June 9 and Labor Day. This gives marinas opportunities to plan their event.
Scheduling your event is only the first item to address. Make sure you have enough labor and staffing to cover your event properly.
Another way that might help boost turn out is hosting your Marina Days events at the same time as nationally promoted events, like National Boat Safety Week, or Ready, Set, Wear it! You can get more mileage with social media exposure when you tie your Marina Days to these national events, as they are dedicated to getting people out on the water with safety awareness.
Finally, when planning, work backwards from your date when filing any applications, reservations and fees. Give yourself enough calendar time for whatever paperwork is required by your local municipality or water authority. Make sure all required paperwork is scheduled and in order. Know how long it will take for applications and paperwork to be approved and any payments that need to be made up front.
LICENSES, FEES, PERMITS AND RESERVATIONS AND WHAT ELSE…
In the Marina Days event I was involved in, we needed certification from the county health department to serve food. We also had to get approval from the Army Corps of Engineers (the water authority), as they had to provide additional water patrol staffing for the anticipated turnout. Your local authorities may have additional restrictions or requirements.
We weren’t able to acquire a liquor license for the beer garden, but we found a solution for that (see below).
For health and safety, consider asking the local Fire Rescue or EMT to have a truck or ambulance on hand. Depending on the time of season, heat stroke is a serious concern, not to mention the hundreds of other ways guests might be injured. It’s also reassuring to your guests for them to see a fire truck or ambulance off to the side, knowing that you have their health in mind.
In the event something does go wrong, make sure you address liability. Does your insurance cover a hosted event? You may already be covered for events. If not, look at options for getting a rider. Many insurance companies offer specific event liability add-ons. This is especially important if you are going to offer liquor. Additional add-ons include covering event vendors and inclement weather. Which brings us to…
BAD WEATHER AND PLAN B
The biggest unknown that could shut down your event before it even starts is the weather. If your marina is subject to quickly changing conditions where weather is an issue, consider a Plan B. With our Marina Days event, as the event date loomed nearer, there was a strong possibility of rain. But for us, there was no rain date available because of the band’s limited availability. The solution was to rent a large outdoor tent, big enough for the band and the crowd.
By definition, planning for the unforeseen is difficult but play devil’s advocate and invoke the laws of Murphy, and you may skate through unscathed.
TRY TO ANTICIPATE THE TURNOUT AND HAVE ENOUGH OF EVERYTHING
And don’t forget the liquor license if this is an option. Our task was easier once we were able to work with the local Shriners. They took care of the beer garden, liquor license, and staffing, and made sure there was enough beer to go around. We advertised that all proceeds would go to charity.
Where we did get caught up short was the free BBQ pulled pork sandwiches. In the end, we only had enough for about 75% of the crowd the turnout was much more than we anticipated. Thankfully, this was somewhat offset by the free ice cream the marina was giving samples of in their ice cream shop (hundreds and hundreds of gallons). It was a great way to advertise their products.
PARKING, TOILET FACILITIES, TRASH
It’s important that your facilities and logistics are able to cover the influx of people to your event. If you have a septic system, will it be enough for the additional use? Will you need to add additional portable toilets? Do you need to schedule an additional pump-out?
Have you given thought to where to place garbage receptacles and how often to check and change them? You may need to schedule an additional pick-up from your waste management company or load up a truck to the local public works drop-off facility.
Finally, traffic should also be addressed, not only in regards to parking spaces available, but also the congestion that might occur. Do you have plans to add signage to your event or have areas clearly marked for parking? Will you need attendants to monitor and help the flow of traffic? Will you need cooperation with the local authorities?
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF MARKETING OPPORTUNITIES
This could be the biggest windfall for advertising and marketing for your marina. List your event with media outlet community calendars, as well as websites that advertise events in different parts of the country. If part or all of your event is free, you’ll be amazed at the number of sites that are willing to list your event. Make sure you do this weeks, if not months, ahead of time. Many of these services need to verify the event and might follow up with a phone call or email registration.
Submit a press release to local radio and television stations and newspapers. If you’re savvy enough, you may get some on-air time for free, to talk about your event. We had a radio station airing a live remote for most of the event. And make sure you canvas a wide enough area geographically. Many marinas have regulars coming from out of state â€” make sure you can address these markets. Almost every radio and television station has the equivalent of a community calendar on their website.
SOCIAL MEDIA – PHOTOS AND VIDEOS BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER
Build up the anticipation of your Marina Days Event by creating an event, invite or calendar date on your social media, like Facebook. Interact with your followers and ask how many are going to attend.
Post updates on Facebook about your planning and what your customers can expect during your event. Make sure you include interested third parties in your posts. If you plan on having band ABC Monkeys playing, tag them with @ABCMonkeys in your post – you’ll get greater exposure with your post, and very likely ABC Monkeys will repost your post to their page for their fans. Also works great with Chamber of Commerce, cities, and geographical locations. If you plan on having product demonstrations, tag the manufacturer (@Mastercraft for instance).
If you’re using Twitter, use the hashtag (#) instead to tag memes, individuals and other businesses. Posting on a regular basis to your social media account will expose your posts and your event to more people.
This is also a great time to get some great marketing materials. Take plenty of photos, interview people and get positive responses. If you have the bandwidth, try a live broadcast. I was able to fly my drone and capture the cardboard boat race on video. It got a lot of likes and shares, and is still talked about even a year later. All this is ammo for your year-round marketing efforts, whether on social media or with more traditional methods like print and television advertising.