Marketing the Green Marina
More and more marinas are embracing a “green” approach to the design, construction and operation of their facilities. So, how do marinas that have taken this approach leverage their efforts to market their brand and increase their goodwill? We interviewed Jamie Welsh, CEO and founder of the environmental-services consulting firm 10% Solution to learn more.
As every operator knows, the marina industry is changing. Boat owners are becoming more conscious of the environment; they are beginning to see the earth’s resources are finite and the environment as fragile. Marina operators with an ecology story to tell can develop effective marketing programs that reach out to current and new generations of boaters.
Ecology marketing has power for three reasons. (1) An ecology story evokes universally positive associations. (2) Ecology is a simple, direct message that appeals on an emotional level. It commands attention and is easy to remember. (3) Marinas can leverage their ecology story to build connections to the community. While “cause marketing” has been misused at times, marina operators, as a group, should embrace it. We have much to be proud of. The industry’s record on the environment is excellent.
Concern for the environment is not just good marketing—a healthy environment is essential for the future of boating. The past 30 to 40 years have seen outstanding technical breakthroughs. Pollution-leaching materials are virtually gone and in-dock pump out systems, fuel-dock leakage-control devices and bilge-oil containment systems are becoming commonplace.
But the real story is the marina operators and their energy, enthusiasm and belief in the cause. Clean Marina programs are one of the best examples of voluntary, pro-active environmentalism in any industry. Marinas can leverage their involvement to market their brand. An ecology message resonates with current and future boaters and promotes goodwill with the public.
So, how do you market it? Simple question,” said Welsh, “but not a simple answer.” Welsh is an idea volcano and is listed on their Web site as “Vision Guru.” She lives up to the title. “An earth-friendly message resonates with young people who are the future of boating,” said Welsh. “You engage them by appealing to something they care about. Once you connect with them around a shared and cherished value (ecology), the next step is to invite them to the water, teach them some skills, and let them enjoy the experience. You have to make them feel they belong in the harbor.”
Welsh thinks marinas should do more to communicate their environmental commitment than display the Clean Marina burgee in the harbor office. “The ecology message should be told in newsletter stories, emails, press releases, educational materials, training sessions and safety materials. It should appear on the marina’s letterhead, newsletter mastheads, advertising, signage, display cases and every chance they get.”
Marinas can appoint an employee to be “Manager of Marina Ecology,” an ambassador for clean water, oil spills, trash management and so on. As spokesperson for environmental affairs, he or she could publish news, tips, comments and suggestions to create a dialogue on the ecology. Tenants could be encouraged to be volunteer “Ecology Captains” to share good environmental practices. Awards can be given for good suggestions. An Ecology Fair might introduce new products and services that offer environmental improvements. Interactive social media can be the connective link for these and other ideas.
Marina operators should communicate their ecological accomplishments. Reach out to younger audiences who enthusiastically support the environment. Capitalize on the social media phenomenon. Get the boating community and government behind your ideas and work together. Create activities, events, and educational opportunities to expose new people to your facility and recreational boating in general. And lastly, use your creativity to make it fun.