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Marketing plans underway to fill Bremerton Marina
With five weeks of work behind him, Bob Wise has ideas — lots of ideas — about how to fill the Bremerton Marina.
That was the message he gave Port of Bremerton commissioners on Tuesday when he updated them about his work. Wise, manager of Marsh Andersen of Bainbridge Island, was hired in April to market the Bremerton Marina which has had trouble attracting and keeping tenants.
“We’re learning a lot,” Wise said. “We’re into this about five weeks now and we’ve got some initial findings that indicate what the course of action needs to be.”
Wise said through working with port staff , industry experts, and talking to elected officials in Bremerton, the Bremerton Chamber of Commerce and merchants in the marina area, he thinks the focus needs to be on combatting wrong information that has negatively affected the marina’s reputation. Specifically, he said, the marketing efforts need to correct the impression that the marina is priced too high and has a crime problem.
“There’s information out there in the social media that is not accurate,” he said. “People are under the impression that there is a crime problem. There’s also postings that say the marina is over priced and that there is no parking available in the area. This isn’t true and we have to take this on and correct it.”
Wise said the port’s social media efforts have been lacking and he has already created a Bremerton Marina Facebook page, separate from the Port of Bremerton Facebook page. He said through that, and a number of other social media, he is working to repair damage to the marina’s reputation.
“Many people are going on what they’ve heard from other boaters and what they’ve seen on social media,” he said. “Social media is where the savvy boaters go. We need to act more like a hospitality organization and market our marina as you would market a five star resort.”
To that end, Wise suggested a simpler rate structure.
“The way things are now, there are up to 18 different ways that a single slip can be configured for pricing, given its location and various premiums and discounts that are in place,” he said. “Your pricing is complex.”
He suggested a pricing based on slip length, not boat length, with premiums and discounts being eliminated.
“The way it is now, it’s counter productive, confusing to customers and a burden to the staff,” he said.
In a later action by the commissioners, they approved the change in rate structures, after Port CFO Becky Swanson said the change would not affect the port’s income, if marketing efforts are successful and bring in new tenants.
Wise said he met with Bremerton Police Chief Steve Strachan to discuss issues of marina safety.
“These things are out there,” he said. “The fact is that there is no crime problem at the marina and we need to turn that perception around.”
Again, he stressed that through the marketing that will be done in local media and boating trade publications, along with social media, the issue can be addressed.
Besides the price and reputation, Wise said a major item to be addressed is customer engagement. He plans to attack that in two ways.
First, he is beginning a campaign to offer a year of moorage free to new customers when they sign a year’s lease. He said the way the program will work is to have new tenants pay one month and then get the next month free for a duration of two years. That way, he said, they can’t get a year free and then walk away from the deal.
“This is going to get boaters’ attention,” he said. “And at the same time it will produce a positive cash flow for the port.”
Wise said he thinks this will bring in a number of new tenants and result in a significant increase in revenue for the port.
Coupled with that, he plans several events during the summer boating months that will bring weekend and day boaters to the marina beginning with participation in National Marina Day on June 8.
“This is something that marinas throughout the area and the nation participate in,” he said. “We need to be in this.”
There will be law enforcement boat tours. The Coast Guard troller will be in Bremerton and there will be speakers on boating skills, authors who write about boating travels and a complimentary lunch.
Wise said he is working with the Downtown Bremerton Association and is hoping to put together packages that would include discounts on restaurants, overnights, wine and other accommodations.
“This is something that can be not just about the marina, but about the greater community,” he said. “You are lucky in that your marina is right downtown, not way out like at some other locations. Boaters can dock here and enjoy downtown, the farmers market, a great theater, all within walking distance. That’s what we’re going to be selling.”
Commissioners seemed to be pleased with Wise’s report.
“I commend you on your forward thinking,” said Commissioner Axel Strakeljahn. “We do have several festivals. But adding to that and giving them a reason to come here every weekend is something we need to do.”
Wise is under contract with the port for services through the end of August. He is receiving $9,000 a month for his work.