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ZOZI Advance is the fastest growing web-based reservation, payment, and customer management platform used by thousands of activity, tour, and event merchants.

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Blair Franklin

When it comes to water activity rentals, finding a way to make your brand stand out in the sea of competition makes all the difference between a dock of idle inventory, versus a calendar filled with reservations. By implementing an impactful and targeted marketing campaign, you're more likely to stand out to a wide and varied audience, from business travelers, to out-of-town vacationers, to locals looking for something new and fun to do. 

These 10 effective marketing strategies will keep your business "top of mind" for anyone searching for water rentals in your area, whether you specialize in motorboats, kayaks, jet skis, SUP's, canoes or all of the above. Gives these tips a try and see if they put a little wind in your sales!

1. Sell The Big Picture—Not Just The Rental

Our partners at Duffy of San Diego do a great job of selling the entire experience on their website, which features video, images and thorough product descriptions. We also love that they've posted a map of Mission Bay, which makes it easy to plan your excursion ahead of time. 

Our partners at Duffy of San Diego do a great job of selling the entire experience on their website, which features video, images and thorough product descriptions. We also love that they've posted a map of Mission Bay, which makes it easy to plan your excursion ahead of time. 

People looking for a boat rental are clearly drawn to being outside, playing on the water, and exploring new areas from a beautiful vantage point. In addition to covering the essentials (what types of boats are available for rent, prices, times, availability, etc.) remember to show people the highlights! What vista points can they paddle to? What types of wildlife can they spot? Any great dockside cafes to visit along the way? What about good swimming holes or hidden coves to explore? You know the gems of the area better than anyone—use this local knowledge to show potential customers what a great time they'll have.

You know the gems of the area better than anyone—use this local knowledge to show potential customers what a great time they’ll have.

On your website and marketing materials, paint a bigger picture of the overall experience with high-quality photos, video, or something as simple as a bulleted list of what guests will see or learn. Whether it's kayaking, SUP'ing or cruising around in a motorboat, being out on the water is an immersive pastime—take the time to write engaging, yet pithy descriptions about the experience. 

2. Publish Blog Posts About The Area

Maintaining a company blog adds a personal touch to your brand, while giving visitors a window to your operations and services. Consider mixing it up and writing about local events and attractions in your community. By doing this, you're not just helping to educate and inform visitors—you could also be improving your website's search engine presence. People looking online for information about a particular attraction or event may stumble across your blog post, which in turn can drive traffic back to your site. 

Shoreline Sightseeing, a boat tour company in Chicago, writes about hyper-local topics such as the history of Lincoln Park, emerging neighborhoods, and tips on where to find some great restaurants around the city. Publishing content about area activities, events, and attractions can turn visitors into subscribers of your blog, which helps to subtly promote your business.

3. Harness The Power Of Instagram

One example of posts that do well on Instagram are images with a text overlay. The text can be an inspirational quote or playful statement, and resonate with your brand's voice and mission, like this one from our friends at SSI SUP. 

One example of posts that do well on Instagram are images with a text overlay. The text can be an inspirational quote or playful statement, and resonate with your brand's voice and mission, like this one from our friends at SSI SUP

Instagram has five million monthly active users. That's a lot of eyeballs. As a rental business specializing in watercraft, you're surrounded by an ocean of awesome photo opportunities. Use this to your advantage! Here are a few stats that speak to the power of this photo-centric social platform that's dominated by visual content:

  • 77.5 million - Estimated number of Instagram users in the United States alone; forecast to be at 116 million in 2020.

  • 60% - Number of users who say they learn about a product or service on Instagram.

  • 75% - Number of of Instagram users who take action, such as visiting a website, after looking at an Instagram advertising post.

If you’re hoping to spread the word about your business, Instagram is a statistically sound place to invest your time and energy.
— Hootsuite for Enterprise

Here are a few great examples from AdEspresso of images that generate lots of engagement on Instagram. Give these a try:

  •  User-generated content: Encourage customers to take photos or video during their experience, and remind them to tag your company's Instagram handle or custom hashtag (or both). 

  • How-to or educational content: What kinds of tips and tricks can you share with your audience? What about a video on how to get back in your kayak if you fall out? 

  • Behind-the-scenes shots: These can be images taken by, or of your employees. 

  • Motivational images: Use a text overlay on some of your favorite shots, and choose quotes that resonate with your company's brand and mission. 

  • And don't forget: Posts with at least one hashtag average 12.6% more engagement. As a boat/water activity rental company, use hashtags that include the city name and state your business is located in, along with terms related to your activity, like #boats, #boating, #SUP, #travel, #tourism, #water, etc. For more helpful tips on the right way to use hashtags on Instagram, we like this complete guide from Hootsuite. 

4. Ask For Reviews, And Put The Good Ones To Work!

Photo Courtesy of Bonita Jetski & Parasail 

Photo Courtesy of Bonita Jetski & Parasail 

In this digitally dominated age, there's no getting around it: Online reviews can make or break a business. Approximately 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation, and more than half will visit a business's website after reading a positive review, according to the results of a BrightLocal survey. And with 7 out of 10 consumers leaving a review for a business if they're asked to, your takeaways are this: Ask for reviews, and put the good ones to work! 

There's lots of ways to leverage positive online reviews. Here are a few tips:

  • Embed widgets from TripAdvisor or a badge from Yelp (or both) on your website. 

  • Host a virtual guest book on your website.

  • Feature good reviews on your website. This can take many forms, whether it's an embedded screenshot, a neat graphic with a customer testimonial, or even a video.

  • Share on social media. If a customer gives you an awesome shoutout, take a screenshot and re-share on your Facebook and Twitter accounts. It's a great opportunity to thank them publicly while bolstering your company's reputation.

  • Feature good reviews in newsletters & email marketing. 

Pro Tip - Enabling Facebook Reviews: As a service provider, it's important to set up a star rating and reviews section on your Facebook business page (step-by-step instructions on how to do that here). Just make sure to avoid these Facebook marketing mistakes that could turn guests away.

5. Plan Your Paid Search Campaigns Seasonally

Photo courtesy of Kayak Annapolis 

Photo courtesy of Kayak Annapolis 

Paid search advertising, or search engine marketing (SEM) offers numerous benefits to small business owners. As the experts at Search Factory point out, it allows you to secure top placement on search engines, and measure the results of your online marketing efforts with a great degree of accuracy.

If you're taking advantage of paid search advertising, or pay-per-click campaigns, where travelers can find you in the "sponsored" section of search engine results when searching online for "boat tours in [your city]" or similar search criteria, make sure you plan around your peak and slow seasons for maximum exposure. When investing some of your online marketing dollars to Google Adwords or Facebook ad campaigns, plan your biggest monthly spend around the months leading up to your busiest times of the year, rather than spending the same amount year-round.

6. Build Your Email List

Photo Courtesy of Captain Bob's Boat Marina

Photo Courtesy of Captain Bob's Boat Marina

Direct email marketing can be a powerful and effective outreach tool for small business owners, and it's important not to neglect it—even in an age where social media platforms compete for your attention and maintenance. Email marketing has an ROI of 3,800%, according to the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) National Client Email Report 2015. 

Whether you want to increase rental bookings for the season, or promote special package deals for big groups or families, turn to email to spread the word. McKinsey & Company points out email is 40 times more successful at acquiring new clients than either Facebook and Twitter.

Here are a few quick tips on how to build your electronic mailing list:

  • Set up a "subscribe" button on your website. Make it easy for customers to easily opt-in for newsletters, updates, and/or special offers.

  • Run a social media contest

  • Ask for emails upon check-in

  • Confirm emails at checkout 

  • Send a monthly or bi-weekly newsletter

  • Add social sharing buttons

  • For more details, read our complete article here

7. Give Guests A Reason To Come Back For More

Photo Courtesy of SSI SUP

Photo Courtesy of SSI SUP

Renting a boat or other watercraft doesn't have to be a one-time experience. Many guests may be returning to the area more than once a year for an annual getaway, or be interested in trying a different type of watercraft. 

  • Promote new inventory: Do you now offer glow-in-the dark SUP rentals? (These are awesome, by the way). Encourage guests to come try something new!

  • Give guests the freedom to customize their experiences: For example, some customers might like to book a multi-day package with a different type of watercraft each day.

  • Extend a "thank you" discount for next time: Communicate this in a follow-up email after the initial experience. With an online booking system like ZOZI Advance, you can easily set up fully customized, automatic follow-up emails. 

  • Connect with guests via social media: Ask guests to stay in touch with you on Instagram, Facebook and/or Twitter, and follow them back to maintain an online connection. This helps put your business at top-of-mind when the guest is planning another trip in your area. 

8. Create And Promote Customized Packages With Tiered Pricing

Offering tiered pricing on boat rentals means guests have many options to choose from when putting together their itineraries. For example, you could offer the option of extending a standard one-hour rental by half-hour increments with a tiered pricing strategy. You could also offer discounts on add-on services, such as a beginner's intro course.

Use an online booking system that allows you to set up tiered pricing in the backend, so guests have options to add on more time or rent other pieces of equipment and gear at their leisure.

9. Set Up Google Alerts To Keep Track Of Buzz About Your Business

Photo courtesy of Kayak Annapolis 

Photo courtesy of Kayak Annapolis 

Whether it's a customer testimonial on Yelp, a blog someone wrote about their first SUP'ing experience on Lake Tahoe, or an awesome GoPro shot taken during a jet ski ride, take advantage of every opportunity to showcase great customer experiences on your blog and social media pages.

But first, you need to know about the buzz when it happens! Setting up Google Alerts is a great way to know when people are talking about your business online. This service sends you an email when new "mentions" of your company—and any other search terms you've specified—show up in Google's search engine. We've also got more effective strategies for collecting positive reviews from customers here.

From harnessing the power of social media to being strategic with paid search campaigns, there are several ways water activity rental operators can make a splash in the world of digital marketing. Try out some of these impactful strategies to keep the bookings coming. 

*****

A growing number of marinas are specializing in pleasure craft rentals. If you're among this segment of activity operators, you're likely facing stiffer competition to attract guests. One way to stand out above the rest? By having an easy-to-use online booking system.

See how your water activity business can benefit from better inventory management and a real-time availability calendar with online booking:

 
 
 
 

Blair Franklin

Blair is the Production Manager for ZOZI. In her past life she was a tech marketing writer, a newspaper editor, award-winning journalist, and general hooligan. She likes drinking Buffalo Trace Whiskey and snowboarding, preferably at the same time.