The inspiration for Marina.io came partially after building a simple web site for a municipal owned Marina, Fish Creek Town Dock, which is located nearby where I am from in Door County, Wisconsin. The marina managers wanted a way to streamline the way in which they receive requests from their regular guests and new guests. Up until Spring 2013, they did not have a web site at all and all reservations had to be phoned in.
Preliminary MVP for a Local Marina
My company, Town Web Design, built a simple templated web site for them to display the essential details of the dock’s amenities, along with a Contact Us Form that collects information from future guests. I visited with the marina managers at the end of the 2013 Season and talked to Bob, who is one of the guys who runs the show. I asked him how things went during the season with having a web site and he said it worked out wonderfully for several reasons:
- Completeness & Correctness: The simple Contact Us Form captured all necessary information they needed to book a reservation.
- Efficient: When people called up to make a reservation, the guys taking the calls asked the boaters if they could just hop online and fill out the form.
- Batching the Work: When there was downtime, Bob said he could go back into the marina office to print out all the requests and enter them in the computer.
While a Contact Us Form was able to streamline the process for them, there are still several areas in which a simple Contact Us Form falls short:
- Manual Data Entry: The marina had an existing non-internet reservation system, which required reservation details to be manually entered by Bob.
- No Automated Credit Card Processing: The system they used required them to swipe the credit card manually, which could only be done after a guest has stepped foot into the marina office during normal business hours.
- All Transactions are Tethered to Marina Office: The boaters are required to physically check in at the marina office and to make payments at the same location.
- No Automated Bookings: There is no way to automate the assignment of slips when a booking request is made.
As it turns out, the last feature “No Automated Bookings” is something that Bob would not want to have, for two reasons. (1) He wants to manually assign slips in order to purposely separate guests who he knows do not like each other; and (2) He wants to ensure that boaters who come in smaller boats to not get assigned to slips that could accommodate larger boats that would pay a higher docking fee.
Therefore the goal of Marina.io is to streamline the existing workflow that would take place from the moment an inquiry is made online. It will tie the inquiry from a guest to the marina’s existing reservation software and credit card processing. We will also include the full functionality of a reservation booking system in the event that a marina does not have either an existing reservation system or a way to process credit cards automatically.
Results of Preliminary Market Research
As a former Business Analyst, numerical data makes sense to me more than just a gut feel. I therefore had one of my assistants make several dozens of calls to other marinas in Wisconsin as a litmus test of what currently exists in the US market. The results from over 50 calls revealed that almost all marinas required a reservation to be performed telephonically. Needless to say, this made me believe that there is an unmet need in the marina industry.