Making the most of contract renewals

There is usually little enthusiasm for the annual contract renewal run, especially in larger marinas and those with complex contracts and tariffs. Historically its been a bit of a pain – lots of Excel spreadsheets, unwieldy mail-merge files and envelope stuffing.

Think again!

Given the right tools, renewal season is a perfect opportunity to understand your customers better and to forge closer relationships. Lisa Harris, Manager at Shepperton Marina said:

“The renewals took me 30 minutes rather than two days. It has really changed the way we work.”

1. Know your customers

Before you do anything, get your information up-to-date. Your database should be the central brain of the business, home to all relevant customer data.

The reality is that lots of this stuff is in people’s heads, and you’ll need to physically move it into the database. Get the whole team together and go through the berths with the question ‘tell me something about this boat’. You’d be amazed how quickly empty data fields will be populated.

2. Make it personal

If you’re asking customers for several thousand pounds, you’ll get a better response if you personalise the correspondence. ‘Dear Mr Smith’ or ‘Dear John’ is generally more appropriate than ‘Dear Sir/Madam’. Include merge fields for the boat name, account number or berth number.

Make the covering letter worth reading. Some ideas for content include a review of the past year, planned maintenance or improvements, staff changes, local events and diary dates.

3. Clear call to action

Make it easy for customers to do business with you with a clear call to action. Tell them what to do and when to do it, then help them to make the decision.

For example, if you need signed terms and conditions, include a pre-paid envelope, or more usefully, send an email with a link to the payment portal. Customers following the link can update their contact details, confirm marketing preferences and pay invoices, with payments automatically receipted.

4. Save some trees

So many people have email these days that it is crazy not to consider sending invoices and other communications by email. Factor in the cost of paper, envelopes, stamps and staff time, and it has to be a special piece of correspondence that goes by post.

A quality marina management system will not only help you send personalised emails to hundreds of customers, it will also flag customers without email to create a letter, and it will track email delivery and opens. You’ll know who has received and read the email.

5. Target follow-up

Follow-up doesn’t have to mean chasing for money. Done right, its a great way to show that you are interested in your customers and want them to stay. It also gathers-in anyone who missed or forgot the original communication.

Use smart lists to segment customers by contract type, tariff, waiting list, area of the marina, or whatever works for you. Don’t forget to filter those who have already paid.

Harbour Assist’s Nick Gill said, You can turn contract renewal season from a blur of administration to an opportunity to build better relationships with customers, improve cash flow and build a solid foundation for the coming year. Who doesn’t want that?

How can we help your business?

If you’d like to talk about how Harbour Assist can help your business to connect with your customers,  email Nick direct nick.gill@harbourassist.com