Rockvam Boatyards and the Infinity Marketing Machine

One day Roxanne Rockvam of Rockvam Boatyards in Spring Park, Minnesota, sold a spot in her dry storage building, all while buying tooth whitener at Walgreens. She did it with the help of mobile technology and her innovative marketing program, incorporating as many trending toys and concepts as she can find, and she’s always looking.

Exactly how does Rockvam make sales while doing personal shopping? It all started with something she calls the Infinity Marketing Machine.
“What matters is controlling your own future,” Rockvam said. “When you create a relationship with someone, where they will accept a message from you on their phone, their most intimate possession, and when you send a message, and they read it, that’s a privilege. And you must respect the privilege that you get.”

As self-described social media guru, Rockvam describes the concept of the Infinity Marketing Machine as moving a business one step beyond social media marketing to social marketing. It’s a strategy that involves detailed procedures for collecting customer information and database formation, and it will take time. But Rockvam has real results with it.

Ideal Customer Avatar
“If you’re struggling with customers you don’t want to work with, you need to regroup and figure out your ideal customers. Who is that and then, you go out and find them,” Rockvam said.

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In April 2017, she attended the ICON 2017 conference, which is held by Infusionsoft, the customer relationship management (CRM) program Rockvam uses. There, she was introduced to the concept of creating an avatar of the ideal customer for each profit center.

She started with the drystack business. After the conference, she sat down with two experienced crew members, and they outlined their customer base. With online advertising, businesses can find those customers by targeting specific demographics. Rockvam uses Facebook to advertise to the customers she wants with targeted messages. She tried the concept with her drystack business, and literally overnight signed up eight new customers.

Rockvam also changed the imagery of her ads. When she considered the emotion of advertising, why are boaters using their boats, not the service itself, her ads became more successful. She had always had a stigma against using stock photography, but when she switched her drystack ads from photos of the storage area and the forklifts, to photos of people wakeboarding and skiing on the lake, it worked.

The success also had a lot to do with the message, and when someone shows an interest, likes the Facebook page, clicks on an ad and offers their email address for more information, “This is not an opportunity to bombard them with tons of advertising,” Rockvam said. Be selective and be helpful.

And Facebook is invaluable to Rockvam’s business, but it’s not everything. If a business is only relying on Facebook messaging and traffic, “You don’t control anything. They can stop you,” Rockvam said. But once customers offer email addresses, that’s something a business can control – and a key element to building the Infinity Marketing Machine.

Feeding the Machine
A CRM program like Infusionsoft is essential to marketing success, Rockvam said, based purely on one important function – the ability to build automated messages and content backwards from a specific date. For example, for a pontoon rental on a specified date, the program can be set to automate a message a month, a week and one day before the reservation with updates and information.

The automation is also essential for small businesses to build their Infinity Marketing Machine. In Minnesota, the boating season is fleeting. Lake Minnetonka freezes over, the docks come out, and boating is far away. New customers aren’t thinking about signing up during the winter. Boating is on their minds when the weather warms, and the marina is too busy to handle new business, particularly for the new boat club.

So, Rockvam set up a funnel, via the CRM program, like the one on this page to respond to inquiries. The first year the boat club had a 154 percent increase in membership. It didn’t matter what time of day the customer asked for information, they started in the funnel and received an email acknowledgement. Eventually, they would receive a spiral-bound 16-page book, on “What do to on Lake Minnetonka.” This is not a digital download, but something customers hold in their hands, and that means the marina now has their physical address too. “I wanted to create an experience in their home,” Rockvam said.

The marina still also uses direct mail. “When you can get something in the hands of the customer on their kitchen table, it’s kind of a novelty,” Rockvam said. With direct mail advertisement, Rockvam is very targeted on specific demographics, and her honed database and mailing list.

Direct mail is important too for certain customers, typically older. “You have to talk to customers how they want to be talked to,” Rockvam said.
To target high school recruitment, she uses SnapChat filters to target a specific area where people are using their phones, in this case, around the local high school. It costs about $50 a day.

For print, Rockvam Boatyards will only advertise on the front or back page. Locally, the marina is also a big fan of sponsoring billboards at the baseball field or other events. Advertisements ask customers to text a certain number for more information, and they start at the beginning of the Infinity Marketing Machine.

Video is Key
Video is critical for marketing at Rockvam Boatyards. The crew shoots videos in-house, and Rockvam uses many still photos with text as a slideshow video, which works great, she said.

When a customer signs up for the email program, they immediately are welcomed with an indoctrination series of four videos over 12 days, including aerial photo changes of the facility, forklifts as mascots, the marina’s role in founding the Minnesota Clean Marina program, and its National Marina Day celebration.

Customers then receive the Tonka Thursday newsletter, a weekly recap of events happening around the lake. It’s not Rockvam focused but emphasizes things to do in the area. “We want people to use their boats, and we want to be the “one-stop-shop” for information on our lake,” Rockvam said.

When a customer is new to one of its services: dockage, in/out dry storage service, boat club or winter storage, they receive a series of videos, once a week for 15 weeks. The first 100 days, Rockvam said, are critical for new customers. After customers complete the introduction series, the 15-series videos are timed to begin as the intro series ends. Every week new and prospective customers receive a Tuesday Tip. The dock crew filmed helpful boating tips, such as how to tie a rope to a cleat, how to lock an anchor, how to put a boot on a bimini top, or how to pull up the fuel dock. It can help make new boaters feel more comfortable, keep the marina in their mind, and also help with operations.

A CRM program automates messages to pontoon rental customers with updates and information leading up to the reservation. Rockvam also markets other services to its pontoon renters.

For the pontoon rental business at Rockvam, a simple video has alleviated a lot of head ache with customers. The marina has always had a problem with propellers getting damaged. With a simple 45-second video for boaters to watch prior to renting, the marina has had less confrontation over props. It hasn’t stopped the damage, but it has stopped many arguments when customers get defensive and cleared up miscommunications about how to operate it and how it might get damaged.

Infinity Customer
Another benefit of the Infinity Marketing Machine and building relationships with customers is the concept of the infinity customer. Rockvam strategically targets its pontoon rental customers as prospective boat club members. It also targets boat club members to upgrade to boat purchases. “Growing your own customers and keeping them within your own profit centers is the ideal benefit of the Infinity Marketing Machine,” Rockvam said.

It’s important to know how customers got to the business. Was it the boat club or pontoon rental? “If you start at the beginning, why is this customer interested in you, then you build from there,” Rockvam said. Direct mail or Facebook ads are very targeted to demographics and to a specific profit center, based on the customer’s interests.

Rockvam uses geographics and demographics to target customers, and she’s beginning to move one step further to sociographics. For example, Rockvam is working to incorporate party packages for birthdays, bachelorette parties or nautical themed parties with the pontoon rentals. If a customer books a bachelorette party, the marina can assume that the customer will be married in a short amount of time, and then maybe a family, who would like to maybe join the boat club. “You can grow your own database, and market your own services,” Rockvam said.

Another new project at Rockvam Boatyards is the store upgrade. The original store was built in 1997. Both the layout and the products no longer matched

A store revamp at Rockvam Boatyards focused on the boater experience, from the products to the layout.

the needs of the current customer base, and the marina wasn’t selling enough to its approximately 8,000 guests that visit each summer.

The store offers more clothing and lots of souveniors and products for day visitors. “Everything is experienced based,” Rockvam said. “I just thank our stars. I’m thankful that we’re a marina and there’s nothing like the boating experience.” Rockvam wanted the store to help capture that experience.
An area by the restrooms was revamped to include a place for the marina history, and the comopany’s honors and awards (including 2018 Marina Dock Age small Marina of the Year) – and something to look at while waiting in line.
To help get customers in the door, Rockvam is starting ForksTV to run on a large flat screen TV in the store. The forklifts, equipped with GoPro cameras, will give customers a first-hand view of the drystack from the boat’s perspective.

During the winter, the store helps recreate summer and boost sales for summer recreation with coconut lotion air freshner, summer music like Jimmy Buffet playing, fresh flowers on the counter, and Rockvam kicks the thermostat up to about 75 degrees. To check out the drystack area, customers can walk to the attached warehouse (also heated) without their winter coats in tow. It evokes summer for customers, when there’s 30 inches of ice on the lake.

In summary, Rockvam said she markets to her customers in the way they want to be talked to, using direct mail, social marketing, in-person and phone calls, which usually happen in the winter to inquire about contract renewals for dockage, dry storage and boat club. Winter storage customers get calls in the fall. The marina also promotes its Comprehensive Service Reviews, and provides estimates for any needed repairs, with phone calls during the winter. It was originally a strategy to generate service work during the winter. Now, Rockvam said, the marina gets more work than it imagined, which she attributes to the marketing for the program. Rockvam mails out two copies, emails a PDF, and the phone call. “Some people want a phone call, some want mail, some want email. Some want a form online and submit themselves,” Rockvam said. “We simply want the service work. It takes more effort on our part, but the payoff is real.”

Sale Anywhere
The payoff can happen at the Walgreens in the middle of buying tooth whitener, thanks to Rockvam’s Infinity Marketing Machine and meticulous practices. Here’s how Rockvam using technology, targeted marketing and some determination sells dry storage spaces at Walgreens:

Her phone’s chosen ring tone indicated she had received a private message from Facebook. It was a potential customer asking for more information about the in/out (dry storage) service. He asked for a text message, so Rockvam jumped platforms and text him. She learned he was buying an inboard (so he had seen her drystack ad targeted at new inboard customers, which are perfect for the drystack). He had questions about the tower on the boat.
About a week earlier, the forklift crew shot a video showing the reason a tower has to come down. It won’t fit in the rack. It’s listed as guidelines for storing an inboard on the company website.

So Rockvam texted the customer back with a link to answer his question. One minute later, she got a text back: Yes! (with emoji beer mugs). She sold an $8,000 dry storage space standing in Walgreens, and it started on Facebook, moved to text and ended with emojis.

Any marina can employ these techniques, stay educated on marketing trends and build their own Infinity Marketing Machine.