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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Have You Done Your Marketing Plan for 2011?

Vote in our latest Quick Poll just above and to the right.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

How to Get Your Website Ranked Like the Pros

Here's a tip to get your camp's web pages ranked higher in Google and other search engines: Visit as many Search Engine Optimization company websites as you can, look for common themes in how they write and design their web pages (including headlines, sub-heads and links). Then copy and apply those same strategies to your camp's website.

Remember, if it's good enough for a professional search engine optimizer, it's good enough for you.

It Still Might Pay to Keep Your Keyword Meta-tags

Even though Google doesn't use the keyword meta-tag anymore to rank or serve web pages, other search engines like Bing and Yahoo might. So you might as well keep using it just to cover your bets.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

My #1 Marketing Goal for 2011

I've got a bunch of personal goals for my camp's 2011 promotional program. I'll share everything with you in the coming days and weeks. For now, I'll tell you this: My primary goal for next year is to really step up my video marketing.

I'm gonna try to advertise my camp with at least one new video each week. I took tons of videos last summer so I don't think I'll run out of footage.

As you know, I love video marketing for three reasons. First, videos often appear in Google's search results only MINUTES after posting them. Third, kids and teens search for videos like madmen, so they're bound to find yours if you decide to post some too. Finally, video marketing in my opinion is the next huge social media phenomenon.

We'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I'm out of town for the next few weeks

Just a quick FYI, i've been out of town for the holidays for the past several days and will be away until January 8. So if I don't post too often or don't respond to your comments or emails, that's the reason why. I'll be sure to get back to you ASAP and write more about marketing and advertising as quickly as possible. Happy Holidays!

Eric

Friday, December 17, 2010

Search Engine Optimization and Social Media Marketing Checklist for 2011

Not too long ago I wrote a blog post (although I am too lazy to go back and find it) about how we should all prepare our summer camp marketing plans and calendars now for 2011 so we hit the new year running.

If you aren't as lazy as I am, take a few minutes and search the archives because it might be worthwhile to read it.

Meanwhile here's something else that's really cool: An article from Search Engine Journal to help you make sure all your camp's Social Media Marketing and Search Engine Optimization is in place for the new year.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Word-of-Mouth Marketing Post for Jeremy

I just got an email message from an IRATE camp director who took issue with my post of earlier today (and other places in this blog) where I claimed you can actually CREATE word-of-mouth marketing by incentivising people to spread the word about your camp. I wish he'd stated his complaints in the comments section for everyone to see, but since he didn't I assume he's either too scared or ashamed to make his case publicly. (Or, if I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, maybe he didn't want to "embarrass" me publicly with his negative comments. But considering the attacking tone he took, I don't think that's the case...)

Anyway, out of respect for him, I'm not gonna reveal too many personal details other than tell you his name is Jeremy and he's the "marketing director" for a sleepaway camp in Nevada.

I don't feel like I need to defend myself, but to appease Jeremy and anyone else who feels like he does, I wanted to give you something to think about so you understand more about my position and the incredible opportunities available to you when you do your word-of-mouth marketing right.

I assume you run a phenomenal summer camp and you're already getting your fare share of organic referrals. "Organic referrals" means they happen automatically without any prompting by you.

If you're like me you probably think word-of-mouth marketing is the best kind of marketing you can get. It's cheap, easy, credible and it works. Now if we agree on that, think about this:

What would happen if you tried to improve upon the word-of-mouth you're already getting? Instead of waiting around for happy camp families to tell their friends about you, what if you put some effort into getting more referrals than you're getting now? What if you DID prompt people to refer others? What if you figured out how to get your customers to tell their friends all about you?

Well you already know what would happen. You'd increase your referral rate dramatically and your enrollment would go sky high ... all at practically no cost to you.

Think of it this way. If you designed a print ad for your camp and placed it in your local parenting magazine, and then you got tons of enrollment from that single ad, you'd run it again and again, right? Of course you would!

Same with word-of-mouth marketing. You can DESIGN your word-of-mouth marketing program so people refer others to your camp over and over. In fact if you do it the right way, you will never have to worry about getting new customers because your existing customers will do all your marketing for you. If every customer you have refers at least two or three other families, and you never break the chain, you will never run out of new customers and you'll be sitting pretty all the way to the bank.

And that's how word-of-mouth marketing works.

Got it, Jeremy?

How to Get Blog and Website Visitors to Share Your Content With Their Friends

If you use an email marketing service, you probably include "forward this email to a friend" links in your messages. They come standard from all the email marketing services.

But wouldn't you like customers and prospects to tell their friends about your blog or website too?

If you're looking for one of the best social media marketing tools around, "Tell-a-Friend" forms are the way to go. The one caveat is, you need to be careful which one you use because they have to potential to be easily spammed. But you can't beat this strategy for its pure word-of-mouth marketing benefits in any case.

Here are three "Tell a Friend" services I've heard good things about. (I haven't used any of these so I can't suggest one over another but you might give one or more a try):

Spreadable

Viral Inviter

Social Twist

On my camp's website I have an opt-in email form on every page. In addition to the other 67 million things I need to do this week, I'm gonna put a "Tell a Friend" form on each page, too.

If you decide to do this too (and I hope you do!), something important to remember is people won't share or forward ANYTHING unless you give them a good reason to. If you give them a good reason, they'll tell others about your website or blog. Offering a free eBook or t-shirt or discount coupon could be just the ticket to get your blog posts and web pages sailing across the internet.

Constant Contact, I'm Done With You! (Aweber here I come)

After too many trials and errors and switching back and forth from Constant Contact to various email marketing services, I'm switching to aweber for good. The reasons why are:

1. It's cheaper;
2. It's easier to use;
3. The sign-up forms are nicer

If you already use aweber, you know what I mean. If you don't, why not give it a try? (Use the form below to sign for a free trial. I think you'll like it! :)



Can You Have More Sales, Too?

Helping over 90,000 businesses like yours raise profits and build customer relationships using AWeber's opt-in email marketing software for over 10 years.

Take a Free Test Drive today!









Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Let's Like Each Other's Pages on Facebook

If you do me a favor and "Like" my Aloha Beach Camp facebook page, I'll visit your camp's facebook page and Like it too!

How Google Finds, Ranks, and Displays Your Website

Here's the definitive guide on how Google finds and ranks your summer camp website.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Free Website Templates

If you make your own website(s), here's a place you can download free templates. Some of these look pretty nice.

Friday, December 10, 2010

How to Get People to Swarm to Your Camp Fair Booth

Given today's digital world, you don’t get too many chances to meet prospects in person anymore. That's why Camp Fairs are so important. Since camps are naturally social organizations, Camp Fairs fit beautifully into your marketing program. In essence, they're "live" social media events.

I must've attended, organized, and promoted 100 Camp Fairs in my day. I've learned some tips and tricks along the way to make your booth stand out from the rest and keep a crowd all day long. The main thing is, you need to show families and kids your camp is unique.

Let's face it, most Camp Fair booths are all the same. You get a table, curtain, some chairs and maybe a metal divider establishing boundaries between your booth and neighboring camps. But why should a family visit your booth if you're no different than everyone else? If your booth is different, people will gravitate your way. 

I wanted to share some thoughts on how you can get people swarming around your Camp Fair booth next time you attend one. You’ll need to check with the Camp Fair organizer to find out how far you can take these ideas. But here's a couple strategies to get you started:

Color, Sound, and Entertainment 

One way to make your booth unique is with color. Dress yours up with camp photos, colorful banners, and arts and crafts projects campers did last year. If your booth’s not colorful, your camp’s not, either.

You can also use sound. Don't infringe neighboring booths, but if you really want to call attention to yourself, why not make some noise? Music and video will do the trick. Or how about karaoke? If you've got karaoke going on, every kid and his mother will be LINING UP for their chance to sing a song and presto, you've got an instant crowd.

Don't forget the entertainment! The other day I went to a ski expo. One snowboard dealer had so many kids and families surrounding his booth it looked like he was giving away money. What he did was, he hired a magician and balloon animal guy to entertain booth guests. People were mesmerized and hung around for hours. If you have entertainers like this at your Camp Fair booth, you'll attract tons of people and keep them awhile, too.

Free Drawings and Giveaways

Free is, and has always been, the most magical word (and action) in marketing. Give away free stuff, and you’ve got people wrapped around your finger. Whatever you give away at your Camp Fair booth should be closely related to your camp itself so you keep getting promotional mileage after the Camp Fair ends. (Giving away hot chocolate on a cold day is nice, but fleeting. Giving away a camp t-shirt with your logo is better, because people will use it indefinitely and promote your camp just by wearing it.)

Another thing you can do, you can have drawings for prizes (like camp beach towels, lunch sacks, baseball caps, etc.) on a fixed schedule throughout the day. You could prepare (and distribute ahead of time) a schedule indicating the specific times you’re holding drawings. This way people will keep stick around (or at least keep returning to) your booth all day.

Custom Booth Design

Maybe you're content with the cookie-cutter table, chairs, curtain and dividers I mentioned. But why not create a custom booth instead? Why not bring your own tables with butcher paper so kids can draw on it? Why not cover the "one-size-fits-all" curtain with a movie screen to show camp videos on? Why not bring your OWN soft, comfy  chairs (or even a small couch!) so weary kids and families can't resist sitting down?

What to Do When You've Got a Crowd

If you implement one or more of these strategies, you're that much further ahead of most lazy camp directors who think they're doing enough by just showing up. Just showing up ISN'T enough, and having the most tricked-out booth is just window dressing compared to what you’re really selling. What you're really selling is you!!! 

Once you attract a crowd to your Camp Fair booth, it's time to go to work. If people don’t like you or trust you, none of the bells and whistles matter. This means being approachable, well-groomed and dressed, standing not sitting, and listening more than you talk. This is the way to make a lasting impression and generate interest in your program at a Camp Fair ... Not to mention it's the best social marketing around! : )

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Want to Speak to Me on the Phone? Happy to!

I've gotten tons of phone calls and emails recently from camp directors and marketers who are preparing their marketing plans for 2011 and want to speak to me on the phone. I'm happy to do it.

Thing is, my time's at a premium right now, so here's what we can do.

I'm discounting my telephone consultation prices for a limited time. Instead of the usual $200/hour, your first 5 minutes are free. I'll try to answer every question you've got.

Then, if you want to continue past 5 minutes, it'll be $75 for 1 hour. So that's 65 minutes for $75 bucks.

Let me know if you want in, because my schedule's tight but I want to make sure I've got time for everyone.

Thanks and Happy Holidays!

Can Your Camp's Enrollment Confirmation Packets Generate Word-of-Mouth for You?

When a family signs up for camp, you send a confirmation packet, right? Maybe your packet includes a Parent Handbook, instructions for what to wear and bring to camp (packing list), a payment receipt and all that. But does your confirmation packet serve as a word-of-mouth referral generator too?

Here's how it can. When a family gets their confirmation packet, give them all the usual stuff I just mentioned. But also include a Customer VIP or Referral Card which entitles their friends to a 10% discount off camp tuition.

(Actually you can include anything else you want in your confirmation packets, but your guiding thought should be "what could I give just-enrolled families something they'd share with their friends?").

If your customers can say to their friends, "Hey, I just signed up for this great camp, and I can get you a discount so your kid can go there too," bingo! You just hooked another enrollment, and you didn't have to do a thing to get it. (Don't worry about giving 10% off, because you're probably spending a lot more than that to get a new customer anyway. So this strategy ends up being a bargain for you.)

I hope you give this a try. It's a VERY easy way to get generate viral word-of-mouth right in the middle of camp enrollment season. You really can't beat this as a core part of your referral marketing plan.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Extra Cash for Your Camp: Sell Gift Cards this Holiday Season

Looking for a way to generate some extra dough for your off-season? Try selling gift cards. But not gift certificates anymore...they're outdated!

I just tried selling gift certificates to my camp families a week ago. No dice.

Then yesterday I emailed the same list (3,000 people) offering gift cards instead. Sold $960 worth in less than a day.

Give it a try...you've got nothing to lose and lots of extra cash to gain :)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

How to Get a 40% Open Rate on Your Email Marketing

I just did an email blast to 500 people who never received a marketing message from me...And I got 230 of them to open the email! I'm usually happy with somewhere between 4% and 10% so 40% blew me away. I wanted to let you know how I did it, because maybe you can do even better, who knows?

Anyway here's how I did it. I tested my email subject lines. I divided a large list of 1,500 people into three smaller lists of 500 people each. Then I crafted an email to send to each group of 500. The email itself was the same for everyone, but each group also got a different subject line so I could test which one worked best.

The subject-line variables I tested were:

1. Personalization;
2. Camp name; and
3. Urgency (with a deadline)

For Personalization, I put the recipient's name in the subject line like this:

"Eric, save 10% off Aloha Beach Camp wetsuits today"

For the camp name, I used this subject line:

"Save 10% off Aloha Beach Camp wetsuits"

And I created urgency by putting a deadline in the subject line this way:

"Today only: Save 10% off Aloha Beach Camp wetsuits"

Now remember, the email content and offer (save 10% on wetsuits) were the same for all three groups. But while the first two lists of 500 people only got 2.2% and 3.1% open-rates, the third one -- where I told people they had to buy the wetsuits today or they couldn't save 10% -- got a whopping 40% open rate!

Now keep this in mind: What we're testing here is email OPEN RATES, not response or click-through rates. Open-rates means how many people actually opened the email. Response or click through rates, in this case, means how many people actually clicked through to view the wetsuits, requested more information and/or actually bought a wetsuit. The email with the highest open rate isn't always the one that will get you the most sales... but that's a post for another day.

Lesson learned: If you don't test, you're just guessing. If I'd been content just personalizing the subject line, or putting our camp name in it without testing, I'd never know an unbelievable 40% open-rate was available to me. So, for next time, here's what I'll do.

I'll email the entire list of 1,500 people the "Today Only" email, knowing if I get less than a 40% open-rate I did something wrong. Or maybe I'll test that "Today Only" subject line against a new one, just to see if I can do better.

The reason why testing is so important is because you can find out what works for your group of prospects and get the most bang for your marketing buck. Then once you've refined your system, you can expect fantastic email open-rates all the time.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Reach Camper Prospects Everywhere With Text Message Marketing

This Mashable article argues that SMS (text message) marketing "still makes sense" for small businesses. Huh? Since when was there ever a question about whether it makes sense?

Not only is text message marketing relatively cheap, you can reach highly targeted prospects everywhere. Millions of people all over the world have the ability to receive text messages, including probably every camp family you know.

Marketing to people on their cell phones works -- in fact my wife just received a coupon for Toys R Us on her cell phone, then went right in to redeem it -- and if I were you I'd definitely look into this strategy.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Do You Have Marketing Questions?

Every day I get lots of emails with marketing questions. I read all of them and promise to respond as quickly as possible. I realize many questions pertain to you or your camp individually, so please, NEVER hesitate to email me with question or comments.

At the same time, please be aware many other folks who read this blog probably have the same question(s) as you. In fact I probably get the same question from several different people several times a week.

Accordingly, I have a preference for answering questions publicly so everyone can benefit from the answer and we can engage in discussions. If you have questions or want to share information you think others might benefit from, please feel free to post it in the comment section of my posts. Thanks!

Google's New Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide

Google has recently updated its Search Engine Optimization starter guide. Following the tips in this free guide can help you improve your site's
visibility in the search result rankings. Who wouldn't want to position their website better according to Google's best-practice suggestions?

I read this guide 10 times today before positing it here for you. If there's one piece of advice I could give you, the best search engine optimization strategy you could ever do is create compelling content on your website that people will want to share with their friends.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Are You Killing Puppies? (You are if you're sending emails to rented or purchased lists!)

Received an email (several, actually) asking my opinion on renting or purchasing email marketing lists. My suggestion is, don't do it! For one thing, it's a waste of money, and for another, you're killing puppies each time you rent or buy email lists.

I've met many people over the years who've rented or purchased email marketing lists. None of them would do it again. The companies who sell and rent email lists don't have tremendous reputations, and the email response rates suck (boarding on zero) because the email gets deleted or goes right into spam.

You know me, I'm a HUGE proponent of email marketing done the right way. That means focusing on lead generation by collecting emails for your own house list and then mailing to your list with offers and information that endear the recipients to you.

If the people you're emailing to don't know who the heck you are, or if you haven't gotten their advance permission to send them emails, or if they haven't specifically requested to receive emails from you, don't do it. It's bad form all around.

Now here's a way you can reach tons of other hot, qualified camper prospects via email in addition to people on your house list: Collaborate with other non-competing businesses (like a kid's music teacher, for instance) and ask her to send emails to HER list endorsing your camp. Then, do the same for her. This way you reach many other prospects you otherwise wouldn't, and you're not pissing them off in the process. To the contrary, the endorsement from a trusted source (in this case the music teacher) could be just your ticket to getting more kids into camp next year.

Now there's just one more thing. I love dogs. I have two of my own and got them both when they were puppies. I don't want any more puppies to die, so PLEASE, don't rent or buy any more email lists. Watch the video to learn more. Thank you!!



Thursday, November 18, 2010

Are "Likes" Better Than Links?

In today's social media world, getting "Likes" on your Facebook page are almost as important as when websites link to yours. Soon they'll be more important.

When a popular website links to your camp's website, Google views that link as a "vote" for your site. The vote helps your site rise in the search engine rankings.

When a friend or fan "Likes" your Facebook page, status, blog post, or web page, everyone connected to that person sees the "Like" too. They may be tempted to see what all fuss is about. So they follow the "Like" back to your page. Then, they might "Like" it too...and so on and on....

If you think about it, the Facebook "Like" button -- and Facebook itself -- are becoming their own virtual -- and viral -- search engines. Unreal.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Easy Way to Get More Referrals

There's lots of ways to get more referrals. But here's the easiest one I know. Set two different prices for your camp tuition. When someone contacts you to ask how much it costs (that's their favorite question, right?), you simply reply, "Well, do you want the regular price, or the referral price?" This will pique their interest like crazy, at which point you tell them the price of camp goes down a few bucks for each referral they give you. Your word-of-mouth enrollment will increase like gangbusters, trust me on this one.

Are the Yellow Pages Still Relevant?

Years ago, yellow pages marketing was a staple for every small business, company, consultant and organization. Many camps advertised in the yellow pages, too. If you want to maximize your marketing budget, stay away from the yellow pages. They're a waste of money compared to your well-positioned website.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Your Most Underutilized Marketing Tool

I posted on Facebook the other day the opportunity to discover your camp's most underutilized marketing tool. I asked for 15 "Likes," then I'd reveal the tool. No dice. Only got 6 likes. Too bad because it's such an easy strategy to implement and guaranteed to get you more enrollment for basically no work. Anyway, I'm keeping the info to myself for now. Maybe I'll share it another time.

Monday, November 15, 2010

How to Use Video Testimonials to Market Your Camp

Three weeks ago we discussed how your testimonial marketing must specifically identify the people who gave you the testimonials, otherwise they (your testimonials) lack credibility. Believable comments from happy camp families can persuade prospects to attend your camp. But if your testimonials aren't specific, they're not believable because anyone or his brother could've provided the testimonial.

Getting a comment like, "Johnny had the time of his life at camp" is nice. But crediting that statement to a general "Camp Parent" will not persuade a prospect to sign up at your camp. On the other hand, what if you attribute that statement to "Mary Higgins, Camp Parent of Johnny Higgins, age 10, from Las Vegas Nevada who's been attending our camp for 6 years"? Now you've got a believable testimonial since it has a specific attribution.

Now here's how you can REALLY make your testimonials even more powerful. Use video.



You already know moms love to talk to other moms about where they're sending their kids to camp. And moms use YouTube, you can bet on that. Make a video testimonial to put on your blog, website, facebook page and YouTube. Email your testimonial video to your list. The credibility you get from a live, happy customer on video is amazing, and people will share your video across the internet with their friends simply due to video's built-in social nature.

If the video goes viral enough at least in your local community, chances are good someone who sees the video will already know the person giving the testimonial -- and that could be just what you need to push a family on the fence to enroll at your camp. (I made the video above 2 years ago. It's only been viewed on YouTube 181 times, but it's accounted for 26 camp enrollments from people sharing it with their friends.)

You don't need an expensive, high-quality video camera to make this work. You can use your cell phone. Whatever you do, just make sure you add video testimonials to your marketing strategy next year.

Friday, November 12, 2010

20 Great Subject Lines for Your Holiday Email Marketing

Just because it's winter doesn't mean you shouldn't market your camp. You should market year-round. The Holidays are a perfect time to generate a few extra bucks you might not otherwise get. Selling gift cards or gift certificates is one thought. Having a camp reunion ice skating or ski day -- and charging for it -- is another. Whatever you do, you'll want to announce your money-making activities via email. Check out these 20 great subject lines for the Holidays from the Vertical Response email marketing blog. You can easily adopt many of these to your camp's email marketing program.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I Hate Twitter but Google Loves it

There's about 200 reasons why I hate twitter, but that doesn't matter because Google loves it. Post often enough on Twitter, and eventually your tweets start showing up on Google only a few minutes later.

Free Digital Photos for Your Website, Brochure or Blog

You probably already take hundreds of camp photos each summer. But what if you can't find just the right one, right now? Here's a few sites you to help you find just the right picture to make your web page or brochure stand out. Most of these images are free, but remember to read the terms and conditions of each site so you're in compliance with their rules:

Free Digital Photos.net
PhotoRogue.com
Free Photos Bank.com

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What's Your Camp's Second Best Marketing Tool?

Social media gets the lion's share of the press nowadays. It dominates the news everywhere. As the new kid on the block, everyone's enamored with it. Used the right way, social media can help your camp grow. But it's not the best marketing tactic out there. Your staff is. Word of mouth marketing -- getting tons of referrals from happy customers -- is second best.

Have You Created Your 2011 Marketing Calendar Yet?

With 2010 winding down, now is a good time to make a marketing calendar for next year. Not a marketing plan -- a calendar. A marketing plan outlines the marketing tools, tactics and strategies you'll use to get more kids into camp. A marketing calendar details when you'll use those tools, tactics and strategies. And it helps keep your marketing activities and budget on track all year long.

Monday, November 8, 2010

How to Reach Thousands of New Prospects for the Price of 1

If you could reach hundreds (even thousands) of prospects for the same price of reaching one, wouldn't you jump at that chance? Now you can. Put together a seminar marketing, webinar marketing, cooperative marketing, social media marketing and joint venture marketing plan. You'll introduce your camp to the masses for next to nothing.

Start Building Your Email List Today

This time of year - the fall - is a good time to build your email list. Collect as many prospect emails as you can right now, so you have lots of potential camp families to connect with when you marketing program begins full force later next year. My personal goal is to get at least 2 new people to join my email list each day. You can do it to. Put your email sign up form on every page of your website and blog. Update your blog furiously, and you'll be in good shape.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Search Engine Optimization Tip: Incorporate Keyword and Keyword Phrases into Your Blog Post Titles and Website Pages

Keywords and keyword phrases are the words people type into Google to find your camp online. For example, if someone types Los Angeles Summer Camp into Google, my camp's website might come up, or maybe one of my blog posts.

To increase your chances of your blog posts or website showing at the top of Google every time, your blog post title and website pages should mirror the keywords and keyword phrases you include in those blog posts and page titles.

Google's main interest is showing relevant search results to a user's query. If your blog posts and website pages match the words someone's keying into Google, you can't get much more relevant that that. Or can you?

Yes, you can. There is one fail-proof search engine optimization secret that'll get your site to the top of Google (and ALL the search engines, actually) every time. Not 9 out of 10 times. Every time.

Think I'm blowing smoke? Keep reading this blog, because I might share the secret I'm talking about soon...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Marketing To Moms and Kids: Fast Facts

Did you know only 20% of moms say advertisers do a good job of connecting with them? Did you know 30% of moms worry their kids might lie about their age? Learn more about these facts and other incredibly helpful information to help your create a summer camp marketing program that connects with moms and kids the right way.

Resident Camp Marketing Tip

One of the best ways to find new marketing ideas is to "steal" them from other industries. Most camp people market the same way, so you need to look elsewhere for fresh promotional ideas.

Here's a tip for resident camps. You can get LOTS of great marketing ideas from the travel industry.

Just Google "travel marketing ideas," "travel industry marketing," or that kind of thing. I'll bet you find lots of great marketing ideas you haven't thought of before, Then you can "steal" and tweak those ideas for your own marketing program at camp.

Today's the Day to Start Marketing with Email

The reason email marketing is works so well is because it's the ultimate social marketing tool. If families don't know you, don't like, and don't trust you, they're not sending their kid to your camp, period. You might be in love with Facebook, Twitter, and Linked In, but none of these can touch email marketing's ability to build those critical relationships with customers and prospects you need for more enrollment.

Know what else I love about email marketing? You can send emails on your own schedule whenever you want, and recipients can open, read and respond to your emails on their own time whenever they want. In this sense you're not pushing your marketing at them...your marketing is less intrusive. If you give people an option as to when to view and respond to your marketing messages, you're way ahead of the game.

If you don't market your camp with email, now is a good time to start.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Two Customer Service Principles to Keep in Mind

If you're singling out the top two or three marketing tips for camps, customer service gets my vote. When you're putting together your customer service marketing strategy, here's where you might start:

1. Get people to know, like, and trust you

If I know you, you're more likely to do business with people you know, like and trust than others you don't know. All else being equal, you can bet camp family prospects feel the same way. Even if your camp's more expensive, they'll gladly pay more if they know, like, and trust you compared that shyster running a cheaper camp across town.) 

2. Speed, Speed Speed.

Next you need to focus on speed. Respond immediately to customer's questions. Be available at all times. Address problems instantly. Don't make people wait.

If you apply these two rules consistently, soon your camp will become known for providing great service and your enrollment will see a nice boost because of it.

The 2 Main Differences Between "New" and "Old" Marketing Strategies

  • Before the internet and social media craze, camps created marketing messages that spoke to customers. Today your marketing needs to speak with people, not at them.
  • In years past, camps searched for customers. These days customers search for camps.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Are you Thankful for Your Customers? Send them a Thanksgiving Card

Everyone sends Christmas cards in December. Why not send your customers Thanksgiving cards instead?

When I think back, I can't recall if my doctor, lawyer, or gardener sent me Holiday cards last year. They certainly may have, because I get so many. But I can't say for sure.

Now on the flip side, there's one person I can DEFINITELY single out as someone who sends me Thanksgiving cards each year: my accountant, Phil Ross. He's the only person I know who sends them.

Phil's a shrewd marketer. He understands that with so many Holiday cards flying around, dozens get lost in the crowd. So here's what he does. He sends Thanksgiving cards instead, timed to arrive just before the typical Christmas card rush to help himself really stand out from the crowd.

Sending Thanksgiving cards is a low-cost, high impact way to get a marketing advantage. No other camps I know of send Thanksgiving cards, so here's
your chance to be among the first. You can personalize your Thanksgiving cards by sending a hand-written note with a few lines of text on each one. Or if you don't want to commit that much time, just buy some Thanksgiving cards at your local stationary store, sign each one and send them out.

Either way, you'll show your customers and prospects how much you appreciate them while separating yourself from competitive camps who are too lazy or don't care enough about their camper families to do this. Just remember, November's already here, so be sure to get started today.

Monday, October 25, 2010

If Your Testimonials Aren't Specific, Don't Bother Using Them

Last week I posted about the benefits of using testimonials to pump your camp. Testimonials lend credibility to your marketing. When someone from the outside says something nice about your camp, their comments are more believable, and credible, than anything you can say about yourself. But I think I forgot to tell you something.

Your testimonials aren't credible in the least if they don't specifically mention the actual people who gave them. Here's what I mean.

My daughter attends a few camps each summer. The other day we got a flyer from one asking us to pre-register for next year. The flyer includes testimonials from parents and kids (nice effort by the camp), but the testimonials lack credibility. They're only attributed to a "Camp Parent" or "Camper," not the specific person who gave the quote.

You tell me which of these sounds more believable:

"My child loved your camp. We'll be back for years to come."
-- Camp Parent

0r

"My child loved your camp. We'll be back for years to come."
--Jennifer White, Camp Parent of Johnny White, age 6, Las Vegas, Nevada

No brainer, right? If you're gonna use testimonials -- and you SHOULD -- you need to use them the right way. The best place to start is by using specifically believable quotes attributed to real people, because the whole point of marketing with testimonials is to increase credibility for your camp. Never forget that specifics (like the person's name, age and where they live) automatically do that for you.

You know what? I'm gonna take this thought one step farther. I wouldn't even bother using testimonials unless you make specific attributions to the people giving you the testimonials, otherwise your testimonials might work against you.

A general testimonial with no mention of the person who gave it could actually HURT your credibility because it sounds like anyone in the world could say it.

In fact, in the reader's mind, it might raise suspicion that you made it up yourself ... and if that's the outcome your testimonials achieve...ouch!

Here's the deal. Your goal is to achieve positive and believable compliments from actual, real-life customers, then to share those comments with other potential customers to demonstrate that your camp is just what they're looking for.

Since you're not believable unless you're specific, here's how I'll end this blog today:

This post was written by Eric D. Naftulin, age 45, on Monday, October 25, 2010 at 8:07 am in Los Angeles, California.  

Friday, October 22, 2010

Upcoming Camping Magazine Article; How to Market Your Camp

I'm writing a "how to market your summer camp" article for the March/April issue of the ACA's Camping Magazine. If there's anything in particular you want me to cover, let me know.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How to Market Your Camp with Testimonials

If you're doing a great job, happy camp families are probably sharing compliments with you in private. Why not make these wonderful stories public? Whenever you get a compliment, tell the family you're flattered they recognized you, then ask for permission to use what they've said as a testimonial on your website or in your brochure. Don't underestimate the power of a great testimonial as a selling tool for prospective camp families. Whatever someone else says about you is by far more convincing than anything you say yourself.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Video Email Marketing Tip

One up and coming social media tool is video email marketing. But if you've ever tried to send videos in your emails, you may have encountered problems. For example, sometimes video emails bounce back or even go straight to spam. Solution: Just use a screenshot (jpeg) image with a play button arrow, then link the image to your actual video. Not only will your email reach your intended recipient, your click-through rate will skyrocket.

Twitter's Block? Here's a List of Things You Can Tweet About

Though I'm not a big fan of Twitter, I know there's many addicts out there. If you ever get stumped and need ideas for what to "tweet" about, here's a helpful list.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cooperative Marketing at Its Best

Took my daughter to the orthodontist today. Noticed a new sandwich shop in the lobby as we entered the building. Hopped in the elevator up to the 12th floor for the ortho appointment. At the end of the appointment, as we were paying at the front desk, the receptionist handed us a 20% off coupon to use at the new sandwich shop. We went right downstairs and bought some food. The sandwich shop was getting its marketing done by the dentist, and the my daughter and I really appreciated the dentist giving us the coupon. That's cooperative marketing at its best, and as a camp professional, you can easily set these kinds of deals up with various businesses and organizations in your neighborhood. It's always great when you can get other people do to your marketing for you! :)

How to Maximize Your Marketing Budget the Easy Way

Even if you only read this blog occasionally, you know I'm a HUGE fan of making every dollar you spend on marketing do the work of two. Naturally this requires you to maximize your marketing budget. Easiest way to do this is by simply asking your customers and prospects how they about you. When you find out how people learned about you, you should put your marketing resources there and forget about the other marketing tactics you've been doing that are less effective or don't work.

How to Optimize Your Press Release

Tips for promoting your press release from the Staples Canada blog.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How to Market to Teens and Parents at the Same Time

Here's an interesting article (and valuable for all of us) from MediaPoint.com on how to market to teens and their parents simultaneously.

As we all know, camps have two primary target markets, kids and their parents. (Although I also contend we should be targeting grandparents, too.) In any case I think you'll enjoy reading this.

I do have one point of contention with the article.

Frank O'Brien, the author, says we should stick to print ads when marketing to parents because parents are less tech savvy than their teen kids and "just coming around" to the internet.

Hardly. While O'Brien's position may have been true 5 years ago, it's not anymore. Parents for the most part have caught up with their kids in terms of how to use the internet. Moms are one of the fastest (if not THE fastest) growing segment of Facebook users. This guy's lost in the past if he thinks print ads are the best way reach parents these days

Enjoy the article!

How to Optimize Your Website for Viewing on a Cell Phone

From what I've heard and read, 2011 will finally be the year people use their cell phones and mobile devices to view websites as much or more than actual computers. I've blogged about this before, but as 2010 winds down now is the time to make sure your camp's website is fully optimized for mobile viewing and more.

How to Get Repeat Website Visitors

Most camp directors update their websites each fall or winter after camp ends for the next season. Maybe you change a few dates, alter a few forms, switch a picture or two. But if that's all your doing -- if you're just using the same static website you've been using for months or years, you might consider making more significant updates. The main reason is to increase your number of repeat visitors. If there's nothing new to see, why would anyone come back?

Here's a few ideas for what you can put on your Website to encourage repeat visitors:

  • Dynamic content
  • Blogs
  • Polls
  • Surveys
  • Forums
  • Announcements
  • News updates
  • Picture of the day (adding a new picture each day)
  • Video of the day (adding a new video each day)

Including any of these things on your site will help a static website involve visitors with fresh, interactive content and encourage them to return to your site more often.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

How to Market Your Camp's Food Service Program to Moms

If you're an astute marketer, you're always on the lookout for ways to separate yourself from your competition. For resident camps especially, your food service program might be a way to do it. Do you highlight your healthy meal program when marketing your camp? Check out this article from MediaPost. You might pick up some nice ideas for ways to market to moms in connection with your camp's meal program.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How Easy Do You Make it for Customers to Pay?

Lots of people's credit cards -- mainly their Visa's and MasterCard's -- are maxed out. So you've gotta take more than just Visa and MasterCard at camp. Be sure you accept American Express, Discover, and anything else necessary that make things easier for camp families to pay. Advertise everywhere (on your brochure, website, etc.) that you accept all credit cards so your customers and prospects know they've got many options to finance camp tuition.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Is Video Marketing Better than Email Marketing?

Yesterday (and several times in the past) I said email marketing is the best social media tool available. Actually, marketing your camp with videos, when done the right way, might be equal to, or even better in certain capacities, than email from a social media standpoint.

Couple things to remember about video marketing. 1) Make sure your video can be seen by all media players. 2) Make sure your viewers can share (email, etc) your videos with their friends.

Who knows, maybe your camp video will go viral!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Would You Pay $80 to get 1,000 Facebook Fans?

If you need more Facebook fans, this might be something to look into. But if you don't want to pay, come to one of my marketing seminars I'll show you how to get between 3,000 and 15,000 fans or more quickly and easily. And they'll be just the kind of fans you want, too...like kids or teens.

How to Get Your Emails Opened Every Time

Email marketing is the best social media tool you've got. There's no better way to connect with customers and prospects in the online world.

But your email message means nothing if your recipients don't open it. If they're not gonna open you're email, fine -- let that be their choice. But don't give their email provider the chance to make that decision for them. Don't call attention to your email as junk, or else it'll go right into their spam folder and your customers and prospects might miss important information from you they'd have otherwise loved to get.

What gets people to open your email? Your subject line. If it's a good one, bingo, you're in. If your subject line sucks, either people won't bother to open it or, into the round file it goes automatically.

Your ideal email subject lines should be short (but longer than one word) and convey the benefit of your message clearly and concisely.

The quickest way to get your email deleted by your recipient or sucked into spam is with exclamation points, all-capital letters, the word "free," and saying stupid things like "Please Read This."

I blogged a while ago about how to make sure your emails don't get viewed as spam.

For an easy, helpful comparison between good and bad subject lines, check out MailChimp's subject line comparison, then get started on your next email marketing campaign.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Need a Customized Marketing Solution?

Learn about our summer camp marketing services here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Why My Wife is Smarter than Me

I was talking with my wife today because she wants to start a blog about a new clothing business for kids she's opening next month. She asked my advice about how to get her blog high in the search engine rankings. I love it when she asks my advice about something, because she's 6,000 times smarter than me in the first place so it makes me feel good when she decides to pick my brain.

So needless to say I got really excited. I started carrying on and on about search engine optimization, link building strategies and all that. Then she interrupted me and said, "You know what, I'm not sure you know what you're talking about."

Oh, great...

So here's what I said. I said, "If I don't know what I'm talking about, why are you asking for my advice?"

She told me she just wanted to know if I agreed with a theory she came up with recently while researching her new business venture. She said it's her observation that search engines are becoming less relevant as people turn to Facebook and their mobile phones for immediate information instead.

When she or her friends need to know something -- like where's the best beauty shop or the closest family restaurant -- they go on Facebook or text their friends or use a cell phone app for the answer. She said using Google for this would have been her first thought a year or two ago...but not anymore.

So I just stared at her...and then I realized, yep, this is why she's smarter than me...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Will I Speak at Tri-State?

Just submitted a proposal to speak about marketing at the Tri-State Conference in March. If accepted, I hope see you there!

Somebody Shut this Dog Up!

I am trying to write my marketing plan for next summer and the neighbor's dog won't stop barking! The freaking thing's been yapping for 2 hours straight!! ENOUGH ALREADY!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Is Your Marketing Performing Like it Should Be?

Easy way to tell if your marketing is on track: Try Googling your camp. Where do you come up, relative to your main competitors? If your competition's in front of you, it might be a sign your marketing plan needs work. You might need to to promote your camp more often...or better. Fall is a great time of year to review your marketing plan from last year to see what worked and what didn't so you know what you need to work on going forward.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Can You Win Back Customers Who Leave You?

You know as well as I do, kids are fickle. They don't have much loyalty to brands. Instead they're into "the hot new thing" and doing whatever their friends do. Especially as kids get older and make their own camp decisions, you might not be able to keep them year after year. That doesn't mean you can't get them back. Does your marketing plan include a strategy to win back lost customers?

Do you Market Your Camp on Youtube? Use Annotations to Make Your Videos Stand Out

If you market your camp with YouTube videos, here's a cool piece from Mashable on how to use annotations with your videos.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

How to Find Great Keywords for Your Website

Here's an easy way to optimize your website with the very same keywords your prospects are using to find you. Go to Google and type any words you think people might be using to find you or competitive camps. As you're typing, Google will pre-populate the search box with suggested keywords and terms before you even finish. These are the very same keywords other people have used when searching for camps online. In essence, Google is giving you a gift by showing you which keywords and keyword terms your customers and prospects have been searching for. Steal these keywords right from the search box and integrate them into your web site content.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Which Marketing Books Should Camp Directors Read?

I get lots of questions from camp directors, principally by email, about which marketing books to read. If you're looking for just ONE book to get started, I'd say rush out and buy Guerilla Marketing by Jay Conrad Levinson. It's got a treasure trove of low-cost, high-return marketing ideas you can use to promote your camp right now. The book's probably the best selling small business marketing book of all time. It's been revised many times and I just got through with the latest edition. I hope you enjoy it ... I think you will! :)

How to Brand Your Website with a Favicon

Look up at your browser bar. See that orange and white "B" next to the Camp Marketing News web address? That's a favicon -- a small (generally 16px X 16px), graphic representation of your Web site in a Web browser.

(The "B" you see in your browser bar is Google's "Blogger" logo, which Google places on all its blogs by default. As you can see, I use Blogger to make this website.)

I don't use favicon's too much on my web sites. I'm gonna start though, because favicon's can help you brand your website for free. Pretty cool idea to have your camp's logo show up in your web site vistors' browser bars!

If you want to make a favicon for your site, here's an easy way to do it from the Dynamic Drive site

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Add or Update your Coupon on Camp Coupons.com

If you listed a coupon on Camp Coupons.com, it has probably expired by now, so please update it for the 2011 season ASAP. If you have not added a coupon to the site, do it now because the site's growing more and more popular and, by offering folks a discount, you'll gain lots of goodwill and get new customers.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Easy Way to Get More Blog Readers, Reach More Prospects, and Eliminate Writers Block

You've heard me say it over and over: blogging at least 3 times per week is one of the best ways to keep your camp at the top of the search engines. But coming up with new ideas about what to write about is hard.

If you're having trouble developing fresh content, you can be sure other bloggers suffer the same fate. Here's how you and your fellow bloggers can reach countless new readers and prospects and eliminate writers block at the same time: Become "guest bloggers" on each other's sites.

Here's what you do. Contact other popular bloggers who have complimentary audiences to yours. Tell them you've got a hot new idea that will benefit both of you. Tell them you'd like to offer them an opportunity to become a guest blogger on your site, and in exchange, you'd like to become a guest blogger on theirs. (Guess what, I can already think of two or three popular "mommy bloggers" who'd appreciate your contribution...)

Now there's just a few things to remember when you write for other blogs. First, don't worry about getting paid to write for anyone else. Just getting the exposure of reaching the other blogger's audience is enough. Second, make SURE you include a link back to your site in your blog postings (be sure to get permission from your blogging partner beforehand.) And third, don't waste your time with small-time blogs. Go after the popular blogs with large reader bases and subscriber lists.

That's about it. If you need any help setting these arrangements up, let me know. Just remember the key to making them work is contributing relevant content to each other's audiences. If you can do that, both of you will be pleased with your new collaboration.


Good luck!

What Blogging Platform Do You Use?

Blogger? Wordpress? Interested to know, please leave a comment, thanks.

Don't Forget to Attend our Los Angeles Marketing Workshop Oct 13

Make your plans to attend next month's marketing workshop with us in Los Angeles. You can name your own price to attend ($150 or so seems like the going rate), but you can pay less or more, you decide. I guarantee the information you'll get will be worth much more to you than whatever you decide to pay. Hope to see you there, space is limited so reserve your spot today:

Monday, September 13, 2010

Can you sell gift certificates on your website?

Looking for a way to make more money from your website, other than just typical summer camp enrollments? How about selling gift certificates on your website? It's a way to literally make money in your sleep. Check it out.

How to get your camp to the first page of Google by lunch time

Honestly there's many ways to get your camp to the first page of Google in just a few hours. But here's one of the best search engine optimization strategies I know. Go to Craig's list. Post an ad in the correct category for your city. Type relevant content describing your program. Your ad should appear on Google in a few hours, tops. Sometimes mine comes up in less than 20 minutes. Why? Because Craig's list is one of those "important sites" Google indexes over and over, all day, everyday.

Best Writing Trick EVER

Do you struggle writing sales letters? Some people hate them. Just getting the first sentence down drives them crazy. But here's a trick I learned in a copywriting class 20 years ago: After you write your sales letter, go back to the beginning and cross out the first sentence. Works every time. Why? Because it grabs your prospects by the throat and pulls them into the meat of your letter. First sentences are usually fluff anyway, and your prospects don't have time for that.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Customer Surveys: Even Negative Feeback Can Help Your Camp Improve

We all love getting compliments. Someone tells you their kids love camp, it makes you feel good. After all, your #1 job is creating happy campers, right? But what if someone's unhappy? What if they didn't like your program? What if they had a bad camp experience?

Well, hopefully they'll complain to you instead of their friends. When customers complain, it's not a bad thing. After all, they're taking time out of their busy schedule to call your attention to a problem (or problems) you might not even have known existed. They're giving you an opportunity to make things right.

Unfortunately, though, most unhappy customers don't bother sharing their displeasure with us. Instead they share it with others they know. For every mom who takes the time to complain, there's too many others spreading negative word of mouth all over the place. Ouch!

So here's what I suggest. Now that camp's ended, send a customer survey to all your families. Doesn't have to be long, involved or expensive. Zoomerang and Survey Monkey are two of the better ones. Don't be afraid of the results. If you get positive feedback, great. That means you should keep doing what you're doing. But you should RELISH negative feedback too. It's an opportunity to capture cheap market research, win back unhappy customers, provide better customer service, and improve to your organization going forward.

BTW, if you haven't taken the current Customer Survey Quick Poll yet, please do it now and make yourself heard. I'd love to know if you're sending out surveys or not. (I'm sending mine out tomorrow. I'll let you know how it goes...)

Check out all these email marketing programs

Email still trumps all other forms of social media marketing in my book. Here's a nice rundown of the various email marketing services available from the Padi Code blog.

Is this the Worst Customer Service of all Time?

I think I may have received the WORST customer service EVER yesterday at a sporting goods store in San Diego. My kids wanted some baseball hats so we walked into this guy's store. He was was texting when we came in. We were in the store for at least 5 minutes, and he never acknowledged we were there, didn't even look up to smile or say hi, never stopped texting even once. (Thank goodness your camp counselors are better than that!)

Anyway, it was so incredible, I had to take a few pictures to show you. (Dude was so clueless, he didn't even notice I was photographing him.)

So go ahead and laugh, enjoy, whatever.

 


Monday, September 6, 2010

It's not always WHAT you say, but HOW you say it that counts

Like everybody else, moms love saving money and love using coupons, too. This summer at Aloha Beach Camp, I ran a "Buy one day of camp, get another day free" offer. It worked pretty well. We picked up 22 new kids in a 3-day period we wouldn't have gotten otherwise. But I wish I'd known this fact BEFORE running the promotion: According to Megan Maguire of Mom Central, "Moms view 50% off discounts more valuable than other offers including "buy one, get one free discounts..."

Lesson learned. Even though "buy one, get one" is nearly the same offer as 50% off, how you communicate your offers can be more effective than the actual offer itself.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

How to Translate Your Website Into Other Languages and Serve Customers From All Over the World

If your goal's to get as many people as possible -- from all over the world -- to easily read your blog and website, consider offering language translation for your online visitors.

This summer, campers from Japan, Germany, Italy and other foreign countries signed up for Aloha Beach Camp. Most of them said they found, and navigated, my website via Google Translate, and they appreciated the convenience.

You too can be one of the few camps anywhere offering a translation option on your website. This could be especially helpful if you run a sleepaway camp since you're more likely than a day camp to serve customers from all over the world.

Here's a link to the Google Translate tool. It's not perfect, but it's better than nothing. It's also pretty easy to install, just cut and paste a little code.

You might just find yourself landing new campers from all over the world sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Blogging: The Most Bang for Your Marketing Buck

I've never met a camp director who couldn't use more credibility or visibility for their program. You can get that, and you can get tons of potential camper leads, through blogging.

It doesn't take much. Just create a blogging plan and stick to it. Follow these steps and you'll be on your way to blogging success.

  • Post at least 3 times a week. (Even if you're tempted to cut back, don't. The internet is LOADED with abandoned blogs. So don't just start a blog and quit. Someone might find it, which reflects badly on your camp)
  • Your posts can be long or short, pictures or video, text or whatever you want. The format doesn't matter - consistency does!
  • As I mentioned, if your blog is interesting, people will read longer posts. But remember, the most valuable thing people have is time. If you can say the same thing in one paragraph I can say in two, you're a better blogger than me.
  • "How-to" information and bulleted or numbered lists are a great way to engage readers. So is stuff going on in your personal life. (Great way to include a human element to your blog.)
  • Make sure your post titles include keyword-rich content, then include the same content in the post itself
  • Leave at least two or three comments on other camp, kid, and family-related blogs each week
  • Post a prominent link on your blog so people can subscribe to it via email or RSS feed. This way they can read your posts even when they're not visiting your actual blog site.

I don't know about you, but my feeling is consistent blogging gives you the best bang for your marketing buck because you can start a blog and maintain one absolutely free. Surely it's the easiest way to stay at the top of the search rankings, too. (Type "summer camp marketing" into Google to see what I mean.)

Who knows, a newspaper or media journalist looking to do a story on summer camp might come across your blog and contact you, simply because you've got a regular posting schedule with interesting content.

Now that camp's over, start a blogging schedule and stick to it. You'll be pleased with your results!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Camp Counselors: Your Best Marketing Tool By Far

Sometimes we get so consumed marketing our camps the traditional way (website, blog, print advertising, etc.) we overlook our absolute best marketing strategy: hiring superb camp counselors and staff.

Skilled camp counselors know how to connect with kids like no other marketing tool I know. Sure, you can get a kid to sign up for camp the traditional way. But your counselors, man, they're the difference makers. A good camp counselor who your campers look up to can be responsible for keeping the same kids at camp year after. And that means high camper retention rates, lower marketing costs, and phenomenal word of mouth referrals.

I don't know if there's any such thing as marketing magic, but if there is, your staff might be the ones who create it.

How'd Your Summer Go?

Well, camp's over, hope you had a great one. Time to start blogging again so you can get more kids in camp. By the way, how'd your summer go?...Were you happy with your enrollment? Any info to share? All ears!!!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

How to Increase Your Advertising Response by 500%

If you advertise your camp in print publications like newspapers and magazines or you send sales letters and direct mail, here's two tips that can increase your response rate by as much as 500% (that's 500 percent!!!).

Try to design your print ads to resemble actual articles in the publication rather than just another ad in the magazine. If your ad is formatted like all the others it might get lost in the crowd. But when your ad looks more like an article, people will be drawn to it and much more likely to read it. This strategy works best with larger ads at least 1/2 page in size.

Regarding direct mail, try making everything you send look like a personal letter. Use short sentences with either Courier New or Times Roman font. Be sure to include lots of bold paragraph sub-heads so your direct mail piece is easy to read and people can find important information fast in case they're only skimming the page.
(Italics and underlines help too, but save them for only the most important points of emphasis in your direct mail piece.)

Next time you take out a print ad or send direct mail, give these tips a try. Compare them with your previous marketing efforts. I increased my sales letter response by 500% when I changed my direct mail font from Verdana to New Times Roman and 204% when I made sure my ad looked like an article in a local parenting magazine.

You too can get these same high responses, and maybe even better, so try making some adjustments to what you're doing now and you might be pleasantly surprised.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Email Marketing Company Blogs are a Great Source of Marketing Information

Email marketing remains the staple of social media marketing. It's by far the most effective when used the right way. One way to best ways pick up interesting and useful social media marketing tips is by reading the blogs of various email marketing companies. Here's three to get you going:

http://blogs.constantcontact.com/commentary/

http://blog.verticalresponse.com/
http://www.mailchimp.com/blog/

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cross Promotion Marketing: You Scratch My Back, I'll Scratch Yours

Here's a nice way to extend your marketing reach without increasing your marketing budget: Try a cross-promotion. When you do a cross-promotion, you and another non-competing business agree to help each other out by marketing to each other's customer base on behalf of the other.

Is there a children's clothing store in your community? Maybe they could distribute your brochures to their customers, and in exchange, you could hand out their marketing materials to your camp families. That's how cross-promotions work.

One thing you'll like about cross-promotions, they're a win-win arrangement for you and your marketing partner because you each get an opportunity to expand through other's customer base. You're reaching many more potential new customers than you otherwise would without your cross-promotion partner.

Another great thing about cross promotions is they're relatively easy to set up and aren't too expensive to set up. The main cost involved will be your time finding suitable cross-partners.

How to Find Cross-Promotion Partners

The key concept to making cross-promotions work is thatyour marketing partner must share the same market base as you -- kids -- but the two of you can't be direct competitors or else it won't work. (Obviously another camp is not going to hand out your marketing materials to its customer base.)

So where do you find cross-promotion partners?

The best place to look is right in your own neighborhood. Identify a handful (5 or 6) of non-competing businesses in your market area who are good potential partners, then approach them with your idea. And don't be afraid of rejection, because this isn't like cold-calling or anything like that. To the contrary, you'll probably be surprised by how many people take you up on your proposal because, let's face it, the economy still sucks and who doesn't want more business?

Three Cross-Promotion Ideas to Get You Started

  1. Approach your local Chuck E. Cheese's. See if you can put your flyers on their prize desk (where kids redeem their winning tickets for prizes). In exchange, you could email your customers about Chuck E. Cheese's great birthday party opportunities for kids.
  2. See if you can set up a booth at your neighborhood kids gym to hand out your brochures to their customers. In trade, invite the gym owner to your next open house or parent orientation where they can meet, greet and distribute their promotional materials to your camp families.
  3. Is there a popular family restaurant in your town? Ask the manager if they'd be willing to recommend your camp the next time they email their customers. You'll be glad to reciprocate in your next email to your families on behalf of the restaurant.

The days of the lone wolf marketer are over. It's all about collaboration now. See if you can band together with others in your niche to promote each other's stuff. You'll reach a much larger pool of prospects than you otherwise could thanks to your cross promotion partner.

I hope this post has been beneficial to you. I realize there are many more ways to do cross-promotions than what I've listed here (trading website links comes to mind), so please let me know if you think of anything I may have missed. And if you've ever done a cross-promotion before, please share your experiences so others can get ideas and learn from you.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Frequent Blog Posts are the Way to Google's Heart

I always enjoy discussing summer camp marketing with camp directors. Even though I get lots of different questions and comments about various topics, a pattern has emerged. Most of the questions from camp folks revolves around internet marketing in general, and social media and website optimization in particular. Most people usually want to know the best way to get your website to the top of the search engine results...and how stay there.

Well, you can use all kinds of different strategies, but in my opinion the absolute best way to rise in Google is though your blog.

Why Google Loves Blogs

Blogs that are updated frequently are favored by Google versus static websites. Google figures, hey, if your blog is being updated all the time, people must be interested in seeing it. But if it's old, static content, Google might be thinking you've got nothing new to offer. As I always say, try to update your blog at least three times a week because, in general, Google typically indexes its own database to find new content first, then old content later, to show users.

Keep this in mind though: It doesn't matter if your content is old or new if it's not relevant to a user's search. The more specific your blog content is to a user's query, the more likely Google will display it. Here's what I mean.

How to Make Your Blog's Content Relevant to Users

Google's primary objective is to display search results most relevant to a users query. That means your blog should contain text and keywords that specifically mirror what a user would type into Google. This way you have a good chance of coming up first in Google's search results.

Let's say you run an overnight camp in Missouri. Users looking for such a camp might type into Google any of the following keyword phrases:

  • Missouri sleepaway camp 
  • Missouri sleepaway camps 
  • Missouri overnight camp 
  • Missouri overnight camps 
  • Sleepaway camps Missouri 
  • Missouri overnight camps for kids 

(Or any variations of these.)

So here's what you do. You populate your blog with those exact phrases so Google realizes you've got the EXACT information the user is looking for. Let me take this one step further for a better example.

User # 1 types the following phrase into Google: "Missouri sleepaway camps"

User # 2 types into Google: "Missouri overnight camps for kids"

Your blog post contains the phrase, "Missouri overnight camps for kids" and sprinkles those same words here and there throughout the post.

My blog post contains the phrase "Summer camps in Missouri"

Even though we're both selling Missouri summer camp opportunities, guess who's gonna get the Google love...YOU are! Why? Because your blog content is IDENTICAL to what the user typed into Google. It makes Google look good to show you exactly what you're looking for.

Your Blog Doesn't Need to Be Text Only

Even though putting out fresh content on a regular basis is your goal, don't get so caught in up line after line of pure text you forget important visual enhancements. (I read a blog called blogmaverick.com, and while it's very informative, its pure-text format is flat-out ugly and hard to read.) Remember, pictures tell a thousand words, so be sure to share them with your readers. You can also break up your blog text with video, graphs, charts, and other interactive stuff. Your readers will appreciate anything you can do to make your blog more visually appealing and be more likely to return often as a result

(On my Aloha Beach Camp blog, I have a regular routine where several times a week I post the "Picture of the Day." And that's the entire blog post - just a picture. Well, guess what? People keep coming to my blog just to see today's photo. No reason why you can't do this too!  : )

One last thing (which I think I've mentioned before) but seems worth repeating: Please make sure Google knows about your blog in the first place. Tell them about it here, then start writing post after post and watch your blog ranking rise.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

#1 Secret of Writing Google Adword ads

I've noticed a few camps advertising on Facebook and Google Adwords lately. If you're one of them, here's a tip to improve your ad's click-through rate: NEVER use your camp's name as the headline for your ad.

Nobody really cares about your camp's name. They only care about picking a good camp. Most people scroll through Google's ads and search result pages until they find something that intrigues them -- then they click. Benefits and offers help them do that, but your camp's name doesn't.

I just made about $4,000 helping a camp in North Carolina design its Google Adwords strategy. But I'm gonna share the same information with you right now for free.

#1 Secret of Writing Google Adword ads

The #1 secret of getting people to click on your Google ad is writing a descriptive phrase that clearly highlights your offer and benefits AND includes the exact keywords the user's searching for. Quick example.

Let's say you and I run competing day camps in Dallas, Texas. Your camp is called "The Fun Summer Camp." It doesn't matter what mine's called.

So a Dallas mom logs onto Google. She's looking for a day camp. She keys in the words, "Dallas Texas Summer Day Camps."

Your ad comes up. Your headline says, "The Fun Summer Camp" -- it's the name of your camp, after all.

My ad also comes up directly adjacent to yours. My ads's headline says, "Dallas Summer Day Camp. Tons of fun for kids like yours. Save 10% today only."

Now who's ad do you think she's gonna click?

Mine, easily.

Why? Because my headline displays a benefit (actually two: saving money and having fun) PLUS is mirrors the user's exact keyword search. That means she knows she'll find EXACTLY what she's looking for by clicking on my ad.

Honestly it's like taking candy from a baby. But who cares? That's how it's supposed to be.

You can't afford to be wasting money in economic times like these -- or in any times for that matter -- so you better make your sure your ad's as effective as possible and you beat your competition where you can.

Remember, the headline is THE MOST IMPORTANT part of your ad, especially for programs like Google Adwords where your ad is buried among so many similar ones and you only get a limited number of typed characters to create it.

If your ad doesn't smack the reader between the eyes with a great headline, whatever you're offering within the ad irrelevant if the reader won't click it in the first place.

If you're using your camp's name for your ad's headline, that's not a headline, it's an institutional, self-promotional message that doesn't do your prospects any good.

If your online (and even print) ads show your camp name as your headline, go back and start over to create something the reader cares about, otherwise you're throwing your money away.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sorry Twitter, Facebook Owns You

We're running a poll right now to find out which social media marketing site works best for camps. Not too many people have voted, but among those who have, Facebook blows Twitter away.

I understand why. Twitter can't touch Facebook in terms of its marketing potential for camps. There's so many more moms, kids and families on Facebook it's not even close. If my camp (Aloha Beach Camp) stopped using Twitter, our enrollment wouldn't suffer one bit. If we dropped off Facebook, we'd be in trouble, and I'd bet the house your situation is the same.

From what I've seen, Twitter is not a good customer lead or acquisition tool. Most of the stuff you see there is no different than the email spam you get. Twitter is mostly filled with people posting NOISY, useless information in hopes you'll "follow them" or "retweet" their stuff.

(Now if you're a celebrity or otherwise famous, Twitter's another way to pump your personal brand. But still, you almost need a fly swatter to filter out all the crap flying through your Twitter feed. That's why it's almost better to follow only a few people you hold in high esteem so you don't get bombarded with updates about their favorite toilet paper brand.)

Now don't get me wrong. Even though Twitter's user base is shrinking, it definitely has its benefits or it wouldn't be popular. One of its benefits for camps seems to be its professional networking and link-sharing potential. Maybe you've shared a staff training idea or something through Twitter. In that sense Twitter's a very good social networking tool, just not a social marketing one.

From a marketing standpoint, Facebook owns Twitter, and I don't see Twitter catching up anytime soon.

Do you?

Monday, May 17, 2010

How to Blow Parents Away with Amazing Customer Service

Is there ANYTHING better than the enthusiasm of delighted patients? (Delighted kids are nice too, but I'll stick with parents since they're the ones paying...)

Anyway, here's a way to amaze parents so much they'll be drooling all over themselves to refer friends to your camp and keep coming back year after year:

Make every camp family feel like they're your only customer, no matter how many other customers you have.

The way to make every family feel like they're your only customer is to make them feel important.

Look at it this way. Most parents can't accurately assess your skills as a camp director, but they can definitely assess the experience they have with you. That means it's probably worthwhile to bend over backwards as much as you can, not to the exclusion of other customers, but for the benefit of each individual one.

Giving "progress reports" to parents while their kids are at camp is one place to start. Schools give progress reports to keep parents abreast of how their kids are doing academically, so why not give parents camper progress reports to keep them clued into how their kids are doing at camp?

When you have a dental procedure, does your dentist call you the next day to see how you're doing? Mine does, and it blows me away every time. I can't believe she takes the time to call. She's got a booming practice with four locations, and usually I wonder if she's calling all her other patients too. But it really doesn't matter since she's talking to me and me alone at that moment in time. It makes me feel good.

If you've got kids coming and going to camp without having much contact with their parents, see if you can't reach out. Can you connect to each one on a regular basis during the summer, if only to say hello and let them know their kid's doing fine and oh by the way do they have any questions?

Surely this action will take lots of time. But if you want to absolutely delight parents and in turn build a camper retention and referral system that can't be beat, it's also a marketing strategy you can't afford to miss.