Whenever I need a new marketing idea, the first place I look is outside the camp industry. In general most camp marketers all do the same thing (brochure, website, etc.), so I've learned the best way to stand out from the crowd is by "stealing" promotional ideas from other industries.
My feeling is, hey, if your marketing ideas work, who the heck cares where you find them?
Some of the best marketing strategies I've ever used are from the sports marketing field. Professional sports teams in particular are marketing MASTERS. One of the primary ways they get you to go to their games is by offering various promotions and giveaways. Most teams even have a dedicated section on their websites just so you can find out when they're giving away a free blanket, t-shirt, hat, bobble head, magnet, action figure, player autograph or whatever.
There's a very good reason why they do this: promotions and giveaways fill stadium seats.
Here's why I'm telling you this.
When I was a kid, I was a huge Dodger fan. I went to lots of games each season, but the one thing I ALWAYS looked forward to was Fan Appreciation Day at the end of the season. You got to meet all the players, get autographs, go on the Dodger Stadium field, take pictures with the players, run the bases, see the dugout and all that cool stuff.
And you know what? Those days left such a wonderful impression on me, we now offer a Camp Family Appreciation Day at Aloha Beach Camp. Our families LOVE IT. They've been hearing from their kids all summer what a cool camp we run, and all about their kids' favorite counselors and all, but now they get a chance to see it first-hand AND we use this event to make them feel really good about being our customer, too.
So why not offer the same thing at your camp?
You can hold your Camp Family Appreciation Day near the end of the summer. Your families will love it. Make it like a carnival. Have food and refreshments on hand. Let your families enjoy all your camp activities, just like their kids. Do raffles and giveaways from your camp store where people can win a free hat or t-shirt (great advertising for you). Maybe you could even have live music playing so it really feels like a celebration and your customers feel important.
The main thing is, you want to make it like a party atmosphere where EVERYONE has a blast and wants to come back to camp next year.
Now here's what else you do.
You make sure to tell your families to bring all their friends and family members so they can join the fun, too. Whenever I do this, I pick up AT LEAST 15 or 20 new campers for the following summer, just because they came to the Camp Family Appreciation day with our current camp families. This makes the cost of putting on the event more than worthwhile compared to all the new campers we get in exchange. There's no reason you can't do this, too!
When is the best time to let people know about your Camp Family Appreciation Day? The sooner the better. This way everyone has enough time to make plans to attend. The more people who attend, the better, because that means you'll probably get more kids from it for the following year.
If you decide to do this, let me know. I'd be interested to know how it goes...or even better, I might not say no if you invited me! :)
But whatever you do, have fun with it and enjoy the day...and make sure all your families do, too!