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Sunday, May 9, 2010

What's the Single Best Way To Market Your Camp?

What's the #1 marketing strategy to use at your camp? Well, if there was a magic bullet, we'd all be rich and I wouldn't be writing this blog anymore.

Fact is, no single marketing technique works for every camp every time. You and I might have identical marketing plans, but yours might work like a charm while mine doesn't do jack.

Why?

Because every customer is different. People have different tastes and opinions, so they respond differently to marketing messages even when the message is the same. You might think Chinese Chicken Salad is the best thing since sliced bread, but your best friend might hate it.

That's the kind of thing we're up against when we market our camps.

Now even though there’s no magic bullet, there is one marketing principle we should all embrace, otherwise our camps will fall off the proverbial cliff:

We need to know and understand our target markets like the backs of our respective hands.

My guess is your camp’s target market is comprised of both children and parents, not just one or the other. I hope that's how you view it, too. But there's more to it than that.

Within your target audience, you need to define the personalities and characteristics of the people you're trying to reach. That's how to really maximize your camp's marketing effectiveness.

Let's say your camp is priced on the high end, and your typical customers are doctors, lawyers and celebrities. You'd be wasting your time, money and energy trying to get a homeless family to sign up for your camp, even if they have kids.

No brainer, right? You'd think so, but check this out.

Two nights ago I went to the Dodger game with my family. Some guy sitting next to us kept telling every kid and family he could find that he just opened a new summer camp in Los Angeles, and all the kids should come try it out.

Apart from being an inappropriate, obnoxious idiot, how would this guy have any worldly clue if the people he was talking to were decent prospects for his camp? He didn't know their income level, where they lived or anything else about them. All he noticed was a bunch of kids at the Dodger game.

I guess he didn't realize that just because camps are for kids, not all kids are prospects for camp.

Here's another example. Let's say you run a specialty camp focusing on sailing. You decide to do a direct mail campaign, so you consider renting a mailing list comprised of families with kids. That's a good start, but not good enough to hit a bulls-eye.

To hit a bulls-eye, you need to incorporate some additional defining characteristics of the people you're trying to reach into your mailing list. So here's what you need to do.

You need to rent a mailing list of:

  • Families with children between the ages of x, y, and z; and who
  • Have an income level of x, y, and z; and who've
  • Sent their kids to camp in the past year or two, and who've
  • Used their sailboat actively within the past 12 months

See what I mean by "hitting a bulls-eye?" The nice thing about direct mail is you can really zero in on your target market. But the importance of knowing your target market doesn't just apply to your direct mail activities, it applies to your entire marketing program across the board.

I'm sure there's a few camp directors out there who could sell sand to a sheik. But the rest of us need a little more help. Even if you have the biggest advertising budget in the world and the best advertising agency and the best website and all that, your marketing won't work if it's directed to a group of hotel bathroom attendants who don't have kids.

So the only no-brainer here is this: If you don't know your target market, you might find yourself spinning your wheels and facing all kinds of trouble getting any kids into camp at all. To that end, I really hope that fool at the Dodger game does well. But I don't think he'll get too far, JMHO. (Shrugs.)

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