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Thursday, February 24, 2011

How to Keep Prospects on Your Website Longer

One thing we need to all be cognizant of is people's time. When someone visits your website, they're probably ALREADY in a rush even while the page is still loading. They're probably wondering which site to go to next before they even start reading or viewing your stuff. That's why it's so crucial you show them something so incredibly compelling they can't resist hanging around for a while. The best way I've found to "hook" someone is with video. I wouldn't set the video on "autoplay" because it's probably best to let people decide for themselves what they want to do or don't do on your site. But if your video looks cool with a nice screenshot, you'll make it very difficult for anyone to resist watching and spending at least a minute or two (and hopefully more) on your home page.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Post Your Free Coupon at Camp Coupons.com

Just a reminder folks, if you haven't posted your free coupon at Camp Coupons.com, now is the time to do it. The site's getting TONS of traffic every day and this should only increase increase in the coming enrollment season months. This is free advertising for you, so Check it out...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Camp Videos That Generate More Business

Guest Post By Brad Magill

Videos have been part of the camp marketing arena since the age of VHS tapes. While the technology has changed dramatically, the core principal is the same- to capture the culture of your camp in an appealing light and generate more business.

7 Camp Video Ponderings:

Your video is more accessible than ever

Internet video has boomed in the past several years. In the early days (way back 5 years ago), you could put your video online, but the quality was very poor. The future is here— you should have your video online and in high quality, for prospective families to watch at the click of a mouse.

Targeting specific audiences

Here are some challenges associated with creating a successful camp video:

• Appeal to parents so they will entrust their child’s life with you.
• Appeal to campers so they will think your camp is the coolest.
• Appeal to potential staff members so they want to spend their summer at your camp regardless of pay.

Use separate videos to target your message

One solution to the above challenge is to make separate videos for different audiences. For example, have a “Kids Corner” video for campers, a “Parent Message” video for parents, and a “Staff Video” for prospective staff. Some camps have as many as 10 videos with specific messages (Sports, Art, Adventure, etc)

This will also make your videos more effective online. People’s internet attention span is very short. Only a small percentage of web surfers will watch a full 20 minute video. However, they may watch five 4-minute videos.

If you can show it, no need to say it

Narration can be effective in some instances, but many times it sounds scripted and “sales-pitchy”. So instead of saying “We have beautiful facilities”, showing the beauty of your facilities can be more powerful without generic narration.

Identify what you want to showcase in your video and see if you can effectively portray your message without the use of narrator. The exception? Morgan Freeman’s grandson goes to your camp.


The professional / amateur line

I’ve seen some very effective amateur videos used as marketing pieces. One example that works particularly well is candid parent testimonials— the parent’s recommendation becomes the focal point of the video.

It’s a fine line to walk to be professional, yet campy. You want to portray your camp in the most appealing light possible. Amateur video usually can’t capture the stunning images of professionals. Editing video is art in itself, and you will have a totally different result based on your editor. It’s similar to commissioning someone to do a painting.

How much should you spend on a camp video?

On the high-end, some camps spend over 100K. On the other end, some camps buy a semi-pro camera and get a counselor to make it.

To address cost, you have to ask “How much money does your camp stand to make from a good video?”
The lifespan of a good video is 5-7 years. So when you get a quote, determine how many additional campers per year it will take to pay for your video.

More importantly, get an idea of the earning potential from a good video. For medium-budget productions, it takes surprisingly few additional campers to get create a high-yielding marketing investment.


Make it F-U-N!

If Geico can make car insurance fun, it should be a breeze to make camp exciting! Kids should watch your video over and over. Get them pumped for camp and begging their parents to let them go! Get the parents pumped up to give their child a summer of a lifetime and all the benefits associated with camp.

Brad Magill is a Maine camp product, starting a counselor, then boys campus head, and ultimately assistant director.  He now combines is his passion for camping and video production to create promotional videos for camps. You can check out his website and samples at Cove Creek Productions.

How to Make Your Telephone Marketing Work Better

I know most camp directors hate telemarketing. But you really should be using the phone as much as possible. The more you use your telephone, the more enrollment you'll get.

If you're not comfortable making "cold calls," get someone else in your office to do it or forget it altogether. But don't forget to make follow up calls to everyone who calls you. 

If somebody asks for a brochure on Tuesday, call them next Monday to make sure they got it. And when you're talking to your prospect, say their name about 2 million times. 

There's nothing sweeter in the English language to people who hear their own name. It's a great sales tactic for you and creates a warm and fuzzy feeling for your prospect.

Monday, February 14, 2011

How to Update Your Blog 3 Times Per Day

You may have heard me say (about 20 million times before) that you should be updating your blog at least three times a week. It's the best way to get maximum "google juice" and internet awareness for your camp. This time of year you might consider doing it three times a day. If you don't have time to write every day, set aside just one day where you write 50 short, pithy blog posts in advance, then release three per day for the next couple weeks. Then do it again. If you still can't find the time to write or you have writer's block, I might be able to help you out by "ghost blogging" for you. Let me know.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

How to Build a Sales Force Like the Big Boys

Recently we talked about having your customers and staff serve as your camp's "sales team." Maybe you can take this notion further. Why not have a "real" sales force like the big companies do?

Did you know many salespeople make more money their company presidents, CEOs and executives? If you can find a few salespeople adept at signing up kids on your behalf left and right, you certainly won't mind them making more money than you!

Look on job boards and classified ads for people who would like to work for 5% - 25% commission. Train them about the details of how your camp operates so they can get out and start finding kids for you. When a family registers for camp, you pay half the commission due. You pay the other half when the camper completes his or her enrollment time.

The thing I really like about this idea is you get the potential to reach countless kids and families you otherwise wouldn't, but you don't have to pay any money for it unless you get concrete results.

What do you think?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

How to Get Families to Remember You All Year

Here's a way to get families remembering all the fun times their kid had at camp and thinking about you in the off-season.

When a camper makes an arts & crafts project, store the project at camp. Don't let the child take it home.

Several months later, say in November or December, send the craft to the family with a handwritten note saying you were doing some site maintenance and came across this beautiful project their kid made at camp and you thought they might like to have it.

They'll be floored!

Not only will they LOVE the fact you even found it in the first place, they'll be grateful you took the time to send it. They'll probably hang it on their wall or something. They'll definitely call you to say thanks, and you know they'll share this story with their friends!

Trust me, this one works. I'd rather do something like this than send the family a calendar or something they'll probably throw in the trash. I've used this tactic forever at Aloha Beach Camp and I've never been disappointed with the results. Give it a try yourself!

Top 10 Tips for Using Your Website to Increase Camp Enrollment

Guest Post by Phillip Galbreth

1. Keep camp details up year-round.

Rather than take down registration info after the season ends, keep fees and session details posted so potential customers can see what next year might look like. Add a note stating that the season is over, but new dates will be posted soon. Parents who find a site without any details will simply move on.

2. Invest in online advertising.

“If you build it, they will come” does not apply. Just because you have a website doesn’t mean parents will find you. Camp directories, Facebook ads, and online display advertising on relevant sites are low-cost ways to drive traffic to your camp Web site. And more traffic means more campers!

3. Use multi-media to showcase your camp.

A photo gallery gives parents a visual taste of camp activities and facilities. Flip video camcorders start at $149 and can be used to create and post videos to your site. The better glimpse you can give parents, the better chance you’ll have to sell your camp.

4. Install Google Analytics.

Google Analytics is a free service that can generate detailed statistics about your site, including how people found it, which sections are the most popular, and much more. Don’t rely on asking your customers where they found you – many of them won’t remember. Tracking these details can help you determine where to emphasize your advertising dollars in future seasons.

5. Display contact information prominently.

Post your camp phone number, email, and address on every page or make sure a link to a “Contact Us” section is well-displayed. Making it easy for parents to reach you with questions and concerns is vital.

6. Keep the design simple and easy to navigate. Skip flashy gimmicks like an animated splash page and open with important basics like camp dates and locations. Also, include a map that shows where your camps are located. A site that delivers information in a clear, straightforward manner is the best way to sell your camp.

7. Offer multiple ways to register.

In addition to online registration, offer alternatives such as a phone hotline or a downloadable form that parents can print out and send. More options makes enrollment easy and accessible for all parents.

8. Create an email marketing list.

Collect email addresses and send out notices when camp enrollment opens or to announce special events or fundraisers. Include anyone you’ve ever received an inquiry from, even if they didn’t attend. Refreshing people’s memory throughout the year ensures your camp will be on their radar as they plan for the next summer.

9.Include an FAQ.

Answer all those questions you’ve been asked repeatedly in the past, including questions about meal options, activities, bunk setup, etc. Providing answers to common questions will save parents time and help them make an informed choice more quickly.

10. Give parents a take-away.

A printable brochure (PDF) or one-sheet that includes your URL and contact info will help people find their way back to your site later.

Phillip Gilbreth is the Camps Sales Manager for MySummerCamps.com and KidsCamps.com, leading online camp directories for connecting parents with kids and teen summer camps in the United States, Canada and worldwide. Contact Phillip at pgilbreth@internetbrands.com.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Marketing is the Difference Maker

The difference between wildly successful camps and the not-so-successful ones is marketing. The difference between wildly successful businesses and those not-so-successful is how well they do their marketing. Everyone's working as hard as everyone else. So if working hard is all it takes, we'd all be rich. That means marketing is the difference maker. If you've got a kick ass camp, the world needs to know about it. Marketing is how you tell them. Then, when your camp gets wildly successful, you'll see that marketing is your best friend.

How to Write the Perfect Text Ad for Pay Per Click Advertising

Guest Blog Post by Dan Weir:

I’ve heard from way too many camp directors that they want to create the perfect ad for a pay per click or CPC system.

Stop trying. It’s impossible.

Instead try to write an ad that delivers exactly what you do. The entire benefit to a cost per click ad is that you only pay for people that click on your advertisement. If you write something that is an exaggeration or not straight forward, you are wasting money.

“Rated Best Summer Camp in the Catskills, NY” is a complete waste compared to “Safe Sleepaway Camp in the Catskills, NY”. “Rated Best Summer Camp in the Catskills, NY” will get you more clicks. “Rated…” will drive more traffic to your site. Despite great results with clicks, all of this is completely wrong.

All of the visitors to your site will spend 2 minutes at the most on your website. 35% of those visitors will leave right after the home screen loads. They won’t see the video you spent hours editing. They won’t make it to your sleek online registration form. These visitors will simply cost you the 25, 50, 75 cents it took to get them there. Next thing you know you spent a $200 in 1 day without single registration.

“Safe Sleepaway Camp in the Catskills, NY” will get you the customers you want. Sure it will have less clicks than “Rated Best,” but you are getting a parent that will want to look at your site. This visitor will take the time to read your site, notice the well-written policy on bullying, and make it to your online registration. Will they register on the spot? No, of course not. They will want to speak to the camp director through email or over the phone. But are they contacting you because they want to hear (& be sold) more about your camp. This is how you get campers to register.

Quit writing ads like you are selling vacuums. Instead write an ad like you are selling the most important thing in the world -- a camp experience for a child.

Dan Weir is the Director of Camping Services at Frost Valley YMCA in the beautiful Catskill Mountains of New York. He is also a host on the podcast CampHacker.org, blogs at DanLovesCamp.com, and tweets at twitter.com/danlovescamp. If you ask Dan if he wants ice cream, regardless of the time or day, and he says “no”, he is lying.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Do Camp Fairs Still Matter?

Recently there's been discussion among camp professionals as to whether Camp Fairs are still relevant as a marketing tool. I've been outspoken as anyone. I believe Camp Fairs still have their place in your marketing, but thanks to the Internet and social networking, the benefit of attending them has been marginalized.

Or has it?

Today's Small Business Trends website includes a blog post called, "Why Networking in Person Still Matters" by Deborah Shane. Shane makes some pretty nice points about the value of  face-to-face marketing compared to online marketing. She argues the power of connecting in person with customers and prospects trumps the internet, especially with respect to getting to know people and building trust:
"Why is face-to-face networking so important? The power of personally connecting and human interaction accelerates relationship building. In 10 minutes I can learn more about someone, and they about me, in person than in six months online ... Finding common ground comes from having a conversation or discussion on the phone or in person...The energy that passes between people finding out that they have a hobby, favorite book, peer or life experience in common can be profound...Making decisions on what the next step is and putting the plan in motion can happen in one minute on the phone or in person, as opposed to multiple e-mails."
Now if we agree people do business with others they know, like, and trust, meeting people in person can be a golden opportunity not only for camp marketers, but for anyone selling anything to anybody. It will always be that way.

But for my money, online marketing, especially from a social standpoint, gives you the most bang for your marketing buck. Rather than rely on a Camp Fair promoter to try to find tons of hot prospects to attend their Camp Fair on my behalf, I'd rather log onto Facebook and find millions of potential prospects who are already looking for what I'm selling.

My summer camp, Aloha Beach Beach, cut back on Camp Fair marketing by about 90% several years ago. We still attend 1 or 2 a year, but that's about it. Even though Shane makes some really beautiful points about face-to-face connections,  the only way I'm changing my marketing plan (or my mind) is if some genius Camp Fair promoter finds a way to guarantee me at least 10 new enrollments by attending their event.

Until then, most of my marketing budget's staying allocated to the internet. What about you?