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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Top 7 Bare-Bones Marketing Ideas for Summer Camps

Summer camp marketers have so many marketing tools to choose from, it causes anxiety just wondering if you picked the right ones.

Assuming time and money weren’t issues, you could experiment forever with marketing tools and strategies until you’re blue in the face without thinking twice. But let’s face it, most of us aren’t in that position. Even if we wanted to advertise our camps on prime time TV, we don’t have that luxury. Many additional marketing tactics, for obvious reasons, are out of our reach too.

But it doesn’t matter. You can still create a marketing program that puts you on the fast track to success irrespective of what your resources might be. It comes down to your creativity and ability to out-think your competition, not outspend them.

In a broad sense, you should be using as many free or low-cost marketing weapons as possible while striving to meet customer expectations and staying within your budget.

In a more narrow sense, the primary goals of your marketing plan should be getting as many word-of-mouth referrals and as much repeat business as possible while achieving the highest possible return on your marketing investment.

Now back to the original question: How do you know which marketing tools to use? 

Well, regardless of your budget, here’s a 7-point, bare-bones marketing tactic checklist you should be using if you're not going to do anything else:

1. Build a search engine optimized, responsive website. (For the purposes of this article, a “responsive website” means your site works seamlessly whether people view/use it on their desktop, laptop, or mobile device.) 

2. Have a social media presence. You don’t need to be on all the social sites, but you should be where your prospects are. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Google + are some to consider.

3. Start a blog and post regularly. There’s many free blog platform tools you can use. 

4. Join (and actively participate in) at least two networking groups in your community. This is a great way to get known and make personal connections quickly. 

5. Join forces with other businesses to create joint marketing initiatives and cross-promotions. It’s a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” type of thing. A local pizza place can hand out your coupon to their customers and you can hand out the pizza place's coupon to yours. This is a win-win arrangement, it's easy to set up, and it gives both of you instant access to new costumers you wouldn’t otherwise reach. 

6. Direct mail. I’m talking postcards specifically. Few marketing activities I know have the potential to generate leads quickly and make such a positive impact to your bottom line. At the same time, be careful here. Even though sending direct mail postcards can help you reach untold numbers of qualified prospects for an extremely affordable price, if you make a mistake (such as mailing to the wrong list) it can punish you financially as well. If you're new to direct mail, study up and do lots of testing before jumping in with both feet. When you’re ready, the results will amaze you. 

7. Have an active “Refer a Friend” program. This is the best way for your customers and prospects to help spread the word about your camp. You’re basically getting other people to do your marketing for you, which is the cheapest, most cost-effective marketing around. If you already run a great camp, chances are you're already getting lots of referrals. But you can get a lot more with just a little prompting. Why not offer a special discount or deal to your best customers if they send a few new customers your way? At my surf camp, we facilitated lots of referrals last summer by giving away a free private surfing lesson and free day of camp to families who referred at least 5 friends to us. You can do the same.

Keep in mind, these 7 summer camp marketing ideas are low-cost, high impact, high-results type strategies every camp can (and should) be using. Relative to other marketing strategies, they hardly cost any money and don’t take too much time. In fact if you devote just 15 to 30 minutes per day to marketing your program while rotating through the various tactics above, you probably won’t need to do too much of anything else.

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