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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Top 4 Summer Camp Marketing Tips for the Off-Season

Now that camp's over, you have a decision to make.

Will you wait several months before you start marketing your camp again, or will you use this time to your advantage to get a head start over your competitors who are sitting around waiting until January to start promoting their programs again?

My feeling is, there's no time like the present to create awareness for your camp, especially right now when no other camps are doing it and you have the stage to yourself.  Even though summer's over and families probably aren't thinking about camp these days, any promotional activities you undertake now will pay big dividends later among families who are interested in trying your camp for the first time next year.

Before I share some marketing concepts to use now in your off-season, please note I am NOT a proponent of spending lots of money to do so. With your peak money-making season behind you, the goal is to work harder, smarter, and more creatively than anyone else especially with limited-to-no money coming in right now. That means you need to get the absolute maximum ROI (return on investment) on your marketing budget. Every dollar you spend on marketing should do the work of $2 dollars or more. The best advice I ever heard about how to make your marketing more effective without increasing your budget was from my friend Andrea Cohen when I interned at her ad agency 32 years ago. Andrea said to stop spending money on marketing activities that don't work, then double up on those that do. I use that advice all the time today and so should you.

With that in mind, here's a few low-cost strategies you can use to start laying the foundation today for what will come later in terms of more getting more kids to sign up for your camp. It's a way of thinking long-term that will pay big dividends later.

1. Blogging

Naturally you want your website to show up on the first page of Google's search results for certain keywords. If it already does, great job! But unfortunately most of us aren't that lucky.  And even though we can't know or control all the factors Google uses to decide which camps to show on the first page, in my opinion there's no substitute for producing strong, interesting, sharable content on a consistent basis. That means pumping out three to five new blog posts every week. Blogging is FREE, helps create awareness for your program, and (eventually) can improve your search result rankings. If writing five blog posts every week sounds daunting, it needn't be. Spend an hour or two each Sunday afternoon or Monday morning writing all your posts for the week. Don't get too caught up in perfect grammar or any of that -- just write the way you talk. Then set your blogging calendar to release each post on a postdated basis so you have new content appearing online every few days. It could take a few months, but as your blog posts populate the internet and get shared among friends and followers, eventually Google (and others) will notice.

2. Joint Ventures and Marketing Partnerships

The fastest way to enter new markets and reach new prospects you never had before is by joining forces with other people and organizations you don't directly compete with, but share the same demographic customer and prospect base as you. Forming these types of alliances enables you to market to each others' customer bases again and again while gaining access to untold numbers of new new prospects you couldn't otherwise reach. The most ideal partnerships are other businesses that are up and going during your off-season. Why not reach out to a children's math tutor to propose an affiliation? The math tutor could distribute your brochure to her customers, while you write a glowing endorsement of the tutor and email it to your customers. It becomes a win-win-win-win scenario with you, the math tutor, and both customer bases ending up happy. But don't stop with the tutor! You can (and should) arrange many types of deals with many similar types of businesses or organizations as possible. I assure you, doing joint ventures and marketing partnerships is the easiest way to reach new markets and grow your enrollment quickly.

3. Get Customer Reviews

A few years ago folks turned to trusted friends or family members for referral or recommendations before making a purchase. These days they might consult Yelp or Google first and, rightly or wrongly, generally believe what they read. Considering how influential online reviews can be, its imperative you accumulate as many positive customer reviews as possible. Just ask your customers if they wouldn't mind spending a few minutes online to share their impressions of your program with other families who might be considering it for their kids. If you can grab four or five new reviews every month starting now, you'll be sitting pretty when new prospective families start checking your online reviews next year.

4. Stay Connected on Social Media

Camp is seasonal, but social media isn't. You need to stay connected year-round, but don't go overboard directly promoting your camp since this isn't the time of year most people are interested in hearing about your arts and crafts activities. Some of most ideal ways to engage followers and fans won't have anything do to with summer camp anyway. Posting questions relevant to people's family situations or current events can get you spectacular results. Try some of these examples (or some variations) and I'll be you'll be happy with the level or engagement you get:
  •  "What's the best bedtime for a 9 year old?" 
  • "Anyone know of any great cupcake recipes for kids?"
  • "What's a great local restaurant to surprise my husband or wife with?"
  • "Anyone have a good recipe for apple pie?"
  • "I'm looking for a karate class for my kids...anyone have any recommendations? 
  • "What's your opinion on private vs public schools?"
  • "Anyone here home school their kids? Would you recommend it?"
Contests also work really well to create engagement. Offer a great prize, and people will participate. I own a beach camp, so when I run contests I give a new surfboard, boogie board or wetsuit to the winner. People go nuts for these!

How about a photo contest?  You can tell people to share the contest with their friends or even tag their friends, too. You just need to figure out what works best for your situation. What's great about all this is that you're out there on social media getting exposure for your camp. And even though you personally aren't talking directly about camp, your customers, prospects, friends and followers will be talking about you.

5. Clean Up your Database and Email Lists -- Cut Costs to Save!

Remember what I said about getting a big return on your marketing investment? One strategy that works great is cutting your marketing costs. Even if you don't view cost-cutting as a marketing "strategy" per se, it's a valuable undertaking especially in your non-peak season when you need to keep an extra eye on what you spend. There's any number of ways to cut your marketing costs. One of the best I've found is by cleaning up your marketing database and email lists. Cleaning up your lists can be a time-consuming project if you haven't done it lately (and especially if you've never done it before), but it's more than worthwhile from a marketing and financial standpoint. For instance, if your email marketing service (Constant Contact, MailChimp, whoever) calculates your monthly fees according to the number of contacts in your account, you're wasting time, money, and energy by hanging onto, and continuing to email, old and outdated contacts who are no longer, or never will be, customers for your camp (not to mention you might be bothering them by continuing to reach out). While it's always important to have a customer reactivation strategy so past customers return, sending marketing information to people who attended your camp 6 years ago probably aren't decent prospects anymore. Similarly, there's no sense continuing to email families who stopped coming to your camp a few summers ago because they outgrew it or were less than thrilled with your program. You need to examine each individual subscriber in your account to decide if it's feasible to keep them active. If it is, great. If not, cut them. Getting hammered each month with unnecessary bills from Constant Contact (or whomever you use) is NOT something you should be doing. You could be pocketing that money or allocating it to other marketing investments or program improvements instead.

If I could just wrap this up, I'd encourage you to use this "down" time to plan and execute wisely. The fall (like every season) passes quickly, so I hope you'll get started today! Whatever you do now might not pay off in actual dollars today, but that's not the point. The point is to think long-term, so when the more traditional summer camp marketing season starts again in several months, many new prospects will already know about you.

[EDIT: Looks like there's actually FIVE, not four, summer marketing tips included in the post. I gave you a bonus! Enjoy!)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Can't Make the April 23 Camp Fair? We can Distribute Your Brochures Anyway!

As you many know, I'm putting on a Camp Fair April 23 in Calabasas. I've been to many Camp Fairs over the years and have promoted many others. This one's gonna be big.

Right now we have approximately 20 camps attending. We have room for about 20 more. The registration fee is $195 until March 20, and $225 thereafter.

Both day and resident camps will be displaying at this Camp Fair. The types of camps will be in separate areas making it easy for parents to distinguish the difference.

Can't Make the Camp Fair? Let us Distribute Your Brochures and Marketing Materials Anyway!

We're expecting a nice turnout of many potential campers for you, but even if you can't make the Camp Fair or don't want to come, you can still get your promotional materials in front of everyone who attends.

We'll have a "resource table" at the entry and exit doors filled with brochures, flyers and other materials from camps who aren't attending. If you'd like us to distribute your materials to family attendees, the price is $25. The only caveat is you need to send us your materials by April 20 so we have enough time to organize everything in time for the Camp Fair.

Interested? Let us know in the comments or send us an email. Thanks!

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

How to Connect With Hot Camper Prospects You Didn't Even Know You Have

As you can imagine I get asked many different marketing questions from many different people, but one question comes up time and again? How can I get more campers right now?

I could probably spend days showing you how. But here's a quick tip: Focus on your hottest prospects first -- those most likely to sign up for camp or who've expressed interest in doing so -- and go after the colder prospects later.

Not only is this a sound marketing strategy, it's easier on your marketing budget, too.

Now maybe you're asking yourself who your "hottest prospects" are? There's tons of them! Two groups that come immediately to mind are:

  1. Campers who attended your program last summer (and even the year before) but who haven't signed up yet for this year; and
  2. Families who've emailed, called, or otherwise inquired about your program, such as asking for a brochure or other information

But there is one additional group of people -- potentially HUNDREDS OF THEM -- who are EXTREMELY interested in attending your program, but whom you have probably overlooked.

In fact these folks have already TRIED to get into your camp, but they were turned away or otherwise denied, and you don't even know who they are.

What a shame to miss out on these red hot enrollment prospects!

Confused? Let me explain.

If you're like most camps, schools and other organizations ask you all the time to donate a free week of camp, or a free camp session, to their fundraisers, right?

And since you want to do the right thing, you gladly donate almost every time., right?

And then the school lists your donation on a site like, where people bid on your donation for a free camp session.

 Now here's the thing. There can only be one auction winner who gets to enjoy your program this summer, but what about all those people who also bid on your donation but didn't win the auction? These are what I'd define as "hot prospects," and there could be untold numbers of them!

Somehow you've got to reach those people -- all those families who bid on your school donation but didn't win the auction.

The problem is, these folks are generally anonymous. Yet you are losing out an a jackpot of potential sign-ups by ignoring them simply because they lost the auction!

So what can you do? There's a bunch of strategies you can use to reach these people. I've tried a number of things. Some work better than others. But in general, here's my suggestion.

When you are solicited for a donation, let the auction chair know that while you are happy to make as donation to their school, you also understand there can only be one auction winner and you don't any family to miss the camp experience just because they got outbid by someone else.

Then go on to say you will gladly offer a special prize, discount, bonus or freebie for the families who participated in the auction but who didn't win, and you need the auction chair's help to  communicating this message to those families.

I have done this several times. It doesn't always work, but most times it does, and when it does you will be thrilled with the results!

Auction chairs (and/or those whom solicited donations from is) are generally more than willing to help in various ways. They understand most of us aren't running charities, so they are typically willing to assist you in exchange for your generosity in providing the donation.

Here's how some of the auction chairs (or people who've requested donations) have helped me reach all the families who've bid on my school donations (not just the ones who won).

Some have written emails or sent out flyers on my behalf explaining my offer(s).

Others have given me a booth at the actual fundraiser events so I could meet the families and explain the situation in person.

Others have provided similar methods of help, and in general they're happy to do so.

The big thing for you is to never let those people who bid on your donation but lost just fade away without trying to get them registered for your program.

Hot camper prospects are hard to come by, so striking when the iron's hot is the best way to get more enrollments quickly.

Monday, February 27, 2017

How Resident Camps Can Get More Camper Prospects Right Now

Summer camp marketing is like baseball. Making a small adjustment to your approach can result into the huge positive results you're looking for. Here's what I mean.

As you may know I own a day camp in Los Angeles. But I also started a 1-week Hawaii sleepaway program last summer.

Even though L.A.'s a huge city, one of the reasons I started the Hawaii camp was because I wanted to reach a worldwide market rather than just a local one.

As a new camp, enrollment was so-so until I made one minor adjustment to my website which vastly improved leads and registrations: I added google's website translator tool, so now people all over the world (or at least in China and Japan, who I am principally targeting for my overnight program) can read the site in their language.

If you run a day camp, it wouldn't hurt to add the language translator to your site. But for resident camps who serve campers from all over the world, this is a must-do. I've been getting at least two or three inquiries every day from Chinese and Japanese prospects ever since I added this tool. A Chinese family with three kids signed up for camp last week!

You can easily set this tool to translate over 100 languages. And you can put it on any page (or pages) of your site you want. But key is to place it prominently enough where international visitors won't miss it, but discretely enough that it won't interfere with the overall design of your site.You will need to play around with it awhile until it's positioned just so. (I move mine around from time-to-time when I don't think it looks good and want to improve the design of my site.)

Assuming you have a worldwide market for summer camp prospects, this is something you should start using today.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

L.A. Camp Fair 2017 - Registration Information for Camps

The 2017 L.A. Camp Fair is a GO!

I have not even had a chance to officially promote it yet and am still preparing all the promotional materials, but a number of camps already got wind of the idea and want to sign up. So here are the details:

What: L.A. Camp Fair 2017
When: Sunday, April 23, 2017
Where: AC Stelle Middle School,

Price: $175 per camp to when signing up by March 15, $195 after March 15. FREE Admission for Families and Kids!
More Information: L.A. Camp Fair 2017

Registration: Camps who want a booth at the Camp Fair sign up here.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Would You Be Interested in Attending My Camp Fair?

Hi Everyone,

Been a while since I've posted. Quite busy getting ready for camp this year and working on a number of projects. I hope your enrollment is coming along nicely and you're preparing for a big-time year filled with lots of kids.

I wanted to let you know I'm considering putting on a Camp Fair here in Los Angeles at the end of March, beginning of April, something like that. The Camp Fair would be sponsored by,, and other kid-friendly organizations.

I realize many Camp Fairs take place in February, March and sometimes earlier.

But given the huge number of potential campers in L.A., and considering the fact many families seem to be waiting until later during the spring to register for camp, this timing seems to make sense.

This would also be a good chance for meet in person and get to know each other after so many years of communicating through this blog.

It also a sounds like a good opportunity for all of us. If we decide to move forward, I assure you the price for your camp to attend would be affordable, and I will work my you-know-what off to fill the event with many potential campers for you. 

I will have more information about this opportunity in the coming days, and I am ready to get to work on this. But, before I do anything else, I'd like to know if you'd be interested in attending the Camp Fair I'd promote.

I've put a quick poll at the top of the page, so if you wouldn't leaving a comment or taking the poll just so I can gauge potential interest as to whether I move forward, I'd appreciate it. I'm ready to get to work on this for you. Thanks!

- Eric