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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Easy Way to Market Your Camp to Parents and Kids Alike

As summer camp marketers, sometimes we struggle with how to effectively market our programs to parents and kids alike.

It's imperative we appeal to both groups, but figuring out how isn't always easy. We tend to overthink what we're doing, then get frustrated trying to decide who to tailor our marketing content for, and whether we're doing it the right way.

But it's not as hard as you think.

I have a strategy I use at my own camp that helps me simplify my marketing in this regard, irrespective of whether I'm creating online of offline marketing content: I use pictures, images and video that appeal to kids, and text that appeals to parents.

If you struggle with creating duel marketing messages that effectively target parents and kids together, try this strategy and you'll be fine.

The reason it works is because kids and parents often browse the internet together, but even when they don't, we know the kids will eventually show their parents your cool website (or ads, social media, whatever) since their parents are making the financial decisions anyway.

Moreover, even when kids can read, pictures and videos will always grab their (short!) attention spans faster than text. So your first step is to intrigue your prospective campers with pictures and videos, then they'll be prompted to bring the idea of signing up for your camp to their folks.

Here's two examples you might be interested in.

Last year a teenage girl contacted us on Instagram. See saw a few photos we posted about our Hawaii overnight camp retreat.

We know teens use Instagram like crazy, so once our photos caught her eye, she had her dad email us for more info and to get the conversation going. She eventually signed up for the program, all because 1) she saw a photo of our camp online, and 2) showed it to her parents and influenced them to register her for camp (in that order).
Here's the second example. I've discussed this before but it's worth revisiting.

$5 coupon wrapped around a Hershey candy bar.

When I took my car in a while back, the mechanic gave me a Hershey bar with a coupon wrapped around it for a discount on my next visit. One of my boys was with me when we picked up the car. Naturally the text on the coupon (to save money!) is what caught my eye, but the candy appealed to my kid. The mechanic's marketing strategy worked like a charm. My son still talks about the candy bar he got from the car place, and I saved a little money on my next tune-up.

Just one more thing I should mention. It's worth noting there are certainly some exceptions to this "text for parents, images for kids" marketing rule.

For instance, if you're creating a web page direct exclusively at teens, you might want to rethink this (and you also better be sure such content is LEGAL and APPROPRIATE, but that's another story).

In general though, this is an easy-to-follow strategy that will not only make creating your marketing content easier to create, but by employing it, the end result will almost always work in your favor.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

How Three Magic Words Can Help You Sell the "Why" of Your Camp Every Time

Back in May, my friend Travis Allison on his Go Camp Pro blog posted a very interesting and worthwhile article about how families go about choose your camp or, more specifically, the reasons WHY they do it.

As Travis explains, it's all about selling the features, not the benefits, of the camp experience you deliver to kids. That means you're not just selling the camp experience itself, but something deeper.

You're selling the OUTCOME of that experience in terms of personal growth for kids, making new friends, overcoming fears, or whatever else kids TAKE AWAY from the program you deliver.

Selling benefits, outcomes, or, as Travis explains, the reason(s) "WHY" families choose your program over another isn't always easy to convey.  But I learned a little trick regarding how to do it, which works every time, and I'm happy to share with you.

Seven years back, I discussed this trick in another blog post. I wanted to recount it here because Travis' excellent post reminded me of it. I've been using this trick for years, and you should too. But remember, this is not intended to "trick" people into signing up for you camp. You never want to do that. It's a trick to make the benefits of participating in your program easier to describe to parents.

So here's the trick.

Basically, each time you mention a feature of your program, you follow it up with these three words: "... and that means..."

And then you go on to explain what the feature actually to in terms of what kids "take away" from attending your camp. The three words, "and that means" will naturally lead you into what the benefit is every time.

Here's a quick example.

I own a beach camp. It's easy for me to mention "a fun beach camp experience for kids" in my marketing materials, and I do that all the time. But it's usually not enough to generate enrollment.

If I really want to grab more enrollment, I need to be more specific about conveying what "a fun beach camp experience" really means in terms of WHY the camper should choose our program.

So what I do is, I use my "...and that means..." marketing strategy to explain the benefits of, and reasons why, kids should sign up for my camp.

Last summer I had a very nervous camper attending my beach camp. He wasn't nervous at first though, when his mom signed him up in March, three months before camp started.

At that time, was really fired up and looking forward to camp and learning how to surf.

His mom was super happy, too because the child had three awful prior experiences at different camps, so he wasn't too thrilled with the idea of camp in general. Just the fact the boy wanted to try our program made the mom giddy.

Then something bad happened. Seeing how excited the child was for the opportunity to learn to surf, the mom signed herself up for private surfing lessons herself with a local company here in L.A.

The boy went with his mom to her first lesson.

As he sat on the beach, he watched his mom fall off her surfboard and brake her ankle -- on her first lesson. Witnessing this unfortunate accident caused the boy to change his mind about coming to camp anymore.

When she called to explain this to me, I assured his mom I understood her son's resistance and how it really must've been scary for him to see her get hurt. We talked a long time, and actually had a few conversations over the course of 2 weeks.

And then I offered the following statement (paraphrasing):

"I really think your son would have a great time with us here at Aloha Beach Camp but certainly understand his apprehension. He'll learn to surf, just like you want him to, and he'll have a blast doing it. And that means he'll overcome his fear of the ocean, fear of surfing, and fear of getting hurt, and best of all we'll help him become open to trying new camps and other camp experiences in the future. That's our promise to you."


Even though learning learn to surf is surely a benefit, in this case it wasn't the most important one for this family. Overcoming his fear of hurting himself and being open to the idea of going to camp again were the principal outcomes the boy would acheive by doing attending our program, and the ones most important to him mom.

Assuring the mom I understood this, an using the words "...and that means" to describe how we'd acheive her desired outcomes, is how I did it.

(Just in case you're interested to know, the boy did end up coming to camp with us. At first it wasn't easy for us get him in the water. After a couple days, he finally tried and was up and going! :)

Pretty cool video of him! He enjoys surfing now and camp itself. I don't think he will come back to my camp this summer because he's looking for a resident camp experience. I am overjoyed to hear it!

And with that I will close this post. But just a quick reminder, any time you find yourself struggling to convey the benfits of your program compared to the features -- or, as Travis says, selling the "why" of your camp -- use the words, "...and that means"  immediately after stating the feature.

Those three magic words will naturally lead you into the "why" every time.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Exhibiting at L.A. Camp Fair 2018 Could be Great Way to Fill Your Camp With Kids!

 Three images side-by-side advertisting the UCLA, Conejo Valley and Calabasas 2018 Los Angeles Summer Camp Fairs

Years and years ago (we're talking 2005) I organized Camp Fairs for the American Camp Association. Then, not only did I stop promoting them for a period of time, I stopped attending them altogether. My feeling was the internet made Camp Fairs irrelevant. Boy was I wrong. Here's the backstory.

L.A. Camp Fair volunteers and representatives sitting under a blue canopy at the Camp Fair sign-in registration booth at AC Stelle Middle School, Calabasas.

Last year I decided to put on my own camp fair (without ACA) in Calabasas. I called it the L.A. Calabasas Camp Fair. I wanted to see what, if anything, I was missing by not going to Camp Fairs. Aside from the uneasiness I always feel knowing my competitors went to Camp Fairs when I didn't, I wanted to know if Camp Fairs still worked as a summer camp marketing tool.

Things went pretty well last year for the first time out. Over 400 families and 51 camps attended the Calabasas event. Needless to say, I am once again a staunch supporter Camp Fairs for marketing a camp, namely because it's the best way to find so many potential campers all in one place.

Kids and parents talking to a Camp representative who is exhibiting her camp program at L.A. Camp Fair 2018

We're Expanding to Three (3) LA. Camp Fairs in 2018 

Given the nice turnout of last year's Calabasas Camp Fair, my partner Megan McEvoy and I are expanding the L.A. family of Camp Fairs to three locations 2018 with events at UCLA, in Thousand Oaks (in the Conejo Valley) and Calabasas again.

Each event will be located in highly affluent areas of greater Los Angeles and hotbeds for parents with kids on the lookout for new and exciting program opportunities for their kids each summer.

We are expecting a high turnout of parents, families, and many new camper prospects at all the Camp Fairs, so here's a  brief description of the various areas where they're are being held in case you're interested in attending one or more:

L.A. Camp Fair #1: Sunday, March 11, 2018 at UCLA

On March 11 we're having a Camp Fair at the Sunset Canyon Recreation Center on the campus of UCLA (I'm a USC fan but couldn't pass up this amazing location!). UCLA is located in the highly desirable area of West Los Angeles consisting of high-end cities and communities such as Westwood, Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Bel Air, Beverly Glen, Beverlywood, Pacific Palisades, Miracle-Mile, Pico-Robertson, Century City, Cheviot Hills, Holmby Hills, Hollywood, West Hollywood, and the Fairfax and Melrose Districts of L.A., among others.

Picture of big green lawn and grassy fields at UCLA where the L.A. Camp Fair will take place on Sunday, March 11, 2018
 Sunset Canyon Recreation Center UCLA

L.A. Camp Fair #2: Saturday, April 22 in the Conejo Valley, Thousand Oaks

The City of Thousand Oaks is located in the Conejo Valley encompassing northwestern Los Angeles County and southeastern Ventura County. This area is loaded with prospective campers and families living not just in Thousand Oaks but the surrounding communities of Westlake Village, Oak Park, Agoura Hills, Camarillo, Simi Valley, Moorpark, and Newbury Park, too. The Conejo Valley Camp Fair will take place at the Lakeside Pavillion inside Conejo Creek North Park

Picture of tables, chairs and canopies at the Lakeside Pavillion at Conjeo Creek North Park where the 2018 L.A. Conejo Valley Camp Fair will take place on Saturday, April 14, 2018
Picture of grassy field and picnic tables where the Conejo Valley L.A. Camp Fair takes place Saturday, April 14, 2018.
Conejo Creek North Park, Lakeside Pavillion, site of L.A. Camp Fair 2018 in the Conejo Valley

L.A. Camp Fair #3: Sunday, April 22, 2018 at A.C. Stelle Middle School in Calabasas

Camp director sitting at his Camp Fair display booth at the L.A. Calabasas Camp Fair 2018

You may know Calabasas from the Kardashian Family who put it on the map. Located in the western San Fernando Valley and Santa Monica Mountains directly adjacent to the upscale communities of Woodland Hills, West Hills, Hidden Hills, Agoura Hills, and Malibu while also being surrounded by well-to-do areas of Thousand Oaks, Oak Park, Tarzana, Encino, Northridge, Porter Ranch, Studio City, Burbank, Universal City, Sherman Oaks and others, Calabasas is perhaps the most affluent city in the entire San Fernando Valley. Last year over 400 kids and families attended our Calabasas Camp Fair with just as many, if not more, expected for the April 22 event.

 [The AC Stelle Calabasas Camp Fair will take place at the outdoor lunch area and grass field plus the adjoining Multi-Purpose Room as show on the videos below.]

How to Sign up for the L.A. Camp Fair 2018

If you're considering attending a Camp Fair or two (or three!) as part of your 2018 summer camp marketing plan, I hope you'll consider the 2018 L.A. Camp Fairs.

We only opened registration for these events a week or two ago and spaces are going fast. We have camps resident camps from New Hampshire attending the Camp Fairs to acting programs in LA. to overnight debate camps in Northern California and every kind of program in between.

We are offering an Early Bird discount for signing up for the Camp Fairs before December 15, plus multi-fair attendance discounts too. Here's the registration form in case you're interested. Hope to see you there!