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Showing posts from April, 2010

How to use Traditional Offline Advertising Strategies In Conjunction with Your Online Marketing Efforts

When the internet first got popular, lots of people said it was a fad. Well, now we know it’s here to stay, and the marketing opportunities it lends your camp are phenomenal.

But that doesn't mean traditional ("offline") advertising is dead. You could even make the case that some forms of traditional advertising even work better simply BECAUSE the Internet exits. Take direct mail.

Due to the Internet, direct mail has seen a resurgence in popularity and effectiveness among camp marketers in recent years. The reason why is because you can use direct mail to drive traffic to your website and generate more online leads.

Next time you do a postcard mailing, try an experiment. Have your postcard's marketing message send people to your website. Maybe your postcard could say, "Looking for a summer camp? Visit our website to learn more about our program." Make sure you put your camp's website address prominently on your postcard. Then watch your website traffi…

What if you Could Increase Your Website Visitor Count Just by Changing a Picture?

What if you could get a few more enrollments each day just by tweaking a word or two on your website? What if just by changing one picture for another, your website visitor count went through the roof?

You might not believe it, but sometimes making what seems like an insignificant change like these can dramatically boost your website's performance. Problem is, how do you know which parts of your website to change in order to see what works best with your users?

You use Google's website optimizer, that's how. This free tool is easy to use and let's you compare one picture to another, one headline to another, one word to another, or any other variables of your choosing on a single web page.

Then it gives you the results you need to make any necessary changes in order to reach your online goals.


I started using the website optimizer last year for Aloha Beach Camp.com. The first time I tried it, I tested this headline:

"Click here for a $10 discount"

Against t…

Why Email Marketing Works Better Than Facebook and Twitter

Social media marketing on Facebook and Twitter is all the rage. Camp directors are knocking themselves out trying to figure out how to capture the incredible marketing potential of this new phenomenon, but if you're looking for the absolute best way for your personality to come alive between your computer and your prospects, email marketing is where it's at.

That’s because email marketing takes place on a more personal level than “typical” social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkIn.

Does this scenario sound familiar?:

You post a status to your Facebook page hoping someone responds One or two people might click the “Like” button One or two more may say something back in response to your post Now you’re excited, so you write back, hoping to keep the conversation going No dice though -- the connection ends thereYou repeat the process all over again hoping for better results, but it always ends the same way
No question, websites like Facebook and Twitter have huge m…

The Top 5 Traits of All Good Websites

Nobody knows for sure how many millions of websites are on the internet. But we do know this: all the good ones share the same five characteristics:

The best websites are:
Visually appealing. This means perfectly matching color combos with nice layout and designUser-friendly. The best websites are easy to navigate. Novice web surfers should be able to their way around your site quickly and easily.Optimized for search engines. (Not just Google, but all of them.)Aware of their audience. For example, your camp's website should appeal to kids and parents alike, not just one or the otherUpdated frequently. New pictures, content and material keep your site fresh, useful and relevant.These five qualities are not hard to master. But there's too many lazy people running websites who don't take the time to make sure their sites meet these standards. If your camp's website stands up to these traits, you're golden.

How to Solve the Problem of Many People Tweeting from the Same Twitter Account

Does your camp have one twitter account but lots of people post (tweet) from it? Bird Herd is a cool way for you to manage this challenge.

How to Train Camp Staff in Customer Service Techniques

In many cases your camp counselors are also your camp's customer service reps. They're the "face" of your camp, the front-line people your families deal with on a daily basis. That's why it makes sense to devote a portion of your staff training time to teaching them about customer service and other reputation management skills.

I'll bet your orientation schedule is already filled to the brim, so don't go overboard on the marketing discussion front or you might not fit everything in. Instead just pick a few important topics and cover the main points.

Here's a few ideas to get you started:
Customer service How to handle angry parents What to say to parents, and the general public in the case of an emergency
Let's not kid ourselves, seasonal camp counselors usually only work for you because they enjoy working with kids, not because they're interested in helping you promote your program. So if you're gonna teach staff about customers service, y…

A Living Example of Thinking Outside the Box (or Inside, as the case may be)

Here's a LITERAL DEFINITION, a true living example, of thinking outside (or inside) the box. Check this out, it's absolutely BRILLIANT.



What's the #1 Way to Get Your Website to the Top of Google?

What's the number one way to get your website to the top of Google without paying money? Camp directors ask me that all the time.

Only Google knows the answer. In fact just the other day, Google's Matt Cutts announced Google changes its search algorithms every day.

Obviously it's virtually impossible to crack the code. But if I were a betting man (and from time-to-time I am, even though betting's a losing proposition), here's the kind of thing I'd do.

First, I'd make sure your site (and I mean each page, not just the home page) is fully optimized for every search engine, not just Google, with accurate meta tags and descriptions and all that.

Then I'd make sure you include a site map.

Then I'd update your blog at least three times a week (or more often) and link your blog to your website.

Then I'd make a big time effort to accumulate as many inbound links (links from other websites) that point to yours as possible.

There is much more you can do…

How's Your Website Working Out For You?

How does your camp's website compare to others? Is your website working for you? Is it generating leads, and do the search engines like it? Is it popular in social media? Find out now for free at Website Grader.com

"'I'm Too Busy to Market My Camp."

Most camp directors wear many hats. Especially now, as summer draws near, you're running around like crazy making sure everything's set for another great camp season.

That means it's easy to put marketing on the back burner. When you're hiring staff, focusing on your program, preparing your facility and all that, it's easy to tell yourself, "I'm too busy for marketing right now."

Please think twice, and then two more times, before putting your marketing on hold. Even if you're phone is ringing off the hook (hell yeah!), you gotta keep marketing your program. No matter how busy you are, you don't have the luxury saying "not now" to your marketing.

From one camp director to another, I realize your "to-do" list is growing, not shrinking. So here's my list of the four top things you can do to fit marketing into your daily schedule even when you're tied up with countless other day-to-day tasks:

1. Stick to a Daily Mark…

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Social Media Marketing and More

Here's a copy of your free 2010 Social Media Marketing Report, on whitepaper by Michael Stelzner, founder of Social Media Examiner.com.

Every camp director should read this in my opinion.

It basically details the results of a study Stelzner did where he invited close to 9,000 small business owners and entrepreneurs to share how they use social media marketing and whether it works for them.

Close to 2,000 of the invited participants responded with their insights

If you really wanna get into the nitty gritty of how people are using social media these days - and how you can use social media in your camp marketing - this report is for you.

Is it Time to Let Customers Pay for Camp Over Time?

How many campers do you lose because they can't afford your camp tuition?

Or maybe they can afford it, but since you require full payment up front, it's too much money for a family to come up with all at once.

For some families, paying for camp all at once is a drop in the bucket. For others it's nearly impossible. (Naturally you want the money, but the ultimate loser in this case is your prospective camper since they miss out on your fantastic camp experience.)

Even if a family can afford to pay for camp upfront in its entirety, that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t appreciate the option to pay over time. Offering families a way to pay for camp in installments is a nice way to help more people afford your program and get more referrals.

If you don’t offer tuition financing, perhaps you should consider it. Letting prospects pay over time can help them fit the cost of summer camp into their family budgets more comfortably, especially in times like these with high unemployment …

What do Logos, Mascots and Symbols Say About Your Camp?

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No question about it: your camp's logo, mascot, meme, unique selling proposition, or anything else people recognize as a symbol of your camp can give you an incredible marketing edge. They make you look polished, professional and focused. That's good for your camp's image.

But one thing you must remember is each person views things differently and forms their own impressions.

Two of the more prominent mascots you undoubtedly recognize are the Geico lizard and "Flo," the Progressive Insurance saleslady.


I don't know about you, but "Flo" and the little lizard irritate the crap outta me. I change the channel whenever they come on, that's how much I can't stand watching them. Many people I know feel the same way.

And yet, the ads must be working because Geico and Progressive have used these two little irritants in their ad campaigns for years.

Now here's a few mascots I absolutely LOVE .... Coke's polar bears:


I don't know why I lov…

How to Market Your Camp to Teens

Astute camp directors like you realize you have two distinct target markets: the kids who come to camp, and their parents who pay for it. If your marketing doesn’t target both groups, it won’t be as effective as it could.

When marketing to kids, you may have a secondary challenge in that your camp probably serves a wide range of age groups who each respond differently to your marketing messages. Depending on a kid’s age, he or she will also have varying degrees of influence over their parents in the camp decision making process.

Assuming your camp serves teenagers, one fact you should keep in mind is that even though the 12-17 year old population is shrinking, the products and services this group uses and buys is increasing. This means there's fewer teens to go around, but you also have the unique opportunity to zero in on this group and capitalize on their spending power.

If you’ve been reading this blog for some time, you know I’m a big proponent of marketing ROI (return on inv…

Put a video on your home page and watch the magic happen

Video marketing (youtube, dailymotion, etc.) is becoming the most popular method of internet marketing. Among the many ways you'll benefit by marketing your camp with videos is:

People love sharing them (so they're an ideal form of social media marketing and can help your site go viral)They help build emotional connections with your audience (so your prospects and customers will trust you more)They help turn your website into a lead generation machine rather than just an online brochure
Consider posting a short video clip right on your website or blog ... and I mean right on the very first page. (Don't set your video start playing automatically; let website visitors click the video to play it if they choose.)

But believe me, they will choose to play it. The temptation to watch a video when it's right in front of you is overwhelming. (To see what I mean, check out my blog at http://www.blog.alohabeachcamp.com; the video's easy to find at the top of the page before …

Facebook ditches "Become a Fan" for "Like Us"

It's time to stop asking customers and prospects to "Become a Fan" and ask them to "Like Us on Facebook" or "Find us on Facebook" instead. Check out the new change, effective today.

A lesson from Mary Kay

"Everyone has an invisible sign around their neck that says, 'Make me feel important.'" - Mary Kay

Camp Doesn't Start For a Few Months. But What are You Doing now to Connect with Current Registrants?

Maybe you've got lots of kids already signed up for camp, but camp doesn't start for another few months. I know you're probably crazy preparing for camp and you've got lots of other stuff going on. But don't miss this phenomenal opportunity to really please and connect with your new families (and even generate more sales from them) between the time of their initial enrollment and when camp starts.

Use the time before camp starts to your advantage to really "wow" your customers. Now that they've signed up, strike while the iron's hot. Send your customers surprise gifts. Write and send them personal letters about how much fun they're gonna have at camp. Put on a pre-camp party for new families. Offer a pre-camp discount for enrollment extensions (if someone's already signed up for 2 weeks, now's a perfect the time to get them to add one more). Engage your families on Facebook and have them fan your page. Email them periodically to let th…

How to Piss Off Your Best Customers (Not something you wanna do!)

I subscribe to several magazines. One of my favorites is, or was, Inc. Magazine before they pissed me off so much I canceled my subscription after 6 loyal years.

Here's what happened. I've got three young kids who love to read, so my wife and I take them to bookstores all the time. We like Barnes and Noble and Boarders the best because they have cool kid's sections.

But every time we'd go to the bookstore, I kept noticing the newest issue of Inc. Magazine was already on the shelf BEFORE it even arrived at my house about a week later. This gave me the impression Inc. was more interested in selling magazines to one-time buyers off the street rather than loyal customers like me who'd been subscribing forever. Why should I have to wait an extra week to get my magazine when the average Joe could just walk in and get his first?

I hope you, like me, are always looking for ways to keep loyal customers happy. Serving your best families first should be your top priority.

"How Much Money Should a Parent Pay for Camp?"

This is the absolute best time of year to promote your camp. People are already in the market for what you're selling. Half your work is done for you. Hot prospects are everywhere.

Wanna know just how easy it can be to lock up one new enrollment after another? Just direct your marketing to what families want - camp - and they could be hooked.

When I graduated from high school, I needed to buy a new car for college. I'd never bought a car before, so I had all kinds of questions in my mind:

1. What kind of car should I get?
2. How much should I pay for it?
3. What are the features I should be looking for in a car?

About this same time, I saw a newspaper ad from a Toyota dealer in Santa Monica. The ad's headline read, "How Much Money Should You Pay for a Car?"

And you know what? I read every word in that ad five times. And then (perhaps stupidly) I bought my new car from that dealership without even considering other dealerships or other cars!

As the school year w…

4 Ways to Generate Word of Mouth Referrals for Your Camp

If you're running a 1st class camp, you're gonna get word of mouth referrals automatically. But why not increase how many you get? Many people don't know you can actually FACILITATE the word of mouth process so your customers refer more
people more often they normally would. Here's four ways you can get the word of mouth process cooking for your camp.



Facility Maintenance is Camp Marketing, Too

I've always wanted to start a summer program in Hawaii, so I visited a camp there recently. I'm afraid the director forgot to include "facility maintenance" in his list of marketing activities.

Facility upkeep is as much a part of marketing as your camp's website or brochure. It's all part of your image.

Even if chipped paint and broken door handles don't matter to you, others will make decisions to attend -- or not attend -- your camp based on its appearance.

If I were a parent, I'd have been turned off by the Hawaii camp's unkempt premises. I had the impression the directors were careless. If they couldn't take care of their own place, how could they take care of my kid?

Message here? Simple.

Even though you might not notice your run-down equipment and torn-up archery targets because you see them everyday, they send a negative signal to parents.

So make sure your camp facilities are clean and attractive from the bathrooms to the mess h…

Queston for you...

Question for you: Do you generally read this facebook page, my blog, twitter or all three? If one of these methods is better for you to get my marketing updates, I'll focus on that one the most. Please let me know.

Want More Referrals? Pay for Them!

The other day I said I shoot for 85% referral-based enrollment at Aloha Beach Camp. That means for each group of 100 kids that enroll, I want at least 85 of them to come from another camp family -- the typical word of mouth referral we're all after.

Not only is word-of-mouth the most credible marketing you can get, it reduces your customer (camper) acquisition costs to virtually nothing.

But sometimes you have to pay for referrals...and you probably shouldn't mind. In fact, "paying" for referrals is a pretty good way to get them. I use any number of organized customer referral programs where I pay a financial reward to referring customers. One of the more effective ones goes something like this.

When a person signs up for camp based on another customer's referral, I reward the referring person with a letter and financial gift. The letter looks like this:

“Dear Mary, Thank you so much for referring John Smith to Aloha Beach Camp. He signed up for the same Enrollm…

Market your Camp with Tabbed Flyers and Reach 10 People for the Price of One

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Last month I discussed marketing your camp with flyers. Some folks think marketing with flyers is "old fashioned." Who cares? I'm more concerned with getting results from my marketing, and I know you are, too. And if you're looking for a cheap, easy and effective marketing tool, flyers are a great way to go.

Now check this out. The typical flyer you're probably thinking of is printed on a standard 8/5 x 11 piece of paper, right? But I recommend you try "tabbed flyers" too.

In case you're unfamiliar with tabbed flyers, they have little "tabs" on the bottom or sides of the flyer. Here's a picture of one I found on Google so you know what I'm talking about:



See all the tabs at the bottom? Each tab contains basic information about your camp, like your phone number, email or website address.The tabs are cut or perforated, so lots of people can pull them off your flyer.

And THAT'S the reason tabbed flyers are so effective: Not only …

"Mobile website use will overtake desktop website use within 5 years."

How to make sure your website is viewable on cell phones

Is your website optimized for mobile devices like cell phones? Can people see your website on their cell phones?
I've blogged about this before, but in the past few weeks many camp directors have asked me how to make their websites cell-phone compatible. So I thought it'd be worthwhile to revisit this topic today.
Now that camp marketing season's in full swing, more and more people are using their cell phones and other mobile instruments to access the internet and view your website. 
The problem is, most websites look terrible on cell phones. The reason why is because most sites are not optimized for the smaller screen size.
Do this right now: Take out your cell phone, and go to your camp's website. What does it look like?
Hopefully it looks pretty good, but chances are, probably not. 
So here's what you need to do. You need to create three different versions of your website for these three different screen sizes: PCSmart phone Basic (WAP) phoneOnce your site's set u…

Add your camp to Eco Friendly Camps.com

Building a couple new summer camp search engine/blog sites. The first one is called Eco-Friendly Camps.com, and it's up and running now at http://www.ecofriendlycamps.com. Add your camp for free today.

The #1 FREE Search Engine Optimization Strategy in the World

I don't know about you but I HATE paying for advertising. Instead I shoot for my enrollment to be 85% referral based, and the other 15% from people finding us organically in search engine rankings and other online means.

In the past, when I was starting out -- and this still goes for other camps who might be new or struggling -- you might need to pay for advertising. Google adwords is a very effective tool you can use for people to find your camp online. But it can be also be very expensive, especially when you're bidding for popular keywords.

So if you're like me, you want folks to find your camp organically in the search results. Who doesn't want their website to come up first on Google...for free?

I can't guarantee your site can be the first people see when they search for camps online. But I can share with you the #1 way to improve your chance of getting your site to rank more effectively on Google without paying a dime:
Get links, more links, and MORE LI…

You Need to Market to Camp Staff, Too

Sometimes you need to think about marketing to your staff as well as customers and prospects. As we all know, a happy staff makes happy campers. If you run an overnight camp, here's something you can do to endear yourself to your staff off the bat.

When your staff arrives at camp, how about giving them a goodie bag filled with toothpaste, a toothbrush, disposable razors, shaving cream, some camp store items, and even coupons from restaurants, movie theaters and other local establishments to use on their days or nights off?

This small gesture can go a long way not only towards creating goodwill towards your staff, but since most of them of probably college students (and college students tend to be loyal), it may help with staff retention rates from year-to-year, too..

Who's the Lucky Winner? Unlock the Treasure Chest to Find Out

The most effective marketing tactics I know are also the most versatile. You can use them anywhere in any number of cases. Here's an idea your prospects will find downright irresistible and you can do anywhere.

Here's what you do. Fill a locked treasure chest with all kinds of goodies -- camp store items, toys, and other items that don't cost you much but have a high perceived valued to kids and prospects.

Then let the first 500 kids or parents who come to your open house or site tour choose a key to the chest at random and try to open it. Make sure only 1 key opens the lock, and 499 keys don't.

This way you only have one lucky winner who gets to keep everything you've placed in the treasure chest.

We do this on the beach at Aloha all the time. Our campers love it. We also do it at open houses, and the mere fact we have the treasure chest there helps increase attendance.

If you decide to try this "treasure chest promotion," market it like crazy befor…

Meet the "Frugalista" (The Coupon Diva Mom)

This article from Mediapost is among the most persuasive I've read about why you should market your camp with coupons.

Summary of the article:


Today's mom LOVES using coupons and finding bargainsToday's mom LOVES sharing coupons with other moms -- it's a social networking thing60% of moms used coupons for the 1st time last yearYou can win a mom's loyalty by offering couponsCoupon use is here to stay

How to Keep Customers Loyal With Coupons

You probably already know I'm a big fan of coupons. Everyone loves a bargain. In today's economic climate, offering discounts to new and existing customers is the right thing to do.

The cost of offering a discount is nothing compared to the increased customer loyalty and camper retention rates you'll enjoy for doing so.

Here's an article I came across today from Small Business Trends.com showing how coupons can increase customer loyalty and boost camper retention rates.

As you'll see from the article, there's many places you can post your coupons online from twitter to google to dedicated coupon sites like campcoupons.com .

Even though some camp directors don't like offering discounts, you might think twice when you see how coupons can endear customers to you and your camp.

How to List Your Website on Google, Yahoo and Bing for Free

Even though your website and blog may already be included in the top search engines, it doesn't hurt to cover your bets. Here's where you can add your sites to Google, Yahoo and Bing for free:

Here's where to submit your site to Google: http://www.google.com/addurl/

Here's where to submit your blog to Google:  http://blogsearch.google.com/ping?hl=en

Here's where to submit to site to Yahoo: http://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com/submit

Here's where to submit your site to Bing: http://www.bing.com/webmaster/SubmitSitePage.aspx

You might also try DMOZ,  the open directory project. DMOZ is a massive internet directory run by volunteers who understand the needs of the internet users. It's a little harder to get included there, but if you do, it can pay off big time. In fact DMOZ is so potentially influential that many of the smaller (and larger!) search engines often use the sites listed in DMOZ to deliver search results to their own users.

It sounds funny, but MI…

You can't outsmart Google. But you CAN outsmart your website searchers!

You can try to "think like Google" and when optimizing your website and try to outsmart it the other search engines. Unless you're a programmer with inside knowledge of how Google works, forget it. You'll be better off just thinking like a a regular person -- a typical "website searcher" --  and optimizing your site that way.

Points to remember:
Search engines can't see pictures or video. Be sure to add include "alt" tags with tight descriptions and keywords for all your images. (That's one way to get your pics to come up in Google image searches, for example)Don't overload your page with keywords and keyword phrases. Use Google's Webmaster Tools to help you identify the exact keywords folks are using to find your site, then sprinkle those words and phrases throughout you page. (Again, don't overdo it....).Search engines love fresh content. Try to update your site at least twice a week. Three times is better.You need clear, conc…

"I'd be stupid not to try this"

When prospects see marketing offers from Aloha Beach Camp, I want them to say to themselves, "I'd be an idiot not to try this."  If I can get them to think that way, they're mine.

I want you to start thinking that way too: How can you make your prospects an offer they'd feel stupid to refuse?

In today's economic climate, price plays a big part in a camp family's decision making process. It's important to realize families want discounts and bargains. It's already so frickin expensive raising kids in the first place, people want money-saving opportunities that'll reduce the sting of paying for camp.

Here's what I'd do. I'd focus on retaining old campers first, then getting new ones later. It costs you at least 5 times more money to acquire a new camper than to keep a current one, so camper retention is key.

But you definitely need new campers. You need them every year. That means you might also need more aggressive marketing offers …

Don't get in the way of campers and staff connecting online. It's good if they do! (Part 1)

If you’re one of the camp directors who got whipped into a frenzy this weekend when I said it’s time to cut the cord and let your campers and staff connect together online, this post is for you.

Let’s cut to the chase. If you don’t get over your fears right now and turn your staff loose on the social marketing front, you will miss powerful marketing opportunities and your competition will eat your lunch.

Does that change your mind?

Look, for the past many years I was just like you. I took every step imaginable to keep my staff from communicating with campers online. I even made my counselors sign a “Camper-to-Staff Social Contact Form” that read in part:

Regarding web sites like Facebook and Myspace:
Do not ask a camper to “add you” as a friend. Do not agree, or agree to be, added to these sites. Do not join a camper's page as a “fan” and do not ask them to join your page as a “fan.” You shall have no contact or association with any child in any remote capacity on these sites. Any…

How to Market Your Camp in an Improving Economy

The weather’s warming up, kids are antsy for the end of the school year and everyone’s looking for camps for their kids.

Or are they?

Thanks to terrible economic conditions the past two years, many camps have suffered sicking enrollment downturns while others closed forever. But now there’s growing optimism among families and camp directors that an improving economy might compel more people to spend a few grand on camp this year for the first time in a long time

The economy's still fragile, as is the above-mentioned optimism. So unless you offer a complete money-back guarantee where parents are absolutely CERTAIN there's no financial risk for signing up with you, your marketing -- now more than ever -- should be directed at convincing people that the VALUE they'll get by attending your program exceeds the PRICE they'll pay by leaps and bounds.

The most effective way to compel a customer or prospect to spend money with you now is to look at your offer through their e…