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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cross Promotion Marketing: You Scratch My Back, I'll Scratch Yours

Here's a nice way to extend your marketing reach without increasing your marketing budget: Try a cross-promotion. When you do a cross-promotion, you and another non-competing business agree to help each other out by marketing to each other's customer base on behalf of the other.

Is there a children's clothing store in your community? Maybe they could distribute your brochures to their customers, and in exchange, you could hand out their marketing materials to your camp families. That's how cross-promotions work.

One thing you'll like about cross-promotions, they're a win-win arrangement for you and your marketing partner because you each get an opportunity to expand through other's customer base. You're reaching many more potential new customers than you otherwise would without your cross-promotion partner.

Another great thing about cross promotions is they're relatively easy to set up and aren't too expensive to set up. The main cost involved will be your time finding suitable cross-partners.

How to Find Cross-Promotion Partners

The key concept to making cross-promotions work is thatyour marketing partner must share the same market base as you -- kids -- but the two of you can't be direct competitors or else it won't work. (Obviously another camp is not going to hand out your marketing materials to its customer base.)

So where do you find cross-promotion partners?

The best place to look is right in your own neighborhood. Identify a handful (5 or 6) of non-competing businesses in your market area who are good potential partners, then approach them with your idea. And don't be afraid of rejection, because this isn't like cold-calling or anything like that. To the contrary, you'll probably be surprised by how many people take you up on your proposal because, let's face it, the economy still sucks and who doesn't want more business?

Three Cross-Promotion Ideas to Get You Started

  1. Approach your local Chuck E. Cheese's. See if you can put your flyers on their prize desk (where kids redeem their winning tickets for prizes). In exchange, you could email your customers about Chuck E. Cheese's great birthday party opportunities for kids.
  2. See if you can set up a booth at your neighborhood kids gym to hand out your brochures to their customers. In trade, invite the gym owner to your next open house or parent orientation where they can meet, greet and distribute their promotional materials to your camp families.
  3. Is there a popular family restaurant in your town? Ask the manager if they'd be willing to recommend your camp the next time they email their customers. You'll be glad to reciprocate in your next email to your families on behalf of the restaurant.

The days of the lone wolf marketer are over. It's all about collaboration now. See if you can band together with others in your niche to promote each other's stuff. You'll reach a much larger pool of prospects than you otherwise could thanks to your cross promotion partner.

I hope this post has been beneficial to you. I realize there are many more ways to do cross-promotions than what I've listed here (trading website links comes to mind), so please let me know if you think of anything I may have missed. And if you've ever done a cross-promotion before, please share your experiences so others can get ideas and learn from you.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Frequent Blog Posts are the Way to Google's Heart

I always enjoy discussing summer camp marketing with camp directors. Even though I get lots of different questions and comments about various topics, a pattern has emerged. Most of the questions from camp folks revolves around internet marketing in general, and social media and website optimization in particular. Most people usually want to know the best way to get your website to the top of the search engine results...and how stay there.

Well, you can use all kinds of different strategies, but in my opinion the absolute best way to rise in Google is though your blog.

Why Google Loves Blogs

Blogs that are updated frequently are favored by Google versus static websites. Google figures, hey, if your blog is being updated all the time, people must be interested in seeing it. But if it's old, static content, Google might be thinking you've got nothing new to offer. As I always say, try to update your blog at least three times a week because, in general, Google typically indexes its own database to find new content first, then old content later, to show users.

Keep this in mind though: It doesn't matter if your content is old or new if it's not relevant to a user's search. The more specific your blog content is to a user's query, the more likely Google will display it. Here's what I mean.

How to Make Your Blog's Content Relevant to Users

Google's primary objective is to display search results most relevant to a users query. That means your blog should contain text and keywords that specifically mirror what a user would type into Google. This way you have a good chance of coming up first in Google's search results.

Let's say you run an overnight camp in Missouri. Users looking for such a camp might type into Google any of the following keyword phrases:

  • Missouri sleepaway camp 
  • Missouri sleepaway camps 
  • Missouri overnight camp 
  • Missouri overnight camps 
  • Sleepaway camps Missouri 
  • Missouri overnight camps for kids 

(Or any variations of these.)

So here's what you do. You populate your blog with those exact phrases so Google realizes you've got the EXACT information the user is looking for. Let me take this one step further for a better example.

User # 1 types the following phrase into Google: "Missouri sleepaway camps"

User # 2 types into Google: "Missouri overnight camps for kids"

Your blog post contains the phrase, "Missouri overnight camps for kids" and sprinkles those same words here and there throughout the post.

My blog post contains the phrase "Summer camps in Missouri"

Even though we're both selling Missouri summer camp opportunities, guess who's gonna get the Google love...YOU are! Why? Because your blog content is IDENTICAL to what the user typed into Google. It makes Google look good to show you exactly what you're looking for.

Your Blog Doesn't Need to Be Text Only

Even though putting out fresh content on a regular basis is your goal, don't get so caught in up line after line of pure text you forget important visual enhancements. (I read a blog called, and while it's very informative, its pure-text format is flat-out ugly and hard to read.) Remember, pictures tell a thousand words, so be sure to share them with your readers. You can also break up your blog text with video, graphs, charts, and other interactive stuff. Your readers will appreciate anything you can do to make your blog more visually appealing and be more likely to return often as a result

(On my Aloha Beach Camp blog, I have a regular routine where several times a week I post the "Picture of the Day." And that's the entire blog post - just a picture. Well, guess what? People keep coming to my blog just to see today's photo. No reason why you can't do this too!  : )

One last thing (which I think I've mentioned before) but seems worth repeating: Please make sure Google knows about your blog in the first place. Tell them about it here, then start writing post after post and watch your blog ranking rise.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

#1 Secret of Writing Google Adword ads

I've noticed a few camps advertising on Facebook and Google Adwords lately. If you're one of them, here's a tip to improve your ad's click-through rate: NEVER use your camp's name as the headline for your ad.

Nobody really cares about your camp's name. They only care about picking a good camp. Most people scroll through Google's ads and search result pages until they find something that intrigues them -- then they click. Benefits and offers help them do that, but your camp's name doesn't.

I just made about $4,000 helping a camp in North Carolina design its Google Adwords strategy. But I'm gonna share the same information with you right now for free.

#1 Secret of Writing Google Adword ads

The #1 secret of getting people to click on your Google ad is writing a descriptive phrase that clearly highlights your offer and benefits AND includes the exact keywords the user's searching for. Quick example.

Let's say you and I run competing day camps in Dallas, Texas. Your camp is called "The Fun Summer Camp." It doesn't matter what mine's called.

So a Dallas mom logs onto Google. She's looking for a day camp. She keys in the words, "Dallas Texas Summer Day Camps."

Your ad comes up. Your headline says, "The Fun Summer Camp" -- it's the name of your camp, after all.

My ad also comes up directly adjacent to yours. My ads's headline says, "Dallas Summer Day Camp. Tons of fun for kids like yours. Save 10% today only."

Now who's ad do you think she's gonna click?

Mine, easily.

Why? Because my headline displays a benefit (actually two: saving money and having fun) PLUS is mirrors the user's exact keyword search. That means she knows she'll find EXACTLY what she's looking for by clicking on my ad.

Honestly it's like taking candy from a baby. But who cares? That's how it's supposed to be.

You can't afford to be wasting money in economic times like these -- or in any times for that matter -- so you better make your sure your ad's as effective as possible and you beat your competition where you can.

Remember, the headline is THE MOST IMPORTANT part of your ad, especially for programs like Google Adwords where your ad is buried among so many similar ones and you only get a limited number of typed characters to create it.

If your ad doesn't smack the reader between the eyes with a great headline, whatever you're offering within the ad irrelevant if the reader won't click it in the first place.

If you're using your camp's name for your ad's headline, that's not a headline, it's an institutional, self-promotional message that doesn't do your prospects any good.

If your online (and even print) ads show your camp name as your headline, go back and start over to create something the reader cares about, otherwise you're throwing your money away.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sorry Twitter, Facebook Owns You

We're running a poll right now to find out which social media marketing site works best for camps. Not too many people have voted, but among those who have, Facebook blows Twitter away.

I understand why. Twitter can't touch Facebook in terms of its marketing potential for camps. There's so many more moms, kids and families on Facebook it's not even close. If my camp (Aloha Beach Camp) stopped using Twitter, our enrollment wouldn't suffer one bit. If we dropped off Facebook, we'd be in trouble, and I'd bet the house your situation is the same.

From what I've seen, Twitter is not a good customer lead or acquisition tool. Most of the stuff you see there is no different than the email spam you get. Twitter is mostly filled with people posting NOISY, useless information in hopes you'll "follow them" or "retweet" their stuff.

(Now if you're a celebrity or otherwise famous, Twitter's another way to pump your personal brand. But still, you almost need a fly swatter to filter out all the crap flying through your Twitter feed. That's why it's almost better to follow only a few people you hold in high esteem so you don't get bombarded with updates about their favorite toilet paper brand.)

Now don't get me wrong. Even though Twitter's user base is shrinking, it definitely has its benefits or it wouldn't be popular. One of its benefits for camps seems to be its professional networking and link-sharing potential. Maybe you've shared a staff training idea or something through Twitter. In that sense Twitter's a very good social networking tool, just not a social marketing one.

From a marketing standpoint, Facebook owns Twitter, and I don't see Twitter catching up anytime soon.

Do you?

Monday, May 17, 2010

How to Blow Parents Away with Amazing Customer Service

Is there ANYTHING better than the enthusiasm of delighted patients? (Delighted kids are nice too, but I'll stick with parents since they're the ones paying...)

Anyway, here's a way to amaze parents so much they'll be drooling all over themselves to refer friends to your camp and keep coming back year after year:

Make every camp family feel like they're your only customer, no matter how many other customers you have.

The way to make every family feel like they're your only customer is to make them feel important.

Look at it this way. Most parents can't accurately assess your skills as a camp director, but they can definitely assess the experience they have with you. That means it's probably worthwhile to bend over backwards as much as you can, not to the exclusion of other customers, but for the benefit of each individual one.

Giving "progress reports" to parents while their kids are at camp is one place to start. Schools give progress reports to keep parents abreast of how their kids are doing academically, so why not give parents camper progress reports to keep them clued into how their kids are doing at camp?

When you have a dental procedure, does your dentist call you the next day to see how you're doing? Mine does, and it blows me away every time. I can't believe she takes the time to call. She's got a booming practice with four locations, and usually I wonder if she's calling all her other patients too. But it really doesn't matter since she's talking to me and me alone at that moment in time. It makes me feel good.

If you've got kids coming and going to camp without having much contact with their parents, see if you can't reach out. Can you connect to each one on a regular basis during the summer, if only to say hello and let them know their kid's doing fine and oh by the way do they have any questions?

Surely this action will take lots of time. But if you want to absolutely delight parents and in turn build a camper retention and referral system that can't be beat, it's also a marketing strategy you can't afford to miss.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Introducing Twitter

Friday, May 14, 2010

5 Ways to Get More Twitter Followers and Facebook Fans

I've gotten lots of calls and emails from camp directors the past few weeks (my phone number is 818.919.1713 if you'd like to reach me) asking how to get more Facebook fans and Twitter followers, so I thought I'd address it here.

Personally I don't care if you have 5,000 fans and I only have 50. Sheer numbers mean nothing to me and I hope they don't to you. The only thing that matters is:

  1. The level of influence your friends and followers have over their friends
  2. How much your friends and followers like you; and
  3. How often they refer their friends to your camp

Look at it this way. I'm in much better position to cultivate relationships with 50 people -- one at a time on a regular basis -- than you are with 5,000. Most likely, if you have 5,000 Facebook fans, they don't even know who you are, and you sure as heck don't know them.

I get it though. I understand why people want more followers and fans. It's an ego boost for one thing. So here's 5 tips you might try to help you pick up more Facebook fans and Twitter followers today:

1. Put a Facebook "like box" (or similar widget) on your website and blog so people can share your content with their friends from anywhere.

2. Connect your twitter status updates to your Facebook page and blog, so when you update one, the other two get updated automatically.

3. If you're set up to take online enrollment, put "Find Us on Facebook" and "Follow us on Twitter" links on your confirmation page. ("Thanks for signing up for Aloha Beach Camp...we're looking forward to a fun summer...please become a fan on Facebook so we can share the latest information from camp with you, etc., etc., etc.")

4. Many of your staff members probably have their own websites, blogs, Facebook pages and twitter accounts. Encourage them to post or tweet about your camp and make sure they link their posts back to your camp’s website. (Don't be fearful your staff might post something you won't like...they're probably already posting stuff about you anyway, if you're lucky.)

5. Whenever you make a new blog post or write an article, your staff should share that content with their own network of friends keeping all links intact back to your website, Facebook or Twitter pages.

When I first started messing around with social media I tried all kinds of things and these five tips are some of the ones that worked the best. so give a couple (or all five) of these tips a try and let me know how they work for you.

Well, that's it for now... It's Friday night so I'm signing off. Hope you have a great weekend...and if you're inclined to say you Like" Aloha Beach Camp on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, great...but either way is fine with me :)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

If it's Not Broken, Let's Fix it!

I'm not a fan a fixing things that aren't broken. I still think Facebook fan pages are better than "liking" something and I also prefer Google's clean search results and home page better than the new stuff they just put out. But we're talking about Google and Facebook, the two most powerful creatures on the Internet, so what can you do?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Did you know 80% of Your Facebook Fans are Meaningless?

You know the 80/20 adage, right? The rule of thumb that states 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers? I don’t know if that’s true in the summer camp field – I'm guessing it's probably not. But I do know this: if you’ve got lots of Facebook fans, twitter followers and blog subscribers, most likely a very small percentage of those people represent a very large number of your site visitors. So the 80/20 rule applies here, and I'll give you an example.

One of my Facebook pages has almost 14,000 fans. But only a precious few actively visit the page, comment, post photos or otherwise participate. Among those who do, it's the same people every time. Same goes for most of my other other websites, fan pages and blogs.

At first I was frustrated by this. I beat myself up trying to figure out how to engage the vast majority of people who weren't participating. Then I realized it didn't matter.

I realized the way to make social media really work is to "fish where the big fish are." And in this case 20% represent big fish and 80% represent sardines.

It’s that small 20% who mean the most to you. They're the ones who feel most connected to your camp and have influence over their friends. So don’t waste your time on the sardines even though there's lots of them because the vast majority are meaningless to you. Engage that small 20% and you'll be set.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Do You Have an "Elevator Pitch?" Can Your Customers and Prospects Share it with Their Friends?

Hopefully you can describe for prospects in 45 seconds or less exactly what you do and how your camp differs from all the rest. That's your "elevator pitch." But unless your customers and prospects can tell their friends about you in 45 seconds or less, word-of-mouth marketing's probably not working as powerfully as it could be for you.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Social Media Marketing is a New Concept for Everyone...Except Camp Directors

I've always felt social media marketing and summer camp marketing were made for each other. And when you really think about it, haven't camp directors ALWAYS been social media marketers, even before that fancy term was coined?

If "social media marketing" is about having conversations and connecting with your customers and prospects on a personal level, seems to me like we've been social media marketers all along.

I don't remember where I heard this, or even who said it, but I was reading a magazine article a few weeks ago where the author called social media marketing "conversational marketing."

Wouldn't you agree that "conversational marketing" is nothing more than talking with customers and prospects, listening to their feedback, and earning their trust so they'll sign up for camp and tell all their friends?

And haven't you ALWAYS marketed your camp that way?

Before "social media marketing" was all the rage, maybe you were one of the lucky ones. Maybe families flocked to you like white-on-rice and registered for your program sight unseen without speaking a single word to you.

But more than likely, I'll bet it took a little more work. I'll bet it took some talking, coddling, and even some ass-kissing on your part before prospects warmed up to you and trusted you with their kids, right?

The Internet - and Facebook and Twitter in particular - are just new tools camp directors can use to market our camps. In the past, maybe we used the telephone; today we use our blogs.

But we're still communicating with prospects and customers on the same basic level for the same basic purpose. At it's core, the most effective summer camp marketing involves making connections with families on a personal basis so they'll feel comfortable sending their kids to our camps.

That's how it was before, and that's how it is today.

The fact is, you and I have been using "social media marketing" to fill our camps forever. Now there's just a fancy new name for it.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

What's the Single Best Way To Market Your Camp?

What's the #1 marketing strategy to use at your camp? Well, if there was a magic bullet, we'd all be rich and I wouldn't be writing this blog anymore.

Fact is, no single marketing technique works for every camp every time. You and I might have identical marketing plans, but yours might work like a charm while mine doesn't do jack.


Because every customer is different. People have different tastes and opinions, so they respond differently to marketing messages even when the message is the same. You might think Chinese Chicken Salad is the best thing since sliced bread, but your best friend might hate it.

That's the kind of thing we're up against when we market our camps.

Now even though there’s no magic bullet, there is one marketing principle we should all embrace, otherwise our camps will fall off the proverbial cliff:

We need to know and understand our target markets like the backs of our respective hands.

My guess is your camp’s target market is comprised of both children and parents, not just one or the other. I hope that's how you view it, too. But there's more to it than that.

Within your target audience, you need to define the personalities and characteristics of the people you're trying to reach. That's how to really maximize your camp's marketing effectiveness.

Let's say your camp is priced on the high end, and your typical customers are doctors, lawyers and celebrities. You'd be wasting your time, money and energy trying to get a homeless family to sign up for your camp, even if they have kids.

No brainer, right? You'd think so, but check this out.

Two nights ago I went to the Dodger game with my family. Some guy sitting next to us kept telling every kid and family he could find that he just opened a new summer camp in Los Angeles, and all the kids should come try it out.

Apart from being an inappropriate, obnoxious idiot, how would this guy have any worldly clue if the people he was talking to were decent prospects for his camp? He didn't know their income level, where they lived or anything else about them. All he noticed was a bunch of kids at the Dodger game.

I guess he didn't realize that just because camps are for kids, not all kids are prospects for camp.

Here's another example. Let's say you run a specialty camp focusing on sailing. You decide to do a direct mail campaign, so you consider renting a mailing list comprised of families with kids. That's a good start, but not good enough to hit a bulls-eye.

To hit a bulls-eye, you need to incorporate some additional defining characteristics of the people you're trying to reach into your mailing list. So here's what you need to do.

You need to rent a mailing list of:

  • Families with children between the ages of x, y, and z; and who
  • Have an income level of x, y, and z; and who've
  • Sent their kids to camp in the past year or two, and who've
  • Used their sailboat actively within the past 12 months

See what I mean by "hitting a bulls-eye?" The nice thing about direct mail is you can really zero in on your target market. But the importance of knowing your target market doesn't just apply to your direct mail activities, it applies to your entire marketing program across the board.

I'm sure there's a few camp directors out there who could sell sand to a sheik. But the rest of us need a little more help. Even if you have the biggest advertising budget in the world and the best advertising agency and the best website and all that, your marketing won't work if it's directed to a group of hotel bathroom attendants who don't have kids.

So the only no-brainer here is this: If you don't know your target market, you might find yourself spinning your wheels and facing all kinds of trouble getting any kids into camp at all. To that end, I really hope that fool at the Dodger game does well. But I don't think he'll get too far, JMHO. (Shrugs.)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

How to Retain Current Customers and Reactivate Old Ones

One of the downsides of running a camp, or any organization for that matter, is you're gonna lose customers eventually. People stop coming to you for any number of voluntary or involuntary reasons affecting your customer attrition rate.

Voluntary Reasons Customers Stop Coming to Your Camp

"Voluntary" means customers have made a conscious decision not to attend your camp anymore. There's endless possibilities why. Maybe they found a camp they like better. Maybe they had a bad experience with you. Maybe they didn't feel "connected" to your camp. Maybe they did feel connected, but your prices are too high. Or maybe their kids just felt like they've outgrown your program (a common concern among camp directors).

Involuntary Reasons Customers Stop Coming to Your Camp

Experts say the two most involuntary reasons customers stop patronizing any business is because they either die or move away. This happens about 5% to 10% of the time. Not much you can do; it's just part of the normal customer attrition rate which happens across the board.

But if you have unusually high camper attrition, where families are trying your camp for only a summer or two and stop coming back by choice, you can definitely implement marketing and other strategies to win them back.

How to Win Back Existing Campers Who Don't Attend Your Camp Anymore

Whatever you do, never be content with a one year camper! You've invested too much time, money and other resources in acquiring that single kid for them to come and go in a matter of weeks. If I were you, I'd try squeezing at least 2 or 3 summers out of each camper...and I mean AT LEAST.

From what I've heard from camp managers and directors - and believe me, I talked to lots of them before writing this post - the biggest issue they face seems to be their campers feel like they've outgrown the activities they offer. Consequently those kids look elsewhere to fill their summer camp needs, or they stop going to camp altogether.

And you know what Most of the camp directors I talked to also said they didn't think they could do anything about it.


Come on. Why can't you modify your marketing activities and camp program in such a way to keep kids coming back for another few years or even longer?

Now I realize kids outgrow camp eventually. That's part of the deal. But they also outgrow the shoes and clothes they wear, websites they visit, TV shows they watch, movies they see and all that. The difference seems to be that these other industries are adept at modifying their offerings to keep customers for life.

Camps, in comparison, have some catching up to do.

Consider a restaurant business that offers kids meals. When a kid outgrows the kids menu, they migrate over to the adult menu and the restaurant doesn't miss a beat. The kid can keep eating at the same restaurant for the rest of his life.

As camp directors, why can't we offer customers our version of the "adult menu?"

If you want to keep camp families longer (and I don't know why you wouldn't, unless the customer's a real pain in the ass), the first thing I do is make sure you have well-organized customer service, customer loyalty, and customer retention programs in place. By "well-organized" I mean well-thought-out, written plans your whole staff is tuned into. Now here's what else you need.

You also need a formal "customer reactivation program" so you can go back and pick up ex-campers who haven't been with you for awhile turn them into paying customers again. Need some ideas:

  • Offer camp programs designed to appeal to whole the family. (Could you start a family camp?)
  • Offer the same version of your current activities, but tweak them to suit older kids, perhaps with an "Extreme Sports" bent
  • Ask other camp directors with how they fight customer attrition. They'll probably be happy to share information and you might get a bunch of great ideas. 
  • Send a survey to past and current camp families asking for suggestions on what programs or activities they'd like to see for their older kids. (This is important, because your customers will be telling you what they want. That means they're taking the guess work out of your marketing and doing your promotional work for you.) And by the way, almost any feedback you get from customers is pure gold, so don't just sit on the information and ideas they give you. Instead, use them!)

There's so much more you can do. These ideas are just starting points. Play your cards right and old customers you haven't seen in years might come back to you. In fact this just happened to me this week.

I used to have a kid named Pierce who attended Aloha Beach Camp for 5 summers from 2002-2006, then he stopped coming altogether. So I finally put him on our "Inactive Camper List." But I also made certain stay in touch with his family through the years, because unless you can predict the future, you never know how much one single family might be worth to you.

Well, guess what?

Pierce's dad  called me last Wednesday on my cell phone to say he'd like to send Julia, his younger daughter from a different marriage, to camp this summer. Do you know how good that feels??? I couldn't be happier!

Surely I could have written Dan's family off after having them as customers for 5 years and not seeing them for three more. But I figured, why not stay in touch a little longer? So I kept sending them emails and Holiday cards and all that every year. Obviously it paid off in spades.

You just never know what things will lead to. As my friend who owns a 31 Flavors ice-cream franchise (where I eat far too often) always tell me, "It's not how many customers you get, but how many you keep that's important."

Of course kids grow up, and in some cases they WILL outgrown camp by default. But that doesn't mean you can't position yourself to keep them or their families as customers a little longer. To the contrary, you can and you should. It might take some adjustments to the way you're doing things now, the the potential payoff for you could be huge. Good luck!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

How Do You Set Camp Prices? Are Your Customers Happy with what You Charge?

Do you know what your competition charges for camp? Are your families comfortable paying what you charge for camp?

At Aloha Beach Camp, I make it a point to know exactly how much my competition charges so I set my prices accordingly.

If I was going to name a formal pricing "strategy," I guess I'd say we intentionally set our prices on the "low end of the high end camps."

But there's a number of factors that go into setting your prices beyond just what your competition charges. Check out this video from Web Pro News which I hope you'll find useful, then let me know what you think.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Ever had a Camp Family Appreciation Day? Why Not Give it a Try?!

Whenever I need a new marketing idea, the first place I look is outside the camp industry. In general most camp marketers all do the same thing (brochure, website, etc.), so I've learned the best way to stand out from the crowd is by "stealing" promotional ideas from other industries.

My feeling is, hey, if your marketing ideas work, who the heck cares where you find them?

Some of the best marketing strategies I've ever used are from the sports marketing field. Professional sports teams in particular are marketing MASTERS. One of the primary ways they get you to go to their games is by offering various promotions and giveaways. Most teams even have a dedicated section on their websites just so you can find out when they're giving away a free blanket, t-shirt, hat, bobble head, magnet, action figure, player autograph or whatever.

There's a very good reason why they do this: promotions and giveaways fill stadium seats.

Here's why I'm telling you this.

When I was a kid, I was a huge Dodger fan. I went to lots of games each season, but the one thing I ALWAYS looked forward to was Fan Appreciation Day at the end of the season. You got to meet all the players, get autographs, go on the Dodger Stadium field, take pictures with the players, run the bases, see the dugout and all that cool stuff.

And you know what? Those days left such a wonderful impression on me, we now offer a Camp Family Appreciation Day at Aloha Beach Camp. Our families LOVE IT. They've been hearing from their kids all summer what a cool camp we run, and all about their kids' favorite counselors and all, but now they get a chance to see it first-hand AND we use this event to make them feel really good about being our customer, too.

So why not offer the same thing at your camp?

You can hold your Camp Family Appreciation Day near the end of the summer. Your families will love it. Make it like a carnival. Have food and refreshments on hand. Let your families enjoy all your camp activities, just like their kids. Do raffles and giveaways from your camp store where people can win a free hat or t-shirt (great advertising for you). Maybe you could even have live music playing so it really feels like a celebration and your customers feel important.

The main thing is, you want to make it like a party atmosphere where EVERYONE has a blast and wants to come back to camp next year.

Now here's what else you do.

You make sure to tell your families to bring all their friends and family members so they can join the fun, too. Whenever I do this, I pick up AT LEAST 15 or 20 new campers for the following summer, just because they came to the Camp Family Appreciation day with our current camp families. This makes the cost of putting on the event more than worthwhile compared to all the new campers we get in exchange. There's no reason you can't do this, too!

When is the best time to let people know about your Camp Family Appreciation Day? The sooner the better. This way everyone has enough time to make plans to attend. The more people who attend, the better, because that means you'll probably get more kids from it for the following year.

If you decide to do this, let me know. I'd be interested to know how it goes...or even better, I might not say no if you invited me! :)

But whatever you do, have fun with it and enjoy the day...and make sure all your families do, too!

Monday, May 3, 2010

OK McDonald's, Enough with the Fake Drive-Thru Voice

Don't you think it's weird when McDonald’s use a recorded drive-thru voice to ask you for your order? And how about when Mr. Automated Speaker Greeter asks you to add something to your order BEFORE you've even ordered in the first place? And don't you feel like an idiot RESPONDING to the recorded voice as if it’s a real person?

I've gotten to the point where I just ignore the fake voice and wait for a real person (who's often no more competent than the voice box).

Hey, I'm pro-technology all the way from the largest fast food restaurant to the smallest summer camp. But I don't see how a prerecorded greeting helps anyone. When technology gets in the way of having a real conversation with a real person, and hurts customer service, the technology's gotta go.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Double Your Lead Coversions, Double Your Enrollment

I talked to a camp director this weekend who's frustrated because she's having a hard time converting leads into enrollments. She says she gets all the leads she can handle from her website, but she can't turn them into paying customers.

Considering she spends over $23,000 on marketing each year, you can imagine her disappointment at how much money she's wasting generating dead-end lead after dead-end lead.

If you haven't read my blog post, How to Double Your Sales in Just One Year, now might be a good time. In that post, I talk about a very easy and obvious -- yet overlooked -- method of increasing your camp enrollment without spending all your time, money and energy chasing leads that go nowhere.

If you need a cost-effective way to increase your enrollment right now, here's the kind of thing I'd do:
  • I'd contact all your families from last summer who haven't registered for this camp this year. (You can call them on the phone or email them, but calling is better.) Tell them you're giving them a courtesy call because you noticed they were missing from your current enrollment list, and if they're planning on coming back to camp this year, they really can't afford to wait any longer to register otherwise you might not have room for them.
  • The other thing I'd do, I'd try to get your currently enrolled families to extend their initial enrollment, which you can do right now even before camp starts. Offering a special discount or incentive to anyone who adds an additional week or two to their original enrollment should do the trick.
Now with either of these two approaches, I'll bet you'd get a bunch of new enrollments and extensions immediately. Best of all, since everything is directed at your current customers, not new ones, your lead generation and acquisition costs are nothing.

Check this out. Let's say for every 100 leads you get, one turns into a paying enrollment -- granted that's just a 1% lead conversion rate and it sucks. But what if you could increase that number by JUST ONE KID? Now you've doubled your enrollment and lead conversion rate!

Again, you can find that one person -- or however many more you need -- already hidden within your current customer base.

And considering the time, money, and energy resources you'll save, I'd get started ASAP hitting up your current camp families to build your enrollment now.

How to Know if Your Camp Video's a Winner

Here's a quick way to know if your camp video is working as hard it can for you: Try watching your video with the sound off. Ask others do to the same. If you (or they) are still half-way engaged, you know your video is a winner.

Like pictures, video is a visual marketing medium, and people often make yes or no decisions about signing up for camp based on the pictures you show. Adding music or sound later is only a bonus.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

When Google Looks at Your Website, What Does it See?

If you’re familiar with this blog or read the archives, you know that updating your website and blog on a frequent basis is among the easiest ways to get your camp's website to the top of Google.

At risk of sounding like a broken record: GOOGLE LOVES FRESH CONTENT!

But sometimes it’s hard to find the time to update your blog and website, especially now when you’re getting ready for camp. If you don’t have time to update your website or blog, you should at least make sure your current content is strong and easily readable by Google.

Here's what I mean by "easily readable." I mean if you have a Tennessee horseback riding camp, your website content should reflect this in a crystal clear way, otherwise Google might think you sell Tennessee horseback riding tours instead. In that case, Google won't show your website to people who need your camp. That's a missed opportunity for you!

Here's what you should do now. Go to Seo to see your site the way Google sees it. Based on what you see from Seo-Browser, your can decide if your content is clear enough for Google to “read.” If your content doesn't contain words and phrases users would type into Google to find you, it may need work.

If you think your content needs work, the easiest fix is by FORCING yourself to find the time to update your website or blog at least 3 times a week. The two most search-engine-friendly blogging platforms (which also happen to be free) are Blogger and Wordpress. You can use either of these to post new content to the Internet with ease, and if you do it often enough, people should start finding your Tennessee Horseback riding camp pretty quickly.