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Thursday, December 27, 2012

We Get Hate Mail! (And How My Dad Paved the Way for Social Media Marketing and Word of Mouth Referrals)

I get lots of email sometimes, mostly from camp directors seeking marketing advice. Other times people try picking fights and criticize me. Some of them are funny, some are angry, some are educational, others are written by idiots. I appreciate them all. The reason I'm telling you this is because I just got home from Las Vegas to find this one in my inbox:

Dear Eric,
I usually don't read your blog because you don't have any qualifications. For instance, you often write about social media marketing for summer camps and getting referrals. But you don't know anything. I'd probably take your advice if you had any qualifications but until you can prove otherwise, you have no more marketing knowledge that the next guy won't even consider taking your marketing advice because I don't think you know anything else than the next guy. Sorry buddy!
Ed Banks
New Mexico

Here's my response:

Dear Ed,
Thank you for writing to me. You sound like a kid but I'll respond anyway. I don't know if you'll agree, but since you've focused on social media and getting referrals, here's the story: Much of what I know I learned from my dad, who 42 years ago (pre-internet, mind you) conducted a pioneering psychology experiment called the Dr. Fox Effect which basically laid the blueprint for people like you and me to understand how social media works and how influential people can help your ideas spread. It's all over the internet, but here's a few links for more information (and be sure to watch the video, too):
  1. Hugh
  3. Wikipedia
  4. New York Times
  5. Weird Experiments

When people click the "LIKE" button on Facebook, "retweet" you on Twitter or share your content with their friends, THAT's today's word of mouth marketing. I'm not gonna sit here and toot my own horn because I definitely have a lot more to learn about all kinds of marketing. I read and experiment all the time so I can share what I learn with you. And certainly from a social media standpoint, I think I know what I'm talking about. But if you don't want to read this blog, no worries, nobody here will miss you miss you. Happy Holidays! :)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

How to Get Twice As Many People to Attend Your Next Live Marketing Event

If you market your camp with site tours, open houses, camp fairs and other live events, here's an easy way to get at least twice as many prospects to attend these important marketing functions: If each person attending the event brings at least one friend, you've doubled your attendance just like that.

This should not be hard to do. You can offer them a coupon. You could say, "if you're coming to our open house this weekend, bring a friend and we'll give you both a coupon for a free ice cream cone from 31 Flavors." (Be sure Baskin-Robbins donates the coupons so you're not paying for the ice cream yourself. They'll be glad to, if you pitch them the right way.)

Another idea: If you're attending a camp fair, you can say to your prospects, "If you stop by our booth with a friend, you can both enter our "Friends Win Free Camp Contest" or something like that.

You get the idea. The point it is, if only one person is planning on attending your next event, and you convince them to bring a friend, now TWO people are coming, and so on and on....

Monday, December 17, 2012

Risk-free Lead Generation Service For You

Recently we asked camps about their biggest marketing challenge. "Not enough new leads" topped the list.

So that got me thinking, how can we all get more leads without risking a dime? By participating on the new website, that's how.

As many of you know I've operated Camp Coupons for the past several years, but haven't given it the attention it deserves. That's changing because I'm about to give the site, and how it's marketed, a complete makeover so you can get more leads for your camp, if you decide to participate on

As you know, saving money is what almost every family needs to do just to get by these days. If you can give them a break -- even just a small one -- on their summer camp tuition, or a discount to your camp store, or half-off an overnight campout, or a nice new customer special designed however you want, or whatever else you might want to offer -- you could gain a new, loyal customer for life with this simple initial gesture.

I expect the new site to be up and going by February. I'm going to really push it hard from a marketing standpoint, with tons of social media exposure through Facebook, Twitter and more. If you decide to participate, you could get lots of new leads, but you will ONLY pay when you get one, so you don't have to worry about paying for advertising that might not work. Here's how it will work:
  1. Site will be designed in blog-style format to keep it atop the search engine rankings. 
  2. As a participating camp, you'll be able to post your contact info, pictures, program descriptions, coupon offers and more on your own blog post page
  3. Prospect (camp parent, etc.) will log onto to search for camps and coupon  information
  4. When parent finds desired camps/coupons, they will fill out a form, providing their contact info. They will not be able to access your coupons without completing the form.
  5. Upon form submission, coupon will be emailed to parent
  6. Simultaneously to when the parent submits form and receives their coupon via email, an email will be sent to you alerting you that someone has not only downloaded your coupon, but also containing all the contact info of the parent who accessed your coupon so you can follow up with them.
I am still working out the fee structure for camps that want to participate, but most likely, it won't cost you anything to list a coupon, you will only be charged a small fee (couple bucks) when someone downloads (requests) your coupon. And remember, you will receive their contact info too.

So that's the preliminary scoop. Any questions let me know. Have a great week!

- Eric

EDIT: Don't fill out any forms on the existing Camp Coupons website because it's not ready to go yet!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

What's the Difference Between a Lead and an Inquiry?

In a recent poll we asked camp owners, marketers and directors to share their most significant marketing challenge. "Not enough new leads" was the overwhelming response. 

Here's the results of the poll (with answers indicated as a percentage of overall response rates):

Question: What is your camp's biggest marketing challenge?


  • Not enough new leads (41%) 
  • Not enough word of mouth referrals (17%) 
  • Camper retention rate too low (17%) 
  • Marketing Budget too low (17%) 
  • Other (5%) 

As you can see, "Not enough new leads" got 41% of the responses. The next CLOSEST was 17%. It was a landslide.

Now let me make one comment about the second answer, "Not enough word of mouth referrals" which got 17%.

The fact is, getting word of mouth referrals is your best source of new leads. That means getting new leads and word of mouth referrals are the same thing, or in other words, if you got more word of mouth referrals you'd have enough new leads and vice versa.

Accordingly, since these two things are the same, I'm gonna add that 17% percent on top of the 41% and say 58% percent of those who participated in this poll feel like their marketing program is hindered by not getting enough new leads.

I'm going to spend some time in the future giving you lead generation ideas. Did you know you can double or even triple your camp enrollment in just one year with new leads and referrals? That's a fact, not my opinion, and I will show you how. You will need to attend one of my upcoming marketing workshops in mid-winter/early spring to get the full benefit and understanding. I will share more information about this soon. But first let's agree on something.

First and foremost, we need to identify exactly what a "lead" is. Is an inquiry a lead? Some would say so. But I would say not really. An inquiry is an inquiry and a lead is a lead.

Leads are better than inquiries because leads are qualified referrals, whereas an inquiry could just be anyone with no intention of signing up for your program

By "qualified referral," I am talking about:

  • Families who are truly interested in your program 
  • Have children that match you ideal camper profile 
  • Have the financial capacity to pay for your program; and are
  • Practically pre-sold on your camp because their friends prompted them to reach out to you

Leads like this are easier to close, shorten your sales cycle, and eliminate your competition. THAT's a qualified lead or referral.

What's an inquiry? And inquiry is when someone fills out your online inquiry form. Now don't get me wrong because this is important. But it's only an inquiry, not necessarily a qualified lead or referral. A spammer could fill out that form, for goodness sake. On the other hand, qualified leads and referrals are practically preregistered campers in your back pocket; the only thing left for them to do is complete your registration form and boom, they're active campers.

I'll show you how to get tons of referrals soon here on this site and at our live seminar. Happy Holiday!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Where to Find the Best Keywords for Your Website

A camp director named Chris asked how to find his main keywords so he could optimize his website for search engines. I told him he could use a paid service like Wordtracker or Google's free Adwords tool. But as I explained to Chris, your principle keywords are likely right under your nose and you have already created them yourself.

If you take a look around your website and blog, you will notice a pattern. The same phrases and word choices will come up over and over again, meaning your very best keywords will always appear naturally in your writing. Here's what I mean.

Much of my own website content includes the phrase, "Los Angeles surf camps." I use those words (or a similar variation) frequently to describe my program. (And not just in writing; I say that phrase over and over when talking to parents and kids in person, too.) Those are some of my best keywords, helping me to optimize my site the best. In fact if you type those keywords into Google, Aloha Beach Camp will generally come up first (or close to it) every time.

So take a look around your site or blog. Unless your website content is severely disjointed, you'll definitely notice a similar phrase or two (or more) coming up often that you use to describe your program. That means you've already created your very best keywords on your own, and even better, they are most likely the same ones parents and kids type into Google when looking for a camp like yours.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Do You Market Your Camp with QR Codes?

Does your camp have a mobile marketing strategy? I'm a mobile marketing nut. QR codes, text message marketing all of it.

Regarding QR codes (see image above), their upside is tremendous. They offer tons of benefits to marketers and consumers alike. But the problem right now is that even though everyone sees these things everywhere, not enough people understand what they are or do or how to use them. 

Of course, this realization goes against one of the fundamental rules of a sound marketing plan, which states that if your marketing raises more questions than answers, maybe it's not a good marketing strategy to begin with.

Notwithstanding, I'm banking on QR codes taking off big-time as an important component to your mobile marketing plan. I've started a new mobile marketing blog and my first post is dedicated to QR code marketing itself.

Take a look when you can.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

I wanted to wish everyone a very Happy Thanksgiving. Writing this blog is a labor of love for me, and I really appreciate all of you who take the time to read it. I hope you have a very safe and Happy Thanksgiving, and an upcoming Holiday Season full of joy and laughter. Happy Thanksgiving again! :)

- Eric

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sports Camp Marketing Plan

If you run a sports camp, and/or especially a baseball camp, here's a sample (actual) marketing plan I found online you might use:

How to Share Your Content for Free on Social Media Sites

As we've mentioned before, all your content (website, blog, etc.) should be "shareable." This means making your stuff as easy as possible for your customers, prospects and site visitors to share with their friends. If you don't have social sharing tools on your website or blog, now you can get and install them for free.

Go to Their step-by-step wizard walk you through an easy process (no technical skills required) and give you the code to place on your blog or website so people can share your content on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest or any other social media sites you choose.

Monday, November 19, 2012

I hear from many different camp directors about many different marketing problems, so thought I'd post a poll where everyone can (anonymously) indicate their biggest challenge. The poll is located on the upper right sidebar portion of the page. Go ahead and make yourself heard.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Does Your Camp Create Memories to Last a Lifetime? Well Guess What? Nobody Cares.

Question: Which camp's marketing message is this?:
"Sign up for our camp because your child will make new friends and create memories that last a lifetime." 
Answer: Way too many of them.

First of all, nobody cares, mostly because it's a boring message.

Second, those words don't mean anything special. You can make new friends and create lifetime memories anywhere you want -- I did it at a sushi bar last night -- so it's clear you don't need a camp experience to make friends and memories.

Third, if I'm a parent contemplating summer camps and I see and hear those far-too-common words everywhere I look from just about every camp, why in the world should I choose yours?

Parents and kids want something different, special, unique. You need to find out what separates your camp from the crowd, then promote the heck out of that message.

THEN people will take crazy notice of your awesome program!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Which Camp Fairs Should You Attend This Year?

Attending Camp Fairs should be part of every camp's annual marketing plan. On December 7, we will publish a listing of various Camp Fairs taking place across the country so you can decide which ones to attend. (If you operate, organize or promote Camp Fairs and want to be listed, leave a comment to let us know.)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Are You Sitting on a Goldmine of Camper Leads?

Everyone's got the same marketing problems. Their marketing budget's too small, they don't get enough leads, they don't get enough referrals, they don't retain campers long enough...the list goes on.

Regarding not getting enough leads, I hear this over and over. But guess what? You might be sitting on a gold mine of leads right now and not even know it. The "gold mine" I'm talking about is you current prospect list.

Unless you've built your list unethically, then everyone on it (at one point or another) took the time to express interest in your camp, perhaps in the form of a brochure request, email inquiry, phone call, or whatever. Keep in mind that person's a HOT prospect for you. But what if you haven't heard from them in a while? Many camp marketers actually give up trying to reach the prospect after a year or two if they haven't heard from them.

I say, don't give up that easy! You have no idea why they didn't buy from you before. Maybe the time wasn't right, their kid wasn't old enough, the parents were going through a divorce, one or both of the parents lost their jobs, there was a death in the family which changed their summer plans ...who knows what else. The point is, I wouldn't just remove them from your list of your own volition. Instead, let THEM tell YOU when to take them off, because now they may be ready to sign up for camp!

Here's what I'd do. I'd send an email to everyone letting them know you're doing a "spring cleaning" of your email lists, and since you want to be sure you're only sending relevant information to interested people, you're checking in to see if they'd like to stay on your contact list or be removed.

If they ask to be removed, you're no worse off than you were before. (In fact you're in a better position since you probably pay your email marketing company by the number of contacts you have. You don't to pay for useless contacts!)

Now the people who decide to STAY on your list -- especially those you haven't heard from -- are the goldmine I mentioned before. They've been sitting dormant, but your simple email has likely reactivated their interest in your camp. And with the simple email you sent, you can probably pick up an enrollment or two (or more) this way, and it didn't cost you anything but an hour or two of your time. You can't beat that! :)

Your Keywords in Customer Reviews

Customer reviews can improve your website ranking. So a good search engine optimization strategy is to ask customers to review your camp and post those reviews to Google. Something else to consider might be having your customers include your keywords in their reviews.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The #1 Free Tool to Help People Find Your Camp

What's the #1 free tool you can use to show off your camp's location to the world? Google Maps.

Let me explain.

You're probably familiar with the phrase, "location, location, location." Having a great location can make one business thrive, while a bad one (poor parking, no street visibility or whatever) can force you under.

Now in the summer camp field, you're probably not too concerned with foot traffic or customer impulse purchases -- that kind of thing is reserved for restaurants and retail stores -- yet your LOCATION is just as important. Here's what I mean.

Let's say you're driving down the street and you're hungry. You see a Subway sandwich shop, so you stop what you're doing and walk in to buy a sandwich. You noticed the Subway because it's located in a good spot -- you SAW it, after all, and Subway gets tons of business this way. 

But as a camp professional, you can't count on that. You can't expect someone walking down the street to see your site and suddenly say to themselves, "Oh, this looks like a nice place, I think I'll sign up for camp today."  

And yet, your location, and facility itself, are equally important to the success of your operation as the Subway owner's location is to him. If your facility is impressive enough, and located in the right place, that could be enough to get customers to sign up for your camp.

As you may know, my summer camp is located on the beach. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that my program's much easier to sell when people see it ahead of time. So what I've done is, I've experimented  with various types of maps on different parts of  my website. This way I can show prospective campers and their families where my program's located and the various activities we do at camp. 

For many years I used a hand-drawn map, which was (and still is) pretty cool I think.  Here's a link to that map so you can see what I mean.

Now as you can see, that map is still (obviously) active on my website. It does a pretty good job of showing people what we offer and where we offer it. But I've discovered in the past year or two the best way to really capture my prospects' interest, from the standpoint of showing off my location*, is using Google Maps.

*(And that's not the only benefit. By putting a Google Map on my open house page, attendance at my Open Houses have increased 22%, the page views on that part of my site has increased by 38%, and my Facebook Likes have increased on that page too. And the best part of all is when people search on the terms "Aloha Beach Camp map," the Open House page of my website comes up first on Google! : )

Google Maps is a ubiquitous part of internet use these days. People search for places on Google Maps at a VASTLY increasing rate. They want to see what they're buying, and WHERE the place they're buying it from is located. They want to SEE where they're sending their kids to camp! 

If you don't use Google Maps, I highly suggest you start. You can create a map and deploy it on your website in minutes. You can show people EXACTLY where your program is located, and you can even include supporting sales copy or informational text to boot. Here's a link so you can get started right now. It's  a very easy thing to do and will help many more people discover camp.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What if You Only Had $10 to Market Your Camp?

I was in McDonald's today with my kids. We overheard two guys talking about starting a new business together. Gist of the conversation was they thought they had a million dollar idea, but literally ZERO money for marketing. So it got me thinking, what if I only had a couple bucks to market my camp? How would I do it?

Well, let's say I'm in REALLY bad shape and can only afford about $10 for marketing. Here's the kind of thing I'd do.

  • I'd spend the whole $10 on a great Website domain name
  • I'd find a free, do-it-yourself website building tool and a place I could host my site for free (like this one -- and get it online immediately
  • I'd blog like CRAZY ... at least three posts per day for as long as it took to acheive my desired ranking
  • I'd put coupons all over my site to entice camper registrants at a discount
  • I'd run "New Customer" and "Bring a Friend" discount offers and specials
  • I'd use Google Maps strategically to let everyone know where my camp is located
  • I'd use PR liberally sending out press releases about my new program several times a week
  • I'd make VERY close friends with influential mommy bloggers -- people who could endorse my camp through their blog and social media pages to their friends, fans and followers
  • I'd set up Facebook and Twitter accounts and get to know as many people through them as possible, and run sweepstakes and contents (to the extent they're legal) to garner quick interest among prospects and sharing and "liking" among friends
  • I'd design a nice, color brochure with the free do-it-yourself publishing software that comes with any computer
  • I'd find a printer who has kids they'd like to send to camp. Then I'd do a trade with him -- free camp for printing my brochure, dollar for dollar. 
  • I'd distribute the brochure in places like doctor's offices and schools, and I'd turn it into a PDF to post online as well
  • I'd find 5 or 10 other business owners who serve customers just like mine (but who don't compete with me), and do joint ventures / referral deals with them. I'd give them 10% of all the money I make from every camper they refer to me
  • I'd ask those same business owers to send emails to their list endorsing my camp, and I'd give them 10% - 15% of whoever signed up from their endorsement

And that's the kind of thing I'd do....

Sunday, October 21, 2012

What's the Difference Between Sales and Marketing?

I get lots of emails with questions about how to market a summer camp. I wish I could answer them all. Here's a question I got that's of interest to all of us, though.

John runs day camps and overnight camps. He wanted to know the basic difference between sales and marketing.

My thought is that marketing is an educational process -- it's everything you to do help clients and prospects learn about and discover your camp program -- while sales is the process by which, and the tools you use, to ask for and/or get the sale.

Marketing includes your social media activities, email newsletters, brochures and dvds. Sales includes your enrollment form, email offers, face-to-face contact at Camp Fairs or Open Houses, etc. where you ask, and make it easy for, people to sign up for camp.

Agree? Disagree? What do you think?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Best 9 Tips for a Solid Mobile Website EVER

I've read about 10 million articles about how and why to make a mobile website. This one by @MarketingProfs is the best of the best:

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Camper Retention, PR, New Activities and Social Media Idea Wrapped into One

Here's a way to keep campers thinking -- and talking -- about your camp even after it's over and everyone's back in school: Include them in your program activity planning for next summer now.

Send an email or letter to your list (you can target just last year's campers or previous years, too). Tell them you're already gearing up to make summer 2013 the best season ever, but you need their help, creativity and ideas for fun new activities, skits, adventures, etc. for camp next year.

You could turn this into a contest, and even kids to work together in teams (they're all connected via social media these days anyway, so even a past camper living in New York can work together with one in Denver) to develop the best activity, and the team (or teams) coming up with actual activities you use at camp next year gets a prize. Don't you think all these kids would want to come back to see the activity THEY created in action? You bet!

And you might even incorporate a PR element, alerting your local newspaper or blogger you've got this great new program going where kids pick activities for the future summer, and would they mind helping you spread the word.

I've had this idea for a long time, but never had the chance to implemented. I think I'll do it this year and  hope you do, too :)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Video Marketing Tip

If you market your summer camp with videos (and I hope you do), be careful not to post them on YouTube alone. Google's search results shows videos from sites all across the Internet. So in addition to YouTube, post your videos to Vimeo and Daily Motion for more exposure.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

How'd Enrollment Go?

After a long time off we're back blogging again. We just posted a quick poll where you can (anonymously) display your satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) with your enrollment this summer. Vote now!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Where to Focus Your Marketing Efforts Now

We're closing in on the "marketing home stretch" for camp enrollment season, so it's a good time to consider which prospect groups are most likely to sign up for camp in the next few weeks. My suggestion is that you focus your marketing efforts on:

1. Families who attended camp last summer, but haven't signed up yet this year; and
2. Families who've inquired about your program this year but have not become customers yet

Both of the above groups are at least warm, if not hot, prospects for you. Good luck!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

If Enrollment Sucks, You Might Need to Admit it Publicly to Get Things Rolling Again

Enrollment down? You might need to do something drastic with your marketing. If not drastic, at least something big to shake things up and make folks take notice. Check out the sign a flea market put up when business was worse than usual:  

Now for some odd reason, most camp directors in my experience are adverse to offering discounts to generate enrollment. I'll go to my grave never understanding that shortsightedness. At the same time, I realize publicly admitting your numbers are down takes guts. But those camp marketers who've got the balls to send a postcard to a couple thousand people with a message like the one above saying you're willing to deal will get your phone ringing instantly and leave a memorable mark on prospects.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

How to Keep Enrollment Flowing After Your Early Bird Discount Ends

One of the great things about offering early bird discounts is the flurry of enrollment you get leading up to the deadline. The frustrating downside is contending with the inevitable sign-up drought after the deadline passes. But there's a couple things you can do to keep enrollment flowing.

The most obvious thing is to simply extend the deadline to anyone who will listen: "Due to overwhelming demand, we're extending the early bird discount ... etc. etc..." But while this generally gets you a few more enrollments, you also run the risk of pissing everyone off who busted their asses to meet the deadline in the first place, not to mention your credibility also suffers because everyone will realize there's no need to rush to sign up in the future when they can get the discount anyway even if they miss the deadline.

Personally, I confess I ALWAYS extended my early bird rate by approximately one week past the deadline to accommodate families who missed it for whatever reason. But that was until last year when I discovered a new way of doing things that works even better. "Works even better" means the strategy I use now doesn't piss anyone off (instead it makes everyone happy), keeps my credibility intact and increases enrollment even more.

If you want do the same thing, here's what you do.

You empower all the people who've already qualified for the early bird rate to extend the early bird discount to their friends; you grant them PERMISSION to offer the discount to their friends on your behalf.

Here's how.

Send an email to enrolled families saying you understand times are still tough for many people, but camp is getting full, and you imagine they may have friends who want to sign up but missed the money-saving deadline for some reason, and you'd rather fill your last remaining spots with people they know than others from the outside, etc. etc.

Then go on to say in light of this, as long as they promise to keep things a secret between you, them and their friends, you'll let them extend the early bird rate to just 5 of their friends as long as their friends sign up for camp this week. You can start your letter/email like this:
"Dear Camp Family,
Please don't share this email with anyone EXCEPT YOUR FRIENDS who would like the same Early Bird discount you got when you signed up for camp..."
And then you go on to explain the reason you're writing and the details of your offer all that. Trust me, if you craft your message in such a way it conveys the impression you're doing them a favor by letting them offer the early rate to their friends, they'll be GRATEFUL, not angry, and they won't hesitate to start telling everyone they know how they swung this great deal with the camp on their friends' behalf and all that. It's almost funny, because you're making them feel important!

This is the perfect way to get more word of mouth enrollment in a quick period of time when you'd otherwise be waiting for the next registration to come in. It takes no effort other than writing the email. And instead of pissing anyone off who's already signed up, you come out smelling like a rose.

I urge you to try this tactic. It works!!! And it works the best when you send the email a few days after the initial deadline expires. I'm sending my email out in a few days (I'm using the exact same letter I used last year) and I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

How to Add a Map to Your Website

Do you have a map of your location on your website? Your camp's location and facilities are a big part of what you're selling. In fact for many camps, their locations are their competitive advantage. If you've got a great location, better maintenance, a special lease or permit nobody else can get, or you just want to help curious parents know where you're located, you need to include a map on your website.

Adding a map to your website is so easy, there's no reason not to add one. Here's how:

  1. Go to Google Maps
  2. Enter the address for your camp's (summer) location. You will then see a map of your site and the surrounding area. Zoom in or out if you want to.
  3. Find the "LINK" icon adjacent to the upper left hand corner of the map (top right hand corner of text side of the page).
  4. Click the "LINK" icon.
  5. You will now see two sets of code. Click the bottom one that says "Paste HTML to embed in website." The code should now be highlighted.
  6. Copy and paste the highlighted code into your website wherever you want your map to appear. 
  7. That's it! Now you've got a location map on your website.

I visited lots of camp websites before writing this post and didn't find too many with maps on their sites. I'm as guilty as anyone. But the reason I don't include a map on my site is because I run an itinerant program format. We're moving around each day to different beaches and lakes and all that, so I can't have 50 different maps on my site. But if you've got a fixed site location, you absolutely need a map so parents and kids know exactly where you're located and you can show off your amazing facilities to the world. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Direct Mail: When Less is More

You're probably aware of the term "repetition" as it relates to marketing. The more times people see your  message, the better, because all those impressions eventually add up in your favor helping you build brand awareness and making prospects more likely to try your camp.

But the number of people you reach is not as important as how many times you reach them. If you're starting a new camp, you might be OK sending 10,000 postcards to 10,000 families to get the initial word. After that, you're better off (from cost-effectiveness and brand-building standpoints) sending 2,000 postcards five separate times to the same group of families rather than 10,000 families just once.

Sending a one-time mailing might get overlooked by the majority of those you send it to. In fact the average person might not even notice it. But if you send a postcard to the same person five times in a row, you can BET they'll  notice it, at least eventually, and they'll take interest in your camp assuming your offer's intriguing enough.

(Regarding your offer, this is another post for another day. You can't just send out a postcard with you camp's name on it and a picture and expect people to care. You need to give them a reason to reach out to you. That means you need to offer something of value; it's the only way to get the most impact from you postcard mailing or any sales piece for that matter.)

Just to put my money where my mouth is, I recently purchased 3,000 postcards for a series of mailings I'm doing. Though my first temptation is to send all 3,000 postcards to 3,000 different people at once, that's not the smart thing to do.

The smart thing is to send 1,000 postcards three separate times to the same 1,000 families in March, April and May because multiple frequency equals maximum awareness and marketing effectiveness. So that's why I'm going to do.

I paid less than 50 cents per postcard piece including the design, printing, shipping, labels and postage - about $1,500 total. I'm hoping to pick up at least $15,000 in new camper enrollments from these three mailings, which I don't think I'd get by mailing the same 3,000 postcards just once. I think it will work because the postcard includes a good offer. I'll let you know how it goes.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

How to Get New Camper Leads With Ads You Used Long Ago

If you're like most camp directors (me included), you probably don't advertise in newspapers and magazines too much anymore. After all, print circulation is down and most people turn to the internet to find camps these days. But what if you could reuse the same print ads you used long ago -- ads you already paid good money for -- in new, different, and more cost-effective ways? Well, you can, and these very same historical ads can generate many new leads and camper prospects for you.

Go ahead and look through all the old print ads you used to run. (Hopefully you've kept them accessible.) Try to recall which ad pulled best. Once you've identified your best historical ad, put it on a postcard as a direct mail piece, then send it to all the prospects in your target market area. You will likely find the same ad works just as well as before, and for a lot less money, too, because you don't have to pay anyone or take the time to design anything new, and direct mail postcard advertising is a cheap, easy, and highly effective way to market your summer camp.

Now here's where it really gets good. You don't need to limit your old ads to postcard marketing. You can also put them on your website, flyers, in emails, and other places you advertise. This way you can continue getting an amazing return on investment from advertising dollars you spent long ago and probably don't even think about anymore.

The main takeaway here is that you should always be looking to max-out your marketing investment NO MATTER WHEN YOU MADE IT. So if you're thinking of doing a postcard mailing anytime soon, consider using the old ads you've spent good money on and which you already know perform really well. Once you start recycling your historical print ads into new direct mail postcards, you'll probably generate lots of new interest in your camp.

The truth is, EVERYONE will always look at a postcard when it's delivered to their mailbox, but these days those very same people probably wouldn't even notice the same ad in a newspaper or magazine.

For camps on tight marketing budgets, this strategy is like found money, and how can you beat that?!

Friday, February 24, 2012

How Long Tail Keywords Can Shoot Your Site to the Top of Google

Having trouble getting your site ranked highly in the search engines? Then you should try "long tail" keyword marketing -- it's the strategy I use to get my camp's website,, top rankings on the first page of all the top search engines.

As you probably know, keywords are the words or phrases people type into Google and other search engines to find what they're looking for. If the keywords they enter match the content on your site, your website will (hopefully) be displayed.

What are "Long Tail" Keywords?

"Long tail" keywords are keyword phrases comprised of three, four, five or more words, in contrast to much shorter one or two word less descriptive ones (which may be referred to as "short tail" keywords).

For example, "camps" and "summer camps" are "short tail" keywords. Conversely, "Horseback riding summer camps for kids in Atlanta Georgia" are long tail keywords. These types of keywords are much more descriptive, specific, and much easier for you to rank highly for, because the competition for them is much less intense.

Why Long Tail Keywords are Better Than Short Ones

Let's say you want your website to show up on the first page of Google for the keywords, "camps" or "summer camps." Well, unless your site's been online forever, you've got tons of quality links pointing to it, and/or you're paying through the nose for in Google's Adwords program, you're screwed. There's too many camps who want the same thing; too much competition to ever rank highly for these generic keywords.

Instead, you should go after "long tail keywords" where the competition is often so manageable, you can practically OWN those keywords (literally corner the market) with respect to the search engine results. The added benefit is that these long tail keywords will bring you highly targeted website traffic, because the people searching on them will realize you've got just what they're looking for.

Examples of Long Tail Keyword Marketing

Let's say you run a summer gymnastics camp for girls in Des Moine, Iowa. Someone searching for a camp like this might type the less descriptive keywords "summer camps" into Google, and we can say with relative confidence your camp won't show up. But now let's say your website and blog are optimized for the following more specific long tail keywords: "summer gymnastics camp in Des Moine Iowa for girls." Now anyone who types THESE words into Google will see your site first ... and that's the power of long tail keyword marketing!

Let me give you another example. My own camp, Aloha Beach Camp, does not rank highly for the generic (short tail) keywords "camps" or "summer camps" (in fact I don't want it to). But I basically DOMINATE the local market for the various long tail keywords I'm after, which include "los angeles summer camps," "los angeles surf camps," "surf camps for kids," "beach summer camps," "summer camps los angeles," and many others. My site is ranked as high as #1 or #2 for many of these long tail keyword phrases. The traffic I get from them is certainly not as high as if I were ranking #1 for the short tail keyword "summer camps," but the majority of prospects coming to my site in that case wouldn't even be useful to me since most of these people wouldn't even be looking for an L.A. beach and surf camp. The long tail keywords I use deliver traffic to my website that's highly targeted, and therefore comprised only of hot prospects who are specifically interested in what my camp offers. And few other camps in Los Angeles (or anywhere, for that matter) can compete with that.

Now as you might guess, and I just touched on, there's gonna be A LOT fewer people searching on your long tail specific keyword phrases than short tail, generic ones. But that doesn't matter to you, not one bit, because your long tail keywords are highly specific. This means Google will KNOW your site is the best one to show  website searchers (your prospects) when they search on your long tail keyword phrases.

Your task now is to discover which long tail keyword phrases your prospects are searching on so you can optimize your website and blog for them. (By "optimize your website and blog," I mean writing descriptive pages and posts which include your long tail keyword phrases in the page content, title tag, and description tags of your webpages and blog.)

There's a number of free tools online you can use to find out where you rank now for various keywords and keyword phrases. I'd start with this one. Then check out Google's keyword selector tool which serves really nicely as a long tail keyword generator tool by suggesting long tail keywords with low competition related to what you're after.

How to Get Your Camp on the First Page of Google Within Minutes

All of us want our camps' websites to show up on the first page of Google. Posting classified ads could do the trick. I've learned through trial and error how to get my camp listed on the first page of Google posting ads on Craigslist, OLX and Backpage. You should try it. Here's an article that tells you how. You might find your ad shows on the the first page of the search engines immediately (and I mean within minutes).

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Top Two Questions I'm Asked Most Often

As you can imagine I get many marketing questions from camp people. Two of the more common ones are:

  • What's the single best marketing strategy camps can use?
  • Do you ever speak, and if so, when and where?

As to question #1, I'm sorry to say I don't know it! I wish I did, because marketing our programs would be a whole lot easier if I did. Truth is there really isn't just one marketing strategy you should be using. If you're just using one marketing strategy, and your competitor's using three or four, you're gonna get beat no matter how good yours is. (As I always say, the more lines you have in the ocean, the more fish you'll catch!) So I suggest promoting your camp with as many strategies you can do extremely well, rather than just one "good one" or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, so freaking many that you're spread too thin to do any of them well.

Regarding the second question, I do speak from time-to-time and have offered marketing workshops and seminars in the past. I hope to offer another one soon. One issue is there are lots of busy people who read this blog who live all over the place including the US and Canada, so it's not easy finding a convenient place and time for everyone to attend.

However, in the past year I have been refining on a new marketing system I'm dying to share with you. This program will work for anyone, anywhere, in terms of adding new kids to your camp (including doubling and even tripling your enrollment) and/or adding anywhere from $10,000 - $100,000 or more in revenue to your operation by next summer. This is not a pie-in-the-sky claim, it's a guarantee and as soon as we can nail down a place and time to get together I'll show you how.

My best guess at this point is the marketing seminar will take place in this fall in September or October, either in Palm Springs, California or my hometown of Los Angeles. Palm Springs is favorable because there's less traffic and congestion and a beautiful place for families to recreate and unwind after a long camp season. More info coming soon.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

How to Market Your Camp the Green Way

Here's a great way to get community exposure for your camp, do great things for the environment and make lots of  kids and parents aware of your program: Start and sponsor a recycling program at a local school or sports field. I've been doing this for the past month at my boys' little league field and also did it about 5 years ago when my daughter was playing softball. 

Here's what you do. Contact your local little league, kids basketball league, youth soccer league, public park, or even a local school to form a "green partnership." (The best prospects you'll find are those without recycling programs.)

When you reach them, be sure to say you've noticed they don't have a recycling program, and you'd like to place a few recycling bins (they can be small) at their respective locations. Tell them you'll buy the bins and maintain the recycling program. The only thing you want in return (which you don't even need to tell them) is to put your name and phone number and/or website on the bins. (I've been doing this for the past month since little league started and my phone's been ringing more this February then usual, and one reason why is because people tell me they saw my bins at the baseball field and what a great idea it is!)

Now I don't want you to leave this post empty handed or with any uncertainty how to proceed, so here's the exact transcript (exact letter) I use when setting these programs up. The following letter is yours to copy and use as you see fit. (I used this one to propose a new recycling program at my daughter's softball field several years back:)

Dear West Valley Girls Softball (WVGSL) League:
My name is Eric Naftulin and my daughter, Sarah, plays in your West Valley Girls Softball League. I also help coach her team, Purple Reign, in the Minors division. I'm writing to you because I'd like to establish a recycling program for the WVGSL at Hughes School where the softball games take place.
At the conclusion of each softball game, I always make a point of cleaning up as many bottles and cans around the fields as possible, but lately I have noticed most of the trash cans are already full, not with trash, but also with bottles, cans and other recyclables which I assume are being purchased from your Snack Bar, so here's what I was thinking.
I own a local summer camp for kids called Aloha Beach Camp (which many of the girls who play in the WVGSL Softball League attend). I'd like to place some new recycling containers at the fields. The containers would be clearly marked so people would know that the softball league now recycles bottles and cans, and that Aloha Beach Camp is the program's sponsor.
As the program sponsor, I would pay for and maintain the recyling containers and bring all the recycled bottles and cans to the local recycling center on a schedule you see fit. Since I own a beach camp, I was thinking we could split the proceeds whereby 50% would be donated back to your league, and the other 50% donated to Heal the Bay which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to keeping southern California's coastal waters safe, healthy and clean.

I hope you see as much value in this program as I do. I am looking forward to establishing this program with you as soon as possible. I look forward to your response and appreciate your thoughtful consideration.
All the best,
Eric D. Naftulin
Aloha Beach and Surf Camp

Monday, February 20, 2012

How to Get People to Link to Your Website

Accumulating relevant links from popular websites to yours is one of the many factors Google and other search engines use to rank your site.

For instance, I run a surf camp, and one of the reasons I've been able to get my site ranked on the first page of Google (without paying for it) is a strategy I use called "link baiting."

Link baiting is any tactic you use to get others to link to your site.

Because big-time players in the surf industry, such as Billabong and Surfline, link to my site, I've been able to get ranked at the top of Google for certain keywords I'm after. (Such as "Los Angeles Summer Camps," for instance).

All it takes is creating online content they (Billabong, Surfline and others) they find useful, then they will link to my site.

You can easily do the same by employing "link baiting" tactics.  Here's a great article on what link bait is, and certain strategies you can use to get more inbound links to your website, too.

How Moms are Using Pinterest

As you probably know by now, Pinterest is the new social media rage. Here's how moms are using it.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Groupon For Your Camp? No Thanks!

Just in case you're not a member of our Summer Camp Marketing Tips group on Facebook, I wanted to make this quick post about Groupon, Living Social and all the other social network discount sites. (Our group was discussing this earlier today, so I wanted to make a quick point here.)

I am aware of at least one camp who partnered with Living Social last year. I believe they sold a lot of camp enrollments through the deal, but I don't know if they were happy with the outcome or it was beneficial.

I have personally been approached at least 10 times by Living Social and Groupon over the past 3 years to run promotions with them. I almost took the bait several times, but thankfully backed out at the last minute at least twice.

Truth is, I'm still trying to find business owner (and I know lots of them) who's actually happy they participated in a Groupon or Living Social promotion. A popular pizza place in my area of Los Angeles did a Groupon deal twice last year, but they're not popular anymore because they went out of business after doing the Groupon promo.

In fact one thing I've learned is that Groupon and Living Social are typically only good for big companies who can withstand the financial loss generally incurred by participating. For example, a McDonald's restaurant near me is doing a deal with Living Social right now. I was in their store just yesterday with my kids and overheard the manager talking with her employee about how the deal is generating lots of sales, but costing them money to run it. And that's a business killer any way you look at it.

A year or so ago I found this blog post about working with Groupon. If you are considering doing so, read this first. It paints a telling story of the Groupon process including the good and bad of entering into a deal with them.

If I were you, I wouldn't do it, but perhaps you'll see it differently. Let me know what you think.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

7 Easy Ways to Jumpstart Your 2012 Summer Camp Marketing Plan

Hopefully your 2012 summer camp marketing plan is already humming. But if you're behind the 8-ball or only have a limited budget this year, here's 7 things you can plan for, and start doing, right now to get maximum exposure for your camp:
  • Make sure your website is fully updated for this summer, and change the homepage content (just a slight change is fine) every 10 days or so
  • Blog at least 3 times per week
  • Set up an active referral program, so every camper registrant refers at least one more
  • Participate/Engage/Connect with your customers, prospects and fans in/on at least one social site, and preferably two, such as Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus
  • Don't ignore the time-tested benefits of traditional (offline) marketing, such as direct mail. To that end, conduct at least two direct mail campaigns with postcards. Postcards are cheap, easy to create, and they work
  • Set up your email marketing system with autoresponders, which can help you connect with customers and prospects automatically for pennies. (In fact you might find this is your favorite way to market you camp once you get it going!)
  • As you already know, most people start their camp search online these days. If your site is not showing up on the first page of Google or Bing, consider paid online advertising program such as Google's Adwords
Good luck...let me know if you have any questions or need any help

-- Eric

Friday, January 20, 2012

Writer's Block? Here's 5 Places to Find New Ideas for Your Next Blog Post or Content Marketing Strategy

Need some new ideas for your camp's blog, website, article marketing, or other content marketing strategies? Here's five places to find them:

1. Blog Comments

If your blog is doing its part, you're probably getting user comments. You can find hidden gems within these blog comments to use as blog posts of your own. For example, when a camp director left me a comment recently expressing her opinion Google Adwords is a waste of money, it gave me the idea to write about the Google Adwords program in detail on my blog. (And by the way, you can also find blog post ideas in emails you receive. Last week somebody emailed me about Aloha Beach Camp's transportation program, so next week I'm posting a detailed description about our transportation program on Aloha Beach Camp's blog.)

2. Invite Friends, Family Members, Employees, Industry Pros, and Anyone Else You Can Think of to Write Guest Blog Posts For You

This coincides with my preferred marketing strategy of getting other people to do your marketing for you. Why not ask a camp parent (or even a camper!) to write a blog post for you, or even do a video testimonial on your behalf, to share their impressions of your camp with other families? This would be a great source of content for your blog! (Along similar lines, I recently made a public invitation here on Camp Marketing News to anyone who wanted to be a guest blogger on the site. Several people stepped forward, including Camp TV, Philip Galbreth , Dan Weir and others. This marketing tactic is good for them, good for me, and it will be good for you too if you decide to use it.)

3. Poll Your Customers and Fans, then Publish the Results as a Blog Post

Conduct a poll or survey of your fans on Facebook, then discuss the results on your blog. Use Facebook's Questions Tool, for instance, to ask what their top 5 favorite camp activities are, then spend a paragraph or two on your blog describing these activities in detail.

4. Announce Upcoming Events and Features

Do you have an open house coming up? Will you be participating at a Camp Fair?  Did you just upgrade your pool or horseback riding ring? Tell the world on your blog!

5. Discuss Something OTHER than Camp

Everyone already knows you're associated with summer camp. But they're also interested to know you as a PERSON. Why don't you share opinions and ideas from your personal or family life, such as a trip you might be taking (or just returned from), the type of food you love (or hate), whether or not you decided to remodel your house, or the reason you're so the New York Giants are gonna win the Super Bowl this year? Trust me, people are INTERESTED in this stuff about you!

I hope these ideas are helpful...hopefully they will help you avoid writer's block at least for a little while :)

Facebook Marketing Group Privacy Setting Changed to "OPEN"

Several people have mentioned they want to join our summer camp marketing group on Facebook, but the "closed" privacy setting was making it difficult for them. My apologies to anyone having trouble getting involved.

We just changed the status of the group to OPEN, meaning anyone can join now without requesting permission. If we start getting spam and other unwanted comments and postings, we'll need to go back to "closed." But for now, as long as you're into camp marketing, please feel free to join and add/invite your friends, too! Here's the link:

10 Ways to Amp Up Your Marketing Program Right Now

Great video from marketing consultant John Jantsch:

Monday, January 16, 2012

How to Get 264 More "Likes" on Your Facebook Page Today

Here's an idea which can help each of us get as many as 264 more LIKES on our respective facebook fan pages today.

There's 264 people who "LIKE" this Camp Marketing News blog.

If each of the 264 of us LIKE each other's facebook pages, we'll each get 264 more likes right away. That's about as viral as your marketing can get!

Here's how we do it.

First, go to my Aloha Beach Camp fan page at and "Like" the page.

After you've done that, come back here and leave a comment under this post letting me (and everyone else) know you've liked my page.

Be sure to include a link to your camp's facebook page in your comment.

At that point I'll immediately return the favor and like your page too.

If all of us do the same for each other, we'll all get as many as 264 likes right away! :)

Here's the link to my page again: Don't forget to come back here and comment after you've liked the page so I can like yours, too.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Here's an Email Marketing Strategy You Might Not Have Considered

I love email marketing for many reasons, but mainly because it lends itself nicely to the two core strategy principals I use when marketing my own camp, which are to:
  1. Enter new markets quickly, and 
  2. Get other people to do your marketing for you

Here's what you do. You form alliances with other complimentary youth and family-serving businesses and organizations, then get them to send emails to their customers on your behalf.

For instance, if you run a resident camp in New Jersey and want to reach more prospects in San Diego, you can contact various family-focused restaurants there (in San Diego) to propose a partnership. Maybe you could offer the restaurant manager free camp sessions for his or her kids if he or she, in turn, emails their customer base endorsing your camp.

It's not easy to set these programs up. But this strategy is very doable, because I do it myself all the time and help others do it, too. I assure you, once you set some of these programs up, you'll gain access to huge, new prospect bases you never had before. And the time you put into getting these programs off the ground is nothing compared to the dividends they'll pay in the form of many new campers down the road.

Join our Facebook Marketing Group

Please join our summer camp marketing group on Facebook where we share and discuss all things related to promoting our summer camps. It's a "closed" group, but just go to this link to request permission to join. Once you do that, you're in!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tips for Marketing to Moms

Here's a couple articles to check on regarding how to market to moms:

I read them both, thought they were valuable, hope you do too.

Add Your Camp to for Free

Help me build the largest FREE summer camp search engine in the world. It's called, and it's almost ready to launch -- all I need is your summer camp info so I can add it to the site and we're ready to go.

This is free advertising for you. It's like all the other summer camp search engines out there, except it's free.

If you want to add your camp, please email me at with the following information:

1. Name of your camp
2. Camp location (city and state)
3. Type of camp (day or overnight/resident)
4. Program emphasis (main activity/activities you offer)
5. Short (25 word description) of your program
6. Website address (so I can link your listing to your website)

That's it! 

Don't miss out on this. The more camps that join, the higher the site will be ranked. I'm also doing the site in blog-style format so we can eventually get (and keep) top search result rankings.

One note, I am expecting a large number of camps to respond to this free advertising offer, so please be patient. There are no guarantees how quickly I'll get your camp listed, but I'll do it as fast as I can.


Friday, January 6, 2012

Are Google's Search Results Bad on Purpose?

You know me, I'm a search engine marketing nut. I'm always looking for ways to crack the Google search results code. Most of the time I can get a site ranked pretty highly after just a little while.

But I was talking to a friend over the Holidays (she owns a search engine marketing firm) who shared an interesting theory with me I never considered before.

Her feeling is Google may be displaying organic (natural) search results POORLY on purpose, so users will click on the PAID search results (ads) so they (Google) can make more money.

Interesting thought. What do you think?