Showing posts from 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! Sincerely, Ed Banks New Mexico Here's my response: Dear Ed, Thank you for writing to me. You sound like a k

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 o

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 wit

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? Answers: 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 enoug

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 y our 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

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.

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

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.
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.

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!

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.)

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

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.

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 s

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 s

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?

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:

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

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.

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!

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!

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.

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 whate

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: Go to   Google Maps 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. Find the "LINK" icon adjacent to the upper left hand corner of the map (top right hand corner of text side of the page). Click the "LINK" icon. You will now see two sets of code. Click the  bottom  one that says "Paste HTML to embed in website." The code should now

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 interes

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 po

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.

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).

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 mar

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 yo

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 websit

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 .

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 the

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 pro

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 ge

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:

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 t

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: Enter new markets quickly, and  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'

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!

Tips for Marketing to Moms

Here's a couple articles to check on regarding how to market to moms: 7 Tips for Marketing To Moms  2012 Predictions for Marketing 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

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?