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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?!