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Monday, December 30, 2013

Do You Take Your Smartphone to the Bathroom With You?

Here's an article I read today on mobile marketing. It's called 7 Mobile Marketing Stats that will Blow Your Mind. It's a quick read, and some of the stats are pretty amazing. As you know, I'm a HUGE fan of mobile marketing. One stat I was definitely aware of is that more people will be searching for your camp on their mobile devices in 2014 than on their desktop computers. But one thing I didn't know was that 75% of Americans bring their smartphones into the bathroom with them. Enjoy the article.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

How to Market Your Summer Camp with Text Message Marketing

If you haven't implemented a mobile marketing strategy for your summer camp, don't wait any longer. We're way past the tipping point now. You can bet almost each and every one of your customers and prospects (including kids and teens) have cell phones or similar mobile devices. (In fact I can tell you that the vast majority of my Yelp prospect inquiries for my camp come from mobile devices.) At the very least, you should be using text message marketing on a regular basis, because think of it this way: Do you have your cell phone on you now? So does everyone else!

What is SMS/Text Message Marketing?

In this article I'd like to share some tips on SMS marketing, better know as text message marketing. Text message marketing is just like sending a text to your family or friends, but in this context you're sending a mass message to summer camp customers and prospects (and even job applicants and camp staff) as a marketing strategy. SMS marketing is kind of like email marketing, but it's limited to 160 characters (just like a regular text), and it's much more effective than email marketing since most texts are read by the recipient within 90 seconds or less, whereas emails often go days without being noticed (if they're ever seen at all).

How Often Should You Send SMS Marketing Texts?

Some summer camp marketers say to text your customers and prospects twice a week. THAT'S WAY TOO OFTEN in my opinion. (During camp season, if you want to send texts twice a week to your currently enrolled families just to keep them updated on happenings at camp, you MIGHT be able to get away with it without annoying them too badly. But texting them twice a week in any other capacity -- especially during the school year when they're not even thinking about camp -- is far too much and a good way to lose subscribers because trust me, people will opt out of receiving your texts if you bother them too much.) I'd shoot for texting once or twice a month, TOPS, to build trust and relationships with people via SMS marketing. (Naturally there are exceptions to this rule, like if an emergency or something else comes up that's so important or compelling your customers and prospects need to hear now.) Otherwise, I recommend sticking to the schedule above.

What Should Your Text Messages Say?

One of the big things to consider with your text message marketing campaign is this: What exactly should you say? Remember, you only have 160 characters, and you want to keep people's interest, so you better be sharp. The good news is you can use text message marketing in any number of ways that people will find valuable. Here's a few examples for how you can use text message marketing in your summer camp:

  • Promote your coupons and discounts: "Text COUPON to 55555 for a $10 coupon to our camp store" or "Text FIVE to 55555 to save an extra $5 on already discounted Early Bird Rates." Then, when they text you, you text them back the coupon or discount.
  • Promote your open house or event: "Text OPEN HOUSE to 55555 for info and driving directions to our next open house" or "Text FAIR to 55555 for information about our next live Camp Fair event." Then, when they text you, you text them back a link to information about the Camp Fair or open house. This is a great way to increase attendance at your live events.
  • Make an announcement: "We've added some great new camp activities this year. Text 55555 to see what they are." Or, "Due to unforeseen traffic the day camp bus is running 15 minutes late today. Text TRAFFIC to 55555 for info." Or, "Thanks for applying for a job as a summer camp counselor with us. Here's some additional info about the job." Then you can text them back a link to more info about the new activity, or further information about the traffic snag, or more details about the job opening or interview -- whatever the case may be.
As you can see, text message marketing is flexible and can be used promote your camp in any number of ways depending on your goals. If you aren't already using it, adding text message marketing will instantly upgrade your overall summer camp marketing program. You can use text message marketing to reach camp alumni, currently enrolled families, counselor applicants, or prospective camper families.

The key takeaway here is this: People are very attached to their cell phones and mobile devices, so a properly executed text message marketing strategy can help them feel more attached to you.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Mobile Marketing to Moms is the Next Big Thing

I'm a HUGE proponent of mobile marketing, especially to moms. Moms may not actually register for camp on the mobile phones, but it's one of the top places they gather and share pictures and information with their friends.

It goes without saying you need a mobile-optimized website and should definitely be on instagram (if nowhere else) so moms can send photos of your camp to their friends via mobile.

Three things for you to know:

1. I am developing a new website called Camps will be able to send text messages and conduct mobile marketing programs to customers and prospects via their cell phones. This is a HUGE opportunity for camps everywhere. I'll let you know when the website's ready.

2. I suggest reading this article from which describes the best way to reach moms on their mobile devices (which is by providing information as explained above).

3. Here's one more article on one of the best ways to reach the mom demographic...How? By going mobile!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How to Upsell Your Summer Camp Customers and Make More Money

If you're like me, you're always looking for ways to make more money. Even though your main source of revenue will always be camper tuition, what happens when all your cabins are filled or camper groups are maxed out and you don't have room for any more kids? Do you have any other revenue-generating options?

Well if you run an overnight camp, you might already be using some of the more common strategies like fundraising, renting your facility to user-groups, offering team-building programs for companies ... that kind of thing. (If you're not doing this yet, now's the time to start!)

For day camps, you might consider starting new programs to compliment what you're already doing. For instance, if you run a site-based camp with enrollment capacity limitations, why not add a field-trip component where the numbers of kids you can take have no limits?

The one thing every camp can do is implement a formal "upselling" program. This would be similar to when you go to McDonald's and they ask you if you want to "supersize your fries" for only 10 cents more.

The way to get started is by adding something to your enrollment form allowing customers to purchase additional options above and beyond standard camp registration. You can also upsell your customers when you confirm their kids' enrollment.

Depending on your creativity and willingness to offer upselling opportunities to your customers, the financial impact of implementing a formal upselling program will vary from one camp to another. But even camps that offer very basic upsells to their customers can benefit. Here's a couple ideas I came up with in my head while writing this post:
  • A resident camp could let their campers pick their own beds for just $25 more.
  • A day camp could offer a hot lunch program for just $7 more. 
  • A resident camp could offer a $20 gift certificate to its camp store for the discounted price of $15 "just for families who sign up today"
  • A day camp could offer evening programs
  • Any camp with elective activities could offer "extra" electives time for just couple dollars more
  • Any camp could package three t-shirts together for the price of two 
  • Any camp could offer an exclusive "membership club" where, for just $50, your tuition will be frozen at this year's rate with no increase in future summers for as long as your family attends camp
I could go on but you get the idea. The main thing to note is that while camp tuition will probably always provide the bulk of your income, there's many other potential revenue streams available you may not have considered.

As long as your customers see value in your upsell offer, you've got a winner because they probably wouldn't have purchased whatever you're upselling otherwise.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

50% off Online Summer Camp Advertising Expires Dec. 31

The special we've been running on, where you can list your camp for just $25/year, ends Dec 31.

The price increases to $50 Jan 1, so if you want to get in on this 50% discount, be sure to list your camp today.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Summer Camp Marketing Tip for Resident Camps

One of my favorite summer camp marketing strategies is stealing ideas from other industries then applying them to camp. If you look around, you'll find most summer camps market the same way. If you want to find fresh, creative ideas and better results, you gotta look outside the box.

Sleepaway camps have a GOLDEN example to follow for finding marketing ideas outside camp. The hotel, travel, tourism and destination marketing industries are your jackpots.

Don't wait another minute to research these kinds of companies and industries and apply their marketing ideas to your camp. After all, they're trying to do the same thing you are -- attract visitors through the purchase of room nights, food, retail items, etc. -- so why not see what the really successful ones are doing and grabbing their ideas and running with them?

Look at their ads, websites, social media sites. View their Yelp and TripAdvisor sites. Read their customer reviews. I'm pretty sure you'll pick up more than one valuable marketing strategy to use at your summer camp from this exercise.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Want to Run a Better Summer Camp? Adopt a "Beat the Competition" Mindset

Camp people are a friendly bunch. We share information and ideas freely. That's one of the great things about being in the camp industry.

But don't let your guard down.

It's an undeniable fact that many of us are going after the same kids. And if running a great camp is important to you, maintaining a mindset of beating your competition should be a key component of your summer camp marketing plan.

Don't feel uneasy about this. We're not talking about some cutthroat marketing campaign like Dominos against Pizza Hut where they bash each other in public all the time.

But it does mean you need to run a better program than other camps so people have a reason to choose you instead.

Look at it this way.

What if your very best friend runs a summer camp right next door to you? Odds are prospects are comparing you to each other. Assuming they're comparing apples to apples, you'd rather get those kids than let them go next door, right?

Beating your competition -- whoever they are or whatever that means to you -- keeps you on your toes, improves your marketing edge and ultimately helps you deliver an outstanding camp program. This is good for your campers and their families, since they're the ones who will ultimately benefit the most.

Here's an article from American Express that might help you consider ways to beat your competition in the summer camp industry.

As long as you play fair and ethically, there's no reason why you shouldn't do everything you can to get more kids than the next guy.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

How to Get More People to Attend Your Camp Fair Booth - Past Blog Posts

I run a day camp, so we don't usually sign up for camp fairs until spring. I realize many other camps, especially overnight, are preparing for them now so here's a few blog posts I wrote in the past about how to increase attendance at your camp fair booth, including how to get twice as many people there. Hope these are helpful!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

How Summer Camps Can Get More Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter Fans Instantly

If your summer camp's equipped with online enrollment, here's a surefire way to get almost EVERY CUSTOMER FAMILY to follow you on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or anywhere else you want online:

Put "Find Us on Facebook," "Follow us on Twitter," and "Follow us on Instagram" links prominently on your enrollment confirmation page and/or confirmation email with a message similar to this:

"Thanks for signing up for Aloha Beach Camp...we're looking forward to a fun summer...we don't want you to miss any important information from us, so please become a fan on Facebook or follow us on Twitter so you we can share the latest information from camp with you, etc., etc., etc.")

I promise this works like a charm. I get many new fans and followers this way. The reason why this strategy's so effective is because the point of purchase, and immediately afterward, is when you'll have your customer's attention the most. They don't want to make any mistakes in the sign-up process, so they're looking to you for guidance and will almost always follow your instructions, especially at this initial point in your relationship with them.

One more thing: This idea works for any business that sells online, not just summer camps! Just be sure to tell your customers to follow you immediately after you make the sale and your fans and followers will increase nicely.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Does Eric Naftulin Actually Write this Blog?

Oh boy, I just got a message asking if it's really me, Eric Naftulin, who writes all the blog posts here. Of course it is! Who else would it be? Sheesh!

Friday, November 22, 2013

What To Do When a Kid Quits Your Camp

If you could get every kid to come back to camp every year, your camp would be at full capacity sooner rather than later, your marketing costs would be nothing and you probably wouldn't be reading this summer camp marketing blog. Unfortunately, a 100% camper retention rate isn't possible. Kids stop coming for any number of reasons. They age-out, their families move, they outgrow your program, they sign up for other camps instead, whatever.

Your goal for every camper is that the kid leaves your camp with happy memories and their parents think highly of you. Even if THEIR kid doesn't attend your camp anymore, they can still be a strong referral source for you and might even return again later, so it's important to keep the lines of communication open.

Here is a sample letter I send out to families after it seems likely they're moving on from my program (feel free to customize this to your own situation):


I heard today that you have decided to attend another camp this year. In an effort to improve our program, I'd appreciate any feedback you can give about your experience with us. Your comments (positive or negative) will help us learn, grow and continue to provide safe and fun summer experiences to our campers. I have included a comment card and self-addressed stamped envelope for this purpose. You can also fill out our feedback form online at if that is more convenient for you. Regardless of the reason you're leaving us, please know that I completely understand.

"Circumstances change and kids do, too. We have enjoyed having your family with us these past (however many) years, and I just want you to know that if you find yourself unsatisfied with your child's new camp, you are always welcome to return. We can reactivate your child's enrollment immediately and will be happy to do so. We've had other campers leave our program over the years, only to return in future summers stating they were simply unable to find the same happy experiences anywhere else.

"One more thing to note. I am quite familiar with many other existing camps. If you simply need a second opinion or would like advice on other programs, just let me know and I'd be glad to help. We are also happy to consult with your child's next camp director if necessary to ensure your child receives an outstanding camp experience at their new program.

"Again, we will miss you and wish your family all the best.



Thursday, November 21, 2013

Should Summer Camps Outsource Their Social Media Marketing?

Last night on our Facebook Summer Camp Marketing Tips group, we discussed which (if any) social media marketing sites work best for camps. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and others came up.

One of the group members sent me a private message afterwards asking my thoughts on whether he should contract out his camp's social media marketing activities to an agency. He said he's very busy and this could make things easier on him.

I know as well as anyone that camp folks have many balls to juggle. But I don't think you should ever outsource your social media marketing to a third party. Camps are social entities inherently, and even the world's best ad agency or marketing consultant could never be as effective establishing relationships, building trust, and interacting with camper families as you.

At the same time, if you want to farm out some of your other marketing activities like strategy and planning, advertising campaigns, branding, video production, graphic design and various other areas of camp promotion, great.

But keep your social media in-house because you'll be hard-pressed to find any outside consultant who understands, and can convey, your camp's "personality" through social media anywhere as well as you.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Local Marketing Tip for Resident Camps

"Local marketing" is a hot concept these days. After all, Google (and other popular search engines) typically show local results results first.

Considering day camps serve local markets, sometimes resident camps think they're screwed when it comes to local marketing. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Overnight camps can use local marketing strategies just as effectively as day camps, if not more so.

There's at least 4 or 5 local marketing strategies I can think of that sleepaway camps can start using today. One of the best is setting up joint ventures with other local businesses. Here's how to start.

Make a list of some of the local businesses in close proximity to your camp. Chances are these companies have customers you want to reach, right?

So why not reach out to them to propose an affiliation? If you can set up some sort of mutually beneficial relationship, like trading email lists or whatever, the payoff could be huge for you.

Now my guess is that some folks might be hesitant or intimated to try this alone. If you need help setting up some joint ventures or details on how to do it, let me know and I'll give you more insight.

Otherwise, jump in and see what happens. Trust me, it works!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

How to Respond to Toy R Us Video, Part 2

Perhaps you read my post the other day about the recent Toys R Us video dissing the outdoor experience for kids in favor of taking a trip to the toy store.

In that post I suggested the American Camp Association fight back with an advertising campaign of its/their/our own giving Toys R Us a taste of its own medicine. My idea was to put up billboards, take out ads, etc. showing kids mindlessly playing video games, then jumping for absolute joy when they learn they get to go to summer camp and discover the great outdoors.

After reading my post, John Waszczak at Lake Owego Camp emailed sharing the photo above. John thought the picture highlighted the ideas I mentioned in my post. John, you are SPOT ON and thanks so much for the find!! :)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Absolute WRONG WAY to Market Your Summer Camp

My twin boys turned 13 yesterday. In between their baseball practice and party I gave a speech on youth marketing at a networking club. One of the business owners in attendance who owns an art center for kids asked me the best way to trick parents into signing up for her classes.

If I wasn't pissed at the question, I was definitely astounded. Marketing is NEVER about tricking or deceiving people into buying what you're selling. That's just about the fastest way to get a bunch of unhappy customers because they really have no idea what they're signing up for. And if you need to trick someone into buying your stuff, you probably aren't selling anything of any quality in the first place.

Your marketing messages should focus primarily on education. The goal is to educate families about your outstanding camp program so they can make an informed buying decision. This is also the best way to get their trust and attention.

Certainly the end-goal of your educational marketing program is to motivate prospects into becoming paying campers. There's definitely some persuasion involved, but never deception ... that's the wrong way to do it.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Top 3 Summer Camp Marketing Strategies for 2014

As 2013 winds down, you'll find lots of blogs and websites posting content and articles with their "Top Marketing Strategies for 2014" or something like that. But very few of them focus just on summer camp marketing ; in most cases they are just disseminating general marketing information. Since I write this blog for you, here is my list of the Top 3 Marketing Strategies for 2014 ... EXCLUSIVELY FOR SUMMER CAMPS!

1. Mobile Marketing

Do you have your cell phone on you? So do your customers! (And I mean parents, grandparents, kids .... EVERYONE carries a mobile device these days giving your the perfect opportunity to connect with them.) It's important to understand mobile marketing takes numerous forms, some extremely sophisticated. So I suggest starting with a very basic text message marketing program and building from there. Can you just start sending text messages to customers and prospects if you have their cell numbers? No! That would be a severe violation of the Mobile Marketing Association's best practices for text messaging. You need to get everyone's permission first, and you also need a good commercial text message marketing service to help you orchestrate your text message marketing campaign. Google "SMS marketing services" to find a few. Finally, I wanted to share with you this complete guide to mobile marketing for 2014 from TapSense. (Since it's an ebook, you'll need to provide some personal information to get it. Accordingly, you might want to make a new/fake email address so they don't bother you later down the line. But this ebook contains valuable information and it's an extremely worthwhile read, IMO, so don't wait).

2. Content Marketing

Most of us turn to the internet first for information. When people find your camp online, you naturally hope to influence them with your website, blog, social media activities and other content you create. If you can be funny, creative, interesting, or controversial through your content and share it in the right places, you're ahead of the game. Here's a fantastic article from describing content marketing in more detail along with concrete examples, ideas and tips you can use to get your content out to more people.

3. Word of Mouth / Social Media Marketing
When we talk about "word of mouth marketing" we don't just mean a few friends sitting around and discussing your camp over coffee anymore (although that's a HUGE coup). These days, "word of mouth marketing" also means friends discussing your camp online, sharing your content and links with their friends, and clicking the Facebook "LIKE button" for all to see. Don't forget, ANYTHING and EVERYTHING you post these days has the potential to be shared exponentially, and a customer or prospect's act of sharing your content really is the epitome of word of mouth marketing in today's environment. Getting more word of mouth marketing should be the #1 goal of your summer camp's social media marketing program.

I hope these marketing ideas will help you get many new campers and retain the ones you already have for summer 2014 and beyond! As always, don't hesitate to leave a comment or share some of your own marketing ideas or strategies you think would be helpful for other camps to hear.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

How ACA Should Handle Toys R Us Commercial

By now you may have seen the Toys R Us commercial that has many camp folks up in arms. The commercial even prompted the American Camp Association to ask its members to write to Toys R Us expressing our concern that the ad "seems to belittle a nature experience in favor of a trip to a store."

Here's the video if you haven't seen it.

Now if you're unhappy with this commercial, and you think sending a letter would help, by all means go for it!  I'm certainly not a fan of this ad by any means.

But my additional position is this: Rather than complaining about the ad and calling more attention to it (which is EXACTLY what Toys R Us wants us to do), why not do something more constructive like highlighting the benefits of nature experiences (basically giving Toys R Us a taste of its own medicine) with ACA's own ad next spring?

ACA should respond by developing and promoting its own ad, showing kids sitting around like couch potatoes in a dark room with glazed eyes playing video games or something. 

Then, cut to mom telling the kids they have a big-time opportunity to enjoy fun outdoor activities in nature this summer with other kids their age and cool camp counselors (and then you show scenic shots of kids rock climbing, hiking, learning about animals, etc.). And then you also show these kids going bizerk with excitement for their upcoming camp experience and all that. 

That's how I'd handle this, anyway. I think a response like this would benefit all of us. Agree? Disagree? What do you think?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Internet Advertising for your Camp - Just $25 bucks

Looking for outstanding value for your online summer camp marketing dollar? For a limited time, you can list your camp on for just $25. The regular price is $99 so you can't beat this deal.

Your listing includes:

  • A live link to your camp's Website
  • A live link to your camp's Facebook page
  • A photo of your camp
  • Three keywords site users can use to find your camp on the site
Where else can you pay just $25 and get all that when marketing your camp online.

Click here to sign up now because this offer expires soon.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Gay Families With Children: An Emerging Market For Camps

Did you know 25% percent of gay and lesbian couples are now raising kids? That's an ASTOUNDING number and it's up to you and me to develop effective marketing programs to reach them. Check this out.

I was talking with a friend of mine, named Kevin, on the phone yesterday who owns a successful chain of used car dealerships. Kevin is gay, married, and has two kids who attend my camp each year.

Kevin sells cars to everyone, but said one of the fastest growing market segments in his business is selling mini-vans to same-sex couples. As more gay couples marry, he explained, they add children to their families, creating the need for larger family-style cars.

This is good news for anyone who markets goods and services to families. In the past, the three most significant target markets for camps were parents, kids and grandparents. Same-sex families are now a very real, large and emerging market for you and for every camp.

( I confess my camp enrollment form does not have a form field for "Other Mother" or "Other Father." But considering Kevin's not the only gay parent who sends his kids to my camp, now may be just the right time...)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What Can a Camp Counselor Teach You About Social Media? is one of my favorite websites. Here's a GREAT article (written in 1999) from that website called, "What a Camp Counselor Can Teach You About Social Media."

Monday, October 14, 2013

Why Similar Summer Camps Have Different Enrollment Numbers

If you're like me, you probably check you're email several times a day (and maybe more often if you get your email on your phone). One of the messages I got today was from "Chris in Birmingham," who asked me what I thought was the number one difference between camps with high enrollment and camps with low ones.

Well personally I think it's pretty hard to say why one camp is loaded with kids and another one isn't, largely because every camp is different. But if we're comparing apples to apples, for example, if we're considering two or three camps with the same type of program, similar facilities, same enrollment capacity, close in proximity to one another, etc., then my answer is twofold:

1. The camp with the best marketing program will always get more campers; and
2. The camp with the best counselors will always retain more campers year to year

Thursday, June 27, 2013

How to Add More Social Media Marketing to Your Summer Camp's Marketing Plan

Looking for a way to include more social media marketing into your summer camp marketing and really connect with customers and prospects?

A good place to start is with your website' FAQ page. What  you can do is incorporate VIDEO answers to the FAQ's, not just plain text.

For example, if some of your FAQ's are, "How long is Camp Day?," 'Where's Your Camp Located?," or "What Kind of Food Do Your Serve?",  then instead of the same old text answers, you could include a video of yourself or camp staff answering the question instead. This is social media marketing at it's best.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

If You've Got Marketing Problems, this Post is for You

Marketing problems? Solutions here:

Sunday, March 31, 2013

How to Move Prospects through the Sales Cycle and Convert them into Campers Even when They're Guarded From the Outset

"We're getting lots of camper leads, but having trouble converting them into paying customers."

I hear this complaint often from camp marketers all the time.

Even more troubling, many folks say they lose touch with prospects after the initial contact is made. (The obvious reason why that's bad is because many prospects require a lengthy sales-cycle process, meaning you need to connect with them many times before they warm up to you or they're ready to make a decision about signing up for camp. So if you're having issues reconnecting with prospects after the initial  time, that's a big strike against you.)

Here's how to fix this.

The first thing is, you need a PLAN - a strategy - for handling every phone call, email and personal contact with prospects from the outset. You need to decide what you're trying to accomplish EVERY TIME you connect with someone.

It's similar to what I tell my kids when they're in the on-deck circle before stepping up to the plate on their Little League Baseball team: For every at-bat, you need a plan. The plan needs refining every pitch. If you step up to the plate without a plan, and don't make proper adjustments to what the pitcher's doing, you won't max-out your hitting opportunity.

And summer camp marketing is about maximizing opportunities! 

Personally, I have two-part plan for handling initial prospect contacts and moving them through the sales cycle.

First, I want to get as much of their personal contact info as possible (email in particular, then home address, phone number, kids ages, how they heard about my camp, etc.).

And then my primary goal becomes getting them to take a live, in-person tour my campsite WITH their kids. I have several beach camp sites, all of them beautiful, and as soon as a parent or child sees it, they're pretty much hooked.

So these are the two main things I try doing doing the first time anyone expresses interest in my camp. Of course, it's not always that easy. Sometimes people are non-committal, or seem disinterested, or don't want to visit the site, or don't seem very trusting from the outset.

So here's what I do.I take a much easier approach making it virtually impossible for them to say no.

I give them a free resource they can take away -- something they can read, download, view, own, or attend.  This is an EXTREMELY effective approach especially if your prospect's hesitant to even give you their email address or any other contact info, let alone set an appointment to see your camp.

If you offer them something of value, they're immediately on your good side. By "something of value," here's some ideas of what you can do:

1. Invite them to a free "anti-bullying seminar" at your camp next week.
2. Invite them to a free "community swimming session" in your pool or lake (but only for members of your VIP email club, so you get their email) during non-camp hours.
3. Invite them to your CPR certification course, only for moms, next month at your facility. (You need their home address to send them their free tickets.)
4. Offer to email them secret link for a "sneak peak" into your new camp video. (The video won't be available to general public for another month or two, but it's available to them right now -- you just need their email address to send them the link)
5. Invite them to download your free report, "Top 10 Ways to Save Money on Summer Camp" (or something like that...but you need an email address to send it to them)
6. Give them a couple free coupons to the toy store down the street...(but get their address so you can send them the coupons and their phone number to follow up with them just to make sure the coupons arrived before the expiration date.)

See how effective this approach can be? These strategies are the number one way to open a pressure-free dialogue with people and stay in contact with them after the initial contact is made so you can move them further down the sales cycle.

When someone sounds standoffish, hesitant, uninterested (by the way, you can ALWAYS get a person who at first seems uninterested to ask for more info about your program), or even when they say, "let me think about it," try some of the ideas above. They work!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Internet Advertising For Your Camp, Just $49/Year

If you're looking for an affordable marketing option with great value and ROI, list your camp on for just $49 per year.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Text Message Marketing for Summer Camps

The next big thing (actually, it's already here and growing) for camp marketers is mobile marketing. Mobile marketing encompasses many facets, from text message marketing to mobile coupons to QR codes and more.

Why is mobile marketing so hot? Well, consider this: Your camp family prospects and customers might leave home without their purse, wallet, or computers ... but not without their cell phones! And by 2014 (next year), more people will conduct online searches with their mobile devices than they will using their desktops. That's crazy!

In an upcoming post I'm going to talk about a great mobile couponing tool created by my friend Shawntay who I met on Twitter. But today I wanted to introduce you to one of the fastest, quickest, most effective ways to reach your prospects immediately in real time...and that's text message marketing!

All About Text Message Marketing

Text message marketing is quick, powerful and effective. Once you build your opt-in list (kind of like building your email list), you can text your customers enrollment updates, special offers (like coupons), and all kinds of other valuable info.

Mobile marketing (in this case, text messaging) is also a great communication tool, not just to stay in touch with customers and prospects, but staff too. You can segment your opt-in list into separate groups or lists and provide messaging for just those specific groups or lists. For example, you could have a staff list, and text important messages to all your counselors at once. Or if one of your camp buses is running late, you could text the parents to let them know when the bus will arrive so they didn't worry.

Text message marketing is an easy, cost-effective way to get more enrollment. Statistics show people open their text messages 95% of the time, and within SECONDS of receiving the message, too. Not only that, response are as much as 10x greater than email.

Now you can't just start sending your customers and prospects unsolicited text messages whenever you want. As we just mentioned, your goal is to build an opt-in list of people who agree to receive your texts. And you should also use a text message service, similar to your email marketing service, to streamline your text message marketing activities and appear more professional to those who receive your texts. You'll generally pay a monthly fee to join the service, the price of which is based on the number of texts you send, the number of people on your list, or some combination.

I've tried various services. There's many good ones out there. Some are more complicated than others with various levels of sophistication required to use them. The one I've been using lately is called Qwikon. The reason I like it is for its ease of use, affordable monthly fees (you get a free trial, too) and the great customer service. If you decide to try it (and why not?), the gentleman who owns the business is named Brooks Lambert and he'll take care of you, I promise you that.

If you're already using text message marketing to promote your camp and connect with customers, you already know the benefits of mobile marketing. In any case, you owe it to yourself to at least look into this hot new marketing method which is growing and here to stay. I was even able to arrange an exclusive deal for you with Brooks at Qwikon; he will give you a 15% discount off your first year's use if you let him know you're connected to me.

Bottom line, if you haven't discovered text message marketing yet, now's the time. Good luck!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Coupons and Candy Go Hand-in-Hand

A couple weeks ago we made a quick post on how to market to kids and parents at the same time. The strategy discussed was to attach a coupon to a candy bar. Candy is something every child loves, and the coupon equates to something every parent loves -- saving money.

Those who've read this blog for a while know I'm a big fan of stealing marketing ideas from other industries and applying them to summer camp marketing. I got the coupon/candy bar idea when I took my car in for service two weeks ago. When the mechanic finished fixing my car, he gave me a Hershey bar with a coupon attached good for $5 off my next service. That's a pretty sweet marketing strategy to encourage me to bring my car back to him next time it needs work, rather than take it to another mechanic.

I can think of at least a dozen ways to use this idea at my camp. I know you can, too. Give it a try. Your campers and parents will love it!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Best Place to Distribute Your Flyers? School Carpool Lines

Is marketing with flyers included in your camp's marketing plan? It should be. Flyers are just about the cheapest advertising materials to produce, and when distributed in the right places, unbelievably effective.

You can distribute your flyers everywhere. Pediatrician's offices, telephone poles, little league fields, camp fairs. But where's the NUMBER ONE place to hand them out?

School carpool lines.

Seriously, have you EVER seen more moms sitting around doing absolutely NOTHING about 10 or 15 minutes before their kids get out of school? This is an incredibly captive audience for you.

Now you might be wondering whether this type of solicitation is kosher, especially in a school environment. Different places have different rules and regulations, so you'll need to check with yours before undertaking this remarkably effective marketing strategy.

If you're walking up and down a public sidewalk handing out flyers, you might be fine, but again, you need to check first. The best way I've found to make this work is doing deals directly with the schools themselves, where you can actually distribute the flyers on school property for a fee to the school or a percentage of any enrollments I get due to handing out the flyers.

See if you can swing this too, it's easily worth the effort.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

How to Market to Kids and Parents at the Same Time

Looking for a marketing idea that simultaneously reaches parents and kids alike? Attach a coupon to a candy bar and give it to either one.

Monday, January 28, 2013

How to Let People BUY What You're Selling, Rather than SELLING it to Them

You know that old saying, "People like to be sold"? I think it's a load of crap. I don't think people like being sold one bit. But people do like to buy things -- it makes them feel good.

Keep this in mind the next time you talk to a parent. Nobody likes a hard sell, especially your summer camp prospects. But if you can help people feel like they reached their own buying decisions, you'll get a whole bunch of happy campers.

So now you have a new marketing challenge. Your goal is to help people "BUY" what you're selling, rather than SELL them on it.

When someone decides to sign their kids up for camp instead of feeling like they've been forced into it a sale, the whole experience will be more enjoyable for them. The parent will be more accepting of your prices, and the kid will have more fun at camp.

How do you let someone buy your camp experience instead of selling it to them? You need to make the entire situation all about THEM.

Ask them questions about the type of program they're looking for so you can help determine their needs. Then, offer solutions so they can draw their own conclusions.  Let me give you an example.

Let's say you offer three different programs. You spend some time with your prospect on the phone, showing them around camp, whatever. After getting to know your prospect a little, and determining their summer camp needs, you are in a great position to help them make their own decisions about camp.

You can explain to them why one of your programs might work really well for them, but another might be even better. You might even steer them away from your third program, because based on what they've told you, that program is not the best match. Your honesty will be appreciated, and more importantly, you've given them a few options to draw their own conclusions. People are generally happier with their purchasing decisions when THEY decide what and when to buy, NOT when someone else SELLS them on it.

Now even though you want to focus on helping people BUY what you're selling rather than selling them on it, please don't forget these two things:
  1. You should always maintain a salesperson's mindset because, after all, the end goal is to get new campers; and
  2. "Not selling" people on camp does NOT mean you shouldn't ask for the sale. You should always ask for the sale when the time is right! Simply asking your prospect if they'd like to enroll for camp is NOT the same as selling them, as long as you help them realize they've drawn their own conclusions.
And by the way, never be afraid to ask for the sale, either. It might be hard to do at first, but you NEED to do it. Eventually the time will come -- perhaps after several contacts with your prospect via phone, social media, etc. -- when you feel like you're at a stalemate. Or there may be times when your intuition tells you now's the time to show that parent to your enrollment form. By all means you are within your right to ask if they'd like to sign up for camp! For all you know they are literally HOPING you'll ask because they don't know how to register and they're too embarrassed to ask.

One more thing. What if you ask the parent if they're ready to sign up, and they say "no"? Big deal!

It never hurts to ask, and it doesn't mean you've lost the enrollment, either. At this point, the best thing is to step back and let the process rework itself . When your prospect is ready, you will get a new camper!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

What to do When Your Early Bird Discount Isn't Enough

This is the time of year you need money. For many camps, January's the slowest month. So how do you get people to sign up for camp right now, in the dead of winter, when they probably aren't even THINKING about summer not to mention everyone's credit cards are maxed out since the holidays just ended.

Well, if you do things the way most other camps do, you probably have an Early Bird discount going. But sometimes even THAT'S not enough to get parents to part with their hard-earned money. Many people would rather sign up for camp several months later, even if it means paying full price, just so they can hang onto their money as long as possible.

So the question becomes, what do you do when your Early Bird discount isn't enough?

The answer is to:

1) Offer parents something of extra value (in addition to your discounted early rate) that doesn't cost you much money, but appears to the parent to have a high-perceived value; and

2) Add a sense of urgency to your offer so your families say to themselves, "I'd be foolish not to sign up for this."  (To create a sense of urgency, you can limit the quantity of your offer, make it time-sensitive, or both.)

Your limited-time or limited-quantity promotional offer, on top of the Early Bird discount you're already offering, can be just what you need to get a couple enrollments during the slow winter months.

Let me give you an example of how I'm using this strategy at my camp right now.

We have an Early Enrollment offer going on through the end of February. That means parents must register for camp by February 28 to get the best rate. This discount alone means I can expect a handful of enrollments here and there between now and the end of February, but these enrollments will come to me on the parent's schedule with a big rush of them at the last minute. (Most people are procrastinators and will wait till the last possible minute to do anything.)

But I don't want them to wait. Of course I enjoy the excitement of getting a big flurry of sign-ups all at once, but I'd rather have the money now instead of waiting until the end of next month. (You would too, I imagine...)

So here's what I did this morning. I sent an email to all camp parents who signed up for camp last year, but have not signed up yet for this summer. I told them about our Early Bird discount, and described how space is limited and all that, just like all of us always tell parents.

But I also told them this:

"The first 20 families who sign up for camp with this email offer will get a FREE boogie board their child can use at camp all summer." 

I also included a picture of the free boogie boards their child can choose from and included a caption:

Get a FREE boogie board when you're one of the first 20 campers to sign up for this offer!

So with this offer, I pretty much achieved what I was after. First, I told the parents our prices were going up in a month, so they should sign up now to get the best rate. (That's the definition of a time-sensitive offer.)

Then to further incentivize them to sign up now, I tempted them with a free boogie board for their kids -- but ONLY if they're among the first 20 people to register, so they better not wait. (That's another time-sensitive offer, combined with a limited quantity offer, too -- a double whammy, if you will.)

And guess what? The free boogie board did the trick! I already got the half the enrollments I was looking for, and it only took 4 hours after sending the email to get them.

Now you might be thinking, how can you do the same thing? Well, you might not be able to get 10 enrollments in the next four hours. Or maybe you'll get a lot more, who knows.

But this first thing you need to do is find something that's cheap to give away, but sought-after with a high-perceived value by customers and prospects.

I assume you don't run a beach camp. (If you do, you can try the same boogie board strategy I used.) But if you don't, there's any number of other things you can try, for instance:

  • Give away a free overnight campout
  • Give away a free horseback riding lesson
  • Give away a free camp t-shirt, sweatshirt or credit to your camp store
  • Give away a free day of camp
Whatever you decide, you're going to have some really happy customers in the end. Everyone loves a freebie, especially if it's something they'd probably buy anyway. Now that I've already given away 10 free boogie boards, I wonder how long it will take for the next 10 enrollments to come in? I'm guessing pretty quickly. And I also urge you, too to get started with this "free giveaway" marketing strategy to overwhelm your customers with value and get more enrollment sooner rather than later.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Free Advertising for Your Camp - First Come, First Served

The website will be mentioned in a prominent Los Angeles area magazine soon for parents who want to save money on summer camp.

This is your chance to get free advertising right now. Fill out and submit this form and we will try to get your camp's coupon listed on the site for free before the magazine article comes out.

Free coupon advertising offer is first-come, first-served so send in your info/fill out the form today.