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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.

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