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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

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Where else can you pay just $25 and get all that when marketing your camp online.

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