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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.

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