My Camp is Closed. Here's My Marketing Plan Until We Open Again.

I usually don't cave to fear but I confess the whole COVID-19 has been pretty scary.  But not from an, "I hope I don't catch the virus" standpoint -- I've never really been afraid of that. More frightening to me is the fact I can't operate my camp this summer due to the pandemic and the associated financial ramifications, many of which aren't even known to me yet.

We Were Hopeful to Open Camp

I was hopeful to operate in at least some capacity this summer. But given the modifications we'd need to make and virulent way coronavirus is tearing through L.A. County right now, it's highly unlikely (let alone advisable) to open camp this summer at all. From a financial standpoint, it's been a killer. I know many of you are facing your own struggles and hardships due to coronavirus. I hope everything works out for you. But as difficult as all of this has been (and continues to be!), we have to move forward. We owe it to our staff, campers, customer families, and ourselves to make sure our collective programs emerge better and stronger than ever when the pandemic ends.

If your camp is closed this summer, the easy thing to do is lament the situation and sit around waiting for circumstances to change. Why not use this time as an opportunity to improve your administrative efficiencies, and especially your marketing program? Just because your program's closed, you're operating at less than capacity, or camp just doesn't "feel" right, you may as well focus on the things you can control right now to ensure your program's as turnkey as possible when it's time to reopen.

How I'm Marketing My Camp Amid the Pandemic and Camp is Closed

I realize we all deal with unfortunate circumstance in our own way. But I wanted to share my suggestions and the marketing strategies I'm pursuing right now even though my camp is closed amid the pandemic. I want to be in the best shape possible to hit the ground running when it's time to reopen, whether that's later this summer, next year, or whenever.

In general I'm using this time to restructure my marketing plan with the goal of maximizing efficiency and effectiveness. We're still marketing, but our objectives have changed from camper recruitment to lead generation activities. We want to ensure we have a large pool of prospects to draw from when we're ready to open camp. Here are some of the things we're doing and the reasons why we're doing them.

1. I want to make sure our camp stays "top of mind" among customers and prospects,
especially since some of our competitors are open and we have no idea when this pandemic will end. Our customers and prospects need to know we're still here, even if camp's not in session. We're answering the phone, responding to emails, staying active on social media, all that. If you do nothing else, I suggest a weekly Facebook post or two and an email every other week just to stay in touch. Simply expressing to folks you're still here and look forward to serving them again soon when the time is right will pay off in spades later compared to sitting around doing nothing until it's time to reopen again later. Regarding lead generation, even if your camp is closed, you're probably still getting lots of interest from families who'd like to sign up and/or or will the time is right. These leads will be invaluable when you're ready to reopen. But if you’re really desperate for money right now, you can even sell those leads to your competitors who'd likely pay a pretty penny for them now.

2. I'm tweaking our marketing plan to be leaner and more efficient. I'm crafting a few marketing offers (some to current/returning families, others to prospective ones) so I don't miss a beat when it's time to recruit campers again. I generally focus about 70% of my marketing resources (time, money) on customer retention and 30% on new camper acquisition. I suggest spending about 5% to 10% of gross or projected gross revenue on your marketing budget depending on your goals. It's also a good idea to keep testing the kind of marketing that works best for you. Eliminating your under-performing marketing activities and doubling-up on the ones that make money for you is an ideal way to make every dollar you spend on marketing do the work of two.

3. I'm cutting costs wherever I can. From a personal (family budget) standpoint, I cut our Spectrum bill by $80/month just by calling and asking for a better rate plan. I've done that in several places, actually. And from a business standpoint, I've been spending time cleaning up my email list. If you're like me, you might be paying for contacts (with MailChimp, Constant Contact, etc) for old or inactive contacts you don’t use or need. Deleting inactive contacts could potentially save you lots of money by dropping into a lower payment tier or two. I usually keep inquiries and contacts on hand for three years. Anything older, I trash. If someone hasn’t signed up or returned to camp in three years, I figure that's an outdated contact and prefer spending time and money on better prospects.

Can You Apply Any of These Strategies to Your Camp?

So, in a nutshell, these are the things I'm doing. Maybe you can adapt some of these ideas at your own camp. Simply expressing to folks that you're still here and look forward to serving them again soon when when the time is right will pay off in spades compared to just sitting around doing nothing until it's time to reopen again. Meanwhile, let's all have hope that better days are ahead and camp will resume as normal sooner rather than later. Your campers need you!

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