Here is some marketing advice for camp directors who are great at being camp directors, but need a little help getting the word out there and building awareness for their camp. This information was collected at a session presented by former Alberta Camping Association President Jon Olfert, Director of Camp Valaqua, during the ACA Annual Conference 2015.
If you missed it you can also download the PowerPoint presentation.
Set Measurable Goals
“I want to have more campers enroll for camp this summer” is an obvious goal but it isn’t a measurable one. Be specific in your goal setting. Here are some examples:
- 10% increase in enrolment in summer camp programs (397 total campers)
- 1 new school booking this year
- Double the amount of Twitter followers (from 40 to 80)
- Gain 100 new likes on Facebook.
These are items that can provide measurable data in regards to the effectiveness of your marketing endeavor.
Identify your Target Audience
The typical camper audience is families with children ages 8-16 or whatever age your programming caters to. When you are thinking about your audience think about campers, pre-campers, parents and grandparents of both campers and pre-campers, staff and volunteers, parents of staff and volunteers, school groups, rental groups, local community, and organizations your camp might be associated with.
Where does your audience live? Are they local or in the nearest city? Where do they do their recreation, shop, go to school, and spend time with family? Find out where most of your campers are coming from and target those areas.
Keep in constant contact with your existing clients (camper families). You should be contacting them three to five times between summers. Here are some ideas for contacting your campers in the off-season:
- Have your staff fill out Christmas cards at the end of each week, written to each specific camper. Send them all out at the beginning of January.
- You can do the same with birthday cards and have a personal greeting go out to each of your campers.
- Do a brochure mail-out and send your registration forms to existing and interested families.
- Send postcards of your camp at any time throughout the year.
- In the early spring, start calling the families who attended camp last year who haven’t yet registered for the upcoming summer camp season.
Create a report on each of your marketing actions. You should have a separate report for every action you took. So, the Christmas card action would be one report detailing exactly what you did. When you measure your results, you will be able to go back and look at the details in order to improve the action for next year or decide if it was effective at all and worth repeating.
Other actions would include brochure mail outs, Facebook ads, Google Adwords, school flyers, newsletters, community posters, articles in local publications, teacher conventions, church visits, social media, etc.
Be more professional in the materials you are sending out. Gone are the days when have a scanned copy of your camp what-to-bring list is appropriate. Hire a graphic designer and get your stuff printed by a professional. If that is not in your budget, use real publishing software or FREE online graphic design tools like www.canva.com.
It is so important to keep track of when your marketing actions happen so you can accurately measure their results. Keep track of when you see results: when campers start to register or when you have a sudden surge of people contacting you.
Create a graph that outlines when each marketing action occurs and when any results occurred. Then you will be able to clearly see that when you sent out your brochures, you got a sudden spike in registrations. If you didn't see a spike, then maybe you should consider trying a different marketing action.
Paid Facebook, Twitter, and Google Ads
Commit to managing your social media or assign the task to someone on your staff who can commit. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Google+ and others are effective and FREE!
Micro-media campaigns are very old school but can still be effective depending on your audience. Camps who have strong connections to nearby small towns might benefit from putting posters up in community centres, libraries, grocery store bulletin boards, or asking schools if they would had out their brochures to their students. Jon from Camp Valaqua reported 15 new campers from micro-media campaigns.
Start a blog on your camp website. A blog allows you to give resources to parents, improves your search engine optimization, gives you unique content to use on your social media and another place to connect with potential campers and their families.
Attend teacher’s conventions, but consider actually presenting a workshop at a teacher’s convention. Having a booth up can be effective, but having personal contact with an engaged audience might result in more tangible results in regards to gaining new school group users.