As a summer camp owner it’s essential that people know about you and your camp. The more parents that know about your camp, the more campers you get. Simple. You could be the greatest summer camp in the world, but if nobody knows about it then you’ll be in trouble before you even have your first day! That’s why good marketing is essential for the success of any holiday camp business.
The key to any marketing campaign is promoting how you can make someone’s life easier and offer them something that will help solve a problem.
With holiday camps, 9 times out of 10 parents are looking for affordable day care for their children whilst they’re at work. What you should be promoting through your marketing campaigns is how you can solve that problem and those unique selling points that set you apart from all other camps in the area.
In this article, I will cover the following camp marketing tactics:
- Internet, social media and email
- Partnership and link building
- Other methods
If you don’t have a huge budget then below you’ll find some low-cost marketing methods that will get your started and set you on the right track.
Internet, Social Media and Email
For any business to be successful today it’s essential that they have a website. Having an attractive and informative website will make your camp look professional and set you apart from the amateur setups operating in the area.
The purpose of your website is to provide all the information parents need to make a decision about whether to send their child to your camp. Your job is to put them at ease, build a connection and make it an easy purchasing decision for them.
It is important that your website has the capability for on-line camp booking. Using an online camp registration makes signing up easy for your campers and their parents, and super easy on you. Most online booking systems process payments easily and effortlessly, parents can pay by credit or debit card and even paypal (weebly provides this as part of their website package).
Your website should also provide an opportunity to download your camp flyer and other important forms such as medical forms, booking forms, parent handbooks and staff applications.
If you’ve followed the article series, you should have already setup your website, if not, then please refer to my previous article ‘Getting Started‘ which gives you all the information you need to get started and create your camp website.
Many small and large businesses are seeing the many benefits of using social media to market their products and services. Although it takes a little time and effort to build your audience, social media provides a great opportunity for camp owners to target new customers and interact with parents.
If you’re putting in the effort of connecting with your customers online, why not ask them to pass that information along to others? Basically, remind them how great your camp is, and ask them to tell others. A parent sharing your camp website is WAY more powerful than you sharing your own link. They love your camp anyway, so normally they’re happy to help!
Below you will find information and links to the most popular social media websites.
Your aim is to make others aware of you and your products or services. If you have a special event or you receive some positive feedback from parents then tweet about it (or better get others to). Twitter’s also a fantastic way to spread discounts and offers: tweet out every time you’re offering discount or when you have limited space left on your camps. Encourage parents to follow you and pretty soon, you’ll have a legion of followers, also known in the real world as potential customers.
Summer Camp Facebook pages are an excellent tool for getting people to talk about your camp, share experiences and build an online camp community. Encourage parents and campers to “like” your camp page and get them to share it with friends and family.
Upload photos of your camps in action, setting up your camp, staff training days or anything else you can think of and update your status to let parents and campers know what you’re up to.
YouTube provides an excellent opportunity to reach your audience through the medium of video. Do a video tour of your camp, take a video of some of the activities you offer and staff training days, interview parent testimonials and upload to your YouTube channel.
To get started all you need is a camera that does video at 720p (pretty much every camera does) and an editing software. If done well, it can show customers that you really care and how much effort goes into organising a camp, which results in more trust.
In the future, video and web based advertising is going to be the next big thing and any business that doesn’t take advantage now is going to play catch up. Build trust with your customers and show them what you do (and you do well!)
Email lets you communicate with parents and potential customers at the touch of a button. You should aim to send out an email newsletter every two months to keep in contact with parents throughout the year and let them know when you are running your next camp.
If you’ve gone through the hard-work of finding your customers, it is important that you keep them and follow up. Keep them updated on any upcoming events, staffing updates, new locations, special discounts and any camp improvements including new activities.
And when you sign up for a mailing list service such as mailchimp and you have less than 2,000 subscribers it’s free.
Leafleting (also known as flyers) is a popular marketing method for small businesses – and for good reason. Using flyers to promote your camp is simple, affordable and can bring in new customers and boost sales when starting out.
It’s possible to design a flyer on a home computer or by having your local printing company do one for you. Your best option though would be have one professionally designed on a website like fiverr for just $5 and then get them printed on vista print. Remember that first impressions last, so the more professional… the better!
What to include on your flyer:
- Date and location
- Name of your camp
- Contact information
- Website Address
- Why they should book?
If used correctly, a flyer can be a very effective sales tool. Once you have your flyers printed, you then need to target potential customers. Here are some ideas where to distribute your camp flyers: schools, local libraries, sports centres, health clubs, children’s clubs, cubs, brownies, church groups, playgroups, sports clubs (football, martial arts) and nurseries.
Link Building and Partnerships
Schools and Education
Try promoting your holiday camp with local schools and after-school clubs, if they’re not planning on running their own during this period.
Offer schools a free activity day in return for an opportunity to hand out flyers to the children to take home to their parents. This will build a relationship with schools in the local area and will save you time and money by advertising direct to your target market.
Local Clubs (Football, Martial Arts, Netball etc)
I would also suggest linking up with local sports clubs, uniform groups and church groups and offer them a 10-20% kickback (money back incentive) on every camper that signs up through them or you could offer them a discount rate. Pairing up with clubs and groups means that you have quick and easy access to their network of customers.
Even if you break even on your first camp, or make a small loss, you need to think about the long-term value of that camper and word of mouth advertising. Next time, you run your next camp you’ll have the campers contact details and hopefully they enjoyed themselves enough so their parents sign them up again but this time for the full price. Slow and steady wins the race!
Local Businesses – Corporate Discounts
If there is a big employer nearby or a business park, think about advertising there and offering discounts for employees. Even if their staff don’t live locally, it will still may be more convenient for them to drop their child off to your camp before work and pick them up once they’ve finished for the day.
Other Marketing Methods
Word of Mouth
Potential customers are more likely to give your camp a try if it’s been recommended by a friend. So use this to your advantage and turn your customers into brand ambassadors. Offer a discount or free day if someone they recommended signs their child up for camp (this is also known as a referral scheme). That way they’ll be singing your praises and getting you more customers at the same time.
If you have already run a camp, start of your marketing campaign by promoting your next camp to former campers. Consider the campers from your previous holiday camp as the champions of your new marketing campaign. Look to offer discounts to parents who book early and make camper referrals. Confirmed bookings will help you out when it comes to estimating likely numbers and staffing requirements. It’s also a fantastic way to reward customers for their loyalty and persuade them to keep coming to camp.
Encourage parents to write a short email or letter about the positive experience their child had a camp. Put these testimonials on your website and your social media accounts for others to see. Others are more likely to send their child to your camp once they see the positive experiences other campers and parents have had with your service.
Run a Competition
Give away a 2 free passes to camp as part of a competition in the local newspaper or donate the same prize to a local school or club as a raffle prize. This will get your camp some free advertising and will raise your profile in the local area.
Festivals, Fates and Fairs
If you have a local event such as a festival or school fate, pay your fee and setup a table. Have a couple of your camp leaders running activities for free, distributing flyers and talking to parents about your camp.
Even better, hire a climbing wall for the day for £600, charge people £3 for a climb and hand out your camp flyers to parents at the same time (you’re guaranteed to have a big crowd gather).
Another key point to remember when marketing is that innovative methods tend to work the best. The world is changing and so is how we advertise and market. A lot of camps are still losing money through poor advertising campaigns, keep it simple and target your customers so you get a better return on your investment. Keep in mind the long term value of a camper and what that’s worth.
Hopefully, I’ve provided a good starting point to get started with your marketing campaign and would love to hear about your any other methods you have used using the comments box below. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org