I always like to be updated with anything that is connected to what our clients are doing. At Regpack we have more than 4,000 camps using our system to register, manage and communicate with their campers so obviously I try to keep up to date with anything happening in the camp world. During time I have noticed that there are a few questions and requirements that repeat themselves, usually centered on camp marketing ideas. Here they are:
- On parent camp forums, camp websites and various camp related sites: parents keep asking “WHY kids should attend camp?”.
- On professional camp groups (Linkedin has some really good ones) and forums: camp directors keep asking about camp marketing ideas and how to best market and highlight their unique qualities.
- During my many conversations communication with camp directors and employees: camp professionals seem to think that it is obvious why kids should go to camp.
I assume that by the list you get where this is going. Parent questions are a great way to get your word out there and to talk about the qualities of your specific camp!
Camps are so into what they are doing that it sometimes seems “Why to go to camp?” is just seems obvious and not worth it to actually vocalize. But it is for the camper parents and for your marketing efforts in general! After all they have so many options for their kids summer activities, they do ask the question “Why should we send Jonathan to Camp?” You can look at this question in two ways: 1. This is not the optimal target family for your camp. 2. This is a great opportunity to get this family to join your camp. It is all about your prospective. You must of heard the story about the two shoe marketing people sent to the savanna. One came back and said there is no market there since everyone is barefoot whereas the other returned and put all the marketing budget into that area since it is an untapped market. As I said, it is all about prospective!
So basically communicating the reasons why camp is invaluable to the childhood experience is an important part of your camp marketing strategy and one that shouldn’t be overlooked. The first step to a great marketing plan for your camp is having some sort of an online presence, whether it be a blog, Facebook profile, Twitter, etc. Your content online should focus on why kids should go to YOUR camp.
How do all the reasons WHY a kid should go to camp fit with YOUR camp, your mission, your program and your experience? This focus can be an excellent marketing tool and can be adapted in many ways – linking articles about the values of camp experiences, blog posts about specific activities or events that are unique to your camp and how it fits with your values, etc. You can, and should, use the language we outline below, in your marketing text – your website, brochures, application, etc. Before we go into the marketing how-to, let’s take a look at some common reasons “Why Kids Should Attend Camp”. The American Camp Association has a great handbook resource that delves into all of these ideas more thoroughly and is worth a read if you haven’t seen it already.
- Spiritual Growth and Knowledge
- Learning and Education
- Building Self-Esteem
- Friendship and Social Skills
- Physical Activity
- Peer Relationships
- Values (environment, religious, social justice, etc)
- Independence and Life Skills
- Identity Development
- Character Building
This list includes so many great buzzwords that attract parents and SEO robots alike, and they are truly the heart of the mission of your camp and the values you hold dearest that you try to impart to your campers. Below are some practical tools on how to translate these reasons to attend camp into great marketing campaigns.
Facebook is a great tool to connect with campers and their parents both during session and in between. It’s the medium that most people use personally and professionally and if you have no other social media or online presence (besides your website) Facebook should be the one you choose. Facebook offers tons of different ways to share your camp’s mission and cultivate an identity of your camp’s values and what it can offer that stands out from other camps in your area. Some fun ideas for Facebook include:
- Have a ‘photo of the day’ campaign.
- Post a photo that exemplifies one of these “why’s” and how your camp delivers.
- Invite parents and campers to contribute their own photos as well in the comments!
- Use the tag feature to tag campers in your post to generate more interaction. One day can be “how does our camp build self esteem” and include your own photo and description of what you think your camp does best when it comes to building self esteem in your campers.
- Update your status daily while camp is in session with a recap of the day. This is great for parents who want to stay connected to what their kids are doing and is a fun and hassle free way to document in a sentence or two daily, how each camp session was and what you did. Try to use photos with your update as well, and these photos will be an album that potential future campers can look at while browsing your page in the future (instant visual marketing materials)!
- Post blog post updates, reminders about registration deadlines and other ‘business’ related things. You never know who will see and share these posts and how many potential customers you can reach.
- Post articles you think will interest your followers – campers, parents, etc.
Below are a few great examples of Facebook posts from different camps:
2. Your Website
There isn’t time or space in this post to talk about how to build a great website or how to structure your website to be user friendly and beneficial. However, it needs to be mentioned in the context of this post that including these keywords from the list at the top of this post on your website is important. Your website is your storefront. When someone uses Google to search for you specifically, or uses a search engine to find a local camp that will suit their needs, they will first see your website and decide whether or not you fit their bill for what they’re looking for. Identify the kind of families you are looking for in relation to your camp. Do you just provide a childcare setting, or are you hoping to provide a total experience for the camper through a certain lens: religion, sports, outdoor activities, etc? Make sure to use keywords specific to your camp AS WELL as the more general keywords: leadership skills, friendship, life skills. All of these terms relate to your camp’s mission in one way or another. Maybe you have an outdoors camp but the activities are totally compatible with a parent looking for a camp to boost their child’s leadership abilities. Including these keywords and writing passionate copy about how your camp can provide invaluable experiences for your campers is crucial to selling your camp and letting ‘shoppers’ know what they’ll get if they buy. Check out one of our client’s awesome “About’ page on their website, Camp Kee Tov. They are a great example on great website marketing with how they paint a picture of their values and what their passion can bring to their campers. Notice the keywords they use: building friendship, cultural traditions, sense of community, rich tradition, cultural enrichment, personal enrichment, role models, leadership training, fun, love of nature, social justice, charity, mutual respect, responsibility, sharing, individual achievement, safe environment, problem solving and long- lasting relationships.
3. Camp Blog
A blog is a great way to document camp life and highlight the ‘reasons’ kids should attend camp through the lens of the activities and programs your camp has to offer. It’s a great way from an SEO/internet marketing point of view to have more pages on the web with your camp name, camp address (and other location details) and keywords that relate to your camp that will link back to you when people search as well. Some fun post ideas include:
- Share photos
- Share videos
- Write news article type posts (expert article from a staff member who specializes in something, why kids should attend camp (like this post!), benefits of bunking with your peers, etc
- Personalized camp updates
- Staff spotlights – introduce your staff to your readers!
- Camper spotlights – highlight and honor your campers! This is a great thing to do in general, but also to get campers and parents reading your blog, commenting and sharing with their friends on social media (free marketing!)
The options are really endless when it comes to marketing you camp effectively. Just make sure to post frequently (this can be daily, weekly or even just once a month) on any or all of the platforms you choose – Facebook, Twitter, Blog, etc. The key is to be consistent, to share quality content and to understand what your followers like and don’t like. The more you post, from a marketing perspective, however, the better! If you have any questions, feel free to ask away in the comments below 🙂