Coming up with programs, schedules, and activities, while also recruiting and training employees, taking care of the logistics and the finances, and so, so much more—running a summer camp is no easy feat.
But are you doing everything you can to make sure people know how great your camp really is?
Investing some time and money in promoting your camp can significantly boost your registrations and make sure all your sessions are fully booked by the time summer comes.
That’s why we’ve compiled a list of useful tips that will take your marketing game to another level. Study them, implement them, and watch your camp registration rates go through the roof!
Improve Your Online Presence
Today, the online presence of a company communicates everything a modern consumer needs to know about that particular business.
Googling a company before purchasing a product or visiting a store has become a common practice.
To better understand shoppers’ local search behavior, Visual Objects conducted a survey on 500 US consumers.
The results revealed by the survey were interesting, although not surprising.
Nearly half of the respondents said they often used search engines to find information about local businesses, and even more of them said they looked up a shop’s website before visiting the store.
If they like what they see online, they’ll be more likely to visit the physical location.
These findings are nowadays applicable across all industries and to the entirety of a business’s online presence, including websites, social media accounts, or even, in the case of summer camps, the registration process.
In other words, all of these need to be up to par with the demands of modern consumers. Otherwise, you’re missing out on a lot of potential customers.
So, if your online presence needs a boost, start with your website. A great-looking website is a surefire way to dazzle parents.
Make sure yours is up-to-date, intuitive, and, most importantly, mobile-friendly because the majority of people use mobile devices to access websites.
In fact, did you know that in 2022, 60% of parents used their smartphones or tablets to register their children for summer camp?
Moreover, efficient summer camp leaders know that a robust online presence includes a seamless online registration experience, too.
To make sure your registration process matches the needs and expectations of modern parents, use modern solutions.
Camp registration software is an effective tool for improving the standard of your whole registration process, from registration form creation to payment processing.
Regpack, our own camp registration system, enables you to easily build great-looking, mobile-responsive registration forms that can be embedded on your website, meaning parents can both register and pay for your camp all in one place without page redirects.
Such a smooth registration process will surely impress the parents and make them more likely to actually go through with it.
It will also make your job that much easier because it eliminates the need for paper forms and spreadsheets, which are highly prone to human error anyway.
Finally, don’t underestimate the power of social media.
The truth is, if your target audience comprises parents, the chances are you’re marketing to millennials, i.e., anyone born between 1981 and 1996.
Today, these people are between the ages of 42 and 27, and many of them probably have children of their own.
In fact, one in five mothers in the US today is a millennial.
This is an important thing to know because, according to surveys, social media is precisely where you can reach millennial parents.
So don’t be afraid to post frequently and make sure your content is engaging and relevant. It may surprise you how effective this strategy can be.
Offer Discounts as an Incentive
It’s only natural you want to see your camp fully booked, and quickly. After all, the sooner you have your sessions filled, the sooner you can start preparing for summer.
But how do you incentivize parents to register early, exactly?
The key is to generate excitement and enthusiasm around your camp before you even open registrations.
The fear of missing out (FOMO) goes hand in hand with excitement and enthusiasm, and therefore has a major role in marketing.
It’s a tactic that strives to make customers feel like a potentially amazing experience, event, or a great deal is slipping through their fingers.
You’ve surely seen companies exclaiming, “Selling out fast!” or “Just a couple of products left!” on their websites.
This is one of the most common ways of creating a sense of FOMO, and you yourself can use it too.
Just make sure that, when you advertise your camp, you emphasize the limited number of spots left available.
Source: @W5_LIFE on Twitter
This approach will create a sense of urgency and give the idea that a lot of people are registering for your camp, making the rest of the parents think they, too, need to hurry up and register while they still can.
One thing that pairs well with FOMO is discounts.
Therefore, look for ways to fit early-bird discounts into your marketing strategy, provided they make financial sense for your camp.
Source: @BucksIUSTEAM on Twitter
You can either set the deadline for early-bird registrations, or they can be limited by a certain number of sign-ups.
For instance, you can make it so that the first 15 registrants get the discount.
Not only will this generate excitement, but it’ll boost your cash flow, too!
And if setting up discounts seems like a lot of work, don’t despair.
Modern camp registration solutions help you create and apply discounts in just a couple of clicks as well as allow you to set expiration dates, availability, actions that’ll trigger discounts (e.g., promo codes), and so much more.
Be Sure to Communicate Frequently
The main thing to remember, however, is that you shouldn’t focus your efforts on marketing only in a couple of weeks preceding the start of your camp.
Instead, you should look for ways to stay on the parents’ minds throughout the year.
The best way to maintain a relationship with parents between summers is through frequent and effective communication.
How do you achieve this?
With the help of a tool that’s versatile enough to be applicable before, during, and after camp but also cost-effective enough so it doesn’t drain your whole marketing budget.
Ideally, this communication channel would also be user-friendly, considering it’d be used quite often.
Believe it or not, there is a solution that offers all three of those.
Email is a communication channel everyone’s already familiar with, so it’s very effective for marketing.
It’s also highly personal, which makes it perfect for maintaining relationships with parents.
You can, for example, use email to send out newsletters that’ll keep parents in the loop about your camp.
In the newsletter, you can show them new activities you’ve planned for the next year, as well as renovations, or new cabins. You can also introduce your team.
Source: Camp Goodtimes
Another thing you can do is use email newsletters as an opportunity to look back on last year’s camp.
Returning campers will love this walk down memory lane, and first-time campers will get to see some of the great atmosphere your camp provides.
Source: Camp Robin Hood
To prevent your email communications from becoming too labor-intensive and time-consuming, though, you should use camp registration software.
It’ll automate the process without losing that vital personal touch.
A good camp registration solution will have a feature that’ll automatically send out emails based on certain triggers.
For instance, a late payment will trigger an outstanding balance email requesting the necessary amount.
What’s more, the software will auto-populate all the personal information, such as name, camp session, and payment information, so you don’t have to personally type all that data in.
This way, you’ll make sure that the right emails always reach the right people, with software doing all the hard work.
Reach Out to Your Local Community
Partnering with local organizations is another great way to boost your camp registrations, and it can be beneficial for everyone involved.
Moreover, this way, you’re not just building relationships with campers and their parents but also with like-minded local businesses and other community partners.
Therefore, consider reaching out to a local school, church, or business and sharing your camp’s marketing materials. Who knows, maybe there’s an opportunity for collaboration.
After all, your partners can help you connect with potential campers in many different ways, such as, for instance:
- Newsletter features
- Social media posts
- Event sponsorships
- Referral programs
Which of these is the best depends on you and your business partner. In any case, your collaboration should be based on a genuine desire to benefit the community.
Families will be able to recognize your good intentions.
Source: @ServicesMcb on Twitter
So, how do you figure out who to reach out to?
It’s very simple. Just think about what type of children would find your camp interesting and useful and what kind of skills you are looking to teach.
Then, ask yourself where those children would spend their time outside the camp.
When you find answers to these questions, you’ll know where to look.
Source: @PHSTigerHoops on Twitter
For example, if your camp is focused on sports, get in touch with dance studios, sports leagues, and school athletic programs.
In the end, it’s all about networking with the right people and working together to create a better community.
Offer Interested Families a Tour
Although nowadays most forms of communication take place online, it’s still not a bad idea to be on the lookout for opportunities to get involved with families in a more personal way every now and then.
And what better way to do so than by allowing interested families to take a stroll on your campground and see everything you advertise in person?
Parents are likely to appreciate the opportunity to see where their children might be spending their summer, so why not host an open house tour?
This will surely make them more comfortable with sending their children to your camp.
You can walk them through the cabins, the nurse’s office and show them any other facilities that might interest them.
Source: @HilltopNaz on Twitter
Moreover, this way, you’ll be making sure campers also feel more comfortable once the camp starts because, by then, they’ll be familiar with the surroundings and some of the other campers.
After all, it’s not easy going to an unfamiliar place without your family, in some cases for the first time ever, so getting a chance to find their bearings in their future surroundings is likely to be a huge plus for the children.
Source: @kpyspanish on Twitter
Besides, an open house is a perfect opportunity for you to answer any questions families might have before they commit to registering for your camp.
This is so much easier done in person than via emails and phone calls, anyway.
Therefore, right before summer, make sure you host an open house tour.
It’ll surely generate excitement, reconnect you with returning families, and pique the interest of potential new campers.
Sell Your Branded Merchandise
Who doesn’t love merch?
According to a Vista Print survey, people not only love receiving merchandise, but they do, in fact, use it in their everyday lives, as well.
That being the case, selling your own branded merchandise is a great way to get people talking about your camp, even in the off-season. Little camp pride can go a long way.
But what kind of products should you sell?
Apparently, people appreciate usefulness above all else, so make sure you don’t sell something that’ll just sit forgotten in the house until it’s thrown away.
All this considered, most camps choose to sell apparel. T-shirts, socks, and hats are always in demand and are quite easy and cost-effective to produce.
Moreover, your camp logo and color are most visible on these kinds of items.
Source: RAD Camps
Of course, there is plenty of room for creativity when it comes to selling merchandise. Besides apparel, you can sell:
- Supplies: pens, journals
- Water bottles/travel mugs
- Totes or drawstring backpacks
- Frisbees, stickers, phone masks, etc.
Whatever you choose, make sure your camp’s signature color(s), name, and logo are included in the design.
Additionally, you may want to add your camp’s motto, if possible. This is something people can identify with and a great way to tell everyone what your camp is all about.
All in all, you can get really creative with how you present your camp to the world.
From engaging social media content and early-bird incentives to branded merchandise and meaningful collaborations with the local community—the possibilities are truly endless.
However, behind all your marketing efforts, there should always be a real desire to connect with your campers, their families, and the community.
With genuine intentions come happy customers!