Your camp’s business relies on the constant influx of campers to your sessions. One way to improve that flow is to improve your registration process, so that it converts as many interested parties as possible!
- Speed up the Camp Registration Process with Online Registration
- Make Camp Registration Easier with Family Registration
- 4 Great Ways to Increase Summer Camp Registration
- Improve Your Camp’s Registration Website
- Choose a Camp Registration Software that Does It All
Taking your camp registration process online can improve the experience of your families AND staff.
Online registration streamlines the registration and payments process by making it easier to keep track of outstanding balances, session quotes, medical forms, and more.
If you already have this feature, make sure it’s operating to it’s fullest potential! Not sure what this means? Let me explain.
Family registration means allowing the user, most likely the parent, to register all of their children easily, by entering information like parent, address, emergency contacts, etc only one time for all children. It also means the ability to pay the balance for all of their children in one place, easily. This usually works like this:
- The parent fills out one set of forms that aren’t specific to each child, the family information if you will.
- The parent answers questions pertaining to each child individually so that each child registration is unique.
- The parent selects the right session to the child.
- The parent can put the child on an camp auto billing option so that they can pay the application fee and the rest will be taken care of.
- The system asks them if they want to add another camper.
- Finally the parent can pay for all children at once or select which they want to pay for (since they might know that one of them is coming to the camp for sure while another is still in question)
The purpose of family registration is to make the process quicker, simpler and easier to understand for the parent.
The goal of any registration process, family or not, is to make sure you aren’t asking the same thing twice, and allow the user to go through the process in a unique way, and in a way that is streamlined and easy to follow for them (so you don’t have a bunch of confused parents calling you trying to figure out your process!)
Family registration allows families to enter family information JUST ONCE and then child information individually.
The goal of family registration is to ensure parents aren’t completing the same information twice about their family – like emergency contact information, home address, doctor and insurance information, etc.
Allowing families to registration under one account means that the system will automatically create the first child in the process after the family registration is complete, and then prompt you to add more children under your family account. You can then ask child level questions, which is the information you need for each child – like allergies, grade, birth date, session selection, and more.
This registration flow allows for payments to happen on the child level as well, so it’s clear for your accounting (and the parents!) where payments were allocated, what sessions still have an outstanding balance, and more.
Payment plans and automatic billing still happens with a family system, and makes getting paid on time easy for you! Parents select payment plans that make sense for them, and you get paid automatically.
I’ve said before how your registration process is like your storefront, and while that is very true, your website where people will land first is the front door!
It just makes sense to take care of it right at the start. The first impression a potential camper and parent has with your camp and what you’re all about is your website and then the experience they have moving through your registration process.
I will start with a little known rule in the Internet business but it not that known outside of it: you have between 3-6 seconds for a first time visitor to assess what you have to offer and decide if it is for them.
That is not a typo, it is 3-6 SECONDS. Not minutes, seconds. Stop for a second and count to 3. Now count to six. That was really fast right?
Now remember with everything we are talking about below, that is the amount of time you have to convince the parent that your camp is the right one for their child.
Now what can you convey in 3-6 seconds? Not much. So this is the base of what you want:
Use Good Images
A great picture since the brain processes pictures a lot faster. The picture needs to transfer a feeling to the parent. So think what is the core of your camp offering and convey that feeling.
If you are all about fun make sure to have a lot of kids smiling, if you are about adventure make sure to have a kid in mid air or something similar. A word of caution: do not use stock images. They look like stock images and people detect them subconsciously right away. They give people the feeling you and your camp are not real. You do not want that. If you have pictures from your actual camp with real kids that is the best option (just make sure to get approval for using the picture from the parents of the kids before publishing).
Have a Great Headline
You need to find a headline that is short and talks to the parent.
Let’s say you are a soccer camp or a sports camp, your headline can be something like: “Kickoff summer at Camp Soccer!”. Notice how the headline is about the parent and their kid and not about you. I wrote a post about how understanding that it is not all about you will make you a lot more successful.
Make it Easy to Navigate for Parents
If you did that, you now have a lot of time since people will browse your site in order to decide if the camp is good for their kids. You just need to pass the initial “do I care about this website” stage.
I will state that if your website doesn’t look good, doesn’t provide the right information that parents are looking for when they come to your site (pricing, session schedules, descriptions of different sessions, etc) then even if you pass the initial 3-6 seconds they will move on to another site that gives them great information and is easy to navigate.
You need to put yourself in the shoes of a parent and figure out what information they want and need, and then present that easily and clearly.
The most important thing about your website (after the pictures, headline and sub-headline) is to make sure your camp mission and what you stand for is evident immediately when they land on your page.
This is normally done through design and not through words. But a designer is only as good as what you tell them you want to convey.
Taking the time to brainstorm what your camp is all about, what you strive to achieve, and what you value, beforehand is key to a great camp.
There are a ton of reasons wait listing is helpful for your enrollment numbers, which I will go into in more detail below. Wait listing plays into a larger strategy of making registration easy, getting the information you need on time, and locking in payments so you can get paid when you fill open spots to keep the cash flowing.
It is common that certain programs or dates you offer for camp fill up quickly. When a parent who really wants a specific session or time frame sees that the session is sold out or unavailable, they will do 1 of 2 things. They will either select another option that you have available. This happens about 27.5% of the time according to our data. Or, they will open a new tab and search for another local camp that has what they want, and check out that availability. This happens about 58.2% of the time. Assuming that other camp is available, they will happily leave you and signup with them!
58% is a pretty big number! And you could probably cut that down substantially by keeping those parents invested in you. Their preferred program might be sold out, but by offering a wait list option can help you lock those parents in and prevent them from going somewhere else. Plus, it gives you another opportunity to close the deal when a spot opens up, or to give you time to create another session if demand is high.
How can I create a waitlist?
Using your online registration software, setting sessions with a quota and turning on the “allow waitlist” option is all there is to it!
Once a quote for a specific session is reached, it will show to registering parents as “full”, but with a waitlist option. Once added, you can still request parents complete forms and make a deposit, and if a space opens it, it’s that much easier to move a fully registered child into the session.
Why is this important?
Inevitably some kids will drop out of their session, oftentimes at the last minute. If you have a wait list in place, you already have an accessible base to tap into to fill your program and stabilize your cash flow. The great thing about a wait list feature if it is part of your camp software, is it can allow you to collect all of the information you need to register that camper in advance, including payment information. You can even prioritize the campers you enroll from the wait list, based on whether or not they’ve completed registration and input payment information so you can change their status and get them setup fast!
Wait lists ensure that:
Your sessions stay full.
That you get paid on time.
Helps you learn about your clients. (What programs are filling up? Which are staying open? Should you add another session?)
If your camp software doesn’t offer a wait list feature, I’d strongly consider finding one that does. It can be a serious boost to your enrollment numbers this upcoming summer!
You have a great website but nobody knows about it or about your camp. Having a great offering that is the best kept secret in your area is the sure way to go out of business.
So after you have everything together regarding what you offer it is time to make the world know about it! I could write a whole e-Book about camp marketing (which actually is not a bad idea…) but if I would need to give one suggestion it would be to use social media.
Most parents have an active Facebook account and are using it constantly. This is the place they will ask their friends questions and will look up (in addition to Google) the camps in their area. So you really need to be there so that when they are in “search mode” they will find you.
- Tell the story of your camp through pictures, short blog posts and videos.
- Connect with your campers.
- Connect with parents during and after camp.
- Market your upcoming camp in search of new sign-ups.
- Leverage the friendships and connections of your current families to reach new target audiences.
If your camp relies on donations for operations, social media also makes a great place to appeal for donations. Some online fundraising software will integrate seamlessly with your social media making it that much easier for people to donate.
Promoting camp fundraisers on social media accounts isn’t just about getting donations. It is also about continued outreach.
Check to see if your donors have been to your camp before, and if they haven’t, you’ll have another opportunity for outreach.
Plus, anything you post to these platforms, whether it’s pure marketing material or donation appeals, it will help spread your brand name wider across the internet. This brand recognition will create new leads for your summer camp registration efforts as more and more people see your name pop up.
Improving your website is part of this!
You can do this in a few ways.
- Make sure it is easy to navigate.
- Includes your mission and what you are all about.
- An easy way to begin registering (a “register here” button) or a separate page with your registration embedded on it.
- Pictures and videos of camp.
- Parent and camper testimonials.
- Obvious and easy to find links to social media pages.
- Contact form AND an easy way to find out how to get in touch via email, phone, etc.
- Make sure your website and registration process is mobile optimized.
Stay in contact with your camp families year round
This is easy to do with social media posts, quarterly newsletters and/or email updates sent through your registration system, and ads or posts counting down to summer, registration opening and more!
Offer discounts for early birds
Now you want to make sure that your camp is filled up as fast as possible and that you have the cash flow needed in order to make sure that when camp starts, it will be amazing!
After registering 2.9 million people in 2015 for camps, events, schools and a lot more we have seen that the camps that start registration early and that give incentives to register ahead of time are the ones that get filled up and eventually need to open additional sessions.
So… The earlier you register and fill up your summer sessions, the better. You guarantee a certain number of campers, can plan out your staffing and have a good idea of what to expect.
If you have a wait list option (we wrote all about the benefits of this here) then you’re even more golden, in case early registers end up backing out.
A big focus of your marketing should be getting families to enroll as soon as possible, and offering incentives to do so isn’t a bad idea.
Don’t go overboard, as many people registering early would do so regardless of a discount, they probably want to ensure their kid has a spot, but it can be helpful to get parents on the fence about committing to commit earlier because of the lure of a discount.
Figure out financially what makes sense for your camp. Perhaps you have a $50 deposit that you can waive for registrations before a certain date or a credit to your camp store for a certain amount if registered by a certain date.
Offer referral discounts
Consider also referral discounts, a specific amount of camp fees for bringing a friend who registers! Consider how much a new camper is worth to you to make sure the discount you offer to your family makes sense.
Whether it’s free stuff from your camp store, a dollar amount or percentage off registration, or a discount for referring a new family, honor your repeating customers and give them a reason to come back!
Offer a Black Friday sale
Focusing early on in the season on early registration can benefit you in the long run. It will help bring in money earlier, which can help spread out your cash flow over a longer period and help you accomplish tasks before summer that you need money for.
We have taken care of the two most important parts: making sure people know about you and having a website that does not make them leave. Now to the last part: getting them to register their kids to the camp.
This should be your ultimate goal with your marketing and website design today. Later, as camp starts, your social media work and website can be about how much fun everyone is having but at this stage when parents are registering their kids for summer camps your objective with your marketing (aka social media) and website is to get them registered.
There are a number of ways to do it. The absolute worst one is to ask them to fill out paper forms and send them in.
The second worst is asking them to email you and the third worst is having a registration software that makes them run away screaming.
You need to have a great camp registration software, otherwise all your work marketing and building out your offering and website will go to waste. You can check out some of these in depth posts (here, here, and here) about general benefits to online registration but the main reasons include:
- Easy statistics and marketing tools – understand your campers through search and reporting functions in your software.
- Online payments and automated payment plans – never chase a parents for payment again.
- Automated email and communication tools – reduce admin work and redirect admin hours to improving and building your camp! This also lets you streamline email marketing to current campers to help spread the word about your camp and increase camper registration!
- Your registration process is a part of your on-boarding process. If a parent begins the process and it’s easy to use, personalized for them, and allows them to flow quickly and seamlessly, they are more likely to see the process through. This means you get more campers, you get paid early or on time, and you also are continuing to present yourself and your camp as professional and organized. This goes a long way to encourage parents to refer you and to a great service experience for them.
The goal with using any kind of camp software is to help you automate your process. A wait list option allows you to collect the information you need from campers, including payment information. So when that camper goes from wait listed to enrolled, you don’t miss a beat!
Chasing down a newly enrolled applicant days or hours before the session begins is a headache. Let your camp software do the work! Never miss out on unsigned forms or outstanding payments again!