Summer Camp Marketing 101

Summer Camp Marketing 101

Congratulations! You’ve decided to market your camp! You’ve figured out why a kid should come to your camp instead of going elsewhere, and you’ve figured out what each camper is worth to your camp monetarily by using our summer camp retention tool, and you’re ready to dive into what to do next. Let’s start with a few broad concepts.

Did you know that the average marketing budget for most non-profits represents between 9 and 11 percent of the overall budget? And maybe your camp is different, but at the places I’ve worked, camp marketing budgets tend to fall far below that. It makes sense, to some degree. We’re a word-of-mouth enterprise. Most of our new summer campers will come because their Moms went here, or because little Jack across the street said he couldn’t wait to go back next year.

If your camp is like mine, however, you’ll occasionally get a comment like this:

“Oh, I found you in the pennysaver,” New Camp Mom says.
“And you’d never heard about us elsewhere?” I’d ask, incredulously.
“Nope. But then I went to the website, and Robin thought it looked like fun!”

And just like that, your camp has added your “what each camper is worth” figure to its bottom line, and it hasn’t even accounted for the gains possible if Robin brings a friend next year, or if her family decides to hold a family reunion there during retreat season.

Parents send their children to camp for all variety of reasons, but one thing all of those parents have in common is that they have heard about your camp.

And this is what marketing is. Marketing is not coercion, or trickery, or deception. Marketing is communicating that you are offering something that can help someone else solve a problem. Sounds pretty easy, right? Well, for me, it was, and it wasn’t. Let me show you what we did.

The first step

The first step will always be to determine what each camper is worth (WECIW), monetarily, during its tenure at your camp. Once we got this number, we realized that there are basic, quantifiable ways we could approach various marketing opportunities.

Say your WECIW # is $800. This is enough to run a targeted Google Adwords campaign for keywords like Summer Camp in [insert your area] for a handful of months (depending on what sort of campaign you run). With how people use the internet these days, do you have any doubt that you’ll be able to generate at least 1 new camper in 3 months of using Google Adwords? 2.4 million searches are done each month on Summer Camp. Those peak months are April, May, and June. Obviously, there are no guarantees when it comes to marketing, but given that our campers are worth so much to our bottom line – isn’t marketing your camp a relatively small risk?

As an industry, we are drastically under marketed. People need to know how darn important camp is in the lives of young people. They need to know about as many camps as possible. They need know the statistics about how it’s impacted so many people. If some don’t think summer camp is relevant anymore, that’s their loss. But it’s our job to make sure they know we’re still around and changing lives.

Convinced? Great. I knew you’d be into changing more lives. Now that we’re on the same page – and you’re going to march into your next board meeting with statistics on how much each camper is worth to your camp, and a list of approximate costs for a few different marketing opportunities, we can get a little more into the nitty gritty of actually executing on your marketing plan.

Step 1 in this process is going to be communicating to parents that you can give them what they need for their child.

Are you ready to grow your camp and change more lives?

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