Posts by James Davis

11 Easy Ways to Enhance your “Word of Mouth” Marketing Campaign 0

11 Easy Ways to Enhance your “Word of Mouth” Marketing Campaign

Posted by on Feb 17, 2014 in featured, Summer Camp Activities Ideas, Summer Camp Marketing Ideas

Getting your Campers and their Families to do (some of) Your Marketing for You If you are in a position to make summer camp marketing decisions, you’ve heard the term “word of mouth marketing” more times than you can remember. If you were playing camp marketing bingo, “word of mouth marketing” would be the center square. The big mistake I made when I took on the responsibility of making marketing decisions for a summer camp? I assumed this whole “word of mouth” thing would take care of itself. And it does, to some degree… but relying on it taking care of itself was causing us to miss out on a ton of word of mouth good will. I’ll explain where I was, and what I discovered. By the way – if you want to take a break and check out Travis Allison’s definitive slide-show on word of mouth marketing from his 2014 Tristate ACA conference, I couldn’t blame you. I learned a ton there, and much of what he covers is NOT covered below. The first step in developing a word of mouth “buzz” The big idea I had at the time was to create singular, memorable events at camp. Big events, with lots of pomp and circumstance. My...

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7 Inexpensive Tricks to Guarantee Higher Camper Retention 0

7 Inexpensive Tricks to Guarantee Higher Camper Retention

Posted by on Feb 11, 2014 in featured, Summer Camp Marketing Ideas

Engaging your #1 target audience There’s a trick to marketing that a lot of folks don’t know. I certainly didn’t when I first started trying to market summer camp. I was so desperate to engage all those other people out there. Those people, who if they just heard about my camp, would fill every bed for me next summer. Unfortunately for me, focusing on people who had never heard of my camp at the expense of those who had already heard of my camp was like fishing pennies out of a fountain while ignoring a stack of dollar bills on the bench next to me. You see, it really boils down to a math problem. Per the formula used in our summer camp retention tool, we realized what our average camper was worth to our camp, monetarily (not even including referrals, and volunteering – just what that camper alone would be worth over the lifetime of her experience with us). We then looked at our retention rate – roughly 63% at the time. So we asked ourselves – what would it cost us to increase our retention to 65%? How about 75%? Was 85% possible? We weren’t sure – but one thing was clear, spending $2,000 to advertise on...

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How I learned Offering Kids Choice is so Important 1

How I learned Offering Kids Choice is so Important

Posted by on Jan 29, 2014 in featured, Summer Camp Culture Ideas

How offering campers choice got rid of so many common camp problems A bad plan, some unlikely friendships, and a new outlook When I decided to take a job at a new camp 3 years ago, I had a very sneaky plan. Quite simply, I planned to change the camp where I was moving into the camp I was moving from. I knew they’d be resistant to these changes at first. After all, change is hard. But I came from the best camp that ever existed, and even though change would be hard for them, I knew it was in their best interest. I called a respected friend in the camping industry, and he gave me what I now know is “best practices” sort of advice. “James,” he said, “your plan stinks.” (paraphrased this, but the idea is the same) I was bewildered. My plan did not stink! This camp needed saving, and here I was, ready to save! This camp couldn’t wait! It needed to be changed right away! I continued listening, and rolled my eyes (which he couldn’t see, because we were on the phone). He continued. “They’ll hate you if you change everything right away. No matter how good your ideas are, the people who are...

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Summer Camp Marketing 101 0

Summer Camp Marketing 101

Posted by on Jan 20, 2014 in featured, Summer Camp Marketing Ideas

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,...

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The 8 Marketing Platforms we used to Double our Enrollment 0

The 8 Marketing Platforms we used to Double our Enrollment

Posted by on Jan 20, 2014 in featured, Summer Camp Marketing Ideas

The best places to connect with people, and how to get your materials there. Marketing summer camps has actually never been easier. We have opportunities today that camp directors from the 1970s could literally not have even dreamed about. Unfortunately, though, a lot of us ignore a lot of the marketing approaches that got the summer camp boom going in the 1950s and 1960s. The key to marketing in the 21st century is blending both old and new practices, and I’ll explain what I discovered along the way to growing Vanderkamp from 207 kids in a summer to 418 just two summers later. There are 8 basic marketing platforms we’ve worked with, and I can give you some insight into the costs and benefits of each. I’ll give the cliffs here, and follow up with some more long-form posts on the nuances of each. But this will give you a general idea, to help you understand what worked for us, or what we want to try next. The Eight Major Camp Marketing Platforms 1) Retaining current customers – Check here for details on the 7 inexpensive tricks we used that are guaranteed to boost your retention. 2) Word of Mouth Marketing – Here are 11 easy ways to enhance...

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