camp marketing

How to Gain Buy-In From Parents AND Kids to Fill Your Summer Camp

ByTravis Ramos December 6, 2017 No Comments

What’s your camp’s greatest selling point? Is it your awesome ropes course? Or your low camper-to-staffer ratio? Chances are, if you were to ask campers and parents what's so great about your camp, you’d hear wildly different responses.

And that’s the challenge of summer camp marketing.

When it comes down to it, summer camps must craft their marketing to reach two target audiences – which have very different expectations. Campers want to hear about your awesome ropes courses and super fun theme days. Parents, on the other hand, want to know that you'll be caring for their kids just like they would.

So, as a Camp Director, how can you promote the experience you provide while simultaneously appealing to campers AND parents? Don't worry - we've got your back! Today's article outlines quality tips to market to both facets of your client base.

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Tips for Marketing Your Camp to Parents

For parents, sending their kiddos off to camp is a lot like taking a trust fall. If they don’t have the confidence in the camp to provide a safe, fun and encouraging environment for their kids, well, they’ll probably never take the plunge.

And that’s the secret to successful camp marketing to parents. Good marketing here highlights the fun and excitement of summer camp while weaving in the themes of safety, quality, and staff expertise.

So what can your camp do to instill confidence in parents and get them to take the trust fall? Incorporate messaging that aligns to these common concerns:

Camp History

Your camp’s history can build instant credibility. A long history says your camp is well-run and safe. Yet, even new camps can build trust with parents by showcasing the experience and knowledge of its founding staff. A few creative ideas for highlighting your camp’s history:

  • Then and Now Photos: Show how your camp has changed through the years with interactive Then and Now photo sliders. Find an archival photo of your main lodge or mess hall from decades ago and use a side-by-side image to show how things look today.
  • Alumni Events: Encourage camp alumni to return and relive their camp experiences. Get the word out in your weekly or monthly camp newsletter. One fun way to supercharge alumni marketing – have returning campers re-create archival photos from their camping days.

Camp Philosophy

Your camp’s philosophy might be referred to as your mission and values or specialty. And it’s one of the most important factors parents consider. For example, you might specialize in sports education, but you also focus on promoting teamwork and leadership among your campers. Parents want to see the lifelong skills you work hard to instill in campers – so don’t forget to highlight them.

  • A Welcome Newsletter: Highlight your camp’s philosophy in your welcome newsletter to parents and campers. Describe how your camp’s mission and values are incorporated into programming and use camper testimonials and stories to bring it all to life.
  • A Director Video: Another way to highlight your philosophy: Create a director’s video that tells your camp’s story. Have your Camp Director sit in for a documentary-style video that showcases the unique programs and skills you teach kids. Have staff and campers help tell the story.

Highly-Trained Staff

Quality of staff is one of the biggest selling points for parents. They want to see staffers who are role models – the types of people they’d want to see their kids grow up to become. So be sure you’re showcasing the unique stories of your camp staff.

  • Staff Photo Bios: Social media platforms are great for sharing staff photos. But take it a step further: During enrollment add short bios that let staffers highlight their training, education and personalities.
  • A Meet the Staff Newsletter: Your newsletter is the perfect promotional material for introducing returning staff and new faces. Let your staff get creative – show what they’ve accomplished and the unique skills they bring. Plus, be sure you highlight your camp’s approach to staff training and credentialing.

Communication Plan

Communication, communication, communication – that’s the key to building strong, trusting relationships with parents. They want to know A) that they’ll stay informed about important events and camp information and B) that they can stay connected to their kiddos during camp. Apart from email and social media, how do you get the word out?

  • Video FAQs: Campers and families prefer to watch videos about the camp experience – rather than just reading a brochure. So create a series of videos that answers parent’s most common questions.

High-Quality Programming

Programming is just as important to kids as it is to parents. But both have different expectations about it. Kids will look for fun and excitement, while parents want to see safety and kids learning skills. The good news: You can highlight both in your videos.

  • Action-Packed Videos: Use GoPro cameras and selfie-sticks to give parents and campers a behind-the-wheel experience. Need more ideas? Read our post on stellar visual media.
  • Camper/Parent Testimonials: Returning campers and their families are your best marketers. Create videos that let them share what they love about you in their own words.

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Marketing FUN: Getting Kids On Board

Gaining buy-in from kids...now that’s the fun part. It’s all about giving them a first-person perspective of the unforgettable experience they’ll have. And with social media and YouTube, it’s easier than ever to distribute videos and promotional materials that show off all the fun.

In other words, be sure that you’re giving kids a taste of camp life in all your marketing materials. In particular, focus on these four key areas:

Friendships

For a lot of campers, the idea of not knowing anyone at camp is a scary feeling. In fact, the anxiety might blind them to all the fun they’re going to have. So make sure your marketing counteracts this fear. Show off your camp community and tell stories of lifelong friendships forged at camp.

  • A Camp Friendship Series: Let former campers tell their stories of the bonds they made at camp. Highlight these stories in videos, blogs and social media posts.
  • Camp Meetup Events: Host events at camp and in local communities that help build the community spirit. Think: family weekends, alumni events, family visiting days.

Fun

If your marketing tells one story, it should be this: At camp, you’re going to have the time of your life. That means adventures, new experiences, new friendships, and a whole lot of fun. In other words, make sure your marketing videos wear 'fun' proudly. A couple ideas:

  • A One-Take Video: A one-take video – it’s taken in a single shot – can show what your camp is all about and position it in a unique way: Fun, fellowships, learning and - did we mention - fun?
  • Action Videos: What does a jet ski ride or rock climbing adventure look like? Strap a GoPro to a helmet and give your prospective campers a behind-the-scenes look.

The Amenities

What’s the food like? How many campers sleep in a cabin? Prospective campers want to see what their summer digs will look like. So make sure you’re providing an illustrative tour.

  • 360-Degree Photos and Video: Let prospective campers take a self-paced, virtual tour of the grounds with a 360-degree video or photo. Facebook and Instagram make it easy to shoot both – so don’t miss out on this opportunity for creating engaging media.
  • Drone Footage: Sometimes the best way to show off the gloriousness of the grounds is via the air. Drone videos are super engaging and they give a new perspective on things – whether that’s an incredible lakeside property, or a state-of-the-art skate park. You'll find more awesome examples like this in our post on social media inspiration.

Choices

Campers want to know about all the cool programs and activities they can take part in. And we've all heard the saying that it's best to show – not tell. So create a series of videos that highlight all the fun, interesting opportunities campers have at their fingertips during summer.

  • A Day-in-the-Life Video Series: First-time campers don’t really know what to expect. So answer their common questions with a behind-the-scenes video series – show them how they’ll select activities to take part in, be organized into groups, and what choices will be available.

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Summer Camp Marketing Tools: What You Need to Succeed

Camp marketing isn’t just about creating messages – you’ll have to distribute them too. Fortunately, camp directors have access to a variety of tools that can help them create memorable messages and then get them out to the widest audience.

Some of the best to include:

  • A CRM (Customer Relationship Manager): Your camp has thousands of contacts such as parents, alumni, and former staffers. To supercharge your marketing efforts, you need a unified database that makes each contact searchable. Want to send a message only to email addresses of first-time parents who haven’t registered for camp? The right camp management tool enables you to do that, and much more, quickly and efficiently. 
  • Email Marketing Manager: Email is one of the most powerful marketing avenues for your camp. Beyond good camp management software, you’ll also need tools for creating high-quality, branded emails. This can empower you to create promotions and get the word out about important events - not to mention stay in touch with your client base with a regular cadence.
  • Social Media Manager: A social media management platform ensures you keep things organized. How does it work? The best social media tools such as Hootsuite help you keep tabs on all your profiles, cross-post messages, videos and photos and see how engaged your audience is.

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Make Your Marketing Sing (to Campers AND Parents)

Bottom line, you don’t have to be a Madison Avenue executive to market your camp well. It might feel that way sometimes, but with the right strategy and the willingness to just dive in and go for it, you can make your marketing sing.

The key: Speak honestly to all your target audiences. Highlight the fun. Show what makes you unique. And use every opportunity to build trust.