Running a summer camp and attracting new campers is never relatively as easy as it seems on the surface. You would think that with a promise of endless outdoor activities for children and an opportunity to get away from “everyday life” for a summer selling a summer camp adventure would be effortless. That’s just not the way things turn out, though.
If your dream has always been to start a summer camp that has the potential to change lives for the better while at the same time offering you a chance to enjoy some financial security and some financial freedom, you have to master the marketing side of things.
With that in mind, here are 10 of the best summer camp marketing strategies to grow your summer camp to another level and increase enrollment.
Top Summer Camp Marketing Ideas & Strategies
Use A Referral System
The most challenging thing you will do as an operator is to convince complete and total strangers to trust you with their kids for the entire summer. This means the best salespeople for your summer camp experience will be happy campers and their parents, which is why having a referral system in place is one of the best summer camp marketing strategies.
People will always be skeptical about any of the promises, guarantees, or offers you share about your summer camp. Referrals that come from people that others have real relationships with are always worth their weight in gold.
Find a way to ask for these referrals more systematically, and your marketing troubles might end entirely with this idea. You can offer campers who refer others discounts on future sessions as a thank you.
Search Result Advertising
The summer camp industry can be incredibly competitive on a local level, which is why you’re going to want to increase your brand recognition and camp name by using search result advertising.
Organic search engine optimization is one possible road to take as it guarantees long-term success, but you want to consider pay per click advertising on search engines.
Hands down, one of the best marketing ideas for your camp is to be the first camp website people see when they search “summer camp in <local area>.” It will help you bring more campers to your camp and effectively increase enrollment.
Social Media Marketing
Social media is the most potent force for word-of-mouth marketing on the planet, and it’s a tremendous tool that you’re going to want to leverage as often as you can.
The best salespeople you will ever have for your summer camp will be previous campers and parents of these campers. Those that frequently post on social media about all the fun they or their kids had at camp will do wonders for you and your camp marketing focus. Chances are the people that see those posts are your primary target audience, other parents. As a camp, you should be active on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram to interact with these parents.
Do everything you can to promote this kind of activity, and you’ll see your marketing efforts improve dramatically. Encourage parents to leave good reviews on your social media and Google pages to increase your camp’s social status.
One of the biggest challenges that every owner has is pricing appropriately to bring in plenty of new campers while at the same time having more than enough money to cover operating expenses and make a profit.
Crowdfunding is a unique way to bring a lot of extra capital into your operation than you might haven’t been able to otherwise. One strategy for crowdfunding is offering “scholarships” for new campers at a discounted price. You can reach out to donors like local universities, businesses, or even previous alumni or parents of alumni.
Video marketing is one of the best practices you need to follow. The decision to pick one summer camp over another is almost always going to come down to the attractiveness of each camp itself. A lot of that has to do with how the camp experience is shown through photos and videos and the camp website.
Chances are that unless a camper has already attended your summer camp in the past, they aren’t going to come by for a look around the facilities in person before they choose your camp.
Parents and campers are going to make a decision based on the information that they can see online. If your photo and video marketing campaigns are less than stellar, you’re going to lose out to summer camps that know how to create slick highlight reels of their camp.
Make sure that your videos capture all the fun and unique things your camp has to offer. This includes videotaping fun activities & games, special equipment & facilities in order to market your camp.
Email marketing is a criminally, underused marketing approach by camp owners. Far too many camp operations simply blast out a “reserve your spot now” email before the summer season hits and then going dark entirely until the next season.
Instead, it’s a good idea to create an e-newsletter system to send out an email every month to keep people updated about everything going on at your camps, like any facility, news, or activity changes. It’s essential to make them feel like their part of the culture and family. Don’t forget about setting an email capture on your website when people visit it so you can gather the email address of potentially interested parents. Having a mailing list of parents who want to enroll their children in summer camps is worth its weight in gold.
Network marketing is another excellent approach to market your camp, which helps create new camper relationships with people that might not have thought about attending your camp before.
Reach out to your local community, run fun free classes, or give free tours of your summer camp in the off-season. If you have a general idea of your target audience, this marketing approach will be much easier.
Finding ways to get the word out about your summer camp through your network at the county and state level will be a big piece of the puzzle regarding your marketing success.
Newsletters Can Be a Huge Asset
Email newsletters are a massive asset for bringing in new campers, making them one of the best marketing practices to follow. However, there’s nothing quite like a physical newsletter sent out every month or every quarter to get people excited about attending summer camp.
Because so many people have moved to almost entirely digital marketing campaigns, you’ll find the mailbox to be a lot less cluttered. Not only do you have less competition with this kind of marketing strategy, but you also have an opportunity to market more physically.
Connect with Schools and Youth Groups
The most successful marketers on the planet understand that the biggest secret to success is presenting an offer to a hungry market and finding ways to tailor your marketing messages to your perfect prospect.
Recognizing that your ultimate customer is the camper themselves and their parents, it’s a good idea to find places that both of those people are going to be at. After that, find a way to market to them directly in those spaces, which you’ll find is well worth the marketing effort.
Schools, youth groups, and local sports organizations are a great place to market and advertise your summer camp opportunities. Ensure that you are tailoring the message to these groups rather than taking a “one size fits all” kind of approach.
This might involve offering students, at certain schools, discounts or putting up fliers around youth league locations, or sponsoring a local youth sports team.
Offer Camper Discounts
You can market and advertise early bird discounts, referral discounts, return camper discounts or any other types of deals you feel comfortable offering to make it more affordable. You can always find ways to make your summer camp’s price more attractive, easily increasing enrollment
People often forget that pricing is a massive marketing strategy that offers a lot of leverage. You may be able to work with payment plans, find ways to do installment style payment packages, or come up with other creative solutions that help get more campers to your business in a win-win sort of situation.
While a world-class camp location, enjoyable activities, and top-notch counselors are a must if you want your camp to be successful, but those efforts all go to waste if people don’t hear about your camp in the first place.
While the marketing process doesn’t always have an immediate return, your marketing efforts will pay dividends in the long run. Administrating your camp is another key to success, and it’s much easier to do that with camp management software.
If you have all of those things and can market effectively, then the odds are pretty good that your camp will thrive.
Martin has been in the summer camp industry for 7 years now. He has worked in different roles for camps, including as a marketing director for summer camps in the United States. Martin enjoys all kinds of outdoor activities but likes hiking and kayaking the most. He’s also a huge fan of traveling.