Let’s say, hypothetically, you’ve got no camp marketing set up yet. Nada. Not even a walking billboard (a camper wearing your t-shirt). Where to begin? Don’t worry—you don’t need to know how to create a marketing strategy full of metrics, bells, and whistles to get things started. That will come in time.
If you’re just looking for a few basic, out-of-the-gate pointers on how to market a summer camp, you’ve come to the right place.
1. Who? What? When? Where? Why? How much?
- Who should handle it? At first, you’ll be able to handle your camp’s marketing by yourself. Eventually, though, you’ll want at least one person dedicated to spreading awareness and driving enrollment.
- What’s the message? Talking points should target parents and the things they want—they’re the ones searching for camps and paying for registrations. Always call to action. Camp is for enrichment, fun, and community, but also to give their kids a place to be while parents work or take a break.
- When do you do it? Marketing for summer camps is a year-round effort. Some of the best material will come from live-action in the summer. But the best time to ramp up summer camp advertising is late Winter to early Spring.
- Where do you do it? The internet is your friend—much of it’s free. But local, in-community marketing is also critical for camps that rely on local families. We’ll talk about both below.
- Why do I need it? You might have the best camp in the world, but enrollment will suffer if not many folks know about it. Maybe you’ve got a loyal base of families—that’s good. Kids get older, though. Market for the future.
- How much should I spend? Again, a lot of your opportunities can be cheap or free. But in general, most camps will spend 10% to 20% of their anticipated revenue on summer camp ads and marketing.
2. Free? Did you say FREE?
- Camp Directories: Like Camps With Friends! Find directories, online parent groups, and local websites that will let you list your camp for free.
- Social Media: The benefits for your enrollment can be immediate. Keep families engaged with interactive posts (polls, questions, contests, raffles, event sign-ups). Share pictures and videos.
- Email Newsletters: Once every month or two, send out a mass newsletter to parents and potential customers. List upcoming events, special discounts, camp renovations, new activities, awards, or bios on new staff. Always include registration info. Mailing list services like Mailchimp are free if you’ve got less than 2,000 subscribers.
- Referrals: Word of mouth is your best camp marketing tool. Successful camps know how to market a summer camp through referral programs. Ask loyal families for help. Encourage parents and kids to write testimonials and include them on referral sign-up forms. You can even offer discounts or gear as incentives.
3. Not necessarily “free” but totally worth it.
- An Attractive Website: Every serious business needs one. Drive folks here and accept registrations through an easy online form. The main page should be visual. Post videos. Quote camper testimonials. Write a detailed FAQ section. Make it mobile-friendly.
- Local Partnerships: Build relationships with local schools, sports, clubs, and businesses. Give percentage kickbacks for every registration they get you. Offer discounts for employee/staff member kids. Hold joint events. Collaborate on marketing material.
- Social Ads: Paid/promoted content ranks way higher than organic content for businesses on Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms.
- Festivals and Faires: Get a booth or table (or a climbing wall!), hand out flyers, and maybe even run camp activities or games on-site to attract attention.
- Printed Materials: A flyer for the library bulletin board, postcards to leave at schools, brochures for open houses, bumper stickers for camp families, t-shirts for giveaways...get that logo out there, with enrollment info where possible.
There you have it! Now you know how to market a summer camp until you’ve got your feet under you and enrollments up-and-running. Go forth and prosper.