Just like the holidays, there are a lot of last minute shoppers for a camp out there. This is much less prevalent for 7-week overnight camps than daily and weekly programs where the decision process is quick. You may even be signing campers up at 8:55 am on Monday morning for programs starting at 9 am. So make sure you have staff in the position to accept credit cards.
Last Minute Pricing
It is inadvisable to offer a significant discount so close to the start of camp. Figure out another incentive if at all possible. If you offer your most compelling price now you are training your folks to wait to register till the very last minute next year. You must train or retrain your parents to register early. This will help you sleep at night and pay your bills. So the best deals should be early on.
Last Minute Facebook Marketing
Parents are on Facebook in force. So if your programming is for kids under the age of 13, Facebook is a good place to reach parents. You should be posting regularly in the month of June – don’t be gratuitous – discussing your programs, introducing staff, talking about what’s new, maybe posting a video(s) by your leadership team about the upcoming summer. Videos do not need not be professionally produced. They can be 1-3 minutes in length and feature the mature adults running your program – mature doesn’t mean old. The aim is to instill confidence and get parents excited about camp. It is as much for existing families as new ones. Remember existing families are your referral base. Contacts with them keep you more top of mind so maybe they can rustle up a few friends at the 11th hour. This will also help limit last minute cancellations.
You can spend some money on Facebook if you wish to promote the posts. You can also send out ads to users who by virtue of age, sex, likes and interests and other factors are in target groups you designate. There is also something called look-alikes where you can target those on Facebook who look like your present client base. There are numerous advertising tools here.
Here are a few Facebook links to explain this. However, unlike Google, there is no helpful 800 number here to walk you through actually setting this up.
Limitation of Facebook
There is one basic limitation when using Facebook – intent. When a parent decides they want to look for a camp they don’t usually say, “Let’s get onto Facebook and find a camp.” Rather, Facebook is a place to bump into your desired target group who are presumably doing other things. Contrast this to Google where families type in terms that reflect their needs and wants with an expectation of getting back relevant information and options. This behavior on Google is pretty ingrained over years.
Anyone that comes to your website and looks at 2 or more pages can be re-marketed to on Google. This means they are chased by your ad(s) all over the web. You can even designate the time period for the ads to run. Many websites have signed up with Google to show ads so you can be confident of reaching those who came to your website – many of whom have “unfinished business” with you.
You should be continuing to hit your database and trying to come up with some sizzle in our content/pitch. Some folks are just last minute types who may now be ready to produce their well-hidden away credit cards. You can easily use the content you’ve already made for Facebook.
Clearly list high-level details like ages, gender, locations, dates, times, hours, fees so there is no confusion. Parents may be headed to your website so don’t make the key information confusing or tough to find. Make sure you send those who click through to your camp page on the website, not your home page if you are more than a summer camp.
You can email your previously enrolled families and others again. You are aiming for existing families to evangelize for you with their friends and in their networks.
If you have been in business for any time at all you must have developed some sort of database with email addresses, physical addresses, phone numbers etc. If you have the manpower you can certainly attempt by phone to reach families who went to summer camp, had contacts with you or participating in another program of yours. Even if the best you can do is to leave a message the math is likely in your favor here i.e. a few hours of calling netting 1 camper can be a big win.
In the next article, we’ll talk about the single most important task you have in front of you – running such a great summer camp that your return rate (retention) for next year and the years to come will grow demonstrably. For 90%+ of you the retention rate will determine your future success. The key to a successful camp is having a high return rate. If too few campers come back next year, you’ll always be spending too much time and money attracting new campers.