Setting camp marketing goals we know we can reach

Setting camp marketing goals for 2015 and beyond

Hello, Camp Pros!

Your old pal James Davis, here, and I'm excited to share how we set marketing and camper week goals from year to year - I hope you find these ideas as useful as I did when I first learned them!

As we all transition out of summer camp season, close down our program areas, break down those last camper and parent evaluations, and reflect on the summer’s great successes and failures, we all know that we’ll be faced with an altogether different challenge come the Fall.

That challenge? Getting more kids to camp next year than we had this year.

Now, a lot of us report directly to a board of trustees, or perhaps a senior staff person, who will come to us and ask something to the tune of: “How many camper weeks do you think we’ll have next summer?”

And we’ll laugh nervously and change the subject.

Well, we’ll actually probably answer the question. But I think we can answer a little bit more accurately than we usually do. I’ll explain.

The problem with results-oriented goal setting

You see, the goal setting stage for marketing season is absolutely critical. But setting goals around acquiring certain numbers of campers often times isn’t very helpful.

Setting goals around acquiring a certain number of campers is a results-oriented goal, and not a process-oriented goal, and it has a number of different pitfalls.

               1.   Our goals will be largely arbitrary.

We have no idea how the economy will change in the next year, what new summer camp options might come up, or if Oprah will come out and say that every single kid needs to go to camp THIS SUMMER! (emphasis hers). Given how little we can project about larger demographic trends, sticking our finger in the air and guessing at a number can be extremely difficult. Even the biggest businesses in the world come in ahead of or behind their guidance, and they are paying out an incredible amount of money each year for accurate forecasts. What makes us think we can guess any better than they can?

      2.   Reaching our goals can make us get complacent.

Say you’re at a camp that did 500 camper weeks last summer, and your goal is to do 550 camper weeks next summer. You’re rolling out your marketing campaign, and notice that with 2 months to go to before camp, you’re already at 550 weeks. Everyone around the office is happy about hitting this goal, and the natural inclination will be to be just a little bit less hungry in the pursuit of that next group of 50 campers.

      3.    Missing our goals can make us feel lousy for no reason.

Even worse, say you’re 2 days away from the beginning of staff training and you’ve booked 510 camper weeks. You’re scrambling, knowing that the goal was supposed to be 550 weeks, and know that you’re going to have some explaining to do as to why you didn’t hit your goal. You know – that same goal that was basically pulled out of thin air with no real data to support it.

      4.   Results-based goals don’t tell us how to get where we’re going.

The idea here is simple – if my marketing director comes to me and says, “My goal is 550 camper weeks next year,” there isn’t a lot of conversation to be had. Am I to assume she was a failure if she missed her goal? A huge success if she hits her goal? How will I know if she missed her goal as a result of her doing, or external factors?

And this is the problem with targeting a certain result.

This isn't to say that looking at results after the fact shouldn't happen. Examining our results is an important part of evaluating the effectiveness of our processes. It's targeting specific arbitrary results and getting disappointed when we don't hit them that causes stagnation.

So what does lead to the best results AND processes? 

Process-Oriented Goal Setting

The concept of process-oriented goal setting is also an easy one. Instead of saying "I will receive X result," we say instead, "I will complete X process."

For an example of some process-based goals, here you go:

  1. Do all of the things suggested in the marketing calendar.
  2. Have our summer camp brochure for next year done by Nov. 1st.
  3. Try 2 new forms of online paid advertising, and track the results.
  4. Study local demographics, and get flyers into at least 2 new school districts this year.
  5. Plan 5 home parties with camper families from last year.
  6. Speak in 25 churches between now and next year (if one was running a religious camp).
  7. Write 2 blog posts a month to help with Search Engine Optimization.
  8. Implement 2 ideas from Travis and Blake’s webinar on filling your camper slots at the last minute.

Etcetera, etcetera.

When we worked with process-oriented goals during my first marketing season here, we blew past our board’s results-oriented goal by more than 100 camper weeks. When we worked with them this last year, we missed the board’s results-oriented goal, but still felt great about the process. 

If you're into results-oriented goal setting - keep it. But think about tying in some process-oriented goal setting as well. I think you'll find that, in the end, focusing on processes is what puts more bodies in more beds, allowing you to change more lives in the process. And that, my friends, is what it's all about.