Stop Marketing To Yourself

Go after the ones the other camps leave behind

Summer camps have a tendency to aim their marketing material at people like themselves - those who already love summer camp.   With some planning on our part we can better reach out to families who don't know the value of what we do.

In this presentation, Travis Allison, talked about a couple of super-easy marketing concepts and offered 10 Tips to market your summer camp to families who are new to the idea of summer camp.

Word of Mouth Marketing for Summer Camps

Building a Great Summer Camp Referral Marketing System

I finally got to visit Frost Valley Y!   Last week I attended the Northeast YMCA Camps Conference.  I was invited to come as a speaker on two of my favourite topics: Getting Things Done (GTD) as a Camp Director _and_ Building Your Word of Mouth Marketing system.

I have attached here the slides for my Word of Mouth session.  You can GTD at Camp by clicking the link.

Wonderful Word of Mouth - Summer Camp Referral Strategy

View more presentations from Travis Jon Allison


Word of Mouth ideas you can actually use at your camp.

There was a lot of theory in this session so I interjected lots of what I am calling WOMBombs (short ideas that you could implement at your camp) into the session.  These ideas cover many mediums so that you can attract people interested in different ways of communication.

  • write a free report: benefits of summer camp using ACA + CCA research
  • create a free checklist for parents to download - prepare your child for first night of camp
  • host an online seminar for new parent's orientation
  • bring in a guest speaker - to a community hall or even an online presentation -  prevent missing home through great parenting
  • Put out a highlight video of your camp's biggest summer  event: campfire, talent show, white water lesson
  • go traditional:   offer in-house slideshows with staff present , teach a silly song or chant, game
  • try a free trial - run a "day at camp" in a community centre twice a year
  • a low risk trial: weekend at camp
  • create a People You Need to Know booklet that can be printed out. include the director, head counsellor, nurse, kitchen manager, administrator.  Make one for parents and one for kids. Laminate it and hand it out as soon as they get onsite
  • Show parents what sessions are at the next skill level: How to know if your child is ready to move from instructional to competitive swimming
  • Write a booklet called Best Practices of Great Camp Parents
  • Have a section on your website called When to start to talk to your kids about going to camp
  • Email out a Camp Buying calendar - let parents know when they need to reserve a space for next year, when their money is due, when the forms must be in.
  • Surprise and delight your parents: give them a gift certificate to a wash and fold service because their kids laundry will be too much for their machine at once
  • Hide a note in each campers suitcase when they go home:  "Have a great school year" and include a pack of pencil crayons
  • Give parents a free car wash after driving up the dusty camp road on closing day

Reward Your Word of Mouth Champions

You already have families who refer you to their friends.  Treat them right and they are sure to do it more often!
Here are some ways to thank them for talking to the right people about your camp.

  • movie passes
  • flowers
  • include in brainstorming
  • exclusive gatherings for Champs
  • introduce them to your strategic partners
  • send them links of things that interest them or will help them in their business
  • feature their testimonial in your marketing material
  • give them free or low-cost camp programs
  • take a bunch out to lunch - let them network with each other
  • allow them to use camp for free: lunches, anniversaries, fundraisers

I owe a huge debt to John Jantsch, who's book The Referral Engine was the main source for the theory part of my presentation.  Read his book - you'll be stunned at all of the great ideas in there.

If you are interested in Travis giving this presentation to your summer camp or private school organization, please fill out the Request a Speaker form.

Pitching Summer Camp To Parents

Selling Your Camp To The Right Parents


You can picture this, right?  You are standing at a camp fair or after a presentation at a community centre, you have a mittful of brochures and a mother comes up to you and says: Please tell me about your camp.

What do you say to a parent that can make them want to let you look after their child? How do you convince them? Pitch A or Pitch B?

Pitch A

We are a leading summer camp provider in our area.  We have 200 beautiful acres nestled in Muskoka.   Our camper/staff ratio is 2:1 and our activities include A&C, swimming and archery.   Would you like to send your kids to our camp?

Pitch B

We do we believe in order to be come great leaders children need to practice those skills.   Schools just don't have the resources to give kids the experience required to be come great at this skill that they will use for the rest of their lives.

At our camp we empower our campers and staff to practice being a leader by giving them a tool make great decisions.  In everything we do at Camp Camphacker must pass the 4 S's Test.  They must answer YES to all four questions in order to do any activity at our camp: Is it Safe? Does it promote other's Self Esteem? Is it good Stewardship of the environment? and Does if make you a Servant of others?

Would you like to send your child to a camp like that?

What does your pitch to camp parents sound like?

Make Video An Important Part of Your Camp Online Marketing Strategy

Summer Camps That Market on YouTube Will Be Seen By More Parents


I was reading a blog post yesterday about the effectiveness of online video for advertising and marketing (a huge piece of advice that we give in our camp consulting business).

It is becoming more and more clear to me that, if you don't make use of video and YouTube, you are going to be left behind.

Check out these astounding stats on video viewership

  • 90% of Canadian internet viewers watch video online monthly
  • the average number of videos watched per month?  297. That's right... TWO HUNDRED AND NINETY SEVEN

(stats source)

Looking for some more hints to develop your YouTube Strategy?

There are a ton of resources available to you.    Here are just a couple:

  1. Check out our 10 Things Every Camp Should Do on YouTube
  2. Jim Louderback runs Revision3. the 6th largest network on YouTube.  He has a great article this week for the celebrities who have just been invited to create channels on the site.  You'll find a lot of great advice in there.  Hello, YouTube 'Channel' Partners. Here's Some Friendly Advice

Why Camp Marketing Isn't Seasonal


Summer is here and the campers are on their way! You're busy making last-minute preparations, training staff members, and getting ready for a summer filled with memories. You can put your marketing plans aside until the fall, right?

Think again. Marketing your camp is a year-round effort and summer is the best time to kick off your campaign for next season. Keeping positive memories alive in campers' minds throughout the year is essential to generating repeat business. It can also help you attract new campers in the future.

So stay focused on your marketing efforts during camp this summer. Here are some tips for using the summer season to prepare for next year.

  1. Prepare to shoot a new camp video. Parents love seeing video when searching for camps, so plan your video shoot before campers arrive to ensure you have everything you need when it comes time to edit. Check out our blog post for steps to shooting a video that showcases your camp effectively.
  2. Gather materials for your site redesign. You may have plans to redesign your Web site in the winter, but now is the time to capture the creative assets you'll need. Think about the areas you'll want to highlight and take the photographs you'll need on each page.
  3. Create and launch a new social media plan. Challenge yourself to keep up with a weekly schedule of Tweets and Facebook posts throughout the year. Accumulating photos and anecdotes now that you can post later will help you stay on track.
  4. Collect feedback from campers. Gather testimonials from campers before they go home, when the thoughts and ideas are still fresh. You can use quotes in your future marketing materials and help refocus your advertising efforts for next season. Also, gather stories you can use in your email newsletters or blog posts throughout the year.
  5. Consider an early early bird special. Offer a deep discount to campers who register for next season on the spot. You may be surprised by how many parents take you up on the offer!

Guest author Phillip Gilbreth is the Camps Sales Manager for and, the leading online camp directories for connecting parents with kids and teen summer camps in the United States, Canada and worldwide.  Contact Phillip at

Advertising on camp directories like and is one of the best ways to market your camp all year-round. Thousands of parents visit our camp directories throughout the year to research and plan for next summer. If you're not listed on our sites, you're missing out on tons of potential campers!