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.

Foolproof idea for getting more campers this summer


You can get more summer camp campers in your bunks this summer at the cost of… an email and some time.

In Ontario the first week of the camp season has passed and I think there is a great opportunity for you to fill up some more beds this summer.   Assuming that you have 1 week sessions (more likely most of you have 2 week sessions - send this email next week) I think you could tap into the excitement that the first session generated to get you more campers.   What I propose is this…

Send all campers that have just returned home this email (using Mail Merge so it says “Hi Clarisse, ….” or whatever his/her name is):

Hey _____________

We hope you had a great week at camp last week (if not please email or call me [give # and email])

To say thank you for a great week we would like to offer you 15% off another week at camp this summer.   If you have any friends who heard all of your great stories and now want to come to Camp _________  they can have the 15% off as well.

Your coupon code is 2010-asdfasfw.   Make sure your friends that sign up use the same code.

We hope to see you back at camp this summer!



What have you done at your camp to fill the extra spots left in the summer?

Make it easy to find your camp


I wrote a blog post on our small business consulting blog about making it easy to find your business.  I think that every lesson from that article applies to camp but in an unusual way.

Camps often have more than one "place" with a winter office and a summer location.

Here are the suggestions:

  • Optimize your webpage for local
  • Optimize local search profiles
  • Get proactive in ratings and reviews
  • Get listings and mentions
  • Spread the local social love

(this list comes out of a great article called 5 Ways to Get Found Online in Your Town by marketing master, John Jantsch)

With camps that have more than one location (a winter office and a summer site) you should consider carefully what you do in Step 2 - Optimize local search profiles (ie. Google Places).

3 Things to Consider When Adding Your Camp To Local Search

  1. Which address will parents be searching for most - the winter office to drop off a cheque (Cheques? How many parents use cheques anymore?) or the summer location?
  2. Are camp tours an important part of the decision-making process for parents?
  3. If there ever was an emergency (even something as simple as a tonsillitis and a child needed to go home to recuperate) would it help parents' stress-level to search to find directions to where the camp is or where the winter office is?

It's important to keep our clients in mind when we make these decisions.

(**Bonus: Read the Walking Maverick article for the Secret Google Places trick)

Six SEO Tips to Help Parents Find Your Camp


Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of strategically modifying the content on your summer camp Web site so that search engines can find and present your site to its users. For example, if you operate a basketball camp in New York, using SEO techniques will help parents who do a general search on Google for "basketball summer camps in New York" to find your specific camp among the top search results.

Simple SEO Changes

You can make simple changes to your site to make it more visible to parents who are using search engines to find camps. Here are six easy steps for getting started with SEO:

  1. Determine what keywords or key phrases parents will use to find camps like yours. Think of all the ways someone would describe your camp without referencing the name directly. Your list of keywords will likely include the type of camp you operate (horseback riding, robotics, ice hockey etc.), your audience (boys, teenagers, dancers, etc.), and regional descriptors (Nashville, Twin Cities, Cohocton Valley, etc.).
  2. Include at least 3-5 of your top keywords or key phrases on each page of your camp Web site. Focus on headlines and the first few sentences of any descriptions. Don't rely on images or graphics alone to tell parents they're looking at a sailing camp in Maryland. Make sure the key phrases "sailing camp" and "Maryland" can be found among the text at the top of your home page.
  3. Use your keywords and camp name in the anchor text of your site links. Search engines like finding relevant links on your site that they can share with their users. For example, a link that says "Click here to register for the 2011 Crawford Teen Ballet Camp" is better than a link that only says "Click here to register."
  4. Make sure your page titles are descriptive and include your camp name. Page titles are the words that display at the very top of the Web browser window. Rather than giving a simple description like "Directions," adding your camp name and expanding the title to "Driving Directions to Stanford Kids Day Camp" will help search engines find you.
  5. Submit your URL to Google, Yahoo! and Bing. Registering your camp Web site with each search engine tells them your site exists and should be included in search results. You should also register with the local sections of Google, Yahoo! and Bing so your camp shows up on local maps and directories.
  6. Don't overdo it! Search engines are getting smarter and smarter, so they'll recognize tricks like overloading your site with keywords or using keywords that aren't relevant to your content. Stick with the basics, evaluate your keyword usage from time to time, and focus on contextualizing & describing your content for viewers.

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

(MySummerCamps and KidsCamps appear among the top search results because of our robust SEO techniques. Yet another reason why listing your camp in our comprehensive camp directories should always be part of your marketing strategy!)

Are you using every moment of summer camp staff training?


Fill Their Arsenals...for a successful summer camp staff training, make sure you use every moment of every day.  Here are a few examples:

#1  Time to Sing, Dance, and Play

  • Plan to have a few moments between sessions to teach a new song or new game.  The change in pace will help your staff to refocus for your next session and will also allow them opportunities to learn new songs and activities they will use throughout the summer

#2  A Programme Fair

  • Allow each staff member to visit each programme area you offer and have the person in charge of that area explain their expectations for the summer and share their creative ideas to make it the best summer ever
  • You may want to do this in a rotation so that smaller groups can travel together and have more opportunities to ask questions or try some of the activities offered
  • One of our most successful programme visitations was an evening we held inside the dining hall - each programme staff member had advance notice to prepare a display for our "Camp Fair" presenting their area, the activities and 'selling' counsellors and other staff members on their merits of their programme:

The Programme Staff members did an outstanding job creating display boards, pamphlets, and fun activities to get the other staff members excited for the summer.

We also asked the kitchen staff, maintenance and other support staff to prepare displays to talk about what they would be offering that summer.

The evening gave the senior staff a real pride in their programmes and the excitement in the air that evening in our dining hall was palpable.

#3  Reading Rainbow:

  • At the beginning of each morning (after breakfast and duties and before the first session), allow 15 minutes of quiet reading time
  • Have Staff assemble in the place where the 1st session will be held, sit in a circle, and read their manuals (this should be review as they would have received them ahead of time)
  • At the end of Reading Rainbow, we allow questions on what they read that morning
  • The peace and quiet is also a nice way to centre yourselves for the day's learning

#4  Roundtables:

  • Make good use of returning staff members (no matter their role) by holding panel discussions during evening snack each night
  • Ask certain members to sit on the panel each evening and allow counsellors to ask questions
  • Some evenings, you can ask the questions if there are things you want to be sure are covered
  • Later in the week, once the majority of your sessions have been covered, hold an Open Space:

Ask counsellors for topics that they feel they still need covered, narrow down the list and ask senior staff members to facilitate each topic. Allow the range of topics to be limitless - from backpocket games to discipline to behavioural concerns, to song harmonies - whatever the needs of your counsellors!  Counsellors may then spend the time going only to the discussions they feel they need to hear or may attend ones in which they feel they have something to contribute (we usually allow 90 minutes for this activity).

What other ways do you make sure that each camp moment is a Teachable one?

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