Designing Your Marketing Budget

Knowing how much you are going to spend on marketing is important to the success of any program. That may sound very simple. But for many businesses, summer camps included, the idea of marketing at all, never mind developing an accurate marketing budget, is often one of the last considerations.

Why Marketing?

Marketing is sometimes viewed like a visit to the dentist: necessary, but dreaded and, in some cases, avoided until it’s too late.

Summer camps have traditionally relied on family legacy and alumni loyalty to keep bunks full. On average, 70 percent of a camp’s capacity every summer can be traced directly to one of these two; but what of the other 30 percent?

How do you reach those who haven’t experienced your camp before? This is the answer to “Why marketing?” To attract and bring in campers who are going to become loyal repeat visitors and valuable alumni.

Planning the Budget

Getting a marketing plan off the ground can be challenging; it can be close to impossible if you do not budget for it. Think of building your marketing plan the same way you would a house; the budget is the foundation for your plan.

A good foundation makes for more secure structure. Committing the numbers to a marketing budget, and implementing an effective plan, will keep your marketing from slipping into a “well… what if… we’ll see” pit of uncertainty.

Knowing how to create your budget will strengthen what you hope to build.

To effectively create the foundation of your marketing budget, you should be sure of three things before you begin. Think of these three factors as the water, sand and cement of the concrete that will become your marketing budget foundation — purpose, percentage and target.


What do you hope to accomplish with your marketing program? Knowing why you are creating a marketing plan will determine how extensive your efforts will need to be in order to be successful.

For instance, if you’re looking to keep your name in front of loyal campers during the off-season, this would entail a simpler plan and a smaller budget than if you were looking to increase enrollment for the upcoming season by 20 campers.

The budget needed for a brand new camp to get up and running would be considerably more than for an established camp with a loyal following. It’s a matter of scale.


When you are looking to create your budget, and how much do you spend? Traditionally, most business experts agree that to effectively develop and implement a marketing plan, you should plan on spending at least 5 percent or more of your gross revenues for the year. Not five percent of net revenues; five percent of gross.

Think of your marketing budget as a cost of doing business, the same as staff and insurance and maintenance. Five percent of gross means for every hundred dollars that comes into your camp, you should expect to spend at least five dollars on your marketing.

Knowing what you have to spend will allow you to see the various avenues available to you in fulfilling your purpose for the marketing plan.


Once you know why you are implementing a plan, and how much money you are going to be working with, you will then need to know one other crucial factor: your target audience. Who are you going to be addressing in your marketing? Once you know that, you will want to determine the best means to reach these folks, and how those means can work within your budget.

Knowing your target audience allows you to craft a message that will resonate with that audience. You want your marketing efforts to pay off. Knowing what your target audience wants and how your camp meets those wants is what marketing is all about.

Let’s look at a hypothetical summer camp to see how this all might come together…

Camp Tango is a traditional overnight summer camp. They have been established for almost 70 years, and have a great tradition of camping across many generations. While they have had some very successful summers, they have noticed that in recent seasons they have been experiencing a gradual decline in the number of enrollments.

They want to create a marketing plan that is going to bring more campers into Tango. They know that if they can get them to come, they can turn them into loyal campers.

Purpose: fill more bunks.

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