Off-Season Marketing Ideas

Now that campers have safely returned home and camp is quiet, you have until next summer to relax on your yacht or spend the winter in your Tuscan villa. Isn’t that what camp employees do?

On the other hand, if your Tuscan villa is being remodeled, you can use that time to do some creative, low-cost marketing for next summer’s camp season. The following are ideas designed to bring name recognition to your camp and fill up those camper slots so you can enjoy that yacht!

1. Check your local newspaper for listings of upcoming fundraisers or charity auctions. Offer to donate a “Camp Happy Time” gift basket. Put together an assortment of camp-related items such as T-shirts, visors with your camp name, suntan lotion and, of course, a few brochures. I once called a charity auction one week before the event. The organizer was thrilled to get another donation and said, “I’m so sorry, but our charity donation booklet is already printed. Would you mind if I printed a one-page insert about your gift basket and put it in the booklet?” Who can complain about having a separate listing that stands out from all the other donations?

2. Talk to the director of your library and offer to buy a one or two year subscription to a children’s magazine like Sports Illustrated for Kids or Ranger Rick. Simply ask that a notice be placed on the shelf displaying the magazine that reads, “Ranger Rick magazine donated by Camp Happy Times.” You could do the same thing with a subscription to Parents Magazine or Family Fun. Each time a parent gets a magazine, they read your name.

3. Your camp probably has a large dining hall or meeting space. Let people in the community know you have facilities for their staff training or meetings. Many businesses look for off-site facilities for staff training. Even if you don’t belong to the local Chamber of Commerce (which you should), send an-email or flyer to local businesses letting them know of your space availability. You’ll end up with adults on-site saying, “Hey, this is a great place to send my kids next summer!”

4. Since you’re contacting businesses, arrange to meet someone in the human resources department. Many businesses look for “perks” to give employees. Why couldn’t that perk be a gift certificate to send their child to camp? Just think how happy a single mom working at Acme Manufacturing would be to have her employer give her child a one-week camp experience. One camp told me a local business pays for 50 employee children to attend camp each summer.

5. Is your camp known for great food? With the holidays approaching, people find themselves cooking for large family gatherings. While you think nothing about whipping together lunch for 250 campers, most people find cooking for 25 challenging. Contact the local newspaper and offer to be a resource for an article, “Cooking for Larger-Than-Average Crowds During the Holidays.” Share one or two camper-favorite recipes while getting free publicity for your camp. Post additional recipes on your Web site. Think what happens when the article states, “Find out more delicious recipes from Camp Happy Times on its Web site at www.camphappytimes.com.” People looking for recipes will naturally check out your camping programs as well.

6. Consider changing the way you describe camps or activities. I offered a one-week, parent and pre-schooler day camp called “Movement and Art Camp.” (I know, not the most exciting title.) Clear and to the point, but no one signed up. I offered the same camp as “Wiggles and Giggles,” resulting in full enrollment. As you describe various camp activities, try to go beyond “We have drama and sports activities.” Would kids want to come to a camp that offers “drama” or a camp offering “Theater High Action Games”? Not many teens are interested in a session on arts and crafts. How about offering a class in “Make a Scrapbook for Your Best Friends” or “Stenciling For Those Who Flunked Finger Painting”?

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