Ready, Aim, Fire!

In the past, I have discussed marketing tools, the ideas behind them, and the reasons to enlist them in marketing campaigns. From branding to technology, I have covered a lot of ground in addressing a variety of marketing issues. The problem–if one can call it that–is all of this information is spread across a couple years’ worth of articles in different issues of this magazine.

Think of this current article as a survival kit for those in the jungle of marketing–everything you need to survive, all in one place. You can refer to this list quickly to see where marketing stands, what methods you are using, how you are using them, and what methods you might want to add to your marketing arsenal.

The Three Knows

To begin, let’s look at some key concepts in order to provide a foundation when considering and implementing marketing. One of the most important ideas is actually three ideas–don’t do anything until you know what you are doing, know why you are doing it, and know who you are doing it for. And always be able to answer the following:

· To whom are you speaking?

· What are you using to deliver the message?

· And why are you delivering this message to these people?

It’s All Marketing

It’s important to understand that everything you do for your camp is actually marketing–or as the Madison Avenue folks like to call it, branding. It is all going to reflect upon you and your camp. From the way the phones are answered off-season to the food in the mess hall, the condition of the grounds, as well as the Web site and brochure, all of these contribute to making an impression on the camper and the family. And you’ll make a better impression if you can control the impression you want to make.

The First Line Of Defense

Two components are most important in a marketing strategy—the Web site and the brochure. They are invaluable, and together, act as book ends that support the other marketing efforts.

1. Web site–The virtual portal into a camp, it should be engaging, exciting and truly reflective of the way you want the camp to be viewed by the public. The design should be clean, yet visually stimulating. It should be easy to navigate, and the most important information should be easy to find. With the right tools, you can offer online registration, video, photo galleries and more. It is your 24-hour sales person, always ready. Take extra care with this particular tool because it may be the first place–and the last–where someone gets information about your camp. Kids are computer savvy, and are taking an active role in the selection of a summer camp. A great Web site is the perfect place to start selling them on your camp.

2. Brochure–This is the traditional workhorse of the summer camp (of most businesses actually). It is the perfect complement to a Web site, and the combination should act as the one-two punch of marketing. Again, the brochure should be visually compelling and easy to read, but it should also be engaging. It needs to do more than tell about the camp; it should subtly sell your camp. Great design, exciting photos and plenty of testimonials make for an effective brochure. But don’t overload it with every fact and tidbit of information about the camp. All it has to do is engage the prospective camper enough to get him or her to visit the Web site, or pick up the phone. By providing too much information, the real message will be lost.

Secondary Support For The Heavy Artillery

Marketing is a year-round endeavor, and failing to keep a message in front of an audience on a consistent basis will weaken results. Stay in touch with campers, families and prospective campers in a variety of ways, but the important thing is that you do it. Here are some items camps should consider when building a marketing plan. These can be added gradually to establish a presence in the mind of potential campers and their families.

· Video–Most camps have videos that show how exciting and enjoyable it is to spend a summer at a camp. Because it can be such a valuable tool, it pays to work with professionals when creating a video, or at least when it comes to editing it. In addition, new tools make it easy to play a video–in its entirety–on the Web site. This cuts down on duplication costs, as the video no longer has to be mailed to a family to view it.

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