Winding Down & Winding Up

Waldman researches which publications are being sent to the right places and read by the right people, simply by tapping his existing camp contacts who have a feel for the effectiveness of certain local publications.

Most camp owners send out brochures and other informational mailings to past and potential campers, but perhaps no one pumps up the volume as much as Marc Katz, owner of Long Lake Camp for the Arts, Long Lake, N.Y.

“Ninety percent of the camper base is filled by November, then I don’t really have to worry too much about campers, but we still send out 100-150 brochures a week anyway, even if we are full,” says Katz. “You never know… One day you may need to grow, or want to develop another program. It’s a very beautiful thing to say, ‘I’m sorry. We’re full.’ I’ve waited 20 years to say that. You’re basically trying to guarantee longevity in sales.”

Like most camps, Katz is convinced that “the Web is where it’s at.” He cites over a $1 million in sales attributed to it, and a decrease of $80,000 in advertising and $30,000 in referral services.

“We’ve been on the Web for 10 years, and I tell it how it is,” says Katz. “We are a creative camp, so the Web site should reflect that. We have 127 people at our camp whose main focus is artistic pursuit. I ask them as an artist how we’re presenting things.”

Give it Away

Another way to maintain camper contact and retention is through give-aways, which can take a number of forms beyond what’s referred to as advertising specialties or promotional products.

Each year, for example, Camp Blue Ridge’s Waldman gives away a video yearbook to all the kids. It’s a constant reminder of the fun they had at camp, and also a constant reminder about where they had that fun.

“This year, for the first time, we have a CD-ROM slide show of 3,100 pictures of campers, and it’ll be a great keepsake for these kids,” says Waldman. “In the future we might sell something like this, but this year it’ll be a great giveaway. As camps get streetwise to the Internet and computer systems they’ll learn that they don’t need to pay money for these projects; they can do it on their own.”

Most camps give away or sell things like t-shirts and other keepsakes as constant camp reminders, and Camp La Junta’s Smith takes these on the road in the off months.

“We travel off and on during January and February at city parties with slide shows and videos; anywhere we have a pocket of kids interested we’ll go,” says Smith. “We use bumper stickers, Frisbees, magnets, t-shirts, pens, pencils and stickers when someone shows up at a camp function. We try to avoid the junk and give them something they can use. It all comes back to the contact.”

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