There’s nothing quite as liberating as the first time you’re left alone.
Growing up, my siblings participated in an absurd number of sports, which meant they’d be out most of the day. As my parents drove them around, there would be times I, as the oldest, would have the house to myself for a few precious hours each week. I loved these moments, where I could do anything I wanted (within reason) and not have someone watching over my shoulder. In the same way, this sense of limitless freedom is a large part of why many enjoy camp so much.
From the moment a camper is dropped off at registration, the atmosphere changes. They are immersed in a new schedule, with new people, in a new environment. Figuring out this foreign world is exciting, and lets campers make their own decisions on what to explore first. It’s empowering to start with a clean slate and build a unique experience from the ground up. At the end of the session, when it’s time to say goodbye to friends and counselors, it’s especially apparent how far they have come from that distant first day.
Going back in future years only compounds this effect. Campers can build on their foundation, looking forward to seeing old bunkmates and counselors, while still preserving an element of the unknown. If they attend long enough, they’ll see themselves become a guide of sorts, helping younger attendees find their own sense of independence. They serve as a role model for the kind of person camp can produce, and what it can produce in others.
To keep this growth genuine, it’s important as a director to support, not dictate, this delicate process. Counselors should be taught to ease the transition from a school-based, structured schedule to a more casual camp routine. Certain events and classes are of course required, but they should be structured in such a way that the campers want to attend, and voluntarily arrive on time. When they are encouraged to act as opposed to being forced, there’s more motivation for them to embrace the individual, and make the most of their time away from home.
1. Your camp bag has no extra space. Everything is necessary and planned for. Especially with snacks.
2. You arrive early at the dining hall to beat the rush on Taco Tuesday.
3. You know just how late you can stay up past lights-out.
4. You show up to camp in your bathing suit to go right to the swim test.
6. You have at least one group picture from each year of camp.
7. You’ve accidentally stepped in poison ivy.
8. You know who you want on your side for Camp Olympics.
9. You’ve been mistaken for a counselor at least once.
11. You’ve seen every camp skit at least twice.
12. You’ve acted in every camp skit at least once.
13. You know no one actually sleeps after lunch.
14. You’ve gone hiking and gotten totally soaked in a thunderstorm.
15. You avoid the leaky canoe.
17. You make the perfect s’more every time.
18. Getting to camp feels more natural than going home.
19. The group chat explodes in May, wondering who’s coming back.
20. You’re always coming back.
“Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.”
Luckily, the “right kind of advertising” doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. If your business spends wisely, it can achieve great success with only a modest marketing budget.
Tip #1: expensive advertisements do not always lead to more sales
The temptation will always exist to purchase high-profile ad space: a full-page magazine ad, a sleek television commercial, a glitzy radio ad campaign. Problem is, these expenditures will drain your budget without necessarily turning a good ROI. The “rule of seven” states that your audience needs to hear your marketing message seven times in order to be influenced towards a buying decision. When you overspend on these high-profile advertisements, you lose the ability to reach potential customers enough to really influence them.
Tip #2: get to know your target market
In order for any of your plan to work, you need to identify the right target customer. As a camp director, you are probably targeting parents and their kids. But, within that, are you targeting all moms or a specific type? Over-achieving moms who want to prepare their kids for Princeton? Mothers of multiples who want their kids out of the house a few hours a day over the summer? Get specific. Once you know exactly who you’re trying to reach, you can identify the most effective and efficient avenues for reaching them. More bang; less buck.
Tip #3: think local
Unless you are a multi-national conglomerate (in which case you no longer need advice on budget marketing), you probably have a local audience. Perhaps you reach a national audience as well, but your local one is most important. These are the people with whom you can shake hands, ingratiate yourself, and become meaningful. Get out into the community to become a part of it. Sponsor a 5K. Print flyers or bookmarks to leave at the library and local coffee shops. Ask a local school for space in their newsletter. It’s easy to reach effective frequency (rule of seven) when you’re everywhere.
Tip #4: bring your strategy online
While local advertising can be inexpensive and effective, a great combination in budget marketing, it does not make your business visible to your entire target market. As always, begin with your target market. Where do they go online? How do they like to be communicated with? What are they looking for? Use the answers to these questions to drive your digital marketing strategy. If your target market includes Snapchat fanatics, get on Snapchat! If your target market includes Gen X professionals, don’t. Instead, look into content marketing. By hosting content valuable to these individuals on your blog, you create value and increase brand recognition. The internet includes exhaustive opportunities for marketing; make sure you choose the right one to reach your target market.
Summer camp is an experience unlike any other. It has its own set of rules and its own social groups, wrapped in a unique environment. However, because it is so distanced from the “real” world, it often gets caught up in rumors and assumptions that are far from true. Below are four such myths, and how to address them before registration comes around once again.
Summer camp is not for everyone. Put simply: It doesn’t matter whether a camper is a good swimmer. It doesn’t matter if they don’t like hiking or archery. With the sheer volume of camps out there today, there is quite literally a camp for everyone. Whether it’s following a passion for a sport they love, or delving into a scientific interest, there is sure to be a match out there.
Summer camp is expensive. Not every camp is a three month long stay in expensive cabins or dorms. There are also plenty of memorable, wallet-friendly options. Day camp especially is a great way to appeal to parents on a budget. Fresh options come out every year and range from robotics to animal care to theater and drama. The time is ripe to find and claim a new, exciting niche!
Camp is better with a friend. Many campers actively try to attend with someone they know, but this is not always possible. In those cases, remind them a solo trip can still be amazing! One of the best parts about camp is meeting new people, and the anticipation of seeing them again next summer. They will never be lacking in people to talk to, and might meet a new best friend in the process.
No news is bad news. At camp for an extended period for time, parents might expect their campers (especially younger ones) to be in touch frequently. Though updates do have their place, in excess, they can be a burden on everyone involved. Far from hating camp, the child is likely just busy with the plethora of activities and events available to them. Encourage parents to let them cut loose! It’s time their camper will never forget.
Camp Network provides online registration, website design, and marketing for camps, clinics, tournaments, and more. We work with some of the biggest universities and organizations in the country because we offer a quick, simple, and an extremely affordable solution. We automate the whole registration process so you and your staff can focus on running the event.