Working on Camper Retention Now…….

  • October 27, 2023
  • Josh

Working on Camper Retention Now…….

…….. and Putting a System in Place for The Long-Term

I sat down recently with Travis to chat about camp and the importance of marketing now and having a plan in place to continuously have their brand on parents’ minds. We hope you get some nice takeaways to start your process, but also look out for Travis’s new book camp marketing book with Joanna Warren Smith, coming out in November to help guide you even further. The book is called the Camp Recruiting & Retention Playbook.  If you are interested in signing up to be notified when it is available, click

A little bit on Travis and Go Camp Pro before we dive into that Q&A for those who don’t know him:

Q: Coming out of the summer, what should camps be thinking of first when considering their marketing plan for the year? 

A: Creating systems to efficiently and effectively market your camps. Every fall, we encourage our clients to create new marketing materials that can be used over and over again. Most of these are emails that can be automatically sent out when a family inquires about your camp.  

The most efficient and effective way to fill your camp is simply to get last summer’s campers to return. It’s efficient because they already know the details and benefits of your camp. Make a plan to offer something valuable to your past camp families every month and create a series of social media posts and emails leading up to the day that registration opens.  

The second easiest way to fill camp is to get those returning campers to bring their friends. Speak to your best word-of-mouth families to find out what they need to make referring your camp easy for them. Be thoughtful about creating a referral rewards program that makes them feel noticed and appreciated.   

Q: Is social media still a great way to reach parents? What platforms do you feel have the biggest reach or impact? 

A: I’m pretty ambivalent about the value of social media for marketing camp, BUT I won’t declare it to be good or bad unless the camp has solid, intentional metrics either way.    

Most camps use social media to keep their current families engaged throughout the year. However, in order for social media to be effective as part of a marketing strategy, it needs to have more sales intention than what most camps exhibit.  

As for platforms that have the best reach or impact, it depends on many factors, including what area you are from and what is popular around you. I recommend that camps invest a bit of time in setting up tests to know what works for their families. No matter which app you land on, video is the one common element we know works.  

Q: How would you recommend using your Camp Management Software to help build camper retention over the years? What data would you be looking for in your camp software? 

A:  Data?!? Metrics?!?   Now you are talking about SMART camp marketing.  Here are a few things I look for in a new client’s data:  

Q: What are some key metrics you look at when measuring the success of a marketing campaign? 

A: First of all, I want camps to set up some way to measure this. For every marketing dollar or staff-hour spent on marketing, there should always be a way to know its impact. The easiest way to measure this is by creating unique registration links for each marketing effort and medium.  

My biggest sign of the value of a marketing campaign is almost never the number of new campers it gives us. It is really hard to know exactly what made a family say yes. They may have seen an ad, then called the office, then talked to one of our current families that we offered as a reference. Each step of that process will appeal to each family differently.     

I recommend that focus our marketing goals on one number:  How many new email contacts did we get from this investment?  

Email contacts allow us many opportunities to follow up with families and earn their trust.  

Q: You have probably seen hundreds if not thousands of websites in your time; what do you feel is the most important piece on a camp’s website and why? 

A: Easy to find ways for families to register their children. Make “Register Here” the biggest and brightest thing on your website. Other important things include a phone number (that has the touch-and-dial feature) so that folks can one-click call you when they have questions. Please make sure your website has a search function in the top navigation bar. Camp is complicated. Make it easy for families to find that last piece of information they need before they sign up their campers.  

Q: Why is it crucial for camps to start marketing camp as early as possible for the next season?  

A: In my experience, it is always easier to get families to commit to the investment in camp if they have clear memories of the emotions and value of how their children changed because of your program. Those memories fade as families get into the routines of a busy school year.  

Starting early also means that you can know how things are going and be able to make changes in how you promote your camp. Starting January 1st and realizing on April 1st that your registration numbers are low does not give you much time to make the changes you need in your marketing plan.  At that point in the year, your heart and mind will be focused on getting your staff and site ready for the coming summer.  

The other important factor is that camps must build a huge amount of trust with families, which takes time.  If you have 9 months or a year to build that relationship, you can deploy many more tools.  

Q: How important is it for camps to tell their story? Each camp has its own story to tell; why is that important in marketing your camp? 

A: People just love stories. We know from FMRI research that people will make a decision based on emotions first and then create the logic that supports that decision.  

Stories = Emotion. 

 I think the best stories we can tell always talk about how camp has transformed a person.  That’s powerful stuff.  

Q: As Camps navigate their marketing plan, where can they reach you, and how can they sign up for your book? Can you also tell us a bit about the book and how it will help camps? 

A:  Sign up to be notified when the book is released:  

The book is designed to make marketing camp easier for Camp Pros who don’t feel comfortable doing the promotion required to fill their program. Each month lays out a prioritized list of effective camp marketing tips. Sometimes when you are feeling overwhelmed by your camp workload but KNOW you need to do some promotion, it’s really helpful to see a list that says “Do This This Month”/focus here.  The Camp Recruiting & Retention Playbook does exactly that.