What is my true return on investment for camp fairs? Is it really worth it?

Find out what a camp director learned just recently and why he won’t be signing up for any more fairs soon.
This spring we did something we hadn’t done in a long, long while- sign up for a Camp Fair. For the past few years, our strategy for recruiting new campers has been solely focused on online marketing for our summer camp. In fact, we haven’t done any print advertising or attended any camp fairs for our summer camp in at least 3 or 4 years. There were a couple of things in regards to this camp fair that intrigued me. First of all, it was right around the corner from our house– literally. In fact, I found out about it through my wife, who had seen it posted on Facebook (more about that later!). Secondly, since we hadn’t invested in advertising at a camp fair in a while, I was interested to see if our $200 and the four-hour investment was worth it. How many interested camp families would I actually talk to? How many of those families would actually consider enrolling in summer camp this upcoming summer? Was this an equally or even better strategy than my online marketing efforts for our summer camp?

Lessons Learned
A lot of the families there were not our ideal customer.
One of the things I learned and was reminded of, very quickly was that many of the families I spoke with were not our ideal customer. We a K-11th grade camp and their child was 4. They were looking for a day summer camp and we were an overnight summer camp. They had not yet considered sending their child to an overnight camp– this was all so new to them. The most likely potential camp family I spoke with was actually someone my wife and I had met prior (i.e. friend referral), and they already knew about our summer camp. It really didn’t seem like I spoke with a family who met all these criteria (i.e. eligible grade range, looking for an overnight summer camp and had been thinking about it already)

Our camp was competing against nearly every other camp there.
One of the most difficult things about camp fairs is sticking out. Everyone has a bright pop up sign, is dressed in character, and has great handouts. But, how in the world do you actually communicate what your camp is about when you have 150+ other booths screaming for attention? In an ideal world, I would just want them looking at our summer camp’s booth, hearing our camp’s story and connecting the dots in their head about why our camp would be great for their child. This just isn’t the case in the hustle and bustle of a camp fair.

I’d rather tell our story on our website.
Standing at our booth waiting for parents, I was becoming more and more grateful that most new families that find us do so without any other distractions by going online (CampHuawni.com). I was thinking to myself- our website really does tell our story better than any 2-minute conversation I could ever have at a camp fair. Families can click on videos, activities, and even see what camp looks like so much better than our booth. I’d rather families just browse our website without all the competing clutter.

There are other ways to connect with families face to face that are more beneficial.
I also soon realized that there were better and more meaningful ways to connect with families face to face. Whether it be a Camp Party in the confines of a camp family’s home, a coffee meet and greet, or connecting a family to a another family in their area, these are all ways we connect with families which don’t seem so rushed and give space to answer important questions about their children.

It’s easier to calculate my return on investment (ROI) through my online marketing efforts…I know what I’m getting.
I had 11 families sign up for our $500 tuition giveaway. I gave away tuition two times, and both families said they were not ready to attend overnight summer camp for this upcoming summer. So, my total investment included my four hours of work ($1,000) plus $500 in tuition giveaways, totaling about $1,500. That means we’d need to get at least one camper to make this investment worth it. We had a total of 11 leads, meaning we paid about $136 per lead. We have yet to enroll a lead from our Camp Fair efforts. The jury is still out, but it’s not looking promising. Until we have a sign-up, we won’t truly know our ROI. When I contrast this to our online marketing strategy (growmycamp.co link), I soon realize that it’s really hard to know what I’m getting, ultimately, when I attend a camp fair. When it comes to online marketing for our summer camp, I feel much more comfortable knowing that I’m able to target specific families who are looking for an overnight summer camp, whose camper is of camp age, and who can afford our tuition rates. We, of course, can do this through specific marketing efforts using Google Adwords, Facebook Ads, and other online marketing strategies. So what’s the irony in all of this? My wife found the Camp Fair on Facebook!

If you have online marketing questions for your summer camp, feel free to email me at travis@growmycamp.co.