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How Do I Best Budget My Summer Camp’s Marketing Dollars?

With summer camp sessions winding down, most of us are thinking about one thing– vacation! Once we get back to the camp office, we likely will be tackling one big assignment, setting our summer camp’s marketing budget.

Here are five questions that have helped me land the plane on how best to allocate my summer camp marketing dollars.

1. What is the biggest hole in my sales and marketing funnel?


This past year over 46,000 individuals visited our camp website. Of those, 40% viewed our website on their smart phones. Further, of the 428 leads we converted through Google Ads, nearly 80% accessed our camp’s information using a smart phone. What does this tell me? We need to make sure that our camp website is not only mobile friendly, but also designed in a way so that visitors easily access the information they are looking for. Our website looks great but is still several years old. This week we pulled the trigger with Ronningen Design to overhaul our camp website. We will address both mobile friendliness and user experience.


2. What will prospective and existing families see most during the off-season?


Camp families will spend most of their time interacting with our website and social media content. So how does this play into my marketing budget? If you have a old or outdated website, I would highly recommend building a new one ASAP (again, I’d contact ronningen.design). Post summer is a great time to start. Think about the last time you purchased something online. Was the website clean, professional looking and easy to use (i.e. Amazon)? Or, did you search multiple websites until you found a reliable vendor? More than likely, the vendor that you picked had an above average website. Why? Because you trusted what was communicated. I’d argue that your website is the most valuable building on your campus because it’s the one building that parents see 10 months out of the year. An average website can be a non-starter for a prospective family. For social media, consider building out a social media calendar for the entire year. This will be the best way to share your camp’s story. Likewise, quality social media content will lead to your families sharing it!

3. What are valuable tools or strategies that cost little to nothing?

Don’t we all love free?? One of the most valuable assets that can help market your summer camp is your search engine marketing (SEO) strategy. SEO is directly tied to the content on your website. When prospective families search for “summer camps in…” you will want to show up first on their Google search. The biggest cost here is your time. If you are willing to create relevant content (i.e. your blog) on a regular basis, you will likely see a boost in organic leads. Remember, this is a long-term strategy. Our camp has diligently focused on SEO for the past several years and we are now spending less on paid ads because we’re getting so many organic leads.

4. Am I spending enough?


What expense line item can actually increase your revenue? That’s right, it’s your marketing budget. So shouldn’t it be the one line item that we get cheerful about increasing? According to Medium.com, small businesses should be spending 7-8% of revenue on sales and marketing efforts. So a camp generating $2 million a year should be spending roughly $150,000. Where are you in that range and where should you be? Until all my sessions get to wait list status, I frequently find myself needing to spend more than I’d like. Likewise, camp owners and directors have been traditionally hesitant to spend marketing dollars because it’s been difficult to track return on investment (ROI). Is it worth it? One great service that Grow My Camp offers is tracking your marketing ROI. In fact, we are getting ready to meet with many of our clients this month and we will get to see exactly what our camps spent and exactly how much tuition revenue they generated. Knowing ROI makes it much easier for camps to spend marketing dollars.


5. What do I need to outsource vs. do in-house?


This is a very common question. We work with summer camps from New York to California, and each camp and their staff capacities vary. Some have just a few directors and others dozens. I’ve found that camp directors are very passionate about camp and their camp families. Many of the roles associated with this (i.e. enrollment, camp shows, programming, new activities, etc.) fill up their work load, even in the off-season. It’s hard to find more time during our days to manage everything marketing, much less keep up with the ever-changing technology world.
Unless someone on your staff has prior experience, I would consider outsourcing these 5 marketing services:

  • Building/updating your website
  • Paid ad management (Google Adwords, Facebook Ads, etc.)
  • CRM customization and tie ins
  • Marketing dashboards & reporting
  • Full-scale Email Marketing

My hope is that these questions help lead you to some valuable budgeting decisions. And remember, even if you fail or don’t get the return you were hoping, at the very least (with proper tracking) you will have some valuable data to make better budgeting decisions next year. And it’s these incremental changes that lead to lasting growth. Happy budgeting!

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