I have found myself each and every year at this same time—worrying and fretting about possible camp registrations.
Now I do a pretty big and full schedule each summer of camps and clinics. I try to have the camp schedule organized and on the calendar each year by February 1st. And sometimes I make it by this deadline, and sometimes I don’t, maybe not until March 1st. Happy to say, that I did get them on calendar this year by February 1st!
Each year I plan on not sleeping as camp registrations start coming in—I worry and worry. Our camp revenue is a big part of our entire annual income. Will they sign up? Will it be a good year?
An interesting side note: Here at the LEC our 2015 was our biggest and best camp numbers ever. And if you know, this had only been our third summer at our current location. 2015 was the biggest camp season, I’d ever had—anywhere, at any location. And then came 2016, I was so ready—2016 will be better than 2015. We stretched our advertising schedule, as well as adding a couple of new advertising mediums and increasing our direct mail postcards. So excited—and then the camp registrations started coming in—and I waited, and waited. And yes while 2016 wasn’t a bad year for our annual camp revenue, it was nowhere near the 2015 numbers.
Talk about sleepless nights—thinking about it all winter long.
What was different? I may never know exactly why 2015 was better than 2016, and I can’t wait to see what 2017’s camp season will bring.
What is our number one tool in marketing to our campers and their families? Our contact email list. I have read that the number one tool a business can have is its contact email list. Every time someone calls, takes a lesson or even asks about camp or lessons—Be sure that you get their email. And yes this can be a challenge (for example, giving pony rides at the neighboring school—offer a contest for a free lesson, and the only way that we can contact them is to email them). Often people don’t want to give their emails, or may even give you a fake email address.
We do about 20-30 Pony Parties per year. Remember, you will have the party child as well as 10-15 or more of their friends. And we do require a signed liability release from everyone coming to and attending the party—and it is required that they fill out the email, and that it is current and legible. I mean really someone is not going to give you an email, but they are going to let you put their child on a pony. So we are hopefully adding another 15-30 emails each month.
Keeping a contact email list, is by far the cheapest marketing tool you have. It requires only light maintenance and a few hours to update it.
Here at the LEC, we’ve realized that there are two kinds of camp parents: the Planner’s and the Waiter’s. The Planners have their child’s summer all scheduled and registered and planned by February 1st. Yes, there are those people—if I was a parent I would definitely fall more into the second category. Then there’s the Waiter’s. About a week before school is out, or a few days before the break begins, the Waiter’s realize, Uh, Oh! Better figure out what these little darlings are going to do! Actually most parents fall somewhere in between, but most do seem to lean towards the Waiter’s.
So don’t put out one post or flyer or brochure in March and think that will take care of it. And those people who received your flyer or read your email, just must not want to join in on your amazing summer horse camp. Don’t give up, people are busy—keep on sending out those posts, send another flyer or postcard. Just keep on working it.
Remember there are 9-10 weeks of summer break, so most people are probably planning a wonderful summer vacation, right after school lets out—which will be simply amazing and probably not cheap. So why worry about July and August? I mean the kids will simply love their week in Florida, or on the cruise. Who cares about the other 8 weeks that the kids will be sitting at home, destroying the house and murdering each other. But that vacation will end, the cruise will come home—boredom and distraction will set in—those darling kids have to go somewhere.
Make sure that throughout the summer that you keep on emailing, keep on hanging up those new flyers, hang that camp sign out on the entrance to your stable—stay busy, They Will Come!