Artistic License

A multi-million dollar theater complex is in the works at Long Lake Camp for the Arts this year, while kids from across the nation and almost every nation in Europe flock to fill the camp.

Related Article: Act 3, Scene 1

By any definition, this is a successful camp. From a marketing standpoint, Katz says that, beyond a program that sells itself, the Internet has become the vital component to get the word out about Long Lake Camp.

"Five years ago I brought in probably $40,000 from the Internet; last year it was roughly a million," says Katz. "For our little business it's done well."

These astounding numbers would be lost in the paper shuffle if Katz didn't make sure to track how people find him. That means asking the question through the information request form on the site, in registration packets and when people call for more information. Surprisingly, Katz says he hasn't gone far enough to track exactly where the leads originate.

"The one thing I'm not able to track is if someone found me from an Internet search, or if they found me from an ad that had my dot-com address," explains Katz. "It's only within this season that I've asked on my Internet inquiries how they found our website."

For 30 years Long Lake Camp has run 26 weekly ads in the New York Times. With its million-plus circulation worldwide, this expensive, but cost-effective medium did its job well. But Katz is rethinking this strategy.

"We sent out 117 brochures for the week of January 1 in response to inquiries. Normally, I would have a Times ad on January 1, but because it fell on a Monday, we did not start our advertising until January 7," explains Katz. "For the first week of the year, which for 30 years we've had New York Times ads, we traditionally send out 125 brochures. This year we sent out 117, and they were not from the New York Times. I'm surprised the first week held up to that without an ad. Today, 27 brochures were mailed out -- four from a New York Times ad, 19 from the Internet, and the other four were recommendations."

Beyond simply generating leads, a good website has been instrumental in qualifying leads like never before. What it allows is an interactive brochure that gives those interested more information than a name, location and short blurb. In short, if someone likes what they see on the Web and calls up to request an information packet they're far more qualified than someone who has little or no information about the camp.

"It's saved me a lot of time; I don't have to sell the kids on the camp. By the time they've called me they've seen the website and liked what they saw," says Katz. "They get the brochure and it solidifies what they hoped was Long Lake. Basically I get called now just asking if we have room left; they just want to sign up. Three or four years ago you'd even have to go to their home to sell them on the camp."

Katz's site is a mixture of creative fun and tradition, just like Long Lake Camp. The photos are tilted, with "spray-painted" borders, the color are inviting, yet the typeface, for example, is conservative.

"I want to be fun, but yet we've been around for 32 years and we're a good, stable, responsible, safe organization," says Katz. "I want to convey a sense that this is not a helter-skelter, goof-off camp. This is a camp with fun, but it's a stable environment. We allow you to be as creative as you want to be, but you still need to be a lady and a gentleman."

What Katz definitely wants to shy away from on the Internet is what he calls a "corporate" or "Xerox" type of website. Gloss and glamour may be fine for Exxon, but Katz insists that it doesn't work for camps.

"You should try to have whatever you produce in terms of your marketing strategy to not be a glossy, made-up version of you, but to be your true vision," says Katz. "If you go to our website you get a good feel for what our camp will be when you're there. When you watch our video it's an honest representation of our true camp; it's not a made-up version."

Katz designs and implements everything on his site and has been on the Internet since before the Internet was cool. When asked what the learning curve was to do it himself he says, "What? You buy a piece of software for a hundred bucks and you're in."

Bryan BuchkoComment