The Three Knows: Part Two

By Tim Diering

Last issue, we talked about the Three Knows for Marketing, and how these three elements are important to developing compelling and effective materials for your camp. We also discussed the concept of Holistic Branding -- everything you do should contribute to creating an impression and the right one. The Three Knows, combined with Holistic Branding, give your marketing a one-two punch: A keen message and strong marketing materials, designed to work together, will resonate better with your audience than slip-shod and inconsistent materials.


Camp Tango
Let’s take a look at the materials for our hypothetical camp, Camp Tango.

Camp Tango understands the importance of their website in attracting new campers and their families. This is why they had their website redesigned by a professional design company. Their original site had been designed seven years ago. It was nice, but it was more a “web presence” than an integrated interactive web site. It had a home page, a few pages of pictures, and a page with a brief listing of activities, with a brief description.

It was not very impressive, but it was more than a lot of camps had, and they were happy with it.

But things change. As time went by, Camp Tango saw many other camps taking advantage of the Internet. It soon became apparent their old web site was not the great thing it once was; while it was fine at first, it was a bit of an embarrassment now. They began to feel they were losing campers to camps who showcased themselves with more advanced web sites.

A New Web Site
So Camp Tango set out to upgrade their site.

They understood their message had to reach both the parent and the child, and their new web site would need to accomplish both jobs simultaneously.

It was decided the new website would be both dynamic and interactive. This was accomplished by the inclusion of an in-site video, highlighting the fun and excitement of the previous summer. The video was an exciting addition to the website, and a strong one: a good video would give the viewer the chance to see the camp the way they wanted them to see it. It would be a strong way to let the site visitor experience the camp before ever visiting the grounds of the camp.

They also upgraded all of the photos on the site by hiring a professional photographer to take pictures of the camp at the same time as the video shoot was happening. While it cost a little bit more that way, they knew they were getting wonderful images they would be able to use in various materials for years to come. (It’s always a good idea to update your photo images every few years).

They added a page with testimonials from past campers, who loved the experience and were happy to tell everyone about it (perhaps the only thing as compelling as strong pictures and text are strong testimonials from satisfied customers).

But the people at Camp Tango also understood all the videos in the world would not be enough to convince concerned parents about the safety of their kids. So on the new website, they included an entire page devoted to the facilities of the camps infirmary, as well as details about the camp nursing staff: full color pictures of the infirmary and the medical staff showed Camp Tango took safety seriously.

And all over the web site, the camp reinforced this message, with constant reminders of the low camper/counselor ratios, the experience of the staff, and the fine record of safety at Camp Tango.

Instead of simply having a contact page with an address and phone number, they added a contact form. When the contact form was filled out, the family was placed on the camp’s mailing list and additional information would be immediately mailed out from the camp office.

They also integrated a special “back-office system,” which would allow them to track the progress of potential campers as they moved through the system. This system integrated seamlessly into the new website and allowed the camp office to follow each inquiry from first contact and follow up, all the way through to alumnae. They found it a great way to keep track of the inquiries, and to see how many inquiries lead to actual enrollments.

And gathering names in this way also allowed Camp Tango to stay in touch with families, even if they did not enroll in the camp for that summer. They could now create a file of families who expressed an interest in Camp Tango, but did not attend that particular season. In the past, these contacts were ignored or discarded; now they had a valuable system for contacting people who had already expressed a strong interest in their camp.

Camp Tango’s Brochure
Because they understood the value of creating a holistic brand (Camp Tango’s directors were ardent readers of Camp Business magazine), they wanted their brochure to reflect the same message as the web site.

They chose the theme: Camp Tango: What Kids Want -- What Parents Need.

The brochure was divided into two separate areas, one targeting the parents, the other targeting the kids. Each message was crafted to resonate with its particular audience. The parent side of the brochure focused strongly on tradition, life-skills and safety. The kid’s side was more visceral, with exciting photos, compelling layout, and words specifically directed at them as kids.

Because they directed their message distinctly and clearly, and because the messages were carefully targeted to both sides of the family decision makers, Camp Tango is expecting to see an increase in attendance this summer… and the next. And hopefully the next summer as well; because the camp understands strong materials, crafted with a strong message and carefully targeted, is an investment they can use over and over again.

It’s All In How You Say It
So you see, as we have discussed in this article, and as has been spelled out in past articles, the message is as important as how you deliver it. It’s not just what you say, but how you say it. Give families a reason to trust you, and you will have developed dedicated advocates for your camp. Miss the mark with your message, or deliver it in an uninteresting way and you may miss out on a great year of camper enrollments.

Miss The Message, Lose A Camper
If you sign up one new camper, what does that mean to your camp? Well, if Johnnie and Susie sign up for your camp, you have two direct sign ups. And they are so excited about attending, they each convince two friends to join them. So now you have six campers attending, all because of Johnnie and Susie.

The camp was so fun, the following summer, Johnnie and Susie, and each of their friends, get two more friends to enroll in your camp, and four of those 12 new campers bring one sibling each for a total of 22 new campers. And in the future, after Johnnie and Susie and all of their friends have married and started families of their own, which camp are they going to look at when its time for their own kids to go to summer camp? You guessed it. You’ve established a relationship for generations out, all because your message was strong enough to attract both sides of one family.

You can never really know how much is lost when you fail to excite your audience with the right message. How can you measure the impact on your camp of even one empty bunk? You can’t. But you can be sure your message is as strong and as compelling as it can be.

Tim Diering is the Vice President of Marketing at Summer Camp Design, a full service marketing and design firm. He can be reached at (800) 957-7175, at or visit . This summer Tim is also Camp Director for TTS Theater and Art Camp in Massachusetts.