Speaking Her Language

By Michael Staires

One of the most common mistakes marketers make is to spend all their time and effort getting to know the product and very little time familiarizing themselves with the target audience. This often produces great-looking marketing materials, but, unfortunately, they fail to connect with the desired audience.

Camp leaders are especially prone to this mistake. They live and work in some of the most beautiful places on earth. They have a front-row seat witnessing lives changed at every outing, weekend retreat, or week of camp. They put so much of themselves into every aspect of camp, from raising money to fixing leaky water systems. It’s no wonder that when they sit down to write copy for a website or brochure, the information ends up being all about them and the things they love—the stuff they care about. But good marketing isn’t about connecting with the writer; it’s about connecting with the people who will be buying the product.

Targeting Mom
Authentic connection with an audience has to be intentional. Before writing effective copy or selecting compelling photos or videos, understand whom you are trying to reach. It’s long been affirmed that Mom is the primary decision-maker, deciding whether or not her kids will go to camp and which camp they’ll attend.

Women are a powerful force in the economy. The Harvard Business Review reports that women control almost $12 trillion in consumer spending worldwide. That’s 70 percent of the world’s total spending. The Wall Street Journal estimates that, in this country, 83 cents out of every dollar are directly spent or influenced by women.

But women’s purchasing power doesn’t stop there. The Consumer Generated Media and Engagement Study found that 75 percent of mothers will research a product before buying it. That’s actually about the same as men (74 percent).

But—and this is important—90 percent of moms prefer a product that has been recommended by other moms. That’s nearly double the amount of the average consumer. Based on that statistic, it’s clear that Mom is much more valuable than just a single consumer, bringing her own kids to camp. She’s also valuable because of all the friends she has … the friends she talks to and influences every day.

Missing The Mark
Here’s an example of a common mistake in camp marketing:

“At Pine Tree Christian Conference, we’re beginning our 10th summer of programming at Lone Mountain Camp, a rustic camp for kids. We’re pushing the envelope this summer with our brand-new 40-foot climbing tower! And don’t forget the ‘Screaming Mimi’—our 90-foot swing! Add to that more than 3 miles of lake shoreline and our traditional ‘Monday Night Muck Fest,’ and you’ll have a week of camp your kids will never forget!”

In reading that copy, you were probably able to track right along with the fictional Pine Tree Christian Conference and the camp’s efforts to describe its upcoming exciting summer. You can immediately figure out that Lone Mountain is a separate facility for kids operated by Pine Tree. You understand what “rustic” and “programming” mean within the camp context. You know all about climbing towers and giant swings. You understand all of the safety procedures and all of the fun that kids and adults have on those elements. The same goes for the “lake shoreline.” When you read “3 miles,” your eyebrows probably went up. “Hmm,” you thought. “Impressive. That’s a nice-sized lake.”

But think for a moment about what a mom thinks when she reads that paragraph, especially one who has never been to Pine Tree Conference Center or Lone Mountain Camp. She likely has no idea how these two organizations are related. Now look at all of the personal pronouns. This is what I call “we-we” copy. The copywriter doesn’t even mention “you” until the last sentence. Next? The exclamation points! Remember, hype is out; authentic is in. Be real and down-to-earth, and you’ll earn points with Mom.

What else misses the mark in this copy? Mom may begin to get a little concerned when she reads the word “rustic.” Then she reads about a climbing tower and a giant swing. The only things she can think about are safety issues, the staffing of these elements, and the security during downtimes. The same goes for the lake. In Mom’s mind, “3 miles of lake shoreline” easily translates into “3 miles of an unsupervised danger zone.” And unless she’s been to PTCC, she has no idea what a “Muck Fest” is. She only knows it sounds bad and certainly not worth the price you’re asking for camp.

Most moms will not take the time to understand all of this. They will simply move on to the next camp that pops up in a Google search.

The problem with this copy is that it was written by camp people, for camp people. Or it was written for people who have come to Pine Tree Christian Conference for many years and understand the language. But these folks weren’t the intended target audience.

Making The Connection
Before sitting down to write copy for a website or brochure, you have to understand what Mom cares about. What are her concerns? In what context will she “consume” your materials?

When I prepare to write copy for a camp program, I sometimes go so far as to print a photo of an anonymous “mom” that I can tape to the side of my monitor while I write. I then create a fictional persona that fits the image of the mom I have pictured. Who is she? I give her a name. How many kids does she have? Is she married, divorced, widowed? What kind of car does she drive? What are the things she cares about? Why is she looking for a camp experience for her children? What are her expectations?

Once I have this back story, I begin to write directly to her. I write about her needs, and the things she cares about. I keep the hype to a minimum, and am careful to limit the personal pronouns in the copy, such as “us” or “we.” If the copy is to connect with her, it has to be about the things she cares about.

So, with this in mind, I write about safety and explain who the counselors are and describe the way they were selected, carefully trained, and certified to do their jobs. I’ll select great photos that show strong relationships and the kids having wholesome fun together. I’ll have other moms’ testimonies that will drive home the lasting value of a great camp experience. I might even include their stories, even contact information (with permission), so potential camper parents can contact them about the camp.

When it comes to printed pieces, I might even create a separate brochure specifically designed for one mom to pass along to another. If 90 percent of moms make purchasing decisions based on other moms’ recommendations, it seems only natural for camps to think about creating more marketing tools for moms to pass along to their circles of influence.

Moms are a powerful force, not only in the economy but in local communities. Camps that can speak directly to Mom about the things she cares about will find a much better connection, and that connection will translate into more campers. When you can give Mom a buying experience that answers all her questions and ultimately results in her kids having the time of their lives, she will certainly tell her friends.

Michael Staires has been involved in one aspect of camping or another for the last 30 years. He now splits his time as a writer, presenter, and communications consultant. To engage, contact at mstaires@gmail.com.



Four Common Mistakes When Marketing To Women

1.      Low prices are the most important thing to her. There are two types of buyers—transactional and relational. For the most part, women will almost always prefer relational over transactional buying based on low prices only. Women want connection, especially in a buying decision involving their children.

2.      You are marketing to her and to her alone. The next best thing to blessing a woman is blessing those she loves. When you provide a remarkable experience for her children, she’ll talk about you to her friends.

3.      She’s “thinking pink.” Not all women are “girly-girls.” When you design your materials to connect with Mom, don’t think it’s as easy as changing out the colors for a more pastel palette. Moms are a diverse bunch. Choose a more neutral palette, allowing the photos, videos, and copy to make a direct connection to her.

4.      She is too busy or too distracted to care about the details. Do some moms care about the floor plan of her son’s cabin or the menu at camp? You bet. The more details about a week of camp that you can provide on your website, the more Mom will appreciate it … and tell her friends.