For as long as we have been able to speak, we have been relying on other people’s recommendations to help us decide on just about everything from where to go on holiday to which film to watch at the weekend. It is natural and powerful and is a highly under used by many businesses which lose out on huge amounts of revenue as a result, Summer camps are no exception.
We have never been as connected as we are today in our Tech-driven society. Never before have we had the opportunities to reach our audience and never before have we had as much difficulty of being noticed. The advertising space is so crowded that standing out to make people listen is becoming harder unless you have huge amounts to spend on marketing, which most summer camps do not.
The good thing is that it’s not necessary to spend huge amounts to tell everyone how good you are. If you offer exceptional experiences, then your campers do this for you. They go away and tell their friends, share their photos and talk about their experience. They do it because it makes them feel good, that they have done something special.
Word of Mouth just happens. It has done forever, and it will do forever. What changes is the way in which word of mouth happens.
Most camps have a system like bring a friend to each receive a 5% discount. This is effective and easy and helps get enrolments at low cost. But if this is all you are doing for every referral you get you are probably missing out on between 5 and 10 others.
1. Understand referrals happen because of exceptional experiences, not just average ones. If the reaction after your camp is warm and not hot, then you need to focus on making sure everyone has the best time possible. No one will mention you if it was only OK.
2. Get your influencers on your side. Launching a referral program in the right way is key to having your camp promoted effortlessly for years to come. Clearly explaining your system, why you have it and how they can be involved is key.
You don’t want it to sound salesy or gimmicky. Think about why you are doing it and not just to save yourself a load of time effort and money. Focus on the benefits it brings to your campers like bigger, better camp experiences for all if you help us grow by spreading the word about our camp.
Don’t lead with the incentives, this is just an additional reason not the only one! This is important as the main reason people refer is to feel good, not to get a free t-shirt!
3. Use postcards to get referrals offline. Your participants can share them with their friends inviting them to join the camp at a special discounted rate using the postcard.
4. Use an online referral system. The beauty of our digital world is that everything is easy to track so using a referral software does it all for you and brings a huge amount of web exposure for relatively low cost.
This is usually done in the form of unique URL’s which are shared and anyone clicking the link can be rewarded along with the person who owns the link. This allows each stage to be tracked and rewards given accordingly.
Uber, Dropbox have used this extensively and have grown exponentially as a result.
5. Use an offline and online system which works together. For example link sharing or using QR codes on postcards which sends traffic to your website is very effective in turning offline to online referrals. Those who follow them receive a discount along with the person who has sent it.
6. Incentivise and reward each stage of the process. Most camps work on a funnel which looks like traffic on the website, lead, enrollment.
Selecting the right incentives by understanding that parents and kids are motivated in different ways. Parents tend to be more interested to receive a discount where kids are more interested by free experiences like wake boarding sessions or merchandise like hoodies etc.
7. Make it easy for people to leave reviews. Whether its on Google, Yelp, your website etc. Think about a way of easily collecting reviews and rewarding those who leave reviews for you.
8. Leader boards. This is a nice and effective way to promote friendly competition and keep motivation high. Sharing each month who has ‘won the month’ with a reward can be a fun way to remind everyone to keep on sharing.
9. Invest in an online system to manage it all for you. There is so much admin already that any extra is a burden. You need a program which is automatic and runs without you doing anything. This is when choice of your system is crucial to minimise the time you spend working out who deserves what.
There are several referral platforms to choose from and the key things to focus on are:
Word of mouth is the oldest and most effective way to get new customers whatever business you are in. With an ever-changing business landscape we have to adapt to the ways in which conversations are happening whether its on Facebook, Instagram, we-chat or the next social platform.
By adapting and utilising Technology to maximise Word of Mouth we can look forward to filling our camps on autopilot without wasting money on ineffective marketing campaigns. This allows us to focus on creating the best experiences possible for the children.
Summer Camp Director and CEO of Camp Tree
‘The most effective way to grow your camp by harnessing the power of word of mouth.’