In this interview you will learn:
The importance of a full bodied marketing strategy to maximise camper enrolments
How you can start putting together you plan and strategy.
What Cheryl is advising her clients on how to deal with Covid.
Hello and welcome to this interview with Sheryl Goldstein and myself Duncan Robinson. Cheryl runs a business called campfire creative marketing and works for several camps, helping them with their marketing strategy and implementation. We decided to focus this conversation around the need for a full bodied marketing strategy, to plan for the future and how to go about putting that in place.
I’m sure most camps need summer of 2021 to be bigger than ever after losing ground this year. And we’re going to dig into all the ways you can really plan that and make sure next year is hopefully a much, much bigger than this year. So Cheryl, thanks very much for joining me and sharing your wealth of knowledge and experience with us. Tell us, what’s your connection with summer camps in the first place? How did you first start working with them?
So I, I first started working with summer camps way back when I was a little kid and I used to go every summer to summer camp. Um, so that was my first, you know, connection to camps. And then as I grew up and went off to college, I stayed in touch with all of my camp friends and those were always my best and fondest memories. So I went into the marketing industry and I’ve been doing marketing, um, in some way, shape and form for over 30 years. And as my career progressed, I always wanted to get back to doing what I loved and having that connection to camps. So I was finally able to figure out how to combine my love for camps with my professional passion. I launched campfire, creative marketing about three years ago.
Awesome. And you currently work with, with several camps across, is it mainly the States you work with?
Yes. Right now I work with camps in North America. Obviously I can work with camps anywhere since I’m based in South Florida and most of my camps are all over the country. So thankfully today’s day and age, that’s, you know, very easy.
Sure. And what sort of camps do you generally work with? What sort of size, what sort of day? Overnight. What sort of comes come to you needing to, needing help with the marketing?
I work with camps of all different sizes. I break camp, need some kind of marketing and every camp is unique so I’m able to really tap into what is unique about those camps, whether it’s a day camp, an overnight camp, a faith based camp, even some of the year round after school camp programs can definitely benefit from marketing. So I don’t, um, I don’t really, I’m not really specific to one type of camp. It’s just I am focusing my professional career now on helping camps in general. Yeah.
Yeah. And obviously marketing is such a broad, broad field. What sort of, what are the usual services or what are the usual problems camps come to you with needing, needing help with?
Well, you know, it’s, it’s really interesting because I’m able to look at camps from a completely different perspective because I have the experience of working with marketing and advertising for over 30 years outside of the camp industry. I’m able to take those skills and use them in a full body manner for camps. So I don’t, look at just one strategy. I really look at the big picture and I work with those camps to identify what their goals are and then put together a marketing plan for them, utilizing all of the different tools and strategies to reach those end goals.
Okay. So what’s, what’s the starting point? How do you assess where, where it compares with the marketing and what strategy they need in place? What, do you go and look for when you first, first, when it comes first comes to speak to you.
So a lot of times the camp will come to me and they’ll say, I need a brochure. And that’s great. And I can certainly do one brochure, but I don’t like to guarantee that that one brochure is going to hit the mark and be a huge success for them without taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture. So what I like to always recommend to my clients is let’s do a marketing audit. Let’s look at what you’ve been doing in the past and let’s identify the things that are really working for you and the things that haven’t been working at all. And then putting a report together based on that information. And I also like to look at and rely on research because marketing isn’t always a guessing game. It shouldn’t be a guessing game. You need to look at what your demographics are, what your target audiences needs and wants, are, look at what their buying habits are, their interests, and be able to really figure out where your cam fits into their lives.
And then, I like to do what I call a communication strategy session. And that is when we really sit down and tap into what your core messages and values are and what really makes that camp unique. Like I said earlier, every camp is different, you know, yes, you all offer community and you all offer friendship and all kinds of fun activities that are similar to one another. But every camp truly does have its own personality. And that’s what we really need to tap into and get to the bottom of. And figure out how those are the things that we want to sell to your audience to make them want to come every summer and to keep coming back.Sso from there, after we’ve identified those things, then we can start to really figure out what strategies we need to use to meet your end goals and then the fun starts and we can get really creative and start putting all of those ideas together to get those messages out there. And it has to be a blend. You can’t just rely on social media or an email campaign. You really have to use all of the different strategies to get your messages out there in order to continue to have that reach and that frequency that you meet.
So, it’s a process and I understand that it can be a little bit scary for camps because you know, camps have done things traditionally a different way and, um, you know, a lot of camps might not be able to just jump in and do everything at one time. Cause I understand we all have different resources. So, you know, I’m able to offer some different levels and um, have that big picture plan. But by really looking into what you’ve been doing, what’s been working, what your core messages are, and then how those can apply to the strategies you’re using is truly the essence of good marketing.
Yeah. And what have you found are the biggest challenges working with camps?
Well, like I just mentioned, camps are, uh, a tight knit community. They are very traditional and often times sometimes, you know, they’re afraid of taking some risks and some and some making some changes to the way that they’ve been communicating in the past, but you know, times are evolving and our families are, are changing with our society. So it’s important to sometimes take those traditions to the next level.
Yeah. And you say when you, when you come in and doing all the initially and you’re looking at what’s, what’s working, do you ever find that like the data collection that comes, is sometimes difficult to get hold of the right data? Do you find, you know, sometimes comes in not that good at collecting historical data about demographics and segments and all this stuff, which, you know, probably comes naturally to you as a marketer. But as a, you know, as a previous camp director, this was all new to me, and it was something I was having to learn on the job.
Yeah, a lot of times it’s not something that they’ve really wrapped their head around and really thought through, but I think that it’s really easy to not just take advantage of some of that primary research or the secondary research that’s out there like census Bureau data, you know, data or government funded research studies, that kind of thing, which is generally available online for free, where we can really find out, you know, who lives in those different markets, where the families are, what their income levels are, that kind of thing. But then to do some surveys and focus groups and stuff like that are always sort of an interesting thing to do. And it’s super easy to put together. Even, internally, uh, you know, by using, something like survey monkey and, and asking not only your campers and the parents, but also your staff.
What’s some of the things are that they enjoy about your camp, ways that you can improve your camp, things that they would like to see added to the programming, stuff like that. Just to get inside their head a little bit now. Actually it’s probably a really good time to do some of that because people have extra time on their hands. So it would be happy to help out by answering a few questions. So I mean some of it isn’t necessarily all that hard to achieve even if they haven’t been gathering that kind of data throughout the years.
Yeah, I mean I think that again, it depends on the resources of each camp and we can certainly look into things that have worked and things that haven’t worked in the past and, and make some adaptations to what they’re doing to see bigger results.
Sure. And when does it make sense for a camp who maybe traditionally they’ve done it all internally and you know, they’ve been doing okay, let’s say when, when would it make sense for them to think actually we need help from an external organization and need help with their marketing? You know, what, what’s this kind of, what’s the sign that they could really do with a bit of help?
Well, I mean I think that every camp could benefit from some form of marketing. Even if some of these larger camps that have waiting lists every year, they need to continue to stay relevant with their audiences. So marketing is going to benefit them as well. I think that now, um, we’re seeing a lot of uncertainty with the coven virus and all of the things that we’re facing and all of the unknowns. And now more than ever, it’s important for camps to be prepared because let’s face it, one of two things is going to happen, right? That are either going to be able to have summer or they’re going to have to start planning for next summer. And either way, they need to be prepared for what’s going to happen. So, um, they should be using this time not only to be figuring out what the new policies and procedures are going to have to be, but also what’s their next marketing move.
Um, and so if summer can’t happen, they’re not scrambling at the last minute to try to get ready for summer 2021. Um, and as they’re thinking about all these things and all the different variables about this summer, what happens if we are able to launch summer this year and open our doors for business? How are you going to get those kids to come? So by staying relevant right now and doing a few different incentives for families to sign up, knowing that they might be able to get a refundable, you know, put down a refundable deposit, but to save their space right now is a good idea for a lot of camps to start thinking about.
Sure. Yep. Just in case it all kind of happened and then everything’s in place for it to go full steam ahead. Exactly. Sure. And then on the event that comes can’t happen this summer. And then you mentioned getting a plan in place for next year. So where, where would you start with that? So, you know, it comes to, no doubt we’ll have a really limited resources, so even more limited resources next year. Uh, so where, where would you start with that? What advice could you give camps who are starting to think about next summer?
Well, um, I think that they need to be in touch right now with those families and stay top of mind. That way the struggle won’t be as hard to reach out to them. So by staying in touch with them virtually, like a lot of the camps are currently doing and by, um, you know, even tapping into their biggest fan base, which are the campers that have come back year after year and, and asking them to invite their friends to join in on some of these virtual activities to get some additional exposure would be a great idea. Um, I think that they can continue to highlight some of their unique camp attributes through blogs and some of their positive initiatives. Can be highlighted that way. And then I also think that they can consider right now doing some live virtual open houses where they can showcase their activities and they can even have a camper or a parent talk about their summer experience and then start getting all of their, um, marketing strategies lined up. So like your automated campaigns or your referral programs so you have them already to go and in the can. So as soon as you’re given the, okay, you can hit that send button. That way you’re not going to be missing any opportunities and trying to develop last minute ideas. So let’s get that stuff done now. So come, you know, whatever day it is going to be, whether it’s the middle of summer or the end of summer and you need to start planning and registering for summer 2021, you have those things already already to go.
Yeah, yeah. Fully agree. In the past, Cheryl, what were some of the best campaigns you’ve run for camps and what were some of the best results you’ve got? You know, what, what campaigns have really worked and what would you recommend other camps to try if maybe you’ve not tried it before? any new things that you’ve, you’ve tried with camps, which are working super well?
Well, like I said, I think that each camp is unique. So what works for one camp might not necessarily work for another camp, but I think that camps can really take advantage of some really unique grassroots marketing efforts and not just look at the traditional stuff. We obviously all need to be doing websites and social media. Um, but by doing some grass root marketing, you can really get a little bit more creative, have some fun and really showcase your personality. So instead of doing a traditional open house, for example, or a traditional tour for campers and families, think outside the box and think about like, how can you get those families in the door to have a fun day and then give them a softer sell on. So, for example, I don’t know, let’s say you’re a sports camp and you host a basketball shootout contest where kids can come from all over the community to compete for the day and win prizes.
And when they’re there, they see banners about your and signage about your summer program and you’re making announcements about your summer program and everybody leaves with a brochure about your summer program. And so you’re giving them a little bit of a softer sound and still exposing them to what your ultimate goal is. I think things like your referral program is another great grassroots marketing campaign that camps should be looking at utilizing, um, because those are the tools that are going to be more under the radar, that will reach more of the families that they’re hoping to gain.
Hmm. And until now it’s kind of more authentic way where it’s all value-based, it’s word of mouth, it’s based on great experience to the camp. So then yeah, that, that all gets passed on. Yeah. Yeah.
You know, ultimately to spread that, that friendship and community, that camp is all about. I mean you can, you can really get a lot of exposure and tap into that kind of stuff.
Hmm. Yeah. So are you advising camps at the moment, to virtual events and just use that as kind of community building and getting more and more families involved in that side each. So even if it doesn’t happen, you’ve still got a bigger, audience. Is that the kind of srategy you using with some of that camps to the moon?
Absolutely. I mean that was the, my first line of fire with my clients is, you know, there’s, I think it’s, this is a little bit different right now with the situation that we’re in with coven 19 obviously our marketing angle and needed to shift a little bit. You never want to do a hard sell during a time of crisis. So you’re not out there selling your summer right now. You’re tapping into the empathy of your end users and looking at what their needs are and campus, they’re in a unique position because we’ve already established those communities. So by offering some activities and you know, bringing our communities together during this stressful time is a great way for camps to spread some Goodwill and eventually that gives will, we’ll come back and in return, hopefully by summer 2021 you’ll have a whole lot of new campers filling your bumps and spending your days at your, at your programs.
Um, I think that can’t also, not only have to be so focused on the virtual activities because I think some camps have done a fabulous job and some camps are going over and above, but I don’t think you need to put that kind of stress on yourself to have to fill every day with some form of activity. I think you can stay in touch with those communities two or three times a week and still be relevant. I think camps also need to keep in mind that they need to stay in constant communication with their families, their staff, and their alumni right now. Um, you know, those audiences also are worried. They don’t know what’s going to happen. Just like we don’t know what’s gonna happen and they look to the camps as experts. And so it’s up to you guys to keep them informed and keep them in the loop.
So by hosting online question and answer sessions for those audiences would be a great way to let them see a familiar face and, and hear some comforting words from you by sending email and posting it on your website, having a dedicated page on your website with information about the situation right now as important. Um, and all of those things, uh, will pay off in the long run because the families are gone look back on this time and realize that, Hey, they were there for me, you know, and, and so I think that by staying on top of what’s happening right now is really the best thing that campus can be doing.
Yeah, sure. No, it sounds like a good plan and it’s, it’s such a challenging time for everyone. I mean, there’s just a, there’s real panic and it’s such a, you know, an industry completely affected by this. And I really feel for all camps around the world where all that work goes in through the year and then yeah, there’s potentially about the can’t run and yeah, it’s just a, it’s really, really heartbreaking.
For the camp professionals but it’s also heartbreaking for the campers and, and everybody looks forward to summer so hopefully, you know, we’ll all be able to stick it out. And, and summer I wore my shirt today in honor camp only, so hopefully spread some good camps, vibes and can still happen.
Yeah. Yeah. Well I’m sure all the parents will need to make a good break in the summer from that. Tell about homeschooling leading up to it.
No, I do
because I have the green lights, all that. Nothing that counts could be, could be completely round and you know, it’s a really good, a good point to have everything in place and ready for almost full capacity if they get the green light.
Exactly. They might end up having the best summer ever off. We hope so. Yes. We can only hope for sure. Okay. But again, if they stay on top of what they’re doing and they can, you know, even if summer doesn’t happen this year, it’s going to happen. There might be a new normal, there might be some different changes to the way camp is done in the future, but camp will be back again. So we need to stay on top of our messaging and stay positive
I was thinking about that. I think we can all learn a lot from this time and hopefully we’re using that time to, to develop into better human beings. Make the world a better place after all.
Yeah. Yeah. Cool. Yeah. No thanks. Thanks a lot. Show for all, your advice and, and information about that. I’m, if people wanted to find out more about yourself and your business, where can they go for that?
So my website is campfire creative marketing.com. I’m also on Facebook and on Instagram under campfire creative marketing as well. So, um, you can reach out. My email is on my website and I’m happy to answer any questions. Be a resource for camps right now during this crisis communication. Um, I have a lot of knowledge in crisis communication because of my years in the broadcast industry, so if any camps do need help with that, I’m happy to answer any questions.
That’s awesome. We’ll publish all that in the show notes as well. Um, but yeah, I saw the resources you publish for camps and it’s, you know, it’s really outstanding what the, you know, you offered to Campbellton and the service they can get from you. So yeah, thanks a lot for that. And um, you know, thanks for, for sharing all that. Thank you. And thanks for having me. Yeah. Pleasure. And uh, we’ll no doubt be in touch soon.