Meet and Greet
Some of the best marketing you can do is to simply let parents and kids get to know you and your program.
Each of us has learned, some of us the hard way, that it’s no good to have a first-rate tennis camp or program, with the finest pros and the best facilities, if no one knows about it. You spend a great deal of time creating programs that you believe are the best they can be, but if you stop there and assume that because it is such a fine program people will be lining up to get in, you’re fooling yourself. In other words, you can’t drop the ball.Creating quality programming is the critical first step, but it’s only the beginning. You then have to ask yourself, how am I going to get the word out? And, no question about it, that’s going to take at least as much energy and creativity as any other part of your business.
Over the last quarter-century of running camps — which now reach thousands of kids each year in three states — we’ve learned how to market a program effectively. Here are some of the tips that we use to bring people into our programs.
Develop a Niche
The best place to start is by developing a unique niche for your camp, something that differentiates you from all the other camps, something that makes you “special.” Perhaps it’s your camper-to-teacher ratio, your award-winning instructors or your state-of-the-art equipment.
At our overnight camps, for instance, we maintain separate teaching and residential staffs, because, as we all know, being a great tennis pro does not necessarily qualify you to care for kids off the court. While this is certainly a greater expense for us, it says something about our level of commitment that not every other camp can say and, in the end, that’s what pays off.
Create an Image
The image or “look” that you create for your camp speaks volumes. Your logo should reflect the spirit of your camp and be appealing to your potential campers and their parents. And, since it represents you, consider having your logo professionally designed. It will be on all of your materials for many years to come, so the investment is well worth it.
Consistency in your brochures and collateral material makes you more readily identifiable to the public, and that’s what you want. People will remember the general look of an ad or poster before they remember the name of the camp. If your brochures, posters, banners and even your website all share the same look, people will become familiar with it and that recognition will automatically set you apart from others.
Use the Print Media
Most people, when they think of marketing, focus immediately on paid advertising, and this can be very effective — but also very expensive. However, it’s not the only method or even necessarily the most effective way you can use to promote your camp.
If you do decide to place ads, make sure that you’re getting the most for your advertising budget. For example, The New York Times is a very prestigious publication, but for my purposes it’s too much money for too little return, especially when there are so many other ways to go.
As far as print media goes (I generally bypass radio and TV advertising altogether), try concentrating on smaller, local publications and parent guides, as well as church and synagogue bulletins and school and community newsletters. Support activities in the community by placing ads in programs for school plays, concerts and charity events. Not only will you reach your target audience, you’ll also establish yourself as a business that gives back to the community, and that’s a winning situation all the way around.
Probably the most underutilized method of promotion is through press releases. Newspapers are always looking for good stories. Be your own PR firm and submit stories to publications that you think will be of interest to them — maybe about kids from their area who attended your camp last summer, or about the six sets of twins that are attending this year.
Don’t have an angle? Then create one. Be creative. Maybe you could invite a local celebrity for the day. There’s no guarantee that your release will ever be published or your event covered, but when it is, it’s the best kind of free advertising that there is.
Use ‘Guerrilla Marketing’
As important as all of these marketing methods are, it is impossible to overstate the importance of one-on-one, eye-to-eye contact with the public. There simply is no substitute.
I like to refer to this as guerilla marketing. Get in the trenches with the kids and their parents, learn about them and what they’re looking for. Not only will you educate yourself, you’ll develop a reputation as a camp that takes a personal interest in its campers, and all the ads in the world can’t take the place of that.
During the off-season, I spend a great deal of time traveling to meet with families of campers or potential campers. If you don’t have the time to do that, then make sure you pick up the phone (I always prefer that to e-mail) and make contact that way. Personally attend all the camp fairs that you can and shake as many hands as you can.
And don’t forget the camp referral agents. These are the people who provide to busy parents the service of researching and suggesting the right camp for their kids. You can find them in the Yellow Pages or look for their ads in the summer camp guides. Get in touch with them, let them know about all the wonderful things you are doing at your camp, and then stay in touch with them. They can and will promote your camp more enthusiastically if they feel they know you personally.
There are so many different ways to market your camp; you are limited only by your imagination. Hold a “Buddy Day” every summer when a camper can bring a friend for free. Sponsor a soccer or softball league. Donate a free week of tennis lessons to a community or school auction. Get the kids (and their parents) to talk to their friends about your camp, perhaps offering them a reduced rate for the next summer if their friends sign up.
Don’t be content to be “just” a tennis camp. Take that extra step and offer something more. Perhaps you could offer your campers programming on fitness and nutrition, helping them to understand that success on the court begins with a healthy body, or on how to prevent sports injuries, or even how to choose the best footwear.
Our joint venture with Canyon Ranch Health Resorts has certainly opened our eyes to the need to address the “whole child.” My experience has been that the kids and the parents are ripe for this approach to a smarter mind and body.
Finally, remember that you are asking parents to leave their children in your care, and no one wants to leave their child with a stranger. Take every opportunity to let parents get to know you and your camp.
Get your name out there with brochures, ads and promotions, but most importantly, get yourself out there and shake many hands.
See all articles by Julian Krinsky
About the Author
Julian Krinsky started his tennis camp 26 years ago with a dozen kids sleeping in tents in his backyard. Today, Julian Krinsky Camps and Programs, based in Haverford, Pa., comprises 12 different camps in three states, educating over 4,000 kids each year and offering programming in tennis, golf, business, enrichment, fitness and more. In his desire to create one-of-a-kind experiences, he has also partnered with other nationally recognized organizations such as the Wharton Business School and the Temple Fox Business School in Philadelphia and Canyon Ranch Health Resorts. If you have any comments or questions, you can e-mail Krinsky at email@example.com.