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7 Key Summer Camp Marketing Tactics to Boost Registrations in 2024

December 5th, 2023 | 5 min. read

By Kim Kovelle

A female camp counselor with three young girl campers learning how to kayak

Summer camp is an experience kids remember and parents relish. The good news is that camps’ popularity continues to grow post-pandemic. Even though camps have increased prices 35%, according to the American Camp Association’s latest data, demand has kept pace.

That puts camps in a good position — but also facing steeper competition.

Are you worried about your registrations? Summer camp marketing is a big part of the solution. Zoe Marketing & Communications has helped camps run promotions for 40 years, especially in the local metro Detroit and Chicago regions.

Here, we’ll touch on why consistent marketing matters. Then, we’ll dig into the seven essential tactics, including:

  1. SEO (search engine optimization)
  2. Email marketing to current and prospective campers
  3. Social media (both organic and paid)
  4. Digital listings and roundups
  5. Content marketing options
  6. Digital and print ads
  7. Camp fairs (virtual or in-person)

You'll feel more empowered about the best summer camp marketing methods to fill your camp in 2024 — and your next steps.

Consistent marketing makes you visible

Camp season might last only a few months, but it’s vital to stay in people’s headlights year-round. Word of mouth is potent, of course. But consistent camp marketing helps you control your message.

Focus on your past attendees

Think about how to entice parents of past campers to come back. Plus, consider their younger siblings: When they’re old enough, how can you convince them to join in, too?

Give your message emotion

Go beyond your programs, the ACA notes, and focus on your values: fun, leadership, adventure, integrity, exploration, character development, etc.

“Cultivate and tell excellent stories,” it adds. In text, photos and video, have past attendees share their new experiences, from kayaking to movie making — and excitement.

Keep your efforts steady

Again, marketing is a year-round effort. But pay close attention to these times:

  • November-January: Ramp up. This is an ideal period for early-bird specials.
  • February-April: Push hard. Promote your message often.
  • May-August: Send lighter updates to current/future campers to keep interest up.

7 top summer camp marketing tactics

A multichannel marketing approach yields the best results. Camps should focus on a blend of SEO, email, social media, digital listings, content, digital and print ads, and camp fairs.

1. SEO (search engine optimization)

When people search for “best robotics camps in southeast Michigan” or “overnight camps near Chicago,” are you showing up? This is just one part of SEO, or search engine optimization.

Throughout the year, focus on building quality SEO. A few questions to consider:

  • Is your website up-to-date? Is it easy to find info on your latest camps (or when you’ll announce it)?
  • Is your site mobile-friendly and easy to navigate?
  • How can people reach out for more info or to register? (In other words, have a clear form to fill out that’s easy to find on key pages.)
  • Do your pages and blogs (if you have any) include relevant keywords to help Googling people find you?
  • Do your pages load in 3 seconds or less? (People abandon pages that load too slowly.)

Your website is often the first place people “meet” you. Make a great first impression all year.

2. Email marketing to current and prospective campers

Your past campers’ email addresses are a gold mine (not to mention free marketing). Plus, powerful paid marketing methods can reach the campers you seek.

Organic emails

Who’s already in your database? Create a series of emails throughout the year — especially in winter and spring — to get them excited about the upcoming season. Try:

  • A quick message and fun image announcing camp; “registration open now”
  • Previews of new programs and special focuses
  • A personal letter from the camp director
  • First-hand endorsements from parents/kids who've been there and loved it

Paid emails

Targeted email marketing gets your message in front of hyper-focused audiences. You can hone in on location, their kids’ ages, household income and more. To stand out, highlight your “5 top camps,” for example, or a unique opportunity. The more specific and engaging, the better.

3. Social media (both organic and paid)

Where are you posting on social? It’s key to keep a regular stream of organic (i.e., free) content going — and to pay for ads to boost your visibility as camp season ramps up.

Not on social yet? Facebook and Instagram are usually good places to begin.

Organic social

Gather your best images, videos and stories, and create a calendar to promote them (a simple spreadsheet will do). Post weekly at first, the ACA says, and build up to four or five times.

Pro tip: Align this content with your emails and any ads or other campaigns.

Paid social

Social media ads let you target parents of kids of certain ages and interests (from camps generally to specifics like coding or hiking). Tailor your audience and your message.

Pro tip: Use “lead gen” forms to capture people’s emails right in the ad — especially useful for “learn more” ads. It saves them a few steps, and they’re more likely to fill it out.

4. Digital listings and roundups

Ensure your camp appears in as many relevant online directories as possible. They’re a savvy way to build your SEO and get more direct clicks to your website.

Start with the free options. Parenting media companies, for instance, often have roundups of local camp offerings. Some websites are dedicated solely to camp listings. They tend to have large followings and strong SEO, which helps your visibility.

Consider paying for an enhanced listing if a source seems especially aligned with your audience. Zoe’s sister companies, Metro Parent and Chicago Parent, both offer this option.

5. Content marketing options

Content marketing typically takes two forms: writing content on your website or teaming up with a media partner to put content on their site.

Sponsored articles with a media partner

Find out which local newspapers, magazines or digital sources reach your audience — and offer paid articles. It’s extra helpful if they have a camp-focused option that readers anticipate each year.

These articles build trust and esteem and help you stand out. 

Content on your own website

Start with compelling, quality descriptions of your camp offerings on your home page and landing pages. Think: What would parents want to know? Get detailed:

  • Explain the experiences kids will have
  • Be crystal clear on dates, times, ages, costs and location
  • Specify if there’s before- and after-care

From there, if you have the resources, consider writing blogs about your camp. Again, focus on quality topics — aim to answer parents’ top questions — and at least 500 words a pop.

6. Digital and print ads

Ads have a broad reach and can help lift your credibility, both online and in print.

Digital ads

You can get really specific and targeted with digital ads. These options are worth exploring:

  • Social media ads: Again, they’re a great way to spread awareness and gather emails.
  • Programmatic ads: These designed ads appear on different websites and apps for people whose browsing behaviors and interests align with your camp.
  • Search engine marketing (SEM) ads: These ads are both image- and text-based. Google Ads delivers them to people searching for keywords connected to your camp.

Print ads

It’s also worth investing in media that offers camp-specific advertising at certain times of year. Some, like Zoe, offer packages with both print and digital options. The enduring perk of print is that it offers extra credibility and can feel more reputable.

7. Camp fairs (virtual and in-person)

Finally, reaching parents directly at camp fairs can offer a personal connection, including actual face time with parents and kids at in-person events (virtual events sometimes do, too).

These events typically require some staffing time commitments. But they can pay off with direct relationships. Search for the fairs that best serve the audience you want to reach.

Next steps for successful summer camp marketing

Parents and kids are hungry for summer camp — and, with a layered marketing strategy, you can increase the odds they register for your camp. In particular, SEO, email, social media, digital listings, content, ads and camp fairs are part of an effective strategy.

Need a little support? Talk to us. Zoe Marketing & Communications will put our 40 years of experience promoting local camps to work for you to get you best results.

Still exploring your options? Read our in-depth blog on how to set a marketing budget if you’re just getting your bearings.

Still exploring your options? Read our in-depth blog on how to set a marketing budget if you’re just getting your bearings.

Kim Kovelle

As Zoe Marketing & Communications’ content manager, Kim Kovelle brings nearly 20 years of writing and editing experience in metro Detroit. She has strong roots in community journalism and a knack for making complicated topics make more sense.