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Marketing a Summer Camp in Metro Detroit: 7 Best Tactics for 2024

December 7th, 2023 | 4 min. read

By Kim Kovelle

A female camp counselor with five young kid campers holding bug catchers

Summer camp is a cherished tradition for families in southeast Michigan. In fact, most parents book a camp at least two months in advance, the American Camp Association reports. And they start searching as soon as November!

Luckily for camps, demand is high. But so is the race to get parents’ attention earlier than ever.

Marketing a summer camp in metro Detroit is a matter of timing — and the right tactics. We understand. Through our sister company Metro Parent, Zoe Marketing & Communications has helped camps reach engaged Michiganders for nearly 40 years.

So what’s it take? In this blog, we’ll touch on the best marketing mindset. And we’ll detail seven top methods to reach your best prospects, including: 

  1. Social media (free and paid)
  2. Online and print ads
  3. Local SEO (search engine optimization)
  4. Digital roundups and listings
  5. Email marketing
  6. Camp fairs and similar events
  7. Blogs and webpage content

By the end, you’ll better understand how to make your camp resonate with the metro Detroit market. And we’ll give you some marketing next steps, too.

Tips for setting a marketing mindset for 2024

Marketing your summer camp is a year-round endeavor — especially with earlier-than-ever demand. Through that lens, keep these perspectives top of mind: 

  • In winter, warm up. From November to January, update your website and offer early bird specials.
  • Around spring, step up. Intensify your marketing push from February to April.
  • Come summer, build excitement. From May to August, offer light and fun updates.

Plus, tailor your message to what millennial parents in metro Detroit value most. According to the ACA, this includes:

  • Spotlighting experiences over things. Highlight what your campers do and learn. Create an emotional connection.
  • Showcasing campers’ content, like parents’ or kids’ reviews, in their own words, or photo contests that invite engagement. It builds community and trust.

Then, once you have your calendar and message in mind, it’s time to tap into tactics.

7 top tips for marketing a summer camp in metro Detroit

Spreading out your marketing efforts in multiple channels is highly effective. Blend several options, including social media, ads, SEO, online roundups, email, camp fairs and content.

1. Social media (free and paid)

From Ann Arbor to Auburn Hills, southeast Michigan parents of camp-aged kids are on social — especially Facebook and Instagram. So be sure you’re active here, too.

For starters, create a steady flow of posts, photos and fun videos highlighting what’s in store at camp. This is your organic, aka free, content. A few things to keep in mind: 

  • Collect and share testimonials from parents and campers. 
  • Showcase success stories and memorable experiences.
  • Aim to post at least weekly, building up during peak spring months.
  • Plan and track what you’re posting (a spreadsheet works).

From here, harness your best content for paid ads. You can target them to parents of kids of certain ages, specific interests and locations (from the entire Detroit region to certain ZIP codes).

2. Online and print ads targeting metro Detroiters

Digital ads are a potent way to reach your ideal audience by their interests. Plus, tailored print ads in highly localized publications can also build your impact and credibility.

When it comes to digital ads, focus on this trio:

  • Programmatic ads, which appear on websites and apps for people interested in topics that match up with your camp
  • Search engine marketing (SEM) ads, which appear as text- and image-based ads on Google to those searching for keywords aligned with your camp
  • Social media ads — in particular, types that let people submit their emails to learn more (of course, be sure to have a follow-up email to send!)

When possible, pair this with print. Look for regional publications — especially those with camp-specific advertising packages, like Metro Parent in southeast Michigan.

3. Local SEO (search engine optimization)

Next, maximize your online presence to capture attention when parents Google “top-rated summer camps in metro Detroit” or “Ann Arbor day camps.” Getting hyper-local is essential.

Regularly update your website to reflect your camp’s offerings (or say when that info will go live). Ensure your site is user-friendly and optimized for mobile — a must for busy parents.

Also, incorporate clear, easy-to-find contact forms and weave in keywords that resonate with the community. Think: specific county and city names or popular regional activities. This can improve your SEO and make your camp more relatable and accessible.

4. Digital roundups and listings geared at metro Detroiters

Southeast Michigan parents are hungry to find enriching activities for their kids. Featuring your camp in online directories and local roundups is a smart, often free, way to boost your visibility.

Add your camp to prominent guides that cater to metro Detroit, such as summer camp roundups provided by parenting media companies. Ensure your listings are current. Include direct contact details, and highlight what makes your camp unique.

These roundups lend credibility to your camp, as they’re typically trusted sources of information for local families.

Also, look into paid listings with resources that seem particularly in sync with the region.

5. Email marketing to reach southeast Michigan

Email is an effective way to reach both returning and future campers.

Kick things off — especially from early November to January — by contacting past attendees. Pique their interest with referral specials and early bird discounts. Get them geared up with what’s new this summer and engaging words from other attendees.

Then, tap into targeted email marketing. With this paid tactic, you can reach prospects in the Detroit metro area, specific ZIP codes and more — even honing in on interests and kids’ ages.

6. Camp fairs and similar events in the Motor City

Camp fairs and community events are great opportunities to connect directly with families. 

  • In-person camp fairs: These are prime chances to meet parents and children and get a “feel” for each other. It’s a way to showcase your camp, answer questions and build excitement. Keep in mind you’ll need to commit to sending staff to attend. 
  • Virtual camp fairs: These can be a great option if you’re trying to reach families in areas that aren’t as close to your location.
  • Community events: Explore setting up a “booth” — or giving out flyers — at local festivals and family activities.

Offer easy opportunities for folks to sign up for more information, such as scanning a QR code to share their email. 

7. Blogs and webpage content

Last but not least, embrace your website as your top marketing machine. Your ads, emails and other efforts will all send your potential southeast Michigan campers here.

Give detailed info about what your camp offers on your home page and other key pages. Focus on experiences and be clear about the dates, costs and other offerings (like before- and after-care).

Experiment with other content tactics, too, such as creating engaging videos and blogs. Be mindful of answering people’s questions about camp, not just promoting yourself.

Next steps for marketing your summer camp to metro Detroit

A well-rounded marketing plan is key to filling your camp. In this blog, you discovered how social media, various ads, SEO, digital roundups, emails, camp fairs and content all factor in.

Looking for a bit of support on where to start — or which tactics are the right mix for you? Talk to us. Metro Parent can help you reach the right families for your camp with the southeast Michigan-focused Top Camps Marketing Campaign.

Still getting your bearings? Discover how to create a marketing budget to get your campaigns off to a sound start.

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.