Are Your Campers Returning?

How many of your 2016 campers returning this summer?

If you don’t know, it’s high time to find out.

Returning campers are essentially the low-hanging fruit for camp registration. These campers have already experienced (and hopefully loved) your camp, and now it’s time for them to come back for more. Rather than finding a lead, building trust, answering countless questions, and making a sale, returning campers need only to be reminded of the incredible feeling they had last summer. Shift away from new acquisitions (at least for the time being), and make last year’s campers your priority.

First things first.

Before you jump in, you need to know which 2016 campers have already signed up and which haven’t. Many camp registration programs make this easy. If yours doesn’t, reach out and ask if they have a solution, or work fast and figure out a way to determine this yourself.

Narrow your list.

If you can run a report with ages, it’ll save you work in the long run. Of last year’s campers who haven’t registered, who has aged out of the program? Cross those off the list.

Additionally, if there was a big blow up with a parent, or if you’ve already talked to the family and know why they won’t be returning, cross them off your list.

Get to work.

Ideally, you should be engaged with these campers and their parents year-round to help them stay involved with your camp. However, we’re rapidly approaching summer, so that may or may not have happened. If it has, great! You’re on the right track. If it hasn’t, do what you can now, and work on a communication plan for engaging different groups at least once a month for the next season. Joanna Warren Smith has an incredible communication calendar you can use as a jumping off point.

If you have less than five weeks until camp:

Send a mass email reminding parents about registration, then get on the phone! Call the parents and tell them your deadline is coming up or you’re close to filling up (if you are) and ask if you can make things easier by sending them a link or registering them over the phone. Put everyone in your office on this. Make sure all of those 2016 campers who haven’t registered yet (and meet your criteria for this year) get personal calls.

If they’re not interested in registering, this is a great time to find out why. You don’t want to be pushy here, but it’s an opportunity to find issues that might need to be addressed for this summer. Hopefully, you’ll have gotten that information from surveys at the end of last summer, but sometimes parents hold back. Who knows what you’ll find!

If you have more than five weeks until camp:

If you have time, design a postcard with some great pictures of last year and a message such as “Don’t miss out!” or “We’ll miss you!,” and send it to the campers.

For the parents, take a two-prong approach: email and phone.

Create your own mini communication plan for the next few weeks. Plan out what you’ll say each week (make sure the information is valuable to parents and not just register, reigster, register), and start sending. You could talk about changes, introduce staff, explain the benefit of camp, or use a different idea. Make your camp seem valuable to the parent and worth the expense. Don’t forget to include a button in each email to make it easy for parents to get to your registration site.

In addition to email, pick up the phone! Call the parents of those campers and ask if you can make the registration process easier by doing it over the phone or sending them a link. Like I explained above, take this opportunity to ask “why” if people aren’t returning to camp. You could get valuable information.

Lastly, if you have the time and funds, consider running a Facebook ad targeting these parents. You can upload a list of their emails under “custom audience,” and make it easy for them to click and register. This should be a side project. It’s definitely not the best or most effective way, but it may pick up a few stragglers.

Tips for Calling

When you get ready to call the parents, make sure you have some background information. Know their child’s name, age, and anything else you can remember. If you group your sessions by ages, make sure you already know which sessions their camper could attend.

Don’t be afraid to ask! Calling and asking parents to register can be extremely nerve-wracking for people who aren’t sale-sy, but it will be okay. The worst they can say is no, and then you can move on.

If others are calling for you (or if you’re nervous), make a general script. Obviously, each phone calll is different, but having a good start and the answers to a few questions written down can help making the call go more smoothly.

Go forth and get those 2016 campers!

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