Spring Fling or Summer Romance?

A New Camp Parent’s Thoughts on Creating Customer Loyalty

by Camarin Wanamaker

A few weeks ago, when the camp brochures started rolling in, our 7-year-old daughter Frankie said, “Mom, I don’t want to go back to Day Camp X. Please don’t send me there!” My heart twinged with guilt and a will to make her summer great this year. As both a parent and a professional working with camps across the country, I wondered what this camp could have done differently to win our attendance for another summer?

If you think of it like dating, there are 3 critical phases to ensure a second date:

1.    Before: First Impressions Count

How many hoops do parents have to jump through to “date” you? Registration is a prime testing phase for new relationships. Day Camp X’s process was paper-driven and confusing, requiring several trips to complete. Show parents you ‘get it’ by leveraging the automation of technology with a personal touch that reflects your camp’s brand.

2. During: Woo Us

Kids: Last year, Frankie started Day Camp X’s summer session a few weeks late. By that time, connections had already been established and she never felt included.  This risk period could have been mitigated by assigning buddies, alerting counselors, and emailing extra orientation collateral to us.

Parents: We don’t mean to forget swim day. It was bad enough that I had to reschedule meetings and trek home for Frankie’s forgotten swimsuit, but the well-meaning counselor who pointed out where I should have seen the reminder (on the checkout sheet), didn’t help. A reminder text that morning, an email the day before, or a take-home calendar for the following week to stick on the refrigerator would show you understand and care how much we’re juggling.

4. After: Call me, maybe

A post-camp survey (and follow-up) tells me you’re interested in a relationship. If there was chemistry, we can provide great quotes and references for you. If we struggled, we can be encouraged to give camp a second chance.

Day Camp X’s generic fliers that were identical to last year’s made me feel as if we’d never met. Compare that to one camp that asked campers to write a short postcard about their camp experience. When registration opened the next summer, the camp sent this note to the camper’s parents. It’s a thoughtful way to say ‘Remember all the fun we had together?’

I want Frankie to grow up with awesome camp memories, not ones that are merely satisfactory.  That’s why we’re still playing the summer camp field, knowing that her perfect camp is out there somewhere, waiting to embrace her.

Camarin manages the Youth and Education Account Management team at ACTIVE Network. She’ll be sharing her story and her insights about marketing to moms in an upcoming webinar. Join her:

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