How Turning Inquiries Into Camp Registrations is Like Trying to Get a First Date

In a blogpost from last year entitled Spring Fling or Summer Romance, one of our Account Managers compared the camper/parent relationship to a romance. She described how the necessary steps to get a second date are parallel to getting campers to return for a second season and creating customer loyalty.Y

In the spirit of that metaphor, I’d like to explore how to turn that first spark of attention into a first date…or, in the case of camp, how to turn inquiries into camp registrations.

According to Joanna Warren Smith of Camp Consulting Services, many camps have “no protocols in place for converting inquiries into sales…beyond giving information via phone or email and sending brochures.”

ATTENTION GRABBING = JUST THE START

I encourage you to think creatively for a moment, drawing from your experience of dating. Attention is for a moment. It’s the sidewalk construction guy whistling or calling out “Hey, gorgeous!”

But between attention and exchanging phone numbers or asking for a date, there is a short but critical period of building interest, of giving someone a reason to keep paying attention.

FLEETING OPPORTUNITY

In dating, you can only exchange glances for so long. If a relationship is ever to take place, it will take compelling communication. In the camp world, when someone clicks, posts or calls for information, you now have not only permission, but a golden—and fleeting—opportunity to stand out.

Don’t think conversion/sale/date just yet. Think interest. You don’t know each other. You don’t know if you’re a good fit for each other. But he’s cute. She’s reading your favorite book. Something could happen.

What do you say that won’t end in a brush-off?

BUILDING INTEREST

Here are a few ideas (we’re switching back to camp, now!), depending on where the attraction first starts:

  • Web

People like to start with websites because, ideally, most of their questions can be answered anytime day or night, without pressure. And generally, they only stay for a few seconds if nothing catches their interest or the website is too slow or dated.

That’s why your camp website must be seamless and contain lots of well-formatted and error-free information (plus imagery and video) that is easy to access. If visitors do have questions, how can they get them answered easily? Do you have a freebie (i.e. Kids’ Guide to [Your] Camp?) they can register for that will capture their information? (Ask for name and email only, to begin with.)

If they complete a form, don’t bombard them with a bunch of emails, but do send a welcome/thank you email. Use the email to drive them to another source of information such as your blog (updated recently, of course) or social media platforms, including YouTube and Instagram. Most people engage more readily with visual input.

  • Phone

People are tired of terrible customer service. The corporate world has conditioned them to be extremely drawn to friendly, engaging, knowledgeable (and real) people. If they call, be that. PR experts recommend standing while on the phone. It will project a more energetic voice.

  • Mail

If you have managed to get an address, think about fun ways to use it besides just sending the camp brochure. Kids love to get mail. Send a postcard to “Future camper” with:

  • Fun facts about your camp
  • Tips for fitting into a new camp
  • Traditions, camp highlights and photos, or testimonials from previous campers/parents
  • A cute hand-drawn map of the camp complete with “you are here” footprints outside the camp and cartoon depictions of fun camp activities.

Make sure correspondence to parents isn’t generic. Include a personal note, addressing them by name and expressing your delight in their interest.

  • Social Media

More and more business is being transacted on social media platforms. Respond quickly to inquiries that come to you via Facebook messages or tweets. Your response time could be their test of your worthiness. As with phone calls, be engaging and helpful, and offer more than they asked for (i.e. “May I send you a brochure?”).

NOT INTERESTED?

Every next step of interest leads participants closer to a decision. A lack of interest may mean they’re not looking for a camp like yours, but it may just be that they’ve gotten busy. If someone drops out of the progression, you can attempt to reengage after a short period of time (weeks) and again, as next camp season approaches.

SUMMARY

These tips may not be new to you, but we encourage you to evaluate them in light of first impressions and building interest with those who have just noticed you.

Attention is the new economic currency. You have to grab that first. But what you do from there determines whether or not you get that date rise to the top of your ideal customer’s list of camp possibilities.

Your Turn: Do you have any tips for turning attention to interest and inquiries into registrations?