How to Master the Double Challenge of Reaching Parents AND Kids, Part 1

You know that to market your program, you always have to keep the needs and desires of your audience at the forefront of your mind. But youth directors face 2x that challenge: your audience includes kids AND parents. So your marketing efforts must speak to both groups.

Read Spring Fling or Summer Romance, a new camp parent’s thoughts on how program directors can build lasting loyalty with kids AND parents.

First up, let’s talk parents. Later this week we’ll discuss marketing as it relates to kids.

Since your parent customer increasingly falls in the camp of the Millennial generation,we have some good news to share about your parent audience and ideas for capitalizing on current trends.

Millennial parents seem more interested in experiences than products.

Forbes reported on a survey from Harris Poll that found 78% of millennials would rather spend money on experiences than goods. “Reinforcing that point, 72% of millennials said they want to increase their spending on experiences … in lieu of physical things,” the article stated.1

Though Forbes also recognizes the conflicts related to the research (Ticket-selling company Eventbrite sponsored the survey, for one.), the article connected the Millennial rush for experiences to the well-documented “fear of missing out” (FOMO) often exacerbated by social media.2

Why it Matters to You: Since camps and schools are in the business of selling experiences, you can leverage this trend – first, by doing what you do best and making sure kids have a blast learning and growing in your program. But here’s another idea:

Marketing Takeaway: Create points of connection with your parents through e-mail and social media when their kids are not currently enrolled in your camp, classroom, or sports clinic. The goal is to expand your customer experience so that they think about you in the off-season. Last fall we wrote about how to create a 10-minute, online “pop-up camp” using interactive video on Facebook Live. You also can offer giveaways – like gear and discounts for the first families to register for your programs. With this marketing approach, you appeal to parents with your experiences in your offseason as well as your busy season.

Millennial parents care more about personal recommendations than clever advertising.

Marketing in the 21st-century does not have to be slick and expensive. You just need to create a fan-base that will spread the good news about your brand. According to Entrepreneur magazine, “Roughly 95% of millennials say that friends are the most credible source of product information.”3

Case in point: I heard this story from a personal friend last week. A woman posted a photo of her bad dye job on a community Facebook group asking, “Please, help!” My friend’s hair stylist was recommended. When the stylist transformed the woman’s tragic “before” photo to a glamorous “after”, she posted the photos side-by-side. That’s all it took – one recommendation, one picture worth a thousand words – and now the stylist’s phone has been blowing up with requests for expensive color treatments.

Why it Matters to You: More than likely, you’re not a marketing expert. (Neither was the hair stylist!) And you probably don’t have the budget to hire a fancy advertising agency. Your expertise is reaching kids – and by proxy, their parents. Parents love to brag on anything and everything that works for their kids.

Marketing Takeaway: Erin Sagin at the Wordstream blog says it well: “First things first, it’s critical to ensure you are giving all of your customers the best experience possible. In a world where anyone can take to social media and broadcast their dissatisfaction to thousands, every interaction with your business counts.”

Broadcasting dissatisfaction is the flip side of the social media marketing phenomenon. We’ll go so far as suggesting that before you do anything new, review your current processes as closely as possible. You want “to understand your customers’ experiences and brainstorm new ways to delight them with your services,” Sagin says. “Sometimes tweaking the smallest details can make a profound impact.”4

See how Virgin Airlines does delights customers.

Customers want to be educated, advised, and helped – not sold to.

Now that customers can so easily research any product or service, they come to a salesperson in a much greater position of control, says Mark Keeney, a marketing executive who discussed millennials in Forbes magazine. He says this change has shifted the salesperson into more of an advisor role than an educator.

“… the millennial shopper today wants to be shown and equipped with an understanding of the product category before coming to a conclusion,” Keeney says. “Millennial customers expect brands and service providers to stand for more than their bottom line. When they feel like a brand genuinely cares about them and not just the dollars they are spending, they will quickly develop an affinity for the brand and build brand loyalty.5

Why it Matters to You: As a youth expert, you’re already in this business because you care about kids and parents. And you already believe that your program can help kids and families grow. So this approach to marketing is a no-brainer for you. You already care; you just need to make sure that you’re communicating it.

Marketing Takeaway: Present information in an unbiased and authoritative way. Make sure you have some current research on hand about why your program is worth a family’s time and money. Be prepared to share statistics measuring the success of kids with a relationship to your program’s emphasis – be it sports, nature, the arts, academics, etc.

You also should be collecting anecdotes that will engage parent emotions. Then commit to finding different ways to share both types of information – whether in person, through email, or on social media. And above all, always remember to listen. “Selling is 60% listening and 40% talking,” according to Inc. magazine. “When you’re having a conversation with a customer, your main goal is always to figure out how (and whether) you can help that customer.”6

Learn how an all-in-one camp management solution or class management solution can automate and streamline many of the interactions of relationship building.

Next, we’ll talk about marketing to kids. Stay tuned.


1Forbes: Millennials’ Zesty New Identity: The Burning Man Generation
2Psychology Today: Facebook and the Fear of Missing Out
3Entrepreneur: 3 Essential Tips for Marketing to Millennials
4Wordstream: Marketing to Millennials
5Forbes: How to Sell to Millennials:: Always Be Helping, Not Closing 5 Basic Principles of Selling


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About Gina Calvert

Gina Calvert is the Senior Marketing Writer for ACTIVE Network, providing marketing and business resources for active lifestyle organizations across a range of markets, including government, nonprofits, camps, schools and endurance events, for more than six years.