During my years as a marketing director for an after-school program, I had to shift gears every summer. A summer camp marketing plan is dramatically different from getting out the word for activities during the school year. 

In nearly every city and town throughout the U.S., and likely beyond, there are scores of summer camps that compete for the attention and hearts of children and parents alike. The goal for my nonprofit and for every person I know who ran summer camps is to max out enrollment. 

To do this, you must create a comprehensive strategy that helps your communications team roll out summer camp marketing to reach prospective parents and fill up every week with excited kids.

Don’t make the mistake of waiting until the last minute or “just winging it.” You’ll do yourself — and the parents who will rely on your services — a favor by planning how best to share important information like sign-up deadlines, program highlights, and services parents can expect.

The five must-haves in your summer camp marketing plan are:

  1. A mobile-responsive camp website
  2. An email campaign to engage new and existing families
  3. Consistent activity on at least one social media channel
  4. Up-to-date online listings
  5. An easy way to share your camp plans with parents

It doesn’t matter if you’re offering daycare for toddlers of working parents or a sleep-over camp for pre-teens. Whether your summer camp features arts and crafts, sports, academics, nature hikes, or a mixture of everything you’ll want to read on.

Increase enrollments and keep families informed with expert advice and all the tools you need, in one place.

1. A mobile-responsive camp website

Hopefully, your agency already has a website that provides an overview of your mission, history, and programs that take place throughout the year. Every modern organization should have a website of their own and not rely simply on social media or, worse, printed materials.

It’s also important that you create a landing page that’s specific to your summer camp. This makes it easier for parents to find the necessary information they’re seeking when comparing camps. Include SEO-optimized content, including keywords that parents may type into search engines to look for camps like yours.

Your summer camp landing page should include locations, prices, activities, and answers to frequently asked questions.

Make sure the website is mobile-responsive. This means that it functions just as well when viewed on a smartphone or a tablet as it does on a laptop or desktop. Parents are especially busy these days, and they may want to check out your summer camp program while waiting in line at the grocery store. If they can’t see your site, you may miss out on filling a slot.

2. An email campaign to engage new and existing families

If this isn’t the first summer your organization is holding a camp, you have the opportunity to be ahead of the game — but only if you have a way to directly connect with the existing families who’ve already had a positive experience. To connect and engage with parents who already know of your services, you need to get their email addresses to add them to your email campaign.

It’s the same for new prospective parents who you might meet in networking events or who are searching independently for a camp for their children. Use a sign-up tool on your website and your social media. Make it your call to action on any posters and flyers you hand out in the community. 

A direct email will keep your program top of mind as parents make these important decisions. Plus, by adding a button, you can encourage parents to “forward to a friend.” That way, they will be helping their friends while also assisting you in your summer camp marketing plan.

3. Consistent activity on at least one social media channel

Social media can feel overwhelming. Staying active on social media can take up a lot of time, which is why starting with just one primary platform can help you focus. Determine where your prospective parents are — these days, it’s likely Instagram or Facebook — and schedule posts in advance.

By encouraging new and existing parents to follow you on social media, you have the opportunity to show them how much fun their kids could have every day through your summer camp marketing plan. 

If you have the budget, you can increase your social media reach with paid advertisements that target parents near you.

An important note for this industry: Never post photos of children’s faces unless you get the written permission from parents. This goes for working with local media, too. Some families have good reasons for staying out of the spotlight, and you must respect this.

Include a written permission slip for photos with the intake forms, so you know in advance which families are uncomfortable with photography. If a few parents are comfortable with pictures, consider hiring a professional photographer to get some strategic photos you can use in your advertisements, email newsletters, and annual report.

4. Up-to-date online listings

Most parents do their due diligence about which programs are most engaging and fun for their children, which doesn’t mean just talking to their friends. Today, parents go online to listing and review sites to determine what people think about your services. To get ahead of the competition, get proactive.

Ensure your organization claims, monitors, and responds to listings and reviews on Google My Business, Yelp, and Facebook Business pages. Respond professionally and quickly to any review, good or bad. Show parents that your organization cares about their feedback and seeks to resolve any concerns.

Talk to parents to see if they use specific sites like SummerCamps.com to look for camps like yours. If yes, make sure yours is listed.

There may be camp-specific listings in your community, as well. Ask the parents who already support your program where they look for their information and include these sources in your summer camp marketing plan. These may be local parent-focused magazines, newspaper inserts, or online calendars for family events. 

5. An easy way to share your camp plans 

Your summer camp marketing plan isn’t complete without an easy way to share your program’s details with parents. It’s worth creating a well-designed, branded outreach plan that can be updated if the weather or unforeseen events change the schedule. 

You’ll know what method works best for your situation, but it could be:

  • A PDF linked to the summer camp landing page
  • A weekly printed flyer
  • Regular email updates
  • Videos of camp staff sharing highlights on social media

Whichever outreach method you choose to share your summer camp plans with engaged and prospective parents, stay consistent. You’ll want to show families that your organization is as reliable with their children as you are with your summer camp marketing plan. Regular posts will allow parents to create a routine in the notoriously routine-free summer months.

Start early when it comes to a summer camp marketing plan

Whatever you do, don’t wait until the last minute to begin executing your summer camp marketing plan. Many publications have surprisingly early deadlines, and families create their summer vacation plans long before school is over. Make sure you’re ready to share the details of your program at least one or two months before camp begins.

In the meantime, you should also check your program’s comprehensive marketing plan. Start by reviewing Constant Contact’s The Download. This is a free guide focused specifically on child daycare programs that can help you present your organization in the most professional and trustworthy manner during the summer and throughout the rest of the year.