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Marketing for camp trends.

Effective marketing has the power to increase camper enrollment and profits and to solidify a camp's standing in the community, the camp industry, and society. To effectively market a camp, a camp director must define what services the camp provides to the community and identify the camp's place in the market. By using current trends and issues to determine a target market, a director can position a camp for growth in the twenty-first century.

Define a Marketing Strategy

Camps should have a marketing strategy that includes a marketing plan, a pricing strategy, and promotion and advertising ideas. The marketing plan should include the following elements:

* overall camp objectives (mission statement and goals)

* an assessment of the camp marketing environment

* a local community profile

* profiles of target markets

* marketing objectives for each target market

* marketing mixes for different target markets

* an implementation plan

* a marketing budget

* evaluation procedures

Camps today should define their target market. In the past, recreation service businesses have tried to appeal to the general public. This is a hit-or-miss operation. Defining a target market and determining a marketing strategy to reach people who will react positively to your product are better tactics.

By staying informed of current trends and issues, you can focus your marketing process. You can also control marketing expenses because you will not be marketing to outdated target markets or offering programs that people do not want. You can also determine the best tools to use to reach your market. Brochures, on-site visits, and past camper recommendations are effective marketing tools for informing target markets of overall camp goals.

One marketing strategy will not suffice for the life of a camp. Programs, campers, facilities, and budgets change. The marketing strategy should change along with the trends and issues that affect camp. Industrial and societal trends have the potential to change the overall goals of camp.

Specialty Programming

A trend in camping today is specialty programming. Camps with programs centered on one specific activity, such as sports, computers, arts, travel, survival, or horseback riding, are successful. Specialized programs help define a marketing niche. By deciding the specifics of the program to be offered, a director has defined what the camp does best. From this, a profile of characteristics describing the typical camper for the specialty program can be delineated; the target market has been defined.

Camps can focus their marketing efforts on this target market. The camp brochure, video, registration form, advertising, and presentations can be focused. All marketing tools can be written and produced for the target market. Each tool can be distributed according to the areas where the target market lives and frequents.

Keep in mind that camp programs are for children; you should be marketing to them. However, the parent makes the final decision and pays the tuition. Make sure your marketing tools are designed to appeal to and distributed to reach potential campers and their parents.

The Americans with Disabilities Act

The most widely known legal sanction to affect organized camping is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The act has impacted every camp's employment, enrollment, and accessibility. The ADA should not be viewed as a burden since it enables camps to serve a wider population. A handicapped-accessible camp opens up new target markets: disabled persons and senior citizens.

People with disabilities can be integrated into the regular camp program or special sessions can be held to address their special needs. And in light of the changing face of America, parents may be interested in sending their children to a camp that involves social interaction with a diverse population. Senior citizens can also utilize the easily accessible camp facilities, creating a second new target market. When marketing to ADA standards, explain the educational and social benefits of a diverse population in a camp setting.

Competing Recreational Experiences

Camp is just one form of recreation in an industry with many recreational experiences. During the summer, children can also play Little League baseball, travel with their family, or join community parks and recreation programs. Camps must find a way to sustain the interest of the summer season target market: children.

Camps are called upon to define their service to the community. To be successful camps must market their programs to demonstrate social and recreational benefit. Interactive marketing, the process of devising the best relationships with prospective participants, becomes important in these situations. Interactive marketing-tools for a camp may include on-site visits, camp reunions, presentations at community meetings, school meetings, and church meetings, arranged conversations between past and prospective campers, and personal letters.

Creative marketing is essential to get potential campers excited about visiting camp rather than staying at home. Activities that cannot be performed at home should be represented in marketing, for example, sleeping under the stars, meeting new people, exercising daily, taking responsibility for the care of oneself, gaining outdoor survival skills, and being away from home. Of course, camp is not the only medium to perform these activities, but it entails a unique combination of the list. By working with other camps, directors can develop a good reputation for the camp experience and in doing so create a strong market presence that will make camps competitive with other recreation activities.

Year-Round School

The idea of year-round school boomed in the 1970s as schools began to get overcrowded. Many variations have been developed, including twelve-month school years; nine weeks in school, three weeks of vacation; and twelve weeks in school, four weeks of vacation. These schedules present a threat to the summer camp experience.

To combat this threat, parents need to see that the summer camp experience is just as educationally beneficial as year-round school. Directors are pressured to define what education camp can offer in the summer, in addition to the traditional nine-month school calendar. Parents must see camp as an educational opportunity. This calls for camps to define the service that their programs provide. A camp may decide to reach the education target market. Environmental education and outdoor survival education are two examples of viable educationally beneficial programs.

The marketing strategy for these education programs is well focused. Parents concerned about their children's education are the target market. Schools are the main aspect of the information distribution system. The program education objective should be expressed as the most important reason to choose a specific camp program. A camp director should persuade parents to think education at camp is as important as education in the classroom. Parents should see camp as a necessary tool in the education of their children. Simply by deciding to address the issue of year-round school, a camp can define a program and a marketing strategy.

Programming for Seniors

By the year 2000, senior citizens are expected to represent 13 percent of the American population. Seniors are a viable market because they have expendable income, because not many outdoor social opportunities are available to seniors, and because many seniors are more active today.

Programming for seniors is not difficult. The same programs a camp usually offers, with a few physical and schedule modifications, will suffice. Seniors interested in a camp program are looking for an outdoor experience. Program objectives may be enhancing the quality of recreation time, learning new skills, interacting socially, and growing personally. Due to the Americans with Disabilities Act most camps should be handicapped accessible, making them manageable for senior citizens. Senior citizen programs can be offered any time, unlike traditional children's programs which revolve around the school schedule, so these programs can fill a void in off-season programming.

By deciding on a target market as narrow but far-reaching as active senior citizens looking for an outdoor social, educational, and recreational experience, a marketing strategy naturally follows. Marketing literature should present camp programs as opportunities for educational and social experiences. Program information can be distributed via community recreation centers, veterans groups, senior singles groups, and tour and travel organizations. Other elements of the marketing strategy will surface from the narrow target market and focused program goals.

Expectation for Accountability

Society has increased the expectation for accountability in many industries. This has specific implications for camp. The industry must prove it is beneficial to societal development to sustain itself in the recreation market. Camps are pressured to define what they provide to participants. Through effective marketing each camp should explain its role in character development, child development, education, socialization, environmental awareness, and personal growth.

Target marketing is important for this issue because a camp does not need to be accountable to the American public, just to the people it serves. By making clear the benefits of camp as a service to each target market, camps maintain a place in society.

Defining a target market serves many purposes. It organizes camp program goals and objectives and focuses the marketing strategy. By keeping aware of trends in society and the camp industry, camps can narrow their marketing focus and reach the group that will be most interested in their product. In turn, camps can continue to thrive in the new millennium.


Competitive pricing

According to data compiled in the Guide to ACA-Accredited Camps, the most common cost for a week at an ACA-accredited camp is $76 to $200. In addition, more than half of all ACA-accredited camps are priced between $76 and $350 per week.


Fill your camp to overflowing

The competition among summer opportunities continues to grow, and so is the number of camper-age children. Are you capturing your share of the marketplace?

When choice abounds, customer service is a powerful means of rising above the competition. According to Trend Letter, July 10, 1997, more than 85 percent of the United States population believes that their money entitles them to a higher degree of customer service than they currently receive.

If you haven't risen above the competition and exceeded these basic expectations, now can you delight your customers? Here are two ways:

* Stay focused. According to the International Society of Strategic Management and Planning, organizations tend to be more successful when they offer an extreme degree of one of these attributes: price, quality, location, service, or selection. Find and target the customers who seek one of these attributes. This approach works well if your marketing base is demographically and economically diverse and filled with a variety of competitors,

* Delight them. If you need to market to a fairly homogenous group, you need to find out what would delight your market The results of a five-year study of thirty companies(*) showed the less successful companies in the group based their marketing strategy on what the competition was doing. They focused on outperforming rivals. The high-growth firms in the study based their strategy on what customers really value and what it would take to win them over even without marketing, These firms make the competition irrelevant by offering customers higher value.

* "Value Innovation," by W. Chart Kim and Renee Mauborgne, cited in Financial Times.

Alicia Biddle is a student at Michigan State University majoring in recreation business.
COPYRIGHT 1998 American Camping Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:effective marketing strategies for future growth
Author:Biddle, Alicia
Publication:Camping Magazine
Date:Jan 1, 1998
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