According to Statista, on average, people spend only 10 seconds looking at a marketing email. This means that email marketing for summer camps is more than just writing text, clicking send, and repeating. Email continues to be one of the most important ways to communicate with your customers, and this post is geared toward helping you create a sound strategy so you can stand out in crowded inboxes.
Strike the right balance – know which emails to send and when
Whether you’re a for-profit camp or nonprofit organization, the emails you send are likely to fall into two main categories.
Set up your transactional emails
Transactional emails focus on accounts, financial transactions, or important tasks. These emails should be short and don’t need images or overly-designed headers. They should focus on a single task at a time, prominently display due dates, and clearly outline necessary steps in short bullet points.
You will also send transactional alerts for times when forms are due or overdue, reminders about payment schedules, or information about issues that have come up before or during summer. To do these right you should:
- Write a clear and direct subject line
- Get straight to the message without creative intro text
- Focus on a single topic, need, or issue
- Be clear about the next steps and direct recipients to a page on your site to get more information
Set up your marketing emails
Keep your parents and campers in the know (and increase your top-of-mind awareness on a regular basis) with marketing emails and newsletters. At Campminder, we focus on creating content (like this post!) that helps our clients. As a camp director, you might focus on content that regularly reminds your parents and campers of the impact of camp and that provides updates on new things happening. A few examples are:
- Monthly newsletters
- Seasonal updates
- Alumnus of the month
- Staff intros
- School-year events
One very important thing when creating your marketing emails is that they should always drive traffic to your website as opposed to giving all information within the email itself. Even emails with more content should have a hierarchy with bold headlines, smaller subheads, brief text, and buttons. Not only does this make your emails more digestible, but it also sends people to your website, where they have the opportunity to click around and learn more about your camp.
Subject Lines and Preview Text
Use attention-grabbing subject lines and clear, concise copy to make your message stand out. Keep subject lines to fewer than 45 characters and avoid excessive punctuation marks.
Preview text length should range between 40 and 140 characters, depending on your message. The preview text adds value, expands your message, makes it clearer what the email is about, and helps get the recipient to open it. One common practice is to put a reference to the CTA in the preview text. Another good practice is to use the preview text to summarize the content of your email campaign.
Pro-tip: Emojis in subject lines are ok, but only in moderation.
Avoid Spam Filters
Spam filters are programs designed to identify unsolicited or dangerous emails so that mailbox providers can stop those messages from reaching the inbox. There’s not a 100% way to avoid all filters, but here are two tactics that can help.
First, you should use a recognizable sender name and email address. Use name@ instead of info@, because an email that comes from a person’s name or email address helps with spam avoidance and typically garners higher open rates. Even director@ or registrar@ are better than something more generic.
Second, avoid using trigger words in subject lines that may be flagged as spam, such as “free” or “urgent.” If you need to use deadline words in subject lines, you should save the urgent messaging for when it’s real, such as when health forms are due or campers need to bring specific items to camp on special days.
Pro-tip: Back to those from email addresses, you should never use a “firstname.lastname@example.org” address. Some spam filters and firewalls find “no-reply” email address handles to be spammy and will punish senders that use them with a higher spam score.
Test, test, and test again
Even if you think you’ve covered all your bases, we can’t stress enough that testing your emails before you hit the send button is absolutely critical. This is because new features (like dark mode) are being implemented on browsers and devices all the time, so what works one month may need adjustments the next. This free tool allows you to paste your email code and view your message in dark mode to make sure it’s legible.
Once you’re confident that the emails will render correctly, always send test marketing emails to key members of your team and have them review, test links, and give feedback.
Pro-tip: Typos, broken links, or photos that render incorrectly will negatively impact email marketing, require more work on your end to send corrections, and can give an unprofessional impression of your camp. Check those details as well.
Web-Safe Fonts and Photo Formats
For an overall professional look to your emails, don’t use more than two different fonts. It’s okay if you use more than one size of the same font, but sizing is another important reason to view test emails on mobile devices. You want to make sure your text isn’t so large that it requires endless scrolling.
Email-safe fonts have the highest likelihood of being installed on the widest array of computers and devices, and of being recognized by most browsers and email clients. Using them in your emails means that your email font is less likely to be altered and display with incorrect line breaks. The following fonts are considered to be both email-safe and web-safe:
- Courier New
- Lucida Sans Unicode
- Times New Roman
- Trebuchet MS
When you format your photos, keep these guiding principles in mind:
- Photos should be 600 pixels wide and between 350 and 400 pixels tall
- The file size should be smaller than 1 MB. You can compress images online at sites like this.
- You should always include descriptive alternative text. This is important in instances where email settings don’t download images automatically. Otherwise, it’s just a blank rectangle with no context.
- If you don’t have photos of your camp, you can find free stock images at Unsplash and Pexels.
Track open rate in email marketing for summer camps
Tracking your marketing email performance can help you refine everything from what time of day you send, how often you reach out, and the order of the information you include.
Not only will this help you avoid over-emailing, but it can also help lay out the photo/video/story content you want to capture in summer, which will round out communications throughout the year.
For subject lines, you can try these different approaches to see which works best:
- Transparency (Check out our new dining hall)
- Humor (Same food, new location)
- Mystery (Can you guess which building we rebuilt?)
- Consistency (“March Updates from Camp _____ )
When it comes to open rates, monitor what works based on the days of the week and times of the day. Consider holidays, and don’t send emails when people’s crowded inboxes can lead to them being ignored — right before or right after long weekends should be avoided. As you start to see which times lead to the most successful completion of your CTAs, you can build a calendar around that schedule.
Pro-tip: If you need your customers to complete a task, give them enough time to do so, but don’t send your email so far in advance that they’ll ignore it and forget to come back.
Hello, is there anybody out there?
We have three final pieces of advice when it comes to email marketing for summer camps.
First, deliver on your promises. If you tell your customers you’re going to reach out every week leading up to opening day, make sure you do. If you create a monthly newsletter in January, keep to that schedule. More isn’t always better, and quality certainly outranks quantity, but you want your recipients to expect and look forward to your outreach.
Second, don’t compete with yourself. Give time between sends so recipients don’t feel bombarded. Prioritize the most important emails and then fit in less time-sensitive messaging around those.
Third, don’t forget to brand your emails. Make sure your logo is at the top (and is hyperlinked to your website), your accurate contact information is in the footer, and you apply your camp’s unique voice to the text. The best way to determine if your email is written clearly is to read it out loud before you send it.
Refining your email strategy takes time, patience, and a lot of tinkering, but as long as email remains the best way to reach your audiences, it’s not something you should be winging. Your camp’s story is compelling, and intentional email marketing is one of the biggest ways to help your camp resonate with campers and parents alike, increase enrollment, and maintain the ongoing positive perception of your camp.