Running a summer camp for children at your language school can be an excellent idea. It’s a great way to utilise classroom space that would otherwise go unused, can help you to build your reputation in new markets, and even develop a base of regular students that will return time and again to your school. Not only that, but it can also be an excellent source of revenue at a time of year when enrolments in your other programs may be slowing down.
Most top language schools usually begin their marketing campaigns for summer camps at least a year in advance, so whether you are starting a new program or looking to increase interest in an existing course, now is the perfect time to start thinking about ideas for summer 2018.
Read on to find out how to develop a solid strategy for your summer camp.
Defining the Audience of Your Language School Summer Camp
Like other language school marketing campaigns, clearly defining the audience for your summer camp will be crucial to ensuring success. For schools that otherwise cater to adult students, the key difference is that you will most likely be attempting to engage the students’ parents rather than the students themselves.
Parents tend to have certain concerns and motivations that may be less important to your average student, such as safety and supervision, and it is very important that your marketing materials address these specific needs. Developing a detailed target persona of a typical parent will help you to paint a clearer picture of them and engage them more effectively.
However, it is important not to discount the opinions of the child themselves. While they are not the ultimate decision-maker, many parents will look at programs with their children and take their thoughts into account when weighing up their options, particularly with older children. Ideally, your online content should speak to both.
Example: Middlebury Academy in Vermont offers immersive summer camp programs in five different languages for middle and high school-aged students. Its website is careful to include pages directed at both parents and students.
Another key question to answer is what markets you are targeting for your program. Most summer language camps will be aimed at an international audience, and possibly focus on a few key markets. If your program is new, targeting countries in which you already have a strong reputation or agency presence might make sense, giving you a solid foundation to build on.
Nonetheless, it’s important not to limit your efforts too much. Parents are much more likely to favour camps that attract students from a diverse range of countries and regions, as the experience will be much less immersive if the language being learned is not the common spoken language of the children. For instance, a summer English program that is mostly made up of Chinese students will be less effective, as students will be likely to speak in their own language with one another.
Example: Twin Summer Centres in the UK includes information about its nationality mix on its website, so parents can be confident their child will be in a diverse group.
It’s also important not to discount your local market in your promotional efforts, as recent immigrants will often seek extra language training for their children in order to bring them up to speed at school and help them settle better, and a summer camp in their new city could be ideal.
Keep in mind that parents may inquire on behalf of more than one child, often of different ages. So if you run a camp for students aged from 7 to 16, you may have one lead who is looking to enrol elementary school children and teenagers, and you need to be able to convince them that your school is the best option in both cases. The children will usually be from the same family, although it is not uncommon for parents to look to book their child into the same program as their friends, particularly with teenagers.
What Online Channels Should You Use To Promote Your Summer Camp?
Schools that offer summer camps in addition to other courses will often find it harder to gain visibility online. As part of a larger website, the pages offering details about your summer camp may be at risk of getting buried from an SEO standpoint, and you need to work hard on an ongoing basis to build your page authority. Optimizing your header and title tags, integrating keywords into your text, and building links with regular blog posts can help you to attract more traffic.
Paid search and social media advertising can also increase awareness of your course. Running PPC campaigns on search engines like Google, Bing, and Baidu can be a great option if you are not ranking for targeted keywords, and can improve your organic SEO efforts over time provided you attract good Click-Through-Rates (CTRs).
The targeting capabilities of social media advertising make it a potentially useful channel as well. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter will allow you to build custom audiences based on a user’s age, location, and even whether or not they are parents, so you can be sure that you are reaching the right audience.
In addition, your social media pages can be a very powerful medium for promoting a language school summer camp, and you should be sure to keep your pages regularly updated with plenty of photos and video content from previous programs, even during slow periods for inquiries.
This will ensure that you remain top of mind for parents, and posting regularly will also help you maintain your organic reach on social channels, as the algorithms of most sites favour brands that post frequently. If you run other programs during the year, you might consider creating separate pages for your summer camp, in order to distinguish it more from your other content.
Example: Bishop College School maintains a separate social media presence for its summer language camp.
Email marketing can also be extremely valuable. Through regular newsletters and nurturing campaigns, you can keep parents connected throughout the year, reminding them of application deadlines and other important dates, updates about new facilities or activities your camp is introducing, and even special offers like discounted rates for early applications or returning students.
While some of these elements should ideally be run on a year-round basis, others, like advertising, may need to be focused on specific times of the year when parents are likely to be searching for programs online. Still, it is best to start early, as parents sending their child to enrol in a program abroad will start looking far ahead of time due to the expense and travel arrangements involved.
Safety, Supervision and Care are Key When Promoting a Language School Summer Camp
When considering how to promote a language school summer camp, it is very much a case of safety first. Parents need to know that their children are in good hands, being supervised at all times, and are being cared for by fully trained, attentive professionals.
With that in mind, it’s important that any marketing materials you create emphasize safety and supervision, reinforcing your organization’s professionalism and experience teaching children. You can consider creating a dedicated section on your website providing detailed information on things like the supervision you provide, your accommodation, and profiles of your staff detailing their training and experience with children.
Example: International Summer Camp Montana in the Swiss Alps has a page on its website with detailed information about its staff, including profiles of the camp directors. The page also highlights that the camp provides 120 trained camp counselors, four resident nurses, and an on-call physician.
International Summer Camp Montana also stresses that the food it provides is supervised by a dietician, which is also a good move. Parents may have misgivings or miscomprehensions about the food in your country, and will naturally be concerned that their children will have a healthy, balanced diet during their stay at your school. Providing information about your meal plans will help them feel more confident about their choice.
In addition, remember that many parents may be sending their children away for the first time, and may be worried about them feeling homesick or overwhelmed in a new environment. Highlighting any counseling or personal care service you provide could help allay their concerns. You may even consider creating blog posts about this topic.
Example: Jeunes Diplomates created this blog post offering tips for overcoming homesickness while at its summer language camp in France.
Highlighting the Educational Benefits of Summer Camp in Your Language School Marketing
A summer language camp can offer many benefits for children. In the short-term, improving their language skills can be extremely valuable for students looking to get better grades at school, and this is often the main reason a parent will look to enrol their child in a program over the summer.
However, parents may be sceptical about just how much improvement can be seen over such a short time, and your web content should look to highlight the results students get from your course. You can do this through things like blog posts, videos, or testimonials from both students and parents.
Example: Stanstead College in Quebec has collected detailed testimonials from parents about its summer camp.
Of course, the long-term benefits are even greater. Language learning is often said to be easier at a younger age, meaning your summer language program can give kids a great headstart in life, and this should form a key part of your school’s message.
Learning a second language can also open up international study and employment opportunities in the future, particularly if it is a widely used language like English, Spanish, or French. You could perhaps consider blog posts which highlight the opportunities that knowing your language can open up for students. This will help to convince parents that your program is a worthwhile investment.
Example: Many summer camps, like English Summer S.A. in Spain, offer the option for students to prepare and sit Cambridge Examinations during their time there. This can be a great selling point to highlight to parents.
Summer camps which are run by universities or take place on a college campus can have a big advantage in this area. The parents of international students are often eager to establish an educational path for their children early on, and attending a summer program on the campus of a distinguished institution gives them the opportunity to experience what life at a university abroad is really like, and even interact with university students to find out more about what the school has to offer.
There are also a number of intangible benefits to attending a summer language camp, particularly if it involves travel to a new country. For children who have never been away from home before, your program could be an opportunity to experience an entirely different culutre for the first time, become more independent, and meet people from different parts of the world. It can be an unforgettable experience for a child, and your recruitment efforts should make sure that parents realize that.
Example: This blog by Ottawa ESL summer camp Destination Canada highlights the personal growth students experience during their time there.
Don’t Forget the Fun in Your Language School Summer Camp Campaign
Of course, it’s also important to emphasize how much fun your programs are. While parents who send students to language courses are likely to want to see real improvements in their skills, they will also be eager to know that their children will enjoy themselves, make new friends, and partake in many fun activities and experiences.
Sharing photos from your past events and activities will show prospective students some of the experiences they have to look forward to, while also giving the parents of your current students a glimpse into their children’s summers.
Example: Camp Cooper in Scotland shares plenty of photos and videos on Facebook from different activities and excursions.
You can also encourage parents and students to share their own photos on your social media pages, allowing them to contribute their own favourite memories from their time at your school and really strengthen your online community. Getting your students involved in your posts is also a great idea, and can help you to create truly unique content.
Example: Colaiste Lurgan, an Irish language summer camp in Galway, had the novel idea of creating videos of their students performing popular songs they had translated into Gaelic and posting them on YouTube. Their channel now has over 800,000 subscribers. The video below generated over 5 million views, a remarkable return for such a small niche market.
Highlighting your school’s location can also be key to convincing parents to choose your program over other options, and you need to look at what it is that makes it unique. If you are based in a well-known city, you may be able to offer trips to famous tourist and cultural attractions, and you should communicate just why this is such a great experience for kids.
Example: Based in Ottawa, Destination Canada students take regular trips to see famous monuments in the city.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that schools in more remote environments can’t compete. Often, parents will view a school in the countryside as a safer option, and may also like the idea of their child being able to get outdoors and exercise regularly. Spotlighting activities like rafting, camping, and hiking can help you win these kinds of parents over.
In addition, any recreational facilities you offer, either on-site or nearby, can be a huge factor in your audience’s decision—be sure to provide as much details as possible about this on your website.
Example: Camp Cooper provides a comprehensive list of its recreational facilities on its website.
A Language School Summer Camp Marketing Campaign is a Long-Term Investment
Although some schools may have reservations about devoting their time and resources to a short program, it can pay real dividends in the long run. Not only are summer language camps profitable, but they often attract a lot of repeat business.
Students who have a good time at your school will be eager to return again the following summer to reconnect with friends and enjoy all the activities and experiences you have to offer. Additionally, older students who enjoy their time at your school may even choose to return for longer programs during the academic year.
Meanwhile, parents who see the positive results an immersive summer program can have will often want their children to continue to get the benefit of that experience as they progress through the grades, and may even recommend your program to friends, meaning your campaign could have significant and wide-reaching long-term benefits.