How I Made $60K With Summer Camp With Jared Erlinger | Ep 189

Turn Summer Into Your Most Profitable Season

Summer is often the most challenging season for music school owners. The end of the school year often means an end to after-school programs for families. In this episode, Jared Erlinger shares how he turned summer into his most profitable season with summer camp.


How to Run Your Summer Camp Off-Site

I want to share with you the idea of running summer camp off-site, which is what I did for my Kidzrock program. A lot of music schools want to run their summer camps on-site but don’t have enough room to do so.


If having an open space to do that is not an option, I do encourage you to do what I did. I reached out to private schools in my area to see if I could rent out a classroom during the summer, and it really worked great. These private schools needed money, so it was easy enough for them to rent out classrooms.


I was able to run two groups at once in big-sized classrooms, and I couldn’t rent it out more if I wanted to. I also want to point out that both my summer camp and Jared’s are built around rock bands, but not doing rock bands doesn’t mean that you can’t run a good summer camp.


Why You Should Focus On Group Experiences in Summer Camps

If you’re going to build a summer camp program from scratch, I do encourage you to really focus on group experiences. The biggest mistake that I probably made when I first started my summer camp is to make it academically enriching.


I put pressure on myself to wow the kids with how much information and knowledge I was going to teach them during camp. Then I realized that parents, and kids alike, just want their kids to have fun. It’s summer camp!


Summer camp has a far different environment from that of private lessons or group classes during the school year. I encourage you to make the summer camp fun, focus on community-building, and make it more social.


How To Make Your Music Schools Summer Camp Successful

One thing Jared is going to talk about in our conversation is how he put a summer camp together over the course of a year. Although summer camps obviously only happen in summer, it really was a year-round production. It would be a 9 to 10-month project for it to be a success.


Jared actually was the manager of the music school when I still owned it, and around October we’d figure out the dates and talk about improvements we want for the program. We were devoting a little bit of time every month, whether it be to marketing or program redesign.


In Jared’s case, generating $60,000 is well worth that time investment. As Jared is going to point out in our conversation, there’s no reason why summer can’t be your most profitable season. What a lot of music schools do is have a very profitable winter and spring, and they’re stocking away their acorns to cope with summer drop-off which every music school or most music schools experience.


When Is The Best Time to Get Your Summer Camp Marketing Rolled Out

One other thing I encourage you to do is to check out Episode 160 called “Why You Should Start Your Summer Camp Marketing Today”. I actually recorded Episode 160 in January or February of last year. Really, what I’m talking about is January is the time to get your marketing rolled out because that’s when all the summer camp fairs start rolling into town.


Quite often they’re in between January and February. Some, at least in my city, start in March, but the sooner you can get your summer camp marketing rolled out, the better. School of Rock rolled out its summer camp marketing in December, and I think that’s really smart.


You can also check out Episode 113 called “The Detailed Strategy for Marketing Your Music Summer Camp.” Both of these episodes really kind of just go deep into marketing.




How to Generate $60,000 in Revenue with Summer Camp with Jared Erlinger


Most people fear summer attrition. In most schools, including ours, lessons typically drop if you have any other programs like bands. You tend to have a lot lesser kids, so camp is a really great way to keep your revenues up. We got to the point now where we’re actually making more money over the summer than we were during the school year because of the summer camps.


-Jared Erlinger


So here are the keys to having a good summer camp.


1. Start with Your Staff

In our school, we have full-time teachers who work throughout the year. They are the staff at summer camp. The benefit to doing this is anytime that the kids go to camp, they’re actually working with a full-time teacher who you can then transition when that student turns into being an annual student, as opposed to someone who’s just in there for one or two weeks.


2. Run Camps the Entire Summer

The big thing that we do is run camps the entire summer. I think when you’re first starting off, you’re going to be tempted to only want to run one or two camps, maybe because you’re nervous, and I totally understand you being nervous. Nobody in here who works with kids wants to screw over a parent by not being able to run a camp. I think we all have a little trepidation around that because you want to make sure that you can run it, but we run camps the entire summer long.


We’ve gone back and forth in the past about whether should we do a one-week camp or a two-week camp. Are we running into the possibility of losing kids because they can’t commit to those two weeks? But I’ll tell you, getting that commitment for two weeks makes your life easier as an owner. It’s just less time that you’re having to spend trying to fill camps last minute because every now and then, you do have a camp that might not be as full, and when that’s happened to us in the past.


3. Build Ongoing Customer Relations

I have a select group of students and families who are older students who would appreciate the opportunity to fill in and work with kids and get some work experience.


Honestly, I have some families at Rock School that I know and love, and these are families who’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars here probably over the years, and if I need a spot filled I can reach out to one of these families and be like “Hey. Do you want to come to camp either reduced price sometimes even for free?” You know and so that does a couple of things.


It fills the camp out for me the kids who are paying for camp have a better experience. I’m already covering my costs because it’s not gonna cost anything extra for that kid to be in and then, as an added bonus, that family you give it to, they’re going to notice those types of things. That’s all about building your ongoing customer relations.


4. Start Your Marketing Early

Having the camp throughout the entire summer I think is key because you don’t know when people are going to be able to come or not. And then with that, you have to start your marketing early. And by early, I mean, probably the day this podcast comes out, you should be marketing already.


5. Don’t Give Discounts Too Much

Sometimes, we’ll do an early bird special. I would caution against doing discounts too much. Discounts do work. There’s a reason why Black Friday is a thing, but don’t cut yourself too short. If you’re discounting too much, that shows people that your products are probably not worth as much as you have the initial pricing.


6. Email Out Everyone on Your Contacts

In January, I start emailing everybody on our contact database. Then, I send specific emails to people who’ve been to any of our summer camps in the past. Whatever mail client service you use…that’s really great. Most of that stuff goes into people’s “Promo” folder. So while we like doing that, I also send the emails out to everyone who has been there in the past, and you can write these in ways that they think you’re writing it directly to them, even if you’re not using a mail client.


I’m really sending a mass email out to people, but you can write this in a way where it feels like a personal email. I find it short, sweet, and to the point, because these are people who already know your product. These are people who enjoy what you do, so you don’t need to give them some big blurb about why doing music is going to help your kids.


7. Get Sign Ups from Summer Camp Fairs

Then, around February and March in St. Louis, there are summer camp fairs. The name of the game is to get as many emails as possible, and whatever you can do to get emails there is great. One thing that I’ll do is sign up. And we’re going to give away a free week of camp, sign up for camp, or just give me your email and can give me your email.


8. Don’t Forget to Add the Perks

We’ll have a little booth set up where I’ll bring a keyboard or synthesizer if a kid wants to mess around on it while they’re there. I’ll bring one of our guitars and an amp as well. That way you will know because you want to get these kids excited about it.


As an added bonus, you’re not just marketing camp here, which is what most of these places are doing at camp fairs, but you’re marketing your school.


9. Make the Child Feel Comfortable

Your kids sometimes get a little bit anxious about going to summer camps. That’s a real thing. Lots of kids have social anxiety, but the good thing is there are the same teachers for the whole year round, so you can say, “Come into our school before camp starts. You can come in, get a lesson, get comfortable with the teachers, and see the space.” It’s really just a great marketing tool.


10. Choose the Right Platform for Your Ads

I know that a lot of schools can be hesitant about the money they spend on advertising music lessons. You do get a ton of word-of-mouth, and I think that works great for your ongoing programs, but your campers are a different population than your normal students. You have a crossover, but it’s not all the same.


Google AdWords is more of a sale in terms of like how you’re spending the money versus Facebook (which I think is more for brand awareness, if that makes sense).


When people go to Facebook, they’re trying to see pictures of their friends, their family over the holidays, and stuff. Then you might see something about STL Rock School on there, but that’s more subliminal. It’s gonna get in the back of their brain. When they are looking in the future, they’re gonna be like, “Oh, yeah. What was STL Rock School? I think I’ve heard that place before.” And it was probably on Facebook versus Google.


If you’re going on Google, you’re looking for something you’re typing in. Say “music summer camp on St. Louis”, and being one of those in the top results on Google makes a huge difference.


I mean, I don’t know the last time I’ve gone three or four pages deep into Google looking for an answer. Are you going to the multiple pages deep into Google? Probably not. You want something that has really good reviews. You‘re gonna have your ad up there, but you need to get your SEO up as well.


11. Delegate Tasks

It was a huge realization for me. Ever since I took over the school, I didn’t even hire anybody else in the office. I just did everything. Part of that was you think I’m the best person to do this, but I’ve learned I can delegate. When I do delegate, it actually means that I can do better work on the stuff that I’m focusing on. So I just want everyone to know that. I think that’s worth repeating because that’s gold right there.


I was talking about that sort of fear of delegating because delegating also means you have to explain what you do to somebody. That takes time. Delegating does give you more of a bird’s eye view of the business because you’re not so much in the trenches. If you don’t have that bird’s eye view, you’re kind of flying blind because you don’t see what’s in front of you.

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