The Referral Engine by John Jantsch - Camp Leaders MBA

The next book in our curriculum is The Referral Engine by John Jantsch.  Some may have heard of Jantsch before because of his previous book, Duct Tape Marketing and he is a frequent contributor to television news and business shows.  He is a great writer with an easy-to-read style that keeps the reader engaged.

Well, engaged might be too simple.  I was DRIVEN to read this book.  I made the mistake of reading this book one night before bed and I was up an extra two hours absorbing the ideas and scribbling notes in the margins. 

This book connects so strongly to camp because we are a business that relies heavily on word-of-mouth referrals.  

Would you send your child away to a place that you hadn't heard great things about?   Exactly.  

What John does in this book is help us create a system that will make it easier and better for our families to recommend us to their friends.

Important Lessons from Referral Engine

  • Camps must be able to define & tell their "core talkable difference" - your Why Statement.  Why you do what you do and why that is different than any other camp.
  • A business needs to define their ideal customer.  Not just "people willing to give us money".  Look to find your best camp family.  Do they: already recommend you to others?  Donate time & money?  Bring kids to camp that don't even belong to them?  That is your ideal client.  From now on... only talk to them with your marketing.   That way you'll be sure to get more of them.
  • Focus your marketing efforts on your existing customers.  Set up a system that makes it easy for them to recommend you.
  • Look for businesses that also sell to your clients and partner with them.  Think of ways that you both can market together (children's clothing stores, outdoor retailers, etc.).

What comes out of John's book is a system of marketing - a way of setting out strategies that everyone involved can understand the process.   He makes it easy for us to get things started and keep them going from year to year.

One of the best things about The Referral Engine is the examples section at the back.  He has solicited real-word examples of people using great word-of-mouth marketing.  You'd be hard pressed to read this and not find things that would work for your camp.

5 Things to Add to Your Camp Marketing To Do List

1.    Define your "Why".  Make sure everyone that ever answers the phone or talks to parents at a camp fair believes it and can articulate it.
2.    Create turnkey tools.  Put something in the hands of every family that will help them talk to others about your camp.
3.    Create separate website landing pages for every marketing venue (links from OCA, other online listings, links you hand out to referring families) so you can measure how effect is each source.
4.    Commit to video.   Teaching is an incredibly powerful marketing tool (way better than shouting into open space) and we are very good at that.   Use YouTube and Facebook to show off your skills.
5.    Create a survey to send out to last summer's families.  Ask for some feedback on a few specific elements of the camp experience but focus on positives.  Send this out one month before your due date to remind families of the great things that they get from your camp.

What is on your Camp Marketing To Do List this year?

Yes by Dr. Robert Cialdini - Camp Leader's MBA

Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive

by Noah J. Goldstein, Steve J. Martin and Robert Cialdini


[Welcome to the third in my series called the Camp Leader’s MBA. It is a winter-long curriculum for summer camp people to educate themselves on business and marketing. Read along with me and be ready to graduate by the start of camp 2011!]

Yes! 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive is a great book for Camp Directors because it can help you out in a few different areas of your camp life.  Marketing is a natural area but so is something like getting buy-in from staff on a big change at camp.  On the Summer Camp Professionals group on Facebook we have been offering ideas to a director who is moving to a new camp this summer and who is looking for ideas for implementing change.   I think this book (along with Switch, the book discussed in last month's OCA Newsletter) offers some great practical choices for making improvements at your camp.

Dr. Cialdini often talks about his Six Principles of Persuasion and there are great example through out this book:

  1. Reciprocation
  2. Social Proof
  3. Commitment and Consistency
  4. Liking
  5. Authority
  6. Scarcity

I really like the format of this book.  It is very simple to read and you can get something great every time you pick it up.   Each of the 50 Ways is it's own chapter with a real-world example of persuasion being used in a psychological/anthropological study.

A few of the many camp ideas that I got from reading this book:

  • When trying to change a behaviour at camp focus on those who are doing it right (positive Social Proof). For example: 75% of our families send in their Health Forms before May 1st.
  • If a child is struggling or losing confidence in her ability to complete a challenge at camp you can help her push through to the end by not just saying "you can do it!", but by reminding her how hardworking and creative she is.  Give her some examples from the past.
  • Improve the commitment of a flakey staff member by making them write things down.   For example, if you need them to drop by your office at a certain time you could say "Come see me at 3:00" in a busy dining hall (little change he'll remember), give him a note at the same time (better chance that he'll remember but what if he loses the paper during cabin clean up?), or, best yet, say "Can you write this down?  Come see Travis at the office 3:00 this afternoon".  The physical act of writing it out for himself will provide the best possible chance that that counsellor will be rat-a-tat-tating your door at 3 bells.


Who do you need to persuade?