Articles | Building Relationships | Connect Memorably from Day 1 (Case Study)

Connect Memorably from Day 1 (Case Study)

Our daughter, Charlotte, is away at Camp Harlam for 3 1/2 long weeks this summer. It’s her first time, and our pleasure in relaxed evenings and quiet weekend mornings is punctuated by severe pangs of missing her!

Most evenings we can quiet our pangs by going to the private website where photos from the day are posted. Charlotte frequently shows up in a photo or two, and we get a sense of what she’s up to and how much she’s enjoying it (or not). I can’t tell you the pleasure we got when we spotted the biggest smile ever after she had completed the ropes course last week. We’re quickly getting to feel like part of the Camp Harlam family.

Camp Harlam has done a great job of building our relationship in an organic way from the moment we expressed interest in registering Charlotte for the summer. I urge your organization to do the same—from the moment you first connect with folks who show interest as participants, supporters, clients, partners and/or volunteers, and continuing regularly throughout the course of your relationship—BETWEEN your asks.

Here’s how to do good relationship lifecycle marketing:

1) Making Friends—Warm and interested welcome at the first expression of interest and after: When I first signed up for more information on the camp, I was immediately welcomed by a warm and personal email series. Harlam jumped on my interest at the moment of and kept the conversation going. Even when camp wasn’t top of my mind, these regular emails kept Harlam in the back of my mind, so that when we were ready to choose a camp, it stood out.

The glowing reports I heard from parents whose kids were Harlam campers in past years fed the fire. And that email series also built my sense of connection to and comfort in the camp’s personality and values. They cared about us, which made me more likely to be interested in them.

Whether your welcome consists of an email welcome series like Camp Harlam’s, a combo of emails and direct mail or a simple call or email, make sure you welcome folks warmly and keep in touch. The first few months after you make contact with a new network member is the most important time in your relationship; it’s do or die.

Connect with new contacts at least every other week, briefly and relevantly, to nurture the relationship. Drip out what you have to share in way that builds their interest and excitement. That’s the approach most likely to motivate the actions you want.

2) Joining the Family—Joyous embrace once we took action: When we registered Charlotte at camp, we received an even more enthusiastic and personal welcome,  followed by a series of countdown-to-arrival emails building excitement and calming worries.

So as our relationship changed from one where we were observers, to us being active participants, the tone and focus of Camp Harlam’s communications changed accordingly.

The countdown emails were casual, warm and yes, joyous. They welcomed directly (and indirectly) us as part of the Camp Harlam family, reinforcing one of the camps key messages, “Where Friends Become Family.”

The emails introduced us to various staff members who answered every possible question. We felt even more like insiders when we were invited to contact camp staff at any time with additional questions or concerns, a great strategy for developing confidence. By the time it was time to take Charlotte to camp, we had already moved from a “them/us” relationship to an “us” relationship.

3) Family Reunion—From the moment of arrival at camp (second action), our relationship grew even deeper: The minute we joined the cars waiting to drop off, we were loudly “welcomed home” by counselors who lined the driveway to herald our arrival.  As a first-time camper, Charlotte was welcomed especially enthusiastically, which thrilled her. Corny as this may sound, it was really meaningful.

Our lengthy wait to get in and then for the health check was mitigated by the visits of various staff members to our car. They were staffing the lines and using this opportunity to answer questions, meet families and campers and generally spread the love. It worked!

Ever since that moment, we’ve been basking in the warm glow of the Camp Harlam Family via:

  • Daily photos—We get to share Charlotte’s experiences, which make us feel even more a part of the Harlam family.
  • Facebook posts—Give us the bigger picture of activity in other units of camp, and what’s coming up next. Alumni Day was last Saturday and we got the feel of the day through photos and comments via Facebook.
  • Videos with can’t-help-but-get-into it corny music and memorable stories—As a passionate alumna of overnight camp, these make me feel like I’m reliving my camp experience. Even my husband, who didn’t do overnight camp, loves these. I know Charlotte is going to watch these over and over again throughout the year.

  • Blog posts—Dig into the meaning behind camp traditions such as alumni day (Harlam is a Jewish camp) and update families on camp news.

Thanks to the steady stream of Harlam love, we feel a strong bond at this point and we’re ready to sign Charlotte up for next year (assuming she wants to go). That’s a result of good marketing helping to build a strong connection with us—plus the fantastic experience she’s having. You can do the same.

4) Staying Close—Keeping in touch between actions (donations or summers): This is yet to come, of course, but the number and passion of Harlam alumni who showed up at Alumni Day (shared effectively via the Facebook page, blog posts and a video) suggests that we’ll be kept close as members of with the Harlam family in between camp summers.

This is precisely the kind of relationship building you want to keep going between your asksFollow Camp Harlam’s cue in matching a particular stage of your relationship with the right content, tone and channels. When you do, you’ll help your network feel they’re a real part of your organization, and that’s when they’re most likely to act on your asks.

How do you strengthen ties throughout the course of your organization’s relationships with supporters, participants, partners and others? Please share your approach or questions here.

P.S. Camp Harlam also does a great job in shaping campers as dedicated alumni before they are finished their camp experience. By placing the current camp experience in the context of the camp’s 55-year-old history (emphasized by scheduling alumni day during the camp season), campers see that Harlam is a lifelong experience.

Nancy Schwartz in Building Relationships | 0 comments


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