Summer break is officially over, and those who are college student stakeholders can breathe a sigh of relief as an influx of students ineveitably returns to their favorite local hot spots and—by proxy—raises sales immensely for these businesses.
And for those businesses not yet established as “go-to” destinations within the college bubble, a new school year presents opportunities of uncharted potential as thousands of freshmen and transfer students enter the market for the first time. (For example, the director of admissions for the University of Texas declared in March that they hoped to welcome 7,200 new freshmen this fall.) But how does one target these newcomers without the benefit of having an established word-of-mouth presence on campus? And furthermore, what do those who were once on top, only to see their audience dwindle away after graduation, do to reignite the spark that had previously placed them as a staple of a proper collegiate experience? Here Study Breaks provides strategies for businesses hoping to capture—and retain—the indisputably profitable demographic known as college students.
Buy Ad Space
Whether television and radio commercials or print advertisements in a campus magazine and newspaper, nothing is a better strategy for telling freshmen where to go and what to do better than plastering messages before their eyes on every medium deemed relevant. To those new to an area, a well-placed ad is the initial source of information about what’s possible around them. Even if one hasn’t had a steady customer base in over a decade, newly integrated students can quickly transform into clientele with a fresh perspective on local trends. Quite simply, few new students really know what has happened on and around campus before they got there; advertising can capitalize on this void of knowledge and serve as a source of valuable and influential information. It’s well worth it to spend the money (especially if one already has an established business) to show off one’s brand and establish a loyal four-year relationship with one’s demographic of choice.
When considering strategies for market penetration, one has to know two things for sure about incoming college students: the first being that they will immediately want to explore every corner of their new town, and secondly that they (along with everyone else) will undoubtedly have their smartphones with them on these said excursions. It’s for these reasons that proximity marketing is growing at such an expansive rate (and also why freshmen students will gravitate towards it). Proximity marketing works on a location-based beacon, a marketing advantage when targeting those who aren’t sure what they are looking for (or if it even exists).
Take, for example, a restaurant employing proximity marketing strategies and a group of freshmen walking back to campus on the way home from a long day of tailgating and football. They’re not sure where they want to go to eat, but as they walk past this restaurant—one of many unfamiliar businesses that are virtually indistinguishable in their eyes—they get a notification on their phones that the restaurant is running a 50% off special for customers right now. BOOM! Odds are that they are going to take advantage of this great, conveniently located deal, and stop in for a bite at the business—all because of proximity marketing. (And if they have a good experience, they’re likely to return to this now-familiar establishment.) Also, the added benefit of supplied WIFI—which comes in conjunction with proximity marketing—could turn a wanderer into a loyal Internet thief (or return customer, as most would call them).
Get On Campus
Every college-based business should hustle to get as established on campus as humanly possible, but there is a fine line between setting up a booth in the quad and actually exciting students to the point of brand loyalty. Of course, coupons, free swag, and prize giveaways are (and forever will be) a staple strategy when targeting college students, as this demographic’s favorite four-letter word is FREE, but how much staying power does giving away a couple koozies and cheap t-shirts really supply?
Instead of targeting students individually, it makes much more sense to market to a group of students and attack campus one group at a time. Business owners can sponsor clubs and organizations; hire campus leaders to work at their business (even if one has to pay higher wages than their immediate competition, this can prove to be one of the most effective strategies in gaining student trust); and, if they are particularly savvy, market to the Greek community and create and develop relationships with fraternity/sorority groups. Supplying venues and/or products for rush parties, formal events, and general organizational usage tells students that one is just as invested in the university as they are—a message freshmen are bound to soak up, as they are at the height of their own university pride.