In the ongoing months of summer; students will moving in and out of town, travelers will venture towards various destinations, and Study Breaks’ Daniel Stone will be working hard to connect local businesses with the college market. Marketingforecast.com reported in a recent article that more than 20 million college students nation-wide exert about $417 billion in spending power. In student-heavy places like Austin and San Marcos, an increase in market share of the “college pie” could quite literally make or break a small business. Dan sits down with key local players Ben Williams, of Austin Paddle Sports, and Richard Lawrence, with Texas State Tubes, to break down their recent success and shed some insight on what it takes to connect with a perpetually adaptive group of stakeholders. They discuss business, social media, and future marketing plans, in a Study Breaks round table webinar.
Dissecting Sales Volume
Almost immediately the trio dive into the topic of total sales volume. As somewhat niche businesses, both Richard and Ben admit to a definite increase in demand over weekend time-periods. And while they offer opportunities for multiple revenue streams, both rely on renting services to support their daily operations (great for the college market- as most students don’t like to keep up with a large number of possessions). Where the two businesses differ is in their fundamental business model. Texas State Tubes runs strictly as an operationally excellent option to floating. Richard mentions the importance of great service and low-pricing many times throughout the webinar. Their goal is simply to issue the best floating experience San Marcos has to offer. Austin Paddle Sports, however, easily suffices as a customer intimate model. They are truly operating on the forefront of a growing sport. Ben speaks about selling high-end paddle boards (about $1000) and the logistic difficulties that ensue when one tries to ship them across the state. Austin Paddle Sports main strategic advantage is how well they walk the fine line between product pusher and servicer; Ben notes that even the sale of one paddle board makes their rental option worth-while, but he also shares that their group tour package is one of the fastest growing aspect of their business.
Connecting with the College Market
Tips on growing a presence on campus
- hire college kids
- use student models in ad creation
- promote the use of coupons
- innovate, innovate, innovate
Of course any growing business catering to the college market needs a solid social media foundation. Both Ben and Richard are implementing social action plans to connect with their customers. Richard harps on the importance of staying adaptive when focusing on an ageless market.
Austin Paddle Sports
When it comes to social media, Austin Paddle Sports is about as cutting-edge as it gets. Ben’s model includes designing custom tab features to both highlight the business and support a coupon incentive. “When it comes to social coupons, you’ve got to go all in,” Ben exclaims. He talks about constantly directing new and former customers to “like” their page, and ultimately receive a 2-for-1 deal through the site.
A great feature Texas State Tubes highlights is the photo/tag options Facebook offers. TXST Tubes hires a photographer every weekend to specifically take pictures of patrons for social sharing benefits. This strategy proves especially effective for the college atmosphere, as students are always looking to support the sharing of quality content. And as far as most students are concerned, it doesn’t get much more quality than action photos of themselves partying with friends. Feeding one’s page with a consistent stream of photos both supplies virtually unlimited amounts of content, and works to keep the page fresh as one can always change the cover photo/benefit from an updated wall.