How to Engage Students and Alumni on Campus

Posted October 07, 2013 by
Five happy college students with the focus on man in blue shirt

Five happy college students with the focus on man in blue shirt. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

When it comes time to market your company, the standard methods can seem a bit boring. You already have a billboard, a website, and a television commercial, so where do you go from there?

College students have spent up to $36 billion during the school year on things like computers, clothes and cellphones. A lot of companies are taking the hint and engaging directly with students and alumni all across college campuses. Here are some of the most effective strategies to reach your audience and market efficiently.

Hire Their Peers

Some companies have caught on quickly to the trend of hiring young people to market to other young people. During dorm move-in day at the University of North Carolina, American Eagle Outfitters hired students to represent their company as they volunteered to help new freshmen move in. The students wore matching American Eagle shirts, handed out coupons and personalized pencils, and connected with the students on a level no magazine article ever could.

Instead of just setting up a booth that is easy to walk by, companies are employing the most popular or easily recognized students on campus. From sorority and fraternity leaders to sports stars, and even people with a lot of Facebook friends. There’s a different sort of trust built during peer-to-peer marketing that will be invaluable to your company.

Don’t Try to be Cool

If there’s one thing you should know about college students, it’s that they’re cynical. If you try too hard to be “cool” or “hip” or “speak their language,” they’ll almost certainly tune you out. College kids are savvy — they’ve seen fads come and go, they know what they like. What they don’t like is being patronized, placated, or tricked. You’ll lose your credibility in a flash if you don’t approach them like you would any other intelligent consumer.

Get it Right the First Time

One of the best things about marketing on a college campus is that it is a great word-of-mouth community. Since everyone lives so close together and spend the majority of their day-to-day doing the same things, they need new topics to talk about. Your product or company could be that hot topic.

But if you bring a sub-par product or an incomplete service, the bad news will travel just as fast. Students will be brutally honest with you, so be sure you’re ready to hear the truth. You may not get a second or third chance to re-vamp your product if it falls flat the first time. So don’t jump the gun.

Give Them Stuff

If you feed them, they will come. If you show up on a college campus with free food and drinks, you’ll absolutely have people stop, eat your food, and walk away. Getting them to stop is the easy part, engaging with them while you have their attention is a different story. By getting them to partake in an activity or complete a task, you will better stick in their mind.

If you can entice them with an offer that also benefits you, you can create a viral loop. A viral loop gives your target audience an incentive to share your product with their friends. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship that can get you great exposure at relatively little cost.

Help Them Get Something They Want

College kids are in school to get that dream job, or internship. As a successful business owner, you have useful information about the real world that students can benefit from. There are plenty of organizations and clubs on campus that would love to have you as a guest speaker.

Offer to speak at a meeting, or give a talk full of information that would interest that group. While you give advice, you can use the opportunity to talk about your business or product. It’s also a great opportunity to build a lasting relationship. If you have a business that correlates to something on campus, offer your services, sponsor a club, or agree to take on students as employees.

Give Them Money

A lot of clubs and organizations have to constantly raise money to reach certain goals. Having a car wash every weekend can get boring and soon, they’ll need outside funds to help them. At the start of a new school year, get together with the leaders of groups that you feel would work best with your company.

Together, you can set goals that are mutually beneficial. You get a chance to interact with your target audience and make a good name for yourself, and they reach their financial goals. You can try it on a small-scale with just one or two small clubs, and if it’s a good fit, you can expand each year with bigger clubs, and bigger goals. You’ll eventually become a household name as a dependable school supporter.

Save Them Money

Most college kids live on a strict budget. They don’t eat ramen every night for fun. There’s a very real possibility that they like your business, or product and just can’t afford to partake. A lot of students will be more willing to open their wallets if they can save a couple bucks.

By offering a student discount, or a daily deal, it’ll encourage students to spend money they might not have, and they’ll want to bring their friends too. Looking into deal sites like Groupon, or offering coupons in the school newspaper can be a very smart move.

Appeal to the Parents

Even though your target audience may be students, many of those students still rely on mom and dad to make purchases. By keeping the parents in mind in all aspects, from pricing to advertising, you’ll be able to expand your audience a bit further. Many parents are just as excited for their kids to go off to school as they are.

They want to be a part of the shopping, and planning. Market your business or product to your target audience, but offer something that piques the parents’ interest, like a manageable payment plan, or some added perk.

Finding new ways to market your business can be very challenging. By keeping these simple steps in mind, you’ll be able to confidently tackle the college scene and really connect with your audience.

Author Bio:

Writer Molly is a prolific writer who spends all her time on the Internet writing about everything that fancies her. She is a well sought after guest writer who can write across all niches including, but not limited to, tech, gadgets, travel, finance, education, health, etc. You can find her on twitter as @WriterMollyP.

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