Stop assuming college students will love your idea
Take the time to ask yourself some tough questions about why you are marketing to students in the first place. Have you done your research to find out if the product or service you are offering already exists in the campus environment? Does it really satisfy a need for students? It’s easy to get tunnel vision and assume that what you have is gold, and there is no doubt you have had people tell you what you want to hear. Before you commit to a college marketing strategy, do your research, and get genuine feedback from college students and test a couple of college markets to gauge the response.
Don’t start advertising on campus until you have created a plan
Maybe you just realized that classes start in three weeks, or maybe you have some fancy new creative that you are dying to show the world. Don’t rush it. This is the time you need to tap the breaks and take a look at your actual marketing strategy before dumping money into campus advertising. Which campuses really make sense for the product or service you’re offering? Do you really understand the pulse of the campus you want to market on? Take time to plan out a 30-, 60-, and 90-day strategy of the tactics you will roll out behind your message in a way that will leverage the unique opportunities that exist on each campus. I’ve included a link here to a basic planning tool you can use today.
Start measuring so you have something to build on
Putting money into advertising without knowing how you are going to measure it is ludicrous. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the data we have access to, but clearly defining what you want to measure will help keep you focused. Once you have determined that you are reaching the right audience, the next stages are measuring resonance and action. In other words, is your message breaking through the clutter, and are college students doing what you wanted them to do? Getting a baseline for this is as simple as making sure your website analytics are tracking properly and understanding what you have done historically with sales or lead tracking. From there, you can implement basic tracking tools into your ad strategy, such as unique URLs, discount codes, web form submissions, and pre- and post - campus brand recall.
Commit to Investing a realistic budget
All too often, a brand will blitz a campus with marketing for a couple of weeks during back-to-school, only to run out of patience and budget. Understand that winning the hearts and minds of today’s college youth takes commitment to the campuses you are targeting and buy-in from your company that the investment you make will produce dividends. A healthy (and realistic) campus marketing budget should hover between $3,500 and $5,000 per campus per month with a two-semester pledge.
Don’t be afraid to try something new
I know you may think the stakes are high in your organization, but work to educate your team that college marketing requires a lot of tire kicking. You already agree that this is a tough market to reach and that traditional ways of marketing often fall flat. Take a bold step away from what you have always done, and play with a new social media channel, hire a copywriter who speaks millennial, or use a new form of advertising you haven’t tried yet. You never know - you might discover something that changes your brand forever.
Nurture your new college student customers
The hard work is done. You provided enough of a compelling case to these fickle college students that you have the goods. They have filled out a form on your website, engaged you on social media, or made a small purchase. Don’t blow it now! Take an honest inventory of your internal marketing. How are you easing them through the next stage of your customer experience? How are you thoughtfully continuing the dialogue with them? What is the next step you want them to take with you? Never stop communicating.