By Dan Levy, Founder, Atlas College Marketing
Anyone who has spent time in the college marketing space understands the buying power that college students hold and recognizes that students get most of their information about brands from their peers and social networks.
Many agencies position themselves as having “cracked the code” of marketing to college students, but there are a few mistakes that any agency can make that will render even the most promising campaign strategies less effective.
Here are just a few pieces of the college marketing puzzle that agencies tend to miss the mark on:
Doing Enough Research
There are few things more frustrating than agencies not taking the time to research effectively. It leads to promos at inopportune times and in inopportune locations, as well as missing out on rich opportunities exclusive to each campus and target student demographic.
In addition to demographics, it’s important for agencies to understand the layout of each campus, class schedules, the timing of major campus events, and the current trends in the area. Spending some extra time learning this information could easily turn a mildly successful campaign into a game changer for your brand (more on this below).
Pulling Instead of Pushing
With so much outbound messaging noise floating around, especially on college campuses, your brand needs to be able to pull students in rather than push messaging on them. Attract students with something that they already have an interest in; this creates an opportunity to start a conversation about your brand. While many agencies focus on the push approach, the best results come from digging into what moves your audience, even if it’s not directly related to the brand.
In short, give the people what they want!
College promos are unlike any other promos, especially when it comes to staffing. Compared to professional promo reps, student reps have unique schedules, work promos for different reasons, and live a different lifestyle. Additionally, they can be flaky at times (no offense, kids), especially if they don’t feel a connection to the event or the agency hiring them. Success hinges on getting the staffing right; so the recruitment, hiring and treatment of the reps should be done differently than for non-college promos.
Student organizations (as opposed to Craigslist, Facebook, and other recruitment sites used by many agencies) are comprised of dedicated members who are involved on campus and are eager to work. Getting to know these groups establishes rapport, builds trust between both parties, and leads to less backing out last minute. Additionally, it’s almost always better to hire students rather than non-students for college promos, a policy many agencies don’t implement. Students know the area best, better relate to fellow students, and can adjust quickly and effectively when needed.
Knowing Your Environment and Catering To It
Agencies like to think they should dictate when and where events take place, when in reality, they should listen to the students to figure out what’s best. Those agencies that focus on recruiting from and cultivating relationships with student orgs and leaders benefit most when they leverage these relationships to build out their campaigns.
While there are always time and budget constraints, there are always ways to fine-tune and customize for each campus to enhance the campaign’s effectiveness. In every campaign, finding that perfect balance between a cookie-cutter and customized approach is a vital role for an agency and one that, if done properly, will have the campus buzzing.
There are plenty of additional opportunities for agencies to improve their college marketing efforts (I haven’t even touched on the digital side in here), and no agency is perfect, but implementing these strategies will immensely increase the impact of your college marketing campaigns.
Have more ideas for agencies to improve their college marketing? Disagree with anything I mentioned? Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.