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Marketing to College Students: 6 Sure Bets

by | January 24, 2023

Effective marketing strategies combine many approaches. Marketing to college students means word of mouth, ambassadors, and social media.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

Looking to multiply your customer base? Marketing to college students is a good place to start. 

Consider these numbers: 

  • There are more than 15 million students nationwide. 
  • Combined with their parents, that equates to incredible spending power. 
  • College students regularly spend over $200 billion annually on goods and services.

When you need to reach college students, there’s more to the process than sales. First, you need to build lasting relationships with this choosy consumer base. Word-of-mouth recommendations and reliability help build brand recognition and trust. In-person marketing to college students can build your brand trust by 92%.

Ready to expand your business by specifically targeting college students? We’ve compiled these six effective strategies to get you started:

Create a Brand Personality

It’s essential potential customers understand exactly what your products and services can do for them. Any successful marketing campaign starts with your brand personality. Which brand values does your organization champion? Be sure to keep authenticity in mind and ask these questions:

  • Are there charitable events or organizations you can partner with? 
  • Which community groups align with your business’s personality? In other words, how do you give back to the communities that you serve?
  • What’s your advertising personality? Humorous? Relatable? Extreme? For example, Red Bull uses guerrilla marketing to distribute their products.

Give Away the Goods

A very happy college student.

Collectively, they have massive spending power, but most college students aren’t millionaires. Where you’re on campus marketing to college students, you need to prove why your products or services are worth their money. Offer free samples and make sure each free item is associated with an experience. 

  • Does your product come with a learning curve? Upload a video tutorial on your website.
  • Offer a punch card along with a free beverage or food item. 
  • Create contests or giveaways online to encourage consumers to engage with your social media. 

Use Incentive Programs

Loyalty card

Repeat customers are the lifeblood of an effective marketing strategy. Combine your approaches by mentioning your incentive programs on social media, at campus events, or through a brand ambassador. 

  • Loyalty cards or customer memberships offer rewards, discounts or free samples after multiple visits. 
  • Student discounts are a great way to entice new customers and encourage repeat customers to return. Amazon Prime uses student discounts to increase college student subscriptions.  
  • Bulk order benefits are great for large college groups such as Greek life, student groups, or sports teams.

Mix in Social Media

Two girls with an ice cream and an iced coffee take a snapshot on their cellphone.

Remember: college students are digital natives. Most have grown up using some type of social media. Marketing to this target audience in 2023 means establishing a recognizable online presence. 

Along with an attractive and user-friendly website, your business should be easily accessible on a variety of social media platforms. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Tik Tok are some of the most active. 

Social media content used to be static. Now, many digital marketing channels rely on video content to reach consumers. When it comes to online searches, videos pop up 53 times more often than blog posts or other web content. Additionally, consumers are 10 times more likely to share and distribute video content than traditional digital ads. 

  • Advertise everything on social media. Incentive programs, business events, brand ambassadors–all of it should be featured on your social media accounts. Host online giveaways to encourage multiple forms of engagement. Use hashtags to promote the business and product initiatives.
  • Feature your brand personality on every platform. Want to make customers laugh? Inject your social content with a strong sense of humor. Care about the environment? Share your initiatives on your social platforms. 
  • Reach out to influencers. Are there local influencers whose interests match your business goals? Do you have customers who frequently post about your products or services on their accounts? 
  • Join forces. Social media collaborations are great ways to increase digital marketing outreach. Social media is also a great tool for sourcing potential brand ambassadors. More about that below…
  • Get creative. High-quality photos and videos are naturally eye-catching but don’t be afraid to try something new. Ask customers what they want to see online and check out your competition’s social media channels too.

Start a Campus Brand Ambassador Program

Brand ambassador

Who is the best person to sell your products and services? Your customers. Campus ambassador programs involve hiring college students to market your business online and in person. Brand ambassador programs have several advantages:

  • Brand ambassadors are one of the most cost-effective ways to target the student market. Through brand ambassador programs, ROI is 11 times greater than traditional types of marketing campaigns.
  • Brand trust and recognition skyrocket when customers receive personal recommendations. 42% of customers explore a brand or product after interacting with a brand ambassador.
  • Social media sales are five times higher when content is paired with a recognizable influencer or brand ambassador program. 

Interested in putting your campus brand ambassadors to work? Here are a few ideas:

  • Create social media content and help manage online accounts
  • Run pop-ups or manage street teams. More below!
  • Reach your target market through events or online marketing

Attend a Campus Event

Joyba Activation

Marketing to college students means showing up where they are. Maximize your visibility by attending — or even hosting — a campus event. This includes game day, Greek life, welcome weekends, and more. Use your student ambassadors to advertise your presence and reach out to potential new customers. 

Don’t limit yourself to events only on a college campus. Consider attending local events that align with your brand’s personality. 

  • Pop-up shops are temporary booths or sales locations where you can distribute products and services. Staff your pop-up with brand ambassadors or student groups.
  • Street teams are groups of brand ambassadors or employees who attend events, distribute flyers, hand out free samples, and engage your customers face to face. 

Ready to Talk About Your Marketing Plans?

College Marketing Group makes it easy to start marketing to college students. CMG makes it possible to increase your consumer base, build brand trust and recognition, and encourage students to spend money with you.

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