College students are geared up for the fall semester, and entrepreneurs everywhere are trying to grab their fleeting attention.They’re part of that coveted 18- to 30-year-old demographic. If your product has a shelf life after college, you’re in luck–you’re catching them in their purchasing power formative years. But to use an appropriate analogy, selling to college students is no easy A.
That’s because marketing to college students poses a special set of challenges. They’re often transient, sceptical and cash-strapped, making for a difficult market to penetrate.
So, how do you market to the college crowd?
Most college students have yet to settle down. Alan Martin, 31, CEO of CampusBookRentals.com, knows the issues well. His Ogden, Utah company rents textbooks to students. 'They are, by nature, a churning customer,' he says. 'You can win them over with great prices and unbeatable service--but eventually, they graduate.'
According to the National Retail Federation, many colleges are becoming 'commuter campuses.' More than 58 per cent of students are living at home this year, up from 47 per cent in 2007. That means you can't reach the student as easily on campus.
Many customers of Atlanta, Ga.-based SimpleLeap Software, are mobile. SimpleLeap sells Cram, an app that helps students prepare for tests. 'You have to offer access to your product or website via cell phones,' says Ashli Norton, SimpleLeap's co-founder. 'In our experience, SMS text and cell phone browser access are the surest ways to make your company reachable to college students.'
This is a time of upheaval for young adults, especially incoming freshmen.
'They've got complicated classes, complicated schedules and complicated lives,' says Harry Schiff, president of Agent Anything Inc., a personal service company launched in New York City that depends on college students. Because of all the complications in students' lives, Schiff has found that simple copy works best. 'That doesn't mean there isn't room for creativity. Witty works, sarcastic works, funny works.' What doesn't work, says Schiff, is a campaign that doesn't get to the point.
College students can be a marketer's dream--or nightmare. 'It's a great word-of-mouth community,' Schiff says. 'Since they see each other often, they always need new topics of conversation.'
The good news is that if they like your product or service, they'll talk about it. And the bad news is that if they hate it, they'll talk about that, too.
For this reason, CampusLIVE's Revsin stresses that the best thing an ent repreneur can do is focus on product development long before the marketing. 'We want people to be so wowed by the product that they spread the word themselves, and that's the only way to be mainstream on a college campus. They have to tell their whole floor about it.'
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