How to Market to College Students

When targeting college students, remember that they are Gen Z. This up-and-coming generation is different from its older counterparts in how they react to traditional marketing.

Gen Z prefers convenience and regularly interacts with brands online. They value authenticity and are generally loyal to companies that share their personal values.

So ditch the cookie-cutter ads and get creative. Optimize your website and social media accounts for mobile. Engage with local university campuses to fully understand this population’s preferences, needs and spending habits.

Let’s look at how to market to college students and why it’s essential for the success of your business.

How to market to college students

When marketing to college students, your chances of success can be higher if you keep the tips below in mind:

1. Profile your student targets.

For instance, the needs and buying habits of a student at a four-year university will differ considerably from those of a student at a two-year college. Similarly, reaching students who live on campus requires a different strategy than one might use to contact students who live off campus. 

As such, decide what type of student you want to reach with your product or service before marketing it.

2. Get online.

College students are extremely media savvy. Their medium of choice, however, is the internet. Today’s college students grew up with the World Wide Web and spend hours online studying, surfing the net and socializing with friends. 

Savvy marketers can not only advertise to their young customers, but also interact with them. Create a well-designed website that appeals to the college demographic, and link it to your social media profiles for maximum effect.

3. Turn campuses into ads.

Enterprising marketers can decorate a college campus with their message. Use sidewalk chalk to create eye-catching ads on campus thoroughfares, and post flyers on campus bulletin boards, where they’re sure to catch receptive students’ eyes.  

4. Buy ads in campus media.

Every college has a newspaper; many have student-run TV stations and magazines. Advertising in them is both inexpensive and effective to reach college students.

5. Sponsor student events.

Lending your support and money to on-campus events can get you valuable exposure within your target market and build your reputation as a student-friendly business.

6. Make students feel special.

Businesses often ignore – or even reject – their student customers. Companies that make an extra effort to accommodate college students and cater to them – with special student discounts, services, etc. – can easily claim their cash.

7. Build buzz.

College students talk – a lot. Therefore, companies can initiate a storm of free marketing by giving them something exciting and inventive to talk about.

While some companies focus their marketing efforts around the holiday season, other times of the year also offer selling opportunities. Use seasonal marketing strategies to offer college students products and services no matter what month it is.

8. Send snail mail and email.

College students change addresses often but love to get mail nonetheless. Direct mail is an easy and effective way to excite them about your company. Don’t neglect students’ email inboxes, though, as most students check their email at least once daily. 

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  • Students aren’t just students. Consider your college customers’ other attributes – their interests, for example – and target them through appropriate non-student media.
  • Because they grew up in an ad-saturated world, college students are more challenging to reach with traditional advertising. They are more likely to respond to word of mouth, including recommendations from their friends.
  • College students are “trial receptive,” meaning they are open to new ideas and have yet to develop strong brand affiliations.
  • Remember that while the college market is incredibly stable and static, individual student consumers are moving targets, frequently changing attitudes and addresses.
  • Don’t just sell stuff to students. Instead, focus on building relationships with them.
  • College students are trendsetters. Even when they’re not making purchases, they’re influencing them.

9. Promote affordability.

You can market to college students by providing affordable products and services. Although college students are no strangers to splurging, they are often on a tighter budget than most. They will more likely become customers if you make prices more reasonable.

10. Provide incentives.

Offering incentives to college students will make them more likely to shop with your company. For instance, providing college students with discounts can be a great way to attract new customers and maintain existing ones. 

Additionally, you can also do things such as provide free trials or samples, which can also be a great way to attract college customers.

11. Be funny.

Also, making your marketing efforts funny is an excellent way of keeping your brand memorable to your potential college customers. If they find your ad hilarious, you have a greater chance of going viral. This would mean exposure not only to college students, but also to potential customers of all kinds.