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How To Market College Student Bank Accounts

By collegemktgrp | June 11, 2020 | Brands/Advertisers

As some college campuses plan to re-open this fall, many things will look different. Single-person dorms, online lectures, distancing in communal areas, coronavirus testing and contact tracing, and more will all be part of the “new normal.”

In many ways, the hallmarks of a typical fall semester will still be present for college students. There will still be the process of buying textbooks, setting up a dorm room, and the mess of figuring out where and when classes are, just to name a few.

For many freshmen college students, getting oriented to campus life will include setting up their own checking account, debit card, or credit card for college students.

Many college freshman may already have a savings account with the local bank in their home town. But college is often the first time for many college students to take control of their budget — and a checking account is the way to do just that.

Plus, some students that already have an account back home may have to sign up for a new one with a local bank in their college town, if their hometown bank doesn’t have a local branch.

For banks near college campuses, this time of year is an opportunity to build trusting relationships with new students who could go on to become lifelong customers. But beyond direct partnerships with universities, how can a bank make sure that incoming students choose their financial institution over the competition?

Two words: digital marketing.

Here are our top tips on how banks can use digital marketing to connect with college students.

Provide Incentives to Sign-Up

Before you promote your banking products to college students, it’s important that your bank’s products and services align with what college students are looking for and need.

From there, you can focus on making sure your advertising is effective in communicating that your company is the best choice for students’ banking needs.

Here are a few important things to remember when crafting your advertising messaging:

What do these considerations mean for your bank?

1. Don’t require students to maintain a minimum balance

Some college students may have accounts with little to no money in them. Don’t punish students for not having more funds — that means no required minimum balance, and no fees for accounts with less than a certain balance.

Remember, most college students aren’t making much money right now, but likely will be later in life. Do you want them to remember you as the bank that helped them get their start, or the bank that charged fees when they were already on a tight budget?

2. Be hassle-free

Make your accounts easy to sign up for and maintain. A checking account for a college student should be simple, and require little-to-no oversight from the student.

If a student goes into a month-long study binge before finals week only to find their account littered with overdraft fees when it’s all over, they’re not going to be happy. This is an early phase of your relationship with a new customer — support college students now, and it will pay off later.

3. Be completely transparent

Unfortunately, a number of high-profile scandals involving bank and university partnerships in recent years has left the public wary of student bank account promotions.

The best banks for college students are transparent in the details of their financial products. Be extra clear in how your college student checking accounts work — don’t leave it in the fine print for customers to stumble upon later.

By following the above guidelines, you can help college students feel that your bank has their best interest in mind, and signal that your company is the clear choice for their accounting needs.

Now that we’ve covered how to align your product with college students’ needs, let’s dig into the fun part: how to market your product.

Get Your Social Media Posts Right

It’s no secret that social media is the go-to for marketing to Generation Z. But how do you create content that will cut through the noise and resonate with this audience?

Let’s look at a few examples from banks that have had success online, starting with this video from Bank of America.

Notice two things: First, the thumbnail image shows a younger person, someone from the audience you’re trying to reach.

Second (and more importantly), the content highlights a banking feature that is sure to be attractive to Gen Z customers: mobile banking.

Today’s college students are used to being able to do everything from their smartphone. Why should banking be any different?

Here’s another great example of successful online marketing for banks:

CapitolOne sponsored this event and featured the sponsorship on their Instagram profile to build trust and raise brand awareness with the college market.

While your bank may not be in a position to sponsor a huge event like this one, you’re likely in a position to do one of the following:

Focus Your Online Targeting Ads

Once you’ve got the perfect product for college students and your approach to social media posts is on point, it’s time to get the word out!

Platforms like Facebook and Google offer extensive advertising tools that allow you to publish online ads and get them in front of college students and their parents using targeting.

Facebook and Google collect a lot of user data. As an advertiser, you can tap into that data to find college students in your area. 

As time goes on, you can monitor your ad performance and tweak the copy and images to reach more customers at a lower cost. You’re in banking, so you know the importance of a high ROI — targeted ads allow you reach college students without breaking the bank.

Connect with Their Parents

Most incoming students rely on their parents to help them make important decisions and get off on the right foot. Unlike their college freshman, parents have years of experience with banking, and know what to look for when helping their student find the right account.

That’s why it’s important to include parents of college students in your digital marketing strategy.

While finding this audience is a bit more challenging than targeting students directly (there’s no option for showing ads to “parents of college students”), you can find them with the following targeting tips:

  • Limit your ads to the parents of adult children
  • Focus the age of their children to be between 18-22 years old (the age range for the majority of college students)
  • Narrow your audience further by only showing your ad to parents with an interest in the school you service (you can also use geo-targeting to find parents who live in a certain area)

You can also experiment by filtering your audience based on their liquid assets. Parents of college students are likely to have less cash on hand than parents without college students — college is pricey, and parents often help cover expenses.

While it’s no guarantee, showing your ads only to parents of children ages 18-22, who have an interest in the right school and liquid assets of say, under $100,000 is a sound strategy for finding the parents of college students online. And of course, you can follow your ads’ performance and change your targeting as you go.

Utilize Lookalike Audiences

Lookalike audiences are a powerful way to expand your reach online. As you run ads on Facebook, for example, the platform will keep track of basic attributes of the people who respond to those ads by clicking on them.

You can tell Facebook to go out and find more people that share similar characteristics. Those people make up what’s called a lookalike audience. It’s worth advertising to lookalike audiences because they share a lot in common with other people who clicked on your ads.

This data-driven targeting approach will allow you to reach the widest audience of potential customers possible.

Digital Marketing Made Easy

While all the strategies above may sound great, there’s no doubt they take a lot of time and experience. College Marketing Group is one of the few digital marketing solutions that focuses exclusively on connect with college students.

We have decades of experience with this niche market, and know how to engage with college students in a way that will set them up to become loyal lifetime customers.

Our team creates personalized digital marketing strategies for each of our clients. Our goal is to help you reach your goal.

Want to know more? Contact us for a free consultation >

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