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How to Win at On-Campus Marketing During Welcome Weekend

By collegemktgrp | August 20, 2019 | Brands/Advertisers

Here at College Marketing Group, we’re big proponents of online marketing, from email to social media. But when it comes to marketing to college students, you need to incorporate an on-campus element into your overall marketing strategy.

If you’re not on campus, your competition sure is — marketing on college campuses is becoming more and more prevalent. And the likelihood that a student will make a purchase increases if they’ve encountered your marketing in-person.

One of the best times to connect with college students is when they first arrive on campus.

Move-in day, commonly known as Welcome Weekend, is an especially exciting time for freshmen. They’re trying to figure out where everything is and how to live on their own. And both new and returning upper class students are ready to try new things and continue to develop their identity as they learn and grow.

From targeting the right audience to enlisting student ambassadors, here’s our guide to on-campus marketing during the move-in rush.

Market to Each Niche

In marketing, we consider a period of change in a customer’s life a key transactional period.

The nature of this change is different for a freshman college student versus a senior about to graduate. For example, a freshman needs a student bank account, while a senior might need a credit card. A freshman needs a bike, while a senior needs a job.

Before you hit the quad with your marketing team, decide who your different college student personas are, and make a list of their needs, desires, and challenges, and how your product can help.

The more specifically you target groups, the better. By developing and understanding each persona of your audience, you can design your marketing to speak to them, and get more interest as a result. Without persona development, you’re just shouting into the void and hoping someone listens.

Fine-tune Your Message

When you set up on campus, your team should know how to talk to passing students to get their attention.

Say your brand sells a healthy granola bar and you head to campus to give out free granola bars. Your team and/or signage might say “Free Healthy Breakfast for Your First Week of Class.”

Freshman are stressed about finding their classes, getting books, making friends and more. They’re likely to respond to a message that promises one less thing for them to worry about. And when they come to your booth, they can sign up with their email or follow you on social media in exchange for a 5-bar sample pack.

Another approach is to speak to the needs of students (and their parents) in the moment. Freshman are moving into a dorm amidst the chaos of thousands of other students. They’re tired, thirsty, and hungry, and their phones are probably low on power or already dead.

If you’ve got free water (branded with your logo), energy drinks, food, or just a relaxing place to sit in the shade and charge a phone, you’re creating an opportunity to connect. It doesn’t matter if your brand doesn’t sell any of those types of products. This is simply the messaging that brings students to you and allows you to engage.

Connect Beyond the Moment

No matter what free swag or snacks you offer college students, you need to make sure your brand’s first point of contact does double-duty for future marketing efforts. This is your chance to create a lasting connection that’ll increase your reach after move-in weekend is over.

3 ways to build a connection:

  1. Get people to sign up for your email newsletter.
  2. Ask students to follow you on Facebook, Instagram, or other social media platforms.
  3. Use old-fashioned snail mail! Get a student’s address so you can send them coupons and other promotional materials.

Be Memorable

There are likely dozens or even hundreds of brands on campus during move-in weekend. If you want to stand out, you need to plan on how to make a splash on campus.

Students love free stuff. But instead of bringing along the same old boring swag, consider your brand’s story, values, and overall aesthetic in selecting the right product to give to students.

If you’re a shoe company, you can’t afford to give a pair of running shoes to every student who passes by. But you could give away a pedometer. Similarly, a computer or software company can’t give away its product for free, but a USB stick is a great low-cost option.

These examples share three common traits:

  1. They’re cheap and easily brand-able
  2. They relate to your company’s product
  3. They’re actually useful to college students

Enlist Student Ambassadors

Getting a team of students to act as brand ambassadors is a great way to connect with college students. And not just on move-in day, but throughout the school year.

College students are more likely to trust their peers when it comes to trusting a new brand than any other form of advertising. Plus, your student ambassadors have access to places that your adult marketing staff typically do not, such as classrooms and dorms.
A few ways to get student ambassadors include:

  • Convert your summer interns into ambassadors when they go back to school — they’re knowledgable and passionate about your brand
  • Offer exclusive products and access to special events in exchange for their work
  • Create resume-building opportunities through ambassador experience and education programs

Pro-tip: Read our full guide on how to get brand ambassadors »

Market In the Dorms

Getting your marketing materials inside the dorm is a great way to stay top of mind with college students year-round. Move-in weekend is a good time to make this happen, as students are getting the dorms set up for the first time.

First, ask your student ambassadors (who will be welcome inside the privacy of dorms) to put up posters and marketing door hangers throughout dorms.

Next, think about helpful products that you can brand that students will want for their dorm rooms. Some examples could include:

  • Door Whiteboards: These are low-cost and students like to use them to write themselves reminders or for their friends to leave them notes.
  • Fridge Magnets: Students always have coupons, take-out menus, and syllabi to keep organized — a branded fridge magnet helps them out and provides constant visual reminders of your brand.
  • Mini-fans: A lot of dorms don’t have a/c, which isn’t fun in those early hot days of the school year. A little clip-on fan emblazoned with your logo is always helpful next to the bed or at a desk.
  • Reading lights: Since most students share dorm rooms, a reading light is handy when one is ready for bed and the other plans to stay up studying.

Choose Your Timing Wisely

Do a little research before planning the precise dates of your on-campus marketing campaign.

Maybe the Saturday of move-in is intensely busy, with a hundred companies doing give-aways and 10,000 students trying to unload cars all at once. While there’s a lot of traffic, this could be a challenging time to stand out. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be around on the busiest move-in day, but maybe you should stick around past peak traffic time to get some attention.

Maybe you’ll find that the day after move-in is far less busy with brands and move-ins, but those 10,000 students are all still there. This could be the perfect time for you to make your big push and increase your chances of getting noticed.

Don’t Forget the Parents

College students usually have their parents by their side on move-in day. Parents are excited to help their kids get settled in, and often are the ones buying groceries, furniture, electronics, and more.

On top of that, parents also influence their students’ spending habits through the money they give them, their own spending behavior, and through financial advice. If you can convince parents that your product is a good investment, you’re much more likely to make a sale.

Document and Optimize

Make sure you document as much of your on-campus marketing campaign as possible. Have your staff fill out post-campaign surveys about the effectiveness of signage, questions, giveaways, and more.

Send surveys to students you connected with about the product samples you gave away. And track your analytics to find out the following:
• How much engagement you’re getting from new follows on social media
• Your open rate from new email list subscribers
• Website leads from on-campus interactions

Use this data to figure out what’s working well and what’s under-performing, then apply that information to further optimize your next campaign for even greater success.

Make a Splash On Campus All Year Long

On-campus marketing is one of our specialties at College Marketing Group. From giveaways and local business collaborations to on-campus exclusive promotions and building powerful teams of student brand ambassadors, we know all the tricks to connect your brand with students.

Get more ideas about how your brand can make a splash on campus »


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