How to Target College Students as a Small Business

by Cameron Shaw

Illustration by Lacy McKee

Connecting with college students can be a great way to reach a broader audience for your business and appeal to a younger demographic. However, marketing to college students introduces unique challenges in comparison to other demographics. Here are some ways to target them:

Know your audience

Each college community will have a different culture and students will react to that. Understand what is popular at the college in your area through surveys and involvement in the area. Once you have a good understanding of the college community, insert your business by partnering with campus organizations, sponsoring events on campus and listening to student feedback. Make your business student-friendly by listening to student’s suggestions and offering students a space to study. For example, consider providing free wifi! Students will choose your business for the sense of community, not just because of your great product. Then you can focus your marketing on how your business can improve the lives of students.

Focus on affordability

College students are on a budget and cost is their number one consideration when choosing where to make a purchase. Low or competitive prices will appeal to college students, and promotions and discounts will grab their attention. Loyalty programs and student discounts will encourage students to return to your business. Additionally, rewards for referrals will help your brand gain popularity. Make an effort to keep up with trends, holidays and big events on campus so that you can offer special deals when students may be willing to dish out a bit more money.

Make your business convenient

College kids are busy and their time is valuable. Make sure that your business is in a convenient location close to campus. Students should be able to access it easily, preferably by foot. The environment should also be a convenient place for students to hang out by creating a welcoming atmosphere with wifi and places for people to study or meet up with friends. Even then, many college students are too busy to shop in person. Make sure that you have a website and online ordering system, and that students can access and navigate them easily on their cellphones.

Build up your online presence

The internet is the main way young people find new information, so your business must have a strong online presence. Make sure your social media and website are updated, active and engaging. Use social media platforms that will target young people like Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok, as opposed to Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Also, keep an eye on your online reviews and encourage students to leave positive ones. People are much more likely to believe a review on Google from a fellow college student than the information on your website. Using influencers in your marketing can also help, especially local micro-influencers. Reach out to college students who have a large following on social media to help you promote your business. Similar to online reviews, people will trust them more than anything your business says directly.

Ready to expand your marketing strategy to more effectively target college students? Our team at 1893 Brand Studio is here to help from strategy to copy and design to multimedia projects. For more information, check out our website here.