How to Get Back-to-School BusinessThe Goal

Snag the new student business that’s about to flood your area with the start of the school year.

Whom to Focus On

Freshmen. Many will be on the lookout for someone they can rely on for certain services, such as a hairdresser, a mechanic, a grocery store and, of course, food delivery. Upperclassmen can be good targets as well, but they may already have established where they go for such services.

Why Getting to Them First Matters

Many students will be handling certain responsibilities for the first time. Your business may very well be the first time that out-of-town students, in particular, encounter the type of product or service that you offer. It’s not only in the classroom where students will need to be educated. That’s why good customer service will be a strong selling point. And don’t give up on students who have been living in the area for years. Their parents may have taken care of services such as dry cleaning and maintaining the car previously, but the students may not have the same loyalty to the businesses that their parents do.

To Start

You need to have an online presence. If you don’t already have a website, you can easily set one up through Dex Media. Create a Facebook page for your business as well.

The Approach

Do some homework yourself because all schools operate differently. See if you can get a coupon for your business into the freshmen’s orientation packet. If your service is in walking distance from the school, emphasize that on any printed material. Not all students have cars. If a student has to drive to reach your service, emphasize something that makes the drive worthwhile to them. If you are near public transportation, tell them how to get to you. Understand what your competitors are doing, and that includes the school or university. If the prices for your used books are cheaper than the university’s bookstore, say so. Include your website on any printed material. If you have a Facebook page, don’t beat around the bush. Ask point-blank for students to “like” you on Facebook and let them know how it benefits them – such as, they’ll know about great deals first. There may be a bulletin board in the dorms where you can post information about your service as well. If you can’t get your product or service into an orientation pack, a bulletin board is a good route.

The Follow-Up

Keep in mind that college freshmen are going to be overwhelmed with information those first weeks of school. Not everything is going to stick. Get your product or service in front of them, but select a time for a second push once students’ lives have become more settled. Different services will want to plan a second push at different times. A coffee shop will likely want to make another marketing push sooner rather than later, perhaps three weeks after school starts, because students are more regularly on the lookout for a good spot to study. But a manicurist may want to time a second marketing blitz just before a major social event, such as Homecoming or a dance sponsored by the school or its sororities and fraternities.

Important Tips

Keep in mind that there are many ways to market to college students, using both print and online techniques. Become familiar with your local school’s protocol for advertising to students. Take note of the calendar of important school events to determine what may be key business opportunities for you. Determine the school clubs and organizations that may have a regular need for your services. And then, most important, offer good service because in a closed community like a college campus, one student could end up referring many, many more to you. If there’s one thing students like to do, it’s talk and share.