"Handsome Kevin got a little off track. Took a year off of college, and he never went back." These lyrics from the 1986 hit single "Welcome to the Boomtown" by David & David
reminded me as I drove into work today how important it is for youth marketers to keep their college plans on track. Maybe your parents warned you, like mine did: "If you take a year off of
college, you might not go back."
It's easy for marketers to find excuses to deviate from what they're doing. Sure, you're marketing budget has shrunk, you're overworked and
understaffed, but taking a break from your college marketing plan will only set you back. Students don't stop to sympathize. If you lose their attention, your competition will gladly capture it
Unfortunately for many agencies and brands, college marketing falls under the category of "special projects" or something to throw a few dollars at when there's extra
money in the budget. Look at the advertising on campus during the first week of class and you'll see that this shows. Some brands realize that being consistent year after year does pay off. So,
if you've been thinking about taking a break from college marketing, don't. Here are some steps you can take to refresh the plan over the summer and hopefully tighten up your budget:
- Get your voice back on key -- Take a look at your messaging. Make sure it's on task and has a consistent tone across all areas of your business (online and
off-line). Remember, not all college kids are alike, so it's okay to talk to who your customer is. Just be you. They'll like that about you. Make sure you are reinforcing your
brand's key value to them. Once you've done this, make sure everyone in your company knows this message and is speaking the same language.
- Gain permission
-- Work on ways to gain permission to talk further with your young customers, and when they give it to you, make sure you have something useful to say. If they give you their email, sign up for your
LinkedIn group, connect with you on Facebook, or follow your Tweets, make sure you don't waste their time. Give them reasons to recommend you to their friends and facilitate the sharing of your
passion with others.
- Get a mobile plan in place -- Although it's always changing, mobile is not new anymore, and most brands talking with youth should
understand it by now. You need a plan for mobile. Whether it's a useful app, a mobile site, or opt-in text promotions, call in experts to get it up and running. Mobile should be the thread that
ties your campus promotions together.
- Pick fewer campuses and own them -- You can't "advertise" on every campus in the country, but you can pick the
ones that make sense, and become a household name there. Better yet, let the campuses pick you. Rather than spreading your media budget too thin across 100 campuses, repurpose those ad dollars on a
couple dozen, and really participate in the culture there. Your motives will be more genuine, and you'll make it that much harder for your competitors to gain entry.
- Pick smart media -- Think about your brand message and/or offer. Now, think about where a college kid might go to find out more, and make sure your brand shows up there. If you
aren't sure where that is, then ask. There's nothing more disappointing than looking for your new favorite brand and finding out they really don't "know" you.
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