Going off to college and living on my own for the first time was a huge adjustment. I had to figure out for myself how to use the washing machine (quarters are your best friend), what store offered the best deals (two-story Target = heaven) and when was the best time to wake-up for class (15 minutes before it was scheduled). In general, I needed to learn how to survive for those four years on my own.
Luckily, I went to a school that had several ‘Welcome Back’ events for both first-year students and returnees. At those events, there was plenty of information to go around about the campus as well as the surrounding community. Four years removed from that experience, I now realize the worth in these types of events. Sure, they benefit the students who go, but the greater benefit is to the college organizations and surrounding businesses that attend and have giveaways available.
Consider some of these memorable items that college kids can’t live without – and how your business can use the same to market your services:
1. T-shirts. I have an extensive t-shirt collection from college, but I clearly remember the first one I received at John Carroll University. It was gray, had the Student Union logo on the front and a slogan on the back with their website. It was free on move-in day freshman year and I grabbed it without really thinking.
I ended up keeping that shirt for the next seven years. Why? It was comfortable, a neutral color and helped me fit in with every other freshman wearing it. I never forgot about the Student Union either – I ended up getting actively involved on-campus… And to think, it all started with one, basic t-shirt.
2. Cups. Most college students are living on a budget. They need cheap utensils so they can eat and clean up easily. Plastic cups with your company’s logo and phone number imprinted on them could be your contribution to their dishware, and may stick around for a year or more in a college house. Your brand is always in the open, and your services – whether it’s a restaurant, a lawn service or a bank – are regularly top-of-mind.
3. Folders, Notebooks and Binders. It may sound silly; college kids don’t get excited about school supplies and will just toss them, right? Wrong. In many college and university bookstores, those items cost a ridiculous amount of money; even places like Target or CVS can charge a fortune. Giving away folders, notebooks and binders featuring your contact information will be used just as much as pens or pencils.
4. Coupon Booklets. For graduate school I went to Cleveland State University and loved Rascal House Pizza, a campus staple. Luckily for me, Rascal House gave out coupon books at the start of every semester. This was a booklet of at least 25 coupons, if not more, with a variety of deals featured. Needless to say, when I forgot to pack a lunch, I regularly stopped at Rascal House using the coupon book stored in my backpack. You don’t need something this extensive – a lot of those coupons went to waste – but this is a great incentive for new students to check out what you have to offer.
5. Food. At every Welcome Back event I went to in college, there was always free food. Often, that food came from a sponsor. It wasn’t necessarily a restaurant or store; it could be anyone who had a table at an event and wanted to draw attention. For college kids, any type of food is a treat. If you go to one of these events, bring the food and some literature on your business with you. This take a cookie, get a flyer strategy could bring you some new customers.
Now is the perfect time to think about how you can welcome students to college campuses this fall. Remember, college students will be around learning about your business for at least four years… and could be your customer for a lifetime.