Business startup culture is often referred to as an extension of the millennial mentality. As the highest educated, most radically diverse, optimistic generation to date, students on today’s campus are breaking the mold of traditional lecture-based learning to become tomorrow’s entrepreneurs. In fact, 25 percent of today’s college students are aspiring entrepreneurs.
Experts are calling on higher education institutions to be more innovative in nurturing the employability, ingenuity and self-management abilities of graduates, so as to enhance their contributions to the contemporary workforce.
Does this mean people working in the education industry should set their sights on grooming the next Mark Zuckerburg? Not necessarily.
Education marketers should begin to recognize students as an influential audience for building brand loyalty. They may not hold the purse while on campus, but as potential lifelong customers and future employees, college students could be your brand’s best next investment.
Here are three strategies to position your brand for the student audience.
It’s a bottom-up sales strategy
Students are seeking their own avenues for gaining the skills and experience they need to be employable in an ever-changing market. That means students play an active role in developing extra-curricular activities, community initiatives and campus-wide makerspaces, to name a few.
In comparison to K-12, college students have autonomy in choosing which products and platforms to utilize for classroom projects, research and community involvement.
As a student’s horizons broaden, so does his or her network. Students build closer relationships with their professors and superiors, especially on small campuses. Although they aren’t documented as the final customer in sales conversions, their influence in the purchasing decision process is growing.
Make an effort to connect with students, especially on social media. Introduce your brand where students are by following and engaging with geo-tags on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Authentic and natural marketing strategies will resonate best with this audience.
Your product within the lab and lecture hall is merely the beginning
College students are ambitious and inventive. Get their wheels turning by providing real-world applications and extensions of your product.
Partner with existing college competitions and initiatives that emphasize skill and career development. For example, STEM. Robotics and engineering competitions graciously accept sponsorships and product donations. Associating your product with real-world applications will help students associate your brand with their most powerful learning experiences.
Startup competitions held on campuses across the country are an ideal way to expose your brand, not only to students, but also to faculty. Your community involvement will exude your brand’s true passion for continued learning – and that education should influence the lives of others beyond classroom walls.
An aspiring student may become an entrepreneur, your employee—or even your boss
Recruitment by employers on college campuses is not a new concept. However, the sooner you introduce your brand to the youngest and brightest, the better potential for a strong, long-term connection.
Engage in corporate social responsibility through grant programs, internships and sponsored research initiatives. Show students that your brand supports their success and begin building authentic relationships with your potential customers, your soon-to-be employee and maybe even your future employer.
A version of this article originally appeared on the C. Blohm & Associates blog; reprimted with permission.