If you’re a chamber in a small town with a college or university, you may hear gripes from your member businesses about students and their shopping patterns. They tend to hit the big box stores and bars while the other businesses are ignored. Universities aren’t making this any easier either as they increase their on-campus offerings to remain competitive in recruiting students.
A person in our chamber professionals group on Facebook shared what her community is doing to combat the problem. (Check out here data in the link provided. Great intel into her community.):
Do any of you with college/university groups? I wanted to share this! My students in the Central Communication Agency are working with our downtown association battling “town-gown” issues! We’re making big strides! Even a 1,000 student survey! Results here… Had to share! http://cwuagency.com/eda
Chambers are a great advocate for shop local campaigns. The same can be done for university students with a change in appeal based on the needs of the audience.
The town where I went to school faced a similar problem. Many students left the quaint village and drove about 10 miles to shop at a Walmart equivalent. The local businesses wanted students to shop in town so they:
- Adjusted their hours. Students keep strange hours. Being open when they want to shop, eat, etc., became a way to attract them.
- Became a place to be seen. The local businesses were fortunate that they had a beautiful main street to work with. The restaurants offered more outdoor seating options. As students cruised the small strip, they could see their classmates enjoying themselves and joined them.
- Offered things the University didn’t. I don’t know the logistics of logos, but our town stores began offering unique pieces that our school bookstore didn’t carry. When parents came to town, you brought them there.
These suggestions predate the Internet. If I was in charge of advising local businesses on how to appeal to students today, I would suggest they need to be on Facebook and other social media platforms. They need to target their student audience with a different message and concentrate on building word of mouth. Wendy’s does this well. They tweet a picture of a juicy burger at 2 a.m. Do they know their night owl audience or what?
Know Why Student’s Shop There
The only reason students shop in those big stores is because they are familiar with them, they’re affordable, and they’re convenient.
Chambers can help their local businesses by hosting a lunch and learn on how to appeal to twenty-somethings. The agenda could consist of tips on telling their story to a younger audience, making the most of social media profiles and targeting with graph search, social media advertising and social media flash offers.
If you can encourage your chamber businesses to run campaigns to get students talking about them, they’re half way to building a following and thus drawing more students. Students are pack animals. Where one goes, many go.
Guest post by Christina Green
Image via Flickr by taberandrew
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