Your Crib Sheet for Marketing on Community College Campuses

students on campus outside talking

Sometimes, the best campus marketing target isn’t a university. Of the 17+ million college students in the United States roughly 37% attend a two-year program.

A multinational client of ours recently asked for our help hiring students in particular areas of Louisiana and Mississippi. According to the NCES, 50% of degree granting institutions in Louisiana and Mississippi are two-year institutions. Those particular areas had several community colleges, but not a lot of four-year institutions. So we marketed to those community colleges to find the brand reps our client was looking for.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, 46 percent of all students who completed a degree at a four-year institution in the 2013-2014 academic year, had been enrolled at a two-year institution at some point in the previous ten years.

National Student Clearinghouse Research Center

So really look at the interests of the students, knowing that many of them will enroll in a four-year institution as well. You could find some great ambassadors that will spread the word about your brand at not just one school but two.

These are just a couple of reasons brands shouldn’t neglect marketing at two-year schools. But one size doesn’t fit all. If you use the same strategy at a community college that you’re employing at universities, you’ll probably fall on your face.

Two-year schools have big differences from universities that impact the way you market on campus. Know them, and shift your strategy appropriately, before you hire your first community college student rep.

Need an education on marketing to community colleges? Here’s a crib sheet.

Consider the Commuter

Most two-year schools are commuting schools. Some are beginning to offer dorm living, but it’s definitely not the majority. When you engage community colleges, you’ll need to shift your marketing appropriately to reach the 9-5 students who leave campus as soon as class is over.

When you’re targeting commuter students, you need to consider those students—how they get to school, how much time they spend on campus, how involved they are in student life. Many community college students view the school as nothing more than the place where they go to class, and they leave and go to work as soon as class is over. They don’t spend time on campus. So reaching out to those individuals is a little tricky—you’ll need to get creative in the way you target them.

Know the Geography

Two-year schools are much smaller than most universities, so your marketing efforts will be confined to a much smaller location. Everything will probably be within walking distance of the parking lot. Because you have smaller windows of opportunity to engage with individuals, you have to understand the campus better than a four-year school. You’ll need to find unique ways to integrate your brand into the daily life of students. For example:

  • Look at the blocks of classes and identify your best opportunities
  • Figure out where the common areas are and how to best use them
  • Build a relationship with dining services on campus and partner with them
  • Set up presentations and speaking sessions in central locations

Connect with the Community

When you’re working with a two-year college, if you can show the value of the brand—as long as it doesn’t come across as invasive or salesy—you can often get assistance from the school or faculty to implement different opportunities. Community colleges are always looking for opportunities to reach students, because those schools are more personal and more relational than a four-year university. Professors invest into their students more. Campus services spend a lot of time thinking about community and relationship-building.

Whatever marketing you plan to do, if you want to get assistance from the college, make sure you capture that personal, relational component. Show that you value connection and community.

Capitalize on Financial Needs

At a community college, many students are attending in order to cut college expenses, so they’re more likely to be interested in job opportunities to do marketing. Brand ambassador programs have the potential to be very successful at a community college, because you have students who can penetrate the campus better—they know how to navigate the school, and they’re likely more motivated because personal finances are an issue.

The toughest part is connecting with those students. And that’s where Go Commando can help.

Go Commando Is Paving the Way

We’ve been hearing from brands who want to penetrate community colleges, so we’re now beginning to provide ambassadorships at two-year schools as an option. When you’re starting a brand new marketing initiative at a campus you’ve never been to, already having student brand ambassadors on the ground provides tremendous value. We’re beginning to lay the foundation for brands to enter two-year campuses and immediately connect with vetted brand ambassadors, so they can hit the ground running in new territory.

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