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Back to School Strategies

Avatar photo by Jessica Buchholz, Events Coordinator | August 14, 2023

Some reminders of implementation steps you should consider as the school year approaches

As back to school approaches, businesses gear up for a transition in traffic and sales. Businesses that don’t count students in their target market can still benefit from the shifting time period, and those that do count student age populations as part of their clientele should gear up with strategies to drive traffic. Below are a few quick things to think about as back to school approaches:

  1. A lot of students are probably completely unaware that your business exists, and you need to work to change that.- We sometimes have businesses tell us “how could they not know about us; we’ve been here for twenty years!”. Well, some of the students have only been here for a few days. Your longevity doesn’t automatically translate to awareness. You still have to actively market and engage with your target customers.
  2. The parents of students, and new employees at educational institutions are also potential customers.- On occasion we will hear “Eighteen year olds aren’t my primary customer”. That’s okay, but they may be potential staff members or lead-ins for your target demographic. Remember, during back to school time periods we have parents that are new empty nesters, families that want to find excuses to visit their students, and new employees of local educational institutions. Most businesses have a demographic wrapped up in the back to school time frame. What are you doing to attract them?
  3. Find ways to engage groups, not just individuals.- Using each engagement with students as a pathway into more engagements is organic growth. Retailers can offer in-house fundraisers for student groups, businesses can offer tours to campus organizations, maybe your business can play host to “moms” or “dads day” activities. If you use interactions to learn a little about students in town, you can leverage your connections to drive more traffic.
  4. A little welcome goes a long way.- Try and imagine yourself in a new town for the first time. Would you walk to a new neighborhood, knock on the door of a random house, and just walk in to look around? Probably not. But, we expect new people to simply walk into our businesses without an invite. Use your windows, sidewalks, media outlets, and events to invite people to your business. Without an invitation, some students will simply stick to the chains that they are used to in their communities.
  5. You have to get outside of your own four walls.- If students are reluctant to walk into a new place, how do you attract them? You have to meet them where they are. Emporia Main Street developed the Welcome Back Block Party as a basic introduction, and we collect student information to push additional business and event information to students. As businesses, we want you to get outside your four walls to introduce new citizens to your concept and invite them to your location. Waiting and hoping isn’t a strategy.
  6. Communicate your value proposition clearly.- When communicating to new residents, it is VERY important to have a clear and concise way to describe what you provide in a manner that connects to students. Instead of saying “we are a (insert the blank) store”, try to focus their attention by saying “we are the best in the region at”, “we are the local favorite for”, or “we are your spot to find (whatever it is you provide)”. Focus on things that make you unique.
  7. Adjust your marketing to fit your market.- How does your target market consume information? What factors motivate them to take an action? When they enter a location, what is their expectation for look, feel, background music, or other defining elements? How are you adjusting to meet the needs of your target clients?

Remember that the Welcome Back Block Party is still one of the best ways to make a quality first impression. You will have opportunities to adjust your windows, clean up your store front, remove weeds from your sidewalk, purchase targeted ads on select platforms, or implement other “welcome” strategies. Make a plan and follow through. Let’s make sure our new community members feel welcome this back to school season!

About the Author

Jessica Buchholz, Events Coordinator

Jessica Buchholz is the Community Development Coordinator for Emporia Main Street in Emporia, Kansas. She specializes in event planning, volunteer recruitment, alternative marketing, media/public relations and fundraising. During Jessica's tenure at Emporia Main Street, she has helped grow events to an international level and she has created a series of new activities to meet organizational goals.