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Is Your Business Student Friendly?

Avatar photo by Casey Woods, Executive Director | July 30, 2014
Making your
business more 
“student” friendly
  Block Party Crowd 2013  
With back to school right around the corner, here are some tips you might want to think about


Growing enrollments at Flint Hills Technical College and Emporia State University reinforce something most of us already know: Emporia is a college town.  In a college town, it is important to appeal to your target market, which hopefully includes the thousands of students within the area.  Not every business can have mass appeal to a younger student crowd, but you might be surprised at your ability to pull consumer traffic from an important population base.  Below are eight things you might want to think about as you design your marketing outreach for mid-August.





1.  If it isn’t on social media, it doesn’t exist.-  
Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and other social media are supplemented by traditional web sites to inform youth about who you are, where you are, what you offer, your hours of operation and why they should care.  If you don’t exist in their social media universe in ways that they find useful, then you simply don’t exist.  Make sure your social media strategy is up to date and includes images of your products/services, special events, invitations and contact information/hours.



2.  Youth want experiences with their consumerism.-  
I know that some businesses want customers to simply walk in, grab stuff, pay for it and walk out.  Well, that’s not how the younger generation works.  Creating great displays, hang outs, using WiFi to increaseWelcome Back Block Partystaying power and offering great information with service creates positive word of mouth.  Educating students about the events, activities and businesses around them creates repeat customers simply through value added information.  Word of mouth is critical for a group of people that can instantly invite friends and let them know about your business via their smart devices.




3.  Hours…-
If you are only open when some people can’t spend money with you, they won’t spend money with you.  The idea of store hours changes with your store surroundings.  For example, the addition of Mulready’s and Casa Ramos in the 700 Block of Commercial Street has extended the hours people typically partake of the downtown core.  Extended hours may turn window gazers into actual shoppers.



4.  Your design must reflect the student attitude.-  
In surveys, ESU Students pointed to “value” items across the spending spectrum.  Fast casual dining, fun environment shopping, event intensive entertainment…  All of these desires point to a design that appeals to students aesthetically, but with a focus on price point.  Yes, they want their cake and to eat it too.  You have to remember, that two of the top three counties for students attending ESU are Johnson and Sedgwick (Kansas City and Wichita).  A certain aesthetic exists in those areas, and businesses that fail to meet that initial “look” may not get an initial “shop”.


5.  Proximity.-
1000 BlocksMore college students forgo driving.  They walk, ride bikes, use public transportation or “bum” rides.  This means that businesses that want to take advantage of the largest portion of the college shopping public should look at locating close to the college shopping public.



6.  Online Sales supplement in-store buys-  The sharing of content through social media extends to store products, if you have an on-line presence.  Most point of sale systems now include the ability to upload your information on-line.  So, your in-store shoppers can become on-line advocates.
7.  Invite people in!-I know this sounds weird, but some people are cautious to enter a store or building they’ve never been in before.  In a generation inundated with brand addiction, they may not “get” your unique concept.  When you talk to a college student, or even someone new to the community, extend them a clear invitation to visit, shop or dine at your business.  We have a generation that isn’t used to exploring the physical world as much as the virtual one, so you need to take a little extra care in making people feel welcome.  Special events that target students can go a long way in your ability to effectively invite students.
8.  Partner, don’t pander.-Many stores get frustrated when they “give stuff away” but don’t receive support in return.  Well, the reason for that may be because the student feels very little investment in that free item they obtained.  However, if you
Future Black and Gold Zonecan find ways to partner with student groups in a way that rewards their group for bringing people to your business, you may find advocacy can create traffic.  If it doesn’t, then at least you weren’t out “free” merchandise.





With thousands of college students, faculty and staff in the area, shouldn’t you try to find ways to attract some consumers from this group?  Over the next couple of weeks, think of ways your business can welcome students back to Emporia, welcome them into your business and encourage their advocacy.  A good start is participating in the Welcome Back Block Party on August 18th.  Think of that as your first “meet and greet”, but you should have an independent plan to expose your business to a growing element in Emporia.


What have you done to welcome students into your business that you would like to share with your fellow entrepreneurs?  Contact Emporia Main Street with your ideas! 








About the Author

Casey Woods, Executive Director

Before accepting the director position in March of 2009, Casey worked in both retail and agricultural jobs in the family businesses. A lifelong resident of the Emporia Area, Casey was a ten year volunteer for Emporia Main Street prior to his appointment as director. During that time he served as the board president and chair of the Economic Vitality Committee.

Casey also serves as a partner in PlaceMakers, LLC, a consulting firm that routinely works with both large and small communities, and their businesses, to promote sustainable economic growth through community and economic development practices. Casey consults with businesses, organizations and communities to understand their market capacity and fill vacant spaces. He has been involved in two projects that included crowdfunding as a part of their overall business funding strategies, Radius Brewing and Twin Rivers Winery & Gourmet Shoppe.