Don’t beat your chest on campus

As people ratchet up or start to plan their back-to-school and next academic year programs, they ask themselves such questions as:

  • Is what we did last year worth doing again?            
  • What do we need to do differently this year?
  • How have students changed from year to year?
  • What is the best message to make our target audience understand what we do and how we can help them live a better life?
  • What channels of communication will help us achieve our goals?
  • How much money do we need to spend in this current economy to achieve success?

There are so many more questions that need to be asked before a plan is finalized that there isn’t enough room in this post to list them all. But if you are in this situation, I recommend taking a step back and thinking about what your brand/product/service does through the eyes of students. Why would they spend their money and/or time with your brand? What’s the point to them? How do you fit into the lifestyles of the students?

If you are thinking about your program through the eyes of your business, you will be limited in your success. Sincerity is extremely important to students. If they don’t see that in what your company does and offers, then don’t waste your money trying to reach this market. Beating your own chest will only get you so far.

As we saw in the classic 1933 movie “King Kong,” despite the “brand” the chest beater represented to everyone else, one distressed damsel understood him for who he really was. She was the only one who could get through to him. It’s the same thing here: It’s the student/consumer who can build up your brand and help you be better. They can carry you on their shoulders or let you drop to the ground.

Build a relationship with students. Be sincere. Accept their feedback for what it is, and learn from it. Listen to them. They will talk to you. They will interact with you if there is something there they know is worth it to them. Find your “damsel” on campus. How do you need to reach him/her? Once they believe, then what?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, I recommend you take some time to think about it before you spend your time and energy going after this market without a solid plan. It’s not easy, but those who have learned how to do this are surviving and thriving in a world that can, at times, be as a parent is to a child and a child to a parent. The love between the two is immeasurable and necessary. Both learn from each other. Both love each other. Both sometimes don’t like what the other wants of them, but they still trust that, in the end, it’s right.

Students need a dialogue. Can you say that about the way you speak with this audience (not speaking “at” them)? The years of pushing an idea or opinion upon students is over. If you push them, they will either push back or move out of the way and let you fall on your own, which is an expensive and painful process we see happen to companies every day.

It’s time to start thinking and acting differently. It’s time to ensure that you are “with” the students versus pushing your idea at them. It’s time for a new plan. You have four months until the next academic year. You have a little time, but not a lot. If you want some help from your audience, ask them. Now is the time. Build that dialogue. You deserve it. The students deserve it.


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