US students are graduating from high school at a greater rate than ever before, according to the US Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics. The nation's high school graduation rate hit 82 percent in 2013-14. The statistics for college graduates are also impressive. From associate to doctorate level, degrees are up – and that means opportunities for entrepreneurs.
Grad season can be a small-business owner’s best friend if you know how to position yourself and cater to the market of graduates and their families. If you’ve recently graduated yourself, you know this market better than most, but you’ll be surprised at how fast your knowledge about what’s important to graduates becomes obsolete.
If high school and college are a distant memory, here are five tips to help you reach this market of enthusiastic consumers ready to celebrate their achievements.
- Celebrate the occasion. Graduates are excited and want to mark the “end of an era” with a celebration. How can your business be part of the celebration? If you provide event-planning services, catering, photography, or DJ services, think about how you can market to new grads’ parents.
- Gifts that keep on giving. Do you sell something that could conceivably be a grad gift? Retailers can market to new grads and their families by selling greeting cards, gift wrap, and gifts tailored to grads. But think outside the box: everything from a new car, briefcase for that new job, or a spa day or health-club membership could conceivably be marketed as a gift for a grad embarking on adult life.
- Offer savings. College students often put themselves through school by working, which means they’re on a budget or may have student loans to pay. Help them save money and stay within budget by offering new-grad discounts or allowing them to postpone payments. This tactic can work well with high-ticket products or services.
- Act your age. Don’t try to talk the graduate’s language if you’re not the same age. Trying to use a bunch of catchphrases you don’t really understand will just make you sound old. Plus using trendy language dates your business, and graduates will turn away faster than you can say, “It’s Hammer Time.” A better idea is to hire or contract with a copywriter who can speak the language of graduates without sounding condescending. Once you’ve developed your age-appropriate marketing messages, make sure you’re spreading them on the right social media platforms (for recent graduates, that’s most likely Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat).
- Segment your markets. High school graduates have completely different needs and desires than college graduates. Make sure you know your specific market and how to reach them with the right message. Segment your product and service offerings, your marketing messages, and your website to attract these two different markets.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at [email protected], follow her on Google+ and Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit her website SmallBizDaily.com to get the scoop on business trends and to sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.