Lessons from the College Campus

Author: Linda J. Popky

Several weeks ago we had the opportunity to send our daughter off for her first semester of college.

As any parent knows, this is both an exciting adventure and a scary one – it’s a very strange feeling to realize your little girl is now a full-fledged adult with all the thrills and responsibilities that entails.

If you haven’t been on a college campus in awhile, let me tell you things have changed.

From the college application process through applying for financial aid to choosing courses and paying bills, everything is now done online. Gone are the old room keys and meal tickets – replaced with a single mag stripe card that does everything from let you into your dorm room and the cafeteria to allow you to make purchases at the college bookstore and ride the local buses.

Dorm rooms are now wired for both internet and cable, but not for telephones. Landlines have gone the way of the pay phone – obsoleted by the ubiquitous cell phones students carry anyway. Best of all, there’s no more need for rolls of quarters for laundry machines! A swipe of the card and your laundry charges are now handled electronically, automatically deducted from your running balance.

Still, amidst all of this technology, I was struck by how much things are still the same.

Yes, you can order your books on line, but for the most part, courses still require physical textbooks, just like the old days. Yes, faculty and students interact online and through email, but classes for the most part still require physical attendance and activities. Yes, every internet savvy college student is on Facebook, but introductory get-togethers and parties still happen in person. Yes, updates on sports activities are available on the net, but football games still attract a huge campus crowd in the stands each weekend.

I’m sure some schools are more savvy than others, and there are some that are integrating bleeding edge technology none of us have even imagined. But instead of jumping on technology for technology’s sake, it appears that colleges overall have done a fairly good job of integrating new technology with the old, tried and true to create a meaningful college experience.

From a business perspective, we’re often tempted to jump into new technologies to show how advanced and up-to-date we are, without knowing whether or not these tools will help us achieve our goals of revenue growth and profitability.

The lesson here is not that the end justifies the means, but rather that a variety of means – old and new integrated together – are often the best way to reach the end. Rather than throwing out the old and focusing just on the latest and greatest hottest fad, there’s value in keeping the end in mind – adapting those tools and techniques that make the most sense to get you where you want to be, without throwing away the stuff that still works.

So yes, you may want to integrate Web 2.0, social media, and other techniques into your marketing program, but you also want to keep the old-school programs that are still working for you today – the ones that continue to reach your target audience and deliver your message.

Think about the marketing programs and initiatives that have gotten the best results in the past. Are they still relevant now? Can you update them by integrating new technology? Given the current economy, are you still targeting the right people? How can you make your offerings more relevant to the people who are most likely to need them in today’s environment? How do you combine the best of both worlds?

After all, those middle of the night dorm fire drills still happen in real-time and real life. Students can tweet about it all they’d like, but that won’t stop them from having to stand outside shivering and cold when the bell rings. And that’s part of the whole experience.

What lessons can you apply for your business? Contact us for a complimentary marketing assessment. We’ll evaluate your marketing initiatives and help you create a plan that gives your organization straight A’s.

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