Creative Marketing on a Limited Budget

by May Lansigan

Creative Marketing on a Limited Budget
Adapted from the “Marketing on a Sand Dollar Budget” workshop presented at the 2004 WACE Conference by the UCI Career Center and the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Corporation.

The purpose of Career Center marketing:
As Career Center professionals, we want to prepare students with the skills and resources to succeed in the workplace. Effective marketing is essential because it increases student awareness of the career resources available and the tools necessary to create their future success. The following provides a general overview of our target population and corresponding cost-effective marketing strategies and examples.

Understanding the student population:
Although populations vary from campus to campus, understanding today’s students affect the way that we market to them!

    •“Undergraduates:” predominantly born between 1978-1984 and commonly referred to as the “Millenial” population. They are generally “tech savvy” and are known as the “Parented Generation” because parental involvement in their life is considered normal and often welcomed. Furthermore, Career Centers must also acknowledge these parents as a growing influence in their child’s career decisions and market services accordingly.

    •“Graduate Students:” older students with different needs than undergraduates. They have more responsibilities with work or family and generally have less time for exploring resources and services. They want easy access to Career Center resources and are looking beyond an entry-level position.

    •“Alumni:” want quick and easy access to resources and job postings. Alumni may be experiencing high anxiety regarding their job search or switching career paths.

Types of Cost-Effective Marketing:

1. “Free” Marketing:

    Involving students in marketing:

    •Student Marketing/Outreach Interns: Acquire student volunteers or interns strictly for marketing, promotion, and outreach activities.

    •Outreach Tables: Strategically place tables displaying Career Center resources at various areas of the campus. Staff the tables with Career Counselors or Student Interns and rotate by shifts.

    •Class Announcements: Seek permission from select professors to make brief Career Center-related announcements and/or distribute flyers at the beginning or end of class.

    The “Layering Effect:” repetitive and constant marketing through free on-campus resources. You want students to see, hear, and read about the Career Center everywhere they go. Examples include:

    •Campus Marquees
    •Email Lists, Message Boards, and Websites to which a specialized message can be sent, posted, or displayed
    •Kiosks at which fliers and posters can be posted
    •Attendance and Announcements at Meetings or Events
    •Word of Mouth marketing through individual career counseling appointments, workshop presentations, and drop-in consultation

    Pipeline Marketing: through students, colleagues, and employers. These interactions lead to many referrals and contacts that continue the pipeline. Marketing to professors and advisors is important because students are more likely to attend events to which their mentors encourage them to participate. Some professors even give students extra credit for attending Career Center events! Examples include:

    •Student and Parent Orientation Programs (e.g., panels, resource fairs, etc.)
    •Student Leadership Conferences/Organizations
    •“Don’t Cancel That Class:” Offer to conduct a workshop for a faculty’s class when there is a sudden cancellation of a guest lecturer/speaker.
    •Academic Advisor Meetings: Establish a “cross-referral” of students who need guidance.

2. Low-Cost Marketing:

    Marketing to Parents:

    •Resources for Parents on Career Center Website: links to “Myths & Facts about Career Planning” and “How Parents Can Help their Student,” etc.
    •Mailings Sent to Permanent Home Addresses: Send postcards or folded, unsealed newsletter mailings to the permanent home addresses of students during breaks.

    Establish a “marketing focus” for the Career Center’s promotional/outreach efforts to identify with particular populations. Examples include:

    •Year in School: Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Senior, Transfer Students
    •Majors/Minors Fair
    •Student Clubs/Organizations
    •Housing Units: Outreach to dorms and residence hall community centers.

    In addition to core workshops (i.e., resume writing, interview techniques, etc.), also provide workshops dealing with “softer” skills such as:

    •Time Management
    •Healthy Budgeting
    •Business Etiquette
    •Your First Year on the Job

3. Higher Cost Marketing:

    Mobile Career Cart: The UCI Career Center purchased a refurbished golf cart and decorated it with removable signage and colorful questions marks. Signage included statements like “Is your resume ready?,” “Have you interned?” and “Got work skills?” The golf cart is driven around campus and stationed at a different location, as previously advertised in the campus newspaper. A Career Center member staffed the cart and answered student questions and distributed Career Center resources. Conducting a mini-resume critique and having the school mascot “ride along” for increased visibility are also options.

    Promotional Products: e.g., self-stick notepads, dry-erase boards, pens, calendars, bookmarks, and bags. Ask students for their input!

    Logo and Website: Unlimited web pages equal unlimited marketing and promotional opportunities. If you do not have the talent, time, or staff to create or update your website, promote it as a contest for students or make it an intern project. Remember that Millenials are “tech savvy,” therefore having a comprehensive, easy to navigate and user-friendly website is important.

Financial constraints have a “double impact” on Career Centers: reduced operational budget, and decreased employer-related revenue due to diminishing company recruitment efforts. However, Career Centers must continue to provide students with the tools and support necessary to successfully attain their life development goals. In times of limited budgets and constant changes in student populations, creative marketing is a necessary tool to effectively and efficiently create success!

May Lansigan
, (B.A. Social Sciences, UCI) is the Marketing Coordinator for the University of California, Irvine Career Center. For over five years, she has been involved with launching new programs and services for undergraduates, graduate students, alumni and employers. Promotions, strategic marketing, advertising, consulting and program planning have all been her focus. May can be reached at
Email: mlansiga@uci.edu.

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