For local business owner, targeting students is a social undertaking

Collin Austin, owner of New Scooters 4 Less in Gainesville, is busy preparing for his company’s peak season. As with so many businesses in Gainesville, Austin’s company is targeted largely towards the city’s student population. In fact, more than 90% of his revenue comes directly from the student market, making the month of August by far his busiest time of year. The Business Report spoke with Austin about the success of his business and about the marketing tactics he uses to help him reach students in this competitive market.

TBR: Can you please provide a brief history of New Scooters 4 Less (NS4L)?

Austin: NS4L was founded in March of 2004, two months before I graduated from the University of Florida. I used to be the student sitting at the bus stop waiting for the bus to pick me up. As the bus approached my bus stop, I would stand up and prepare to board, then it would drive right by me with those lit up words “FULL BUS” across the top. It used to drive me insane. I realized an opportunity to solve a very big transportation problem. I made it my mission to help students get to class without having to wait for a bus or deal with parking.

TBR: How do you market to your target audience and stand out from the competition?

Austin: We do some traditional media, but our biggest return on investment comes via referrals, SEO, our logo on the side of the scooters, and social media. I’m obsessed with social media, so I’m continuously creating targeted ads on Facebook and Instagram, talking to customers and potential customers via Snapchat, creating Snapchat geofilters, and so much more.

Though ads can be extremely effective on social media, I look at social media more as a way to deepen my relationship with customers. When you create a company that genuinely cares about people versus just trying to sell them a product, you don’t have to work as hard to market your company.

TBR: What do you do specifically at this time of year to prepare for the student’s return, both from the operational side as well as the promotional side?

Austin: July and early August is always interesting for us. Our service department is typically a little slower, but that allows us to prepare and assemble scooters to be sold during the back to school rush. We also receive hundreds of scooters and start stocking up on inventory to be sold.

In addition, we have a lot of students and parents coming through that are in town for UF Preview. This is an opportunity to expose them to our company and culture, help them find the right scooter, and place a deposit for August.

Promotionally, we don’t do a ton in July or early August. I just continuously expose everyone to our brand through my Snapchat story and other social media platforms. For example, I will get on Twitter, search “UF Parking” and find students that are complaining about parking tickets or the lack of parking on campus. Then I will interact with them or simply ‘favorite’ their tweet.

This exposes them to my profile and they see that I am the founder of NS4L. You never know…maybe they will now consider a scooter!

Social Media allows me to expose customers to NS4L and relate to them without being “salesy”. Remember, I’ve been where they are and have been through the same parking and bus riding issues they are facing. That’s why my business exists today!

Part of this interview was conducted via Snapchat! Follow Austin and NS4L at ns4lcollin.

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