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Student Bodies

Energize your marketing by bringing students onboard.

When Timothy Ferriss developed a mental performance supplement as a study aid, he hired college students to market the product for him on their campuses. His San Jose, California, company, Adaptagenix Applied Biosciences, doesn't have a unique approach-many companies are hiring college students to market their products and services on campuses, often considered students' second homes. Dan Howard, professor and chair of the marketing department at Southern Methodist University's Cox School of Business in Dallas, finds that "businesses look to the type of advertising which people are unable to avoid," and points to the captive local audience and relaxed setting a campus provides young marketers.

Ferriss, 28, admits he made mistakes in using students. He initially had them hand out free samples of his supplement, which didn't generate many sales or much word-of-mouth. "If students can get it free," says Ferriss, "they're not going to buy it." But after receiving stellar feedback on improved physical performance from student athletes, he realized targeting a specific group within the student population was key. The product was rebranded and is now used by collegiate sports teams at major universities. Adapta-genix is on track to reach $1.1 million in 2006 sales.

Howard advises getting permission from the administration to appear on campus, and then recruiting student employees. Ferriss recommends you "focus on recruiting socially connected groups, like fraternities and sororities, to spread the word," but he cautions against having students do the actual selling. Remember: Just about anything can be marketed, and all entrepreneurs, especially local ones, can benefit from student marketing.

This story appears in the April 2006 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »