Ilia Nossov wanted to learn about marketing, so he started his research where person-to-person marketing is most intense - at a nightclub.
The senior at the University of Buffalo (N.Y.) actually took a job working at a nightclub, and credits that experience with giving him the skills needed to launch his marketing company, Collegeffect.com, which now has operations on 16 campuses across the state and growing fast.
“I found that a lot of clubs and bars just put out fliers,” says the Moscow, Russia-born Nossov, who grew up in New York City. “It’s not enough.”
So instead of sticking to fliers at his old job, Nossov started doing online viral campaigns to attract partiers. A Web-page designer for businesses since he was in his teens, he made sure the club had a strong online presence. It worked so well that he decided to start his own venture, which helps companies target college students. This earned Nossov runner up status in StarupNation’s “Huge Upside Potential” group in the 2008 Dorm-Based 20.
Collegeffect.com launched in January 2006. Nossov says it’s more elusive than ever to find a way to reach this demographic because its attention is getting pulled in so many different directions. “There’s always a need for businesses to promote to college students, and it’s getting more difficult to reach the college population,” he says.
Basically, these people aren’t just all watching the same television show or reading the same newspaper any more. Their interests are diverse.
Collegeffect.com has a multi-tiered approach to reaching students. Nossov does everything from simple campaigns with fliers, to large on-campus marketing campaigns that can involve dozens of people. He’ll even have employees dress in the costumes of company mascot if that’s what it takes. In the online realm, Collegeffect.com can do e-mail campaigns, post events on social-networking sites and build Web pages.
“Being everywhere where students can see you works better than just one channel,” Nossov advises.
The costs for these services range from $5,000 to $100,000, depending on the event, though most of Nossov’s clients pay somewhere in the middle, he says. So far, the companies that are Collegeffect.com’s main paying customers are large corporations that offer tutoring and test-preparation courses.
Unlike the familiar credit card companies that have a presence on campuses across the country with their free T-shirts and other promotions, Collegeffect.com doesn’t have to pay big fees to universities in order to promote events on campus. Nossov avoids this by employing students at those universities to do the marketing, and he pays them either by hour or per event.
For future growth, Nossov is looking to cater to global consumer companies that want to reach college students. Geographically, he is looking next at setting up operations on campuses throughout Massachusetts. But his ambition – and his huge upside potential – go well beyond the east coast. He is eyeing the 1.75 million college students throughout the United States, and he wants Collegeffect.com to be able to reach all of them. And Nossov, who intends to move full-time into running Collegeffect.com after he finishes up with his international entrepreneurship degree next year, wants to take the concept overseas. “Eventually we should be able to go to Europe and Asia,” he says.
Nossov would also like to eventually set up another, more philanthropic venture sometime in the future. He is interested in establishing a company that supplies developing countries with wireless Internet connections, possibly by using solar power.
For now, though, he will continue to target college students, one campus at a time. Oh, and attend classes, too.