Before I graduated from the University of Warwick, I had done my research into the needs of students when it comes to their accommodation. SmarterHousing was immediately distanced from other providers of student accommodation by three unique selling points:
- no letting fees;
- free wireless broadband; and
- ‘all inclusive’ rent covering gas, electricity and water consumption.
There were some problems with the all inclusive package which (as proven in Birmingham County Court :0)) were entirely down to Glide Utilities. A future update will probably cover this in more detail and our switch to a new company – FliSolo.
These issues aside, the benefits listed above aided SmarterHousing to let all properties on offer for the first ‘year’ of operation – September 06 to July 07. As an additional perk, all of our student tenants were entitled to numerous discounts and special promotions in local shops, bars and restaurants.
Initially a marketing gimmik, I had 1,000 SmarterHousing keyrings manufactured to display our company logo and SmarterHousing.co.uk. The keyrings were of a pound coin design and could therefore be used at supermarkets for the trolley release. I had hoped this would encourage students to use them and I think, in the majority of cases, it did.
If free supermarket trolleys weren’t enough, these keyrings had to be presented to obtain student discounts available in the local area. An obvious problem arose – very few keyrings would come back to us at the end of the year
As a marketing tool, linking special offers to the keyring worked pretty well as it kept almost all of them in circulation. This helped expose the brand and we had students coming into the office asking if they could buy the ‘discount keyring’.
A much more attractive solution, in my opinion, was to move into the production of a student discount card. With a fairly extensive range of student discounts already available in Leamington Spa, mainly suitable for students at the University of Warwick, it wouldn’t take much to get the idea off the ground.
With that, the SmarterCard student discount card was born. To avoid repetition, I’ll probably end up dubbing it The Smarter Card – local discounts, nationwide.