Dan Tudor

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4 Ways to Pump Some Life Into Your Recruiting MessageMonday, September 27th, 2010

Words mean things.

It’s a simple mantra, but often overlooked even by experienced recruiters. 

Why does it matter?  Because the first chance you have to get a recruit’s attention – whether you are a Division I coach who has a program in the national spotlight, or a coach from a small Division III school – is through an email or a letter.  Great copywriting is an essential part of a successful recruiting campaign, it’s the life-blood of your entire recruiting message. 

Here are some of the recommendations I shared with a Division II coach I’m working with as a new client.  We’re helping them develop a series of messages that will go to recruits after they visit their campus, and agreed to share just a few of the things we’re using to develop their campaign.  Can any of these tips help you be a more effective communicator?

Send mail in different looking envelopes.  I don’t usually open “junk mail” but two years ago I remember receiving a letter and small brochure booklet in a clear, see-through envelope.  It looked cool, I got a glimpse of what was inside because of the see-through material it was mailed in, and I opened it.  Getting mail opened by your recruits is getting tougher and tougher, even if you’re a coach talking to an athlete about a possible scholarship.  Another tip that a college I recently worked with is using: A personalized message on the outside of each envelope.  They look great, and they’re getting opened.  Each is allowed by the NCAA and the U.S. Postal Service, and is considered regular first class mail.  You have lots of options to stand out from your competition.  We have a lot more on this specific topic in our two popular recruiting guides for college coaches…click here for information on them. 

Ask a question at the beginning of your message.  Make it compelling.  Make them stop and think.  And, most importantly, tie it in to a motivation that your prospect has on their mind as a recruit looking at your school, as well as many others.  Getting their attention at the start of the letter or e-mail is crucial.

Use active verbs.  At the risk of sounding like your high school English teacher, let me recommend that you use active verbs throughout any communication you have with athletes.  How?  Be eliminating the verbs “is”, “are”, “was”, “were” and “am”.  For instance, if you’re talking about your program’s great graduation rates, don’t say “Our graduation rate for 2005 was 95%”.  “Was” is a no-no, remember.  Instead, say “Our graduation rates soared to 95% in 2005.”  A minor detail?  Yes.  But, an important one.  Using the right verbs keep your reader engaged.  Using the wrong verbs runs the risk of driving them away.

Use an active “voice“.  Kind of the same theory, except this applies to your overall message.  Never write in the past tense.  Write in the present, active tense.  For example, ”Our athletes had the chance to attend the bowl game last year” isn’t that exciting.  Instead, how about “Our athletes attended the bowl game last year.”  See the difference?  It’s subtle, but like using active verbs, it keeps your readers engaged   

Writing effective recruiting letters isn’t easy, but it’s vital to your recruiting success.

Ignoring the little things like the way you are speaking to your prospects runs the risk of never fully attracting the attention of the athletes you hope to recruit to your program.  Take a look at your current letters and emails and get to work on those changes, coach!

Have questions about your recruiting message?  Need help getting a jump-start on transforming your letters?  Email Dan Tudor directly at dan@dantudor.com and arrange a time for a talk with you and your staff.  We’re here to help! 

They’re Looking for Ways You Connect the DotsThursday, September 23rd, 2010

Following our previous story from a coach involving silly string and recruiting, another D1 coach added his own story.  We did a workshop for their athletic program two years ago, and it’s good to see that a good number of the principles we laid out for their staff are being put to use:

“A great story form last weekend. We had a kid here last weekend. When he got home and was talking to the other kids on his team that had also taken visits here to our school, they told him how it seemed like the kids on the other campuses that they were at did not show interest in them.  They introduced themselves, but was the last they saw of them…theydid not seem genuinely interested in them.

His story about visiting our program here:  “I had a great time with your team they seemed genuinely interested in me. They spent time with me and answered all my questions.”

Dan, we had women recruits wearing body paint to our home football games (that was a first!)   Recruits usually will buy a T-shirt, but these kids bought t-shirts, sweat shirts, hats, etc. 

So not only is important that your message get to coaches, but the kids we have been recruiting and are now on our team know what to do with the visiting recruits and somehow have incorporated your techniques in their recruiting.  Nutty, huh?”

Just the kind of “nutty” we love to hear about.

Here’s the point I want to make with this story, as well as the one I referenced at the start of the article:  Successful recruiting, whether it’s at the D1 level or at a small private school, is about creating a total environment that ties together your story, your school’s spirit, and your vision for where your program is going.

It’s all about connecting the dots for your recruits.  And you’ve got to be the one in charge of making sure that happens.

This coach is doing it, as was the coach that got silly-stringed on her birthday.

Do you have those kinds of stories to tell, Coach?

Our Client’s Recruiting Cup Runneth OverWednesday, September 22nd, 2010

We like it when our clients win.

But for one of our Division I coaches, it’s almost not a fair fight.  She follows our strategies, and just sent me this note via email:

“We had a recruit come on her visit the day of my birthday.  Well, the seniors decided it would be funny if all 8 of them had cans of silly string and sprayed it all over me before we started practice.  This girl has been recruited by a ton of other schools and she committed to us on the spot because she said that it looked like we had fun.  She was impressed that the girls were comfortable enough with me to spray me from head to toe with silly string and live to tell about it, then go on and have a serious practice.  She said that all of the other schools she had been to were so serious the whole time it turned her off.  Having fun before practice got us a big time recruit!!!  That is recruit #15 for us.  Yes, 15.  Whoo, hooo!!”

Do we feel a little guilty for giving our clients an unfair advantage?

Not really.

What Facts Do Your Recruits Really Care About?Monday, September 20th, 2010

You throw them around all the time. 

You use them to sell your college, and you use them to combat a competitor’s advances.

Facts.  We’re talking about facts.

But which facts are worth talking about, and which ones just take up space in your messages our to your prospects?  Moreover, what facts may actually be hurting your recruiting efforts? 

We began asking that very question, beginning late last Spring, with the athletes of our clients and during focus groups at our On-Campus Workshop.  Our theory at the time was that all the facts a coach presented to a prospect played a part in their final decision. 

We were only partially correct.  Here’s why…

While today’s prospects do rely on facts about a college to form their overall opinion of the place, it is most effective when recruiters tie that fact directly to a benefit the athlete will receive as a result.

This is a very important distinction that coaches need to begin implementing.  Again, when you state a fact as a selling point of your program, it is vital that you take the extra step in explaining to your prospect exactly how they will personally benefit from that fact. 

The reason is simple, really:  Our research shows that prospects won’t “connect the dots” between your points of benefits and what it means for them personally.  As we discuss at length in our two recruiting guides for college coaches, your recruits rely largely on their feelings – how they feel about you, your team, and your campus – to make their final decision.

However, when you can add facts that will personally benefit the prospect, and get them to understand those selling points, you win; more often than not, good feelings about your program coupled with these personalized facts are almost impossible to ignore.

To get you started, here are a few of the top facts that we’re finding recruits rating as most important in their decision-making process:

  • Your on-campus housing.  It’s probably #1 on the list in your recruit’s mind.  Interestingly, you don’t always need the newest and biggest dorms or apartments to win.  Instead, you need to make sure your recruits understand how they will have fun living there.  By the way, your team’s opinions and personal stories go the furthest in selling your on-housing campus to your recruits.
  • The food on campus.  Prove to your recruits that they will eat well, and you’ll have an advantage over most of your competition.
  • The vision for your team.  It’s very important that you clearly explain where the program is heading, and how the prospect will play a part in the plan.
  • How a degree at your school will trump a degree at another school.  Coaches love to talk about the academic strengths of their college, but talk is cheap.  You’d better be ready to prove it to your prospect, and give them real-life examples (personal letters from your former players are great, by the way!) as to how your school is going to give them a better launch into their career after sports is done.

The misuse of facts is a major problem in recruiting.  We see it almost daily. 

If you’re a coach who commits themselves to taking the extra step of stressing facts that your athletes care about, as well as finding how best to tie that fact personally to your recruit, you’ll most likely gain the upper-hand over your competitors who are content with reading this research and then choosing not to change the way they are telling their story.

Tudor Collegiate Strategies can help you formulate your strategy when it comes to presenting facts about your program that get attention.  We can take our research and put it to work for your program, making a big difference in your overall recruiting efforts.  Want more information on how we can do that for you and your program?  Contact Dan Tudor directly at dan@dantudor.com.

Is the Blackberry Fading with College Coaches?Friday, September 17th, 2010

by Sean Devlin, Front Rush

Is the Blackberry’s reign as the #1 choice of college coaches and recruiters coming to an end?

There is no doubt which device - Blackberry, iPhone, Android - is dominant in college sports. The Blackberry is the most used device by coaches and, due to university contract deals with Verizon, it is not going anywhere anytime soon. But…and this is a big “but”…the landscape is definitely shifting.

In the corporate world, financial institutions who historically distributed Blackberries are now allowing their workers to buy iPhone and Android devices.

In the consumer world, iPhones and Android devices are gobbling up market share.  And, at the same time, taking it away from Blackberry.

In the “Geek” world, the Blackberry is considered old and boring.  Not the same app capabilities as some of their emerging rivals, and other perceived drawbacks.

RIM, the company that produces the Blackberry, recently came out with their new Torch mobile device.  This device was supposed to be somewhat game changing but has been met with a rather tepid response.

Our analytics (from college coaches using our website to communicate and track recruiting) are definitely showing a drop in Blackberries and an increase in iPhone’s and Android devices.

So what does this mean? Why is this happening?

It’s all about the apps, Coach.  Also known as the “suburbs of the internet”.  The Blackberry just doesn’t support apps as well as the iPhone or Android device. And because of this, it does not have the developers to build them. Combine these two and add the fact that the overall user experience of the Blackberry is clearly not the iPhone or Android.

How many Blackberry users actually browse the web?  Well, Blackberry is hard at work on these issues but it will be interesting to see how it affects the college sports landscape…specifically will the trend of coaches switching out the device continue.

The big question you’ll need to be answering soon is this:  Will your next device be a Blackberry?

*Note: These mobile devices we mentioned here are by far the primary devices we see our clients using on a daily basis.  Because of that, we did not consider any other device for this article.

Front Rush is regarded as the premier recruiting technology solutions provider for college coaches.  And, based on their history of knowledgeable advice, it’s not hard to see why.  If you are looking to ramp-up your recruiting efforts by simplifying the way you track, and communicate with, your recruits, click here.

3.5 New Campus Visit Ideas You HAVE To TryMonday, September 13th, 2010

There’s something about Fall that just screams “get my prospects to campus!!!”

The weather, a Saturday football game, eager Freshmen who haven’t yet been disillusioned by four years of college professors…it’s just the perfect scenario for a great campus visit.

And yet…

Many of you who come to us for advice on how to recruit more effectively know something could be done better.  A lot of you have read our national study on how recruits make their final decision, and now you’re looking for alternative ideas when it comes to your campus visits that you are getting ready to host for your recruits.

Of course, giving specific advice for your program is going to be tough here in writing (bringing us to campus can solve that problem, by the way).  However, there are three new ideas for your upcoming campus visits that I think you can use right away and customize to your own needs on your campus:

  1. Be careful to choose the right hosts.  One of the important facts we’ve taken away from nearly 100 campus focus groups we’ve lead over the last year or two is that the personal hosts you assign to your prospect matters greatly when it comes to their level of connection with your team and your program.  The best ages of a host?  Almost unanimously, your prospect’s first choice would be a Freshman (Sophomores are a close second).  The worst?  Seniors.  Not that your prospects don’t want to meet them, but they have a different role to play in the visit.  The younger your hosts, the better your prospect will relate to them.
  2. Ditch the boring meetings.  Consistently ranked as THE worst part of a visit to any campus are the dreaded meetings:  The meeting with admissions, the meeting with the Assistant Dean of the major that they aren’t going to end up studying, the financial aid PowerPoint presentation…all of them (surprise, surprise) really don’t matter much to most prospects.  We recommend that you develop a plan to separate your prospect from their parents on the visit and have mom and dad go to as many of those spine-tingling meetings as possible, while your recruit spends time with the other athletes on your team.
  3. Limit the “official” people they meet.  Let me go back to that meeting I just mentioned with the Assistant Dean.  You don’t want too many of those types of meetings.  That’s one of the biggest pet peeves we’ve uncovered during our work with new clients, and it centers around the idea that they don’t want to meet people that they won’t ever see again on campus.  When you pick the people you introduce them to, make sure you tell them why you want them to meet this person and how they relate to your recruit’s life on your campus.

Want tip number 3.5? 

Visit our new Facebook page for Tudor Collegiate Strategies, become a Fan, and watch a new video where I explain a real-life example of one coach who accidentally backed-in to a really smart recruiting strategy for his campus visits.

If you need help reformulating your campus visit, just email me at dan@dantudor.com.  Or, take these three new ideas that we’ve seen work wonders at campuses around the country and customize them to your program and your college.

Nothing is more important than a good campus visit.  We talk about it all the time, and it’s true: The campus visit is where their final decision gets made.  Make it count.

Looking for more ideas?  Order our two recruiting workbooks that have helped hundreds of coaches around the country renovate their recruiting approach to better fit this generation of college prospect.  Click here to visit our Recruiter’s Store and look for our two workbooks for college recruiters.

The Keys to Winning Your Daily Time BattleMonday, September 13th, 2010

by Mandy Green, Head Soccer Coach – University of South Dakota

After talking to all of the coaches that I have worked with over the years, I would say that the number one reason coaches do not reach their goals is because they did not allocate enough time in the office to accomplish the goal or goals that they set for their recruiting, team, staff, or for themselves.
We all have the same 24 hours in a day – yet successful coaches manage to accomplish more in their days and weeks.  How? Because successful coaches have prioritized their goals and have set aside blocks of time in their day where they do nothing else but focus on accomplishing one task. 
Coach, you will get more done, be more effective, and still have time left over when you “time-block” your day. You need to schedule time daily to send emails, to plan practice, to do administrative work, to return phone calls, to recruit, to manage your team, to meet with staff, etc. These activities should be clearly blocked in your schedule at specific half hour, hour-long, or how ever much time you need to accomplish the task time slots.
To get started, put all of your important activities into categories.  Let’s say for example that the 4 categories you come up with are administrative, recruiting, team, and personal: 
Administration time.  This is the time you need to troubleshoot, get your paperwork done, schedule games, do your game reports, go to meetings, etc. 
Recruiting time is when you focus on nothing but recruiting your future team.  Use this time to set up your recruiting plan for next month, analyze how your recruiting is going this month,  write hand written letters, send emails, mail letters, plan what interesting questions you will ask on your phone calls that night, schedule on-campus visits, etc. 
Team time is when you work on your team.  This is when you’re reading, planning, strategizing, thinking.  This is when you’re implementing and executing.   How can you improve your productivity, their commitment, what is your training session going to be.  Scheduling time in your day to develop you team enables your program to grow and will help bring value. 
Personal time is when you set all of your work aside.  This is time for you to focus on you.  Personal time may fall in the middle of the week, in the middle of the day, at your gym time, or at lunch.  It can also be when you have some spare time on the weekend to spend with your family.  This is your time to get recharged.  Allow yourself some time to relax and decompress mixed into your schedule. Giving yourself 15 minutes of relaxation time will enable you to stay focused and sharp during the course of your day.

Once you have categorized your important tasks, it is time to “time block” these tasks into your day.  Make sure these tasks get scheduled and done at the times you are least likely to get interrupted, such as early morning. For example, from 7-7:30am you do administrative work, 7:30-8:30 is only for recruiting, 8:30-9:30 is when you focus on your team development, 9:30-9:45 is your personal time when you get up and stretch, get water, go to the bathroom, etc.  

Again, during these blocks of time that you have set up, you focus on doing only that task.  It is important that you don’t allow yourself to check your email and you don’t answer your phone during this time.  Checking your email frequently during the day is a major contributing factor to why most coaches don’t get done what they need to.  Change your voice mail and e-mail message so you can let all would-be interrupters know when you’ll be returning calls and getting back to them. 
Everyday you must block out time for all of your high priority activities.  

Time blocking will allow you to experience consistent growth with more balance and less chaos in your day coach.  Trust me, I have been time blocking for a few months now and I love it!  I am getting so much more work done and now have a ton of more time at the end of the day to work on things that in the past I never had time for.   

Get into the habit of blocking out time for your most important activities on a consistent basis and you’ll be unstoppable!

The Secret of Packaging Your Program the Right WayMonday, September 6th, 2010

You’re dealing with high school athletes who are some of the most media-savvy creatures on the planet.

From Gatorade to iTunes, teenagers equate positive brand images packaged in an attractive way with products that they want to align themselves with.

How you package yourself as a coach, your program, the vision of where you are going, and what the prospect’s role in all that is can either make you or break you as a recruiter.

If you want to know the #1 challenge that I think most coaches never master, it’s that one.

Most businesses never quite get it right, either.  Want an example of a business that packages itself amazingly and successfully sells a service that you would never dreamed of actually being needed?  Click here and take a look at David Rees’ pencil sharpening business.

(This is where you take a second to look around at his website.  If you don’t, the rest of this article won’t make much sense.  Go ahead…I’ll wait).

Notice what he’s done?

  • He has created a unique story around something very simple, and is selling his services as a premium provider.
  • The visuals throughout his website add to the idea that he is an old-world craftsman who is the best at what he does.
  • He offers proof of his expertise by sending you the shavings of your pencils that you entrust to him to sharpen.

A unique story, visuals that add to the story, and real proof that backs up his claim.

Those are three essentials that every coach needs to master to recruit the best athletes on their list. 

So, how do you move from the successful marketing of a pencil sharpening business and apply those ideas to this upcoming recruiting year?  Here are five ideas to get you started:

  1. Come up with one core theme for your upcoming season.  Think of this as your program’s mission statement.  Make it short, simple to understand, and written using basic words.  Every time you write a letter or reply to an email, try to incorporate that theme in your message. 
  2. What is your simple proposition for your prospect?  It’s important that your prospects understand what’s in it for them after reading your first message or two.  You might want to highlight the fact that 97% of your team are accepted into a graduate school, or that you started three Freshmen last season…anything that tells them at least one thing that warrants their interest right from the start.
  3. What visuals do you have that back up your story?  Think back to the pencil sharpening website and ask yourself, “Would the story of his business have been as effective if the pictures weren’t there to help tell the story?  Probably not.  Visuals are important, especially according to our research on this generation of college prospect.  Do you have videos or pictures or personal blog posts that you can hyperlink in your email messages or include with your recruiting letters?  It sure will help you if you do.
  4. Got proof?  You need it.  One of the things that we talk about during our On-Campus Workshops is the need for you to have other voices on your campus visit – your players, department support personnel, Athletic Director – talk about your program with your prospect.  What we consistently find with this generation of recruits is that a coach is the person that can get them interested and get them to campus, but it’s the other people around the program that have a big part to play in getting that athlete to commit to a school.
  5. What does your “packaging” look like?  Of course, you aren’t a product on a store shelf.  But you are selling something: The idea that your program and your school is the best option for that  prospect.  This is an aspect of your theme that we talked about in the first point, but it takes it a step further…packaging incorporates all of the aspects of your offering and summarizes it in one ”wrapper” that keeps your prospect’s attention focused on the reasons you should rise to #1 on their list.

You didn’t get into this business to become a marketing expert, but it’s now one of the essential requirements to do it effectively.

While it’s easily one of the more challenging aspects of your job as a college recruiter, it’s also going to be the thing that increasingly determines whether or not you get the top prospects on your list in the months and years to come.

Tudor Collegiate Strategies specializes in helping programs like yours develop their recruiting strategy, and executing it by developing proven prospect messages to their prospects.  Click here to here Dan Tudor explain the process on video, or email him directly at dan@dantudor.com so he an explain how it would specifically work with your program.

Next Generation of Mobile Apps Now Ready for College CoachesMonday, September 6th, 2010

by Sean Devlin, Front Rush

Wayne Gretsky always said, “Skate to where the puck is going, not to where it is.”

Well the proverbial puck in the recruiting space is going mobile. We used to see a trend of coaches moving toward smart phones with the Blackberry being the de facto choice. It was really just a matter of which Blackberry.

We are now seeing this trend shifting slightly where it is no longer the goal to have a “smart phone” but rather to have the smartest phone.

For instance, the Blackberry users who are college coaches are dropping off as recruiters are exchanging these devices for Android devices and iPhones because of their more advanced web-browsing and app support. The concept of an iPad, only a drawing board idea just one year ago, is now exploding in the recruiting ranks. And in the consumer space, expect to see an explosion of Android tablet’s in the coming months, which is sure to make an impact in the coaching world as well.

The reason for all this is simple, really:  Going mobile is giving coaches the ability to save time, paper, and money. Spending a few hundred dollars on a smart phone plus a recruiting app, a coach can make a call on the road and instantly share that data with their staff back in the office. There is less of a need to print out paper and take it along as all of this data is now accessible from a 1/4 inch thick device.  An email can be sent directly from the field while a recruit is playing, so it is sitting in their inbox the second they get home. No longer does a coach have to go back to the hotel or office to type something up.

The mobile recruiting experience is only going to improve. As coaches get familiar with their iPhone apps, they are going to demand more functionality and more usability from leading recruiting technology providers like Front Rush. They are going to want to spend less and less time in front of their desktops and laptops and more in front of a device they can store in their pocket.

The mobile recruiting space is very, very new but also very, very exciting. We are incredibly excited to be on the leading edge of it all because the potential is so compelling.

Of course, we have our predictions on where things are going and its fun to project, but the journey itself is certainly going to be a fun ride.

Especially for coaches who adapt early, and start truly making their recruiting experience smart and mobile.

Front Rush has just launched an industry leading app for both the iPhone and the Android.  It’s just one more reason to make the move to Front Rush for your recruiting tracking and contact management database needs.  Click here for more information on what they can do for you.

Writing Recruiting Email Subject Lines That Get ClickedWednesday, September 1st, 2010

What emails do you decide to open every morning?

How do you make that decision?

Be honest…do you judge each email by the subject line?

I’ll bet the answer is “yes”.  Most of us do.  It’s a quick and easy way to make a snap judgement on what to spend time reading, and what to wait on and read later (eventually to be deleted without being read, more than likely).

The same type of decision making takes place every time one of your highly recruited prospects goes to his or her email Inbox and finds messages waiting.  Which ones do they read?  Which ones to they not pay attention to?

Just like you, it often comes down to the subject line.

So, what makes a great subject line?  There are a few key questions that savvy college coaches should make sure are answered in future emails:

  • Is it useful to the prospect who is reading it?
  • Is it specific and direct?
  • Is it remarkable in the way it’s worded?
  • Is it urgent?

Let’s go through each one of these principles step by step:

First, focus on useful and ultra-specific as a coach who is contacting a recruit, even if you have to ignore unique and urgent. There are plenty of others who work at unique and urgent with every subject line — we call them spammers. Don’t cross the line into subject lines that are perceived as garbage. But do throw in a bit of a tease.

Secondly, when every email from you is urgent, none is. At least thats the way most recruits view it.  Use urgency when it’s actually useful, such as when there’s a real deadline or compelling reason to contact you now about an opportunity with your program. If you’re running your email recruiting based on developing a relationship and talking about things that today’s recruits are really interested in, recruits won’t want to miss out and need to know how much time they have to get back to you.

Lastly, subject line space is valuable…there’s a limited amount you have for your subject line. So, the more compact your subject line, the better. Don’t forget useful and ultra-specific, but try to compress the fundamentals into the most powerful promise possible.

Two final things I want you to understand about the way prospects treat emails from coaches:

  1. When your email goes to their Inbox, that’s sacred ground.  You’re showing up in their home, on their computer, and in their life.  Be aware that emailing a prospect is usually the first chance they’ll have to interact with you.  Don’t waste this valuable opportunity to connect with them.
  2. Your email may also increase their stress level.  Make sure you use this opportunity to be a coach who comes alongside your recruit and offer help, and your expertise about manuevering through the complicated maze of recruiting.

Email gives you an incredible opportunity, Coach.  And it all starts with an effective subject line in your email to your prospects.

Now is the time to schedule Dan Tudor to come and speak at your college this year.  Our On-Campus Workshop has criss-crossed the country since 2006, training hundreds of coaches and athletic departments on more effective ways to recruit this generation of prospects (as well as their parents and their coaches).  Get the details by emailing Dan directly at dan@sellingforcoaches.com with the subject line, “Let’s hear more about you coming to campus!”  We’ll respond with all the details.