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The 5 Best Practices for Social Media in College SportsMonday, January 31st, 2011

by Mark Drosos, Lodestone Social Media

Social media has created a monumental shift is the way people consume content and engage with your team. It has made some traditional methods of marketing obsolete.

In 2010, Facebook topped Google for weekly traffic in the U.S. and a study found that 1/3 of people will check their Facebook page before brushing their teeth when they get up in the morning.

It has created a powerful platform to stay connected with your fans. And, the way people find their news today.  Mobile phones and social media allows you to connect with your fans any time anywhere.  YouTube is like your own personal 24/7 mobile TV station, allowing you to create a personality for your team and showcase your brand to millions of fans and recruits.  More and more, coaches at the college level are wanting expert direction to help them capitalize on this growing opportunity.

With email open rates at less than 2%, 24 of the top 25 largest newspapers failing, Publications like PC Magazine filing for bankruptcy and micro-websites  seeing decrease traffic it’s no wonder some of the biggest brands in the world have seen the light that is called social media and shifted their marketing budgets to ensure they don’t lose.  Nike recently moved away from micro-sites into building Facebook pages, Gatorade launched a social media control center and P&G shifted 80% of their Soap Opera Media dollars into social media.

All while professional teams like the Pittsburg Steelers and Phoenix Suns have focused on Social Media using their Facebook pages to drive promotions and even create sponsorship packages for their brand partners.

So what does this mean for your Athletic Department or team? How can avoid falling behind? How can you do what the top marketers in the world are doing to increase your attendance, camps, media exposure and sponsorship dollars for your programs along with improving recruiting?

Implement these five best practices and you can create a social media presence that will rival a professional team or one of the best brands in the world.

  1. Think Local
  2. It’s a Relationship not a Microphone
  3. Design and Branding
  4. Content is King
  5. Promotions

In this first of our two-part series, we will discuss two fundamentals of social media:  How to ‘Think Local’ and ‘It’s a Relationship not a Microphone’.

  1. Think Local

Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter provide you an opportunity to target specific groups of people with ease. Through Facebook, you can target demographically, geographically, by interests and behaviors to reach the right people.

Let’s take, for example, TCU Volleyball and Facebook at www.facebook.com/tcuvolleyball.  A quick look on Facebook showed there were over 50,000 people within 50 miles of the Fort Worth campus on Facebook that stated in their profile they liked volleyball.

In addition to TCU fans they were able to target people who like volleyball as a general interest. By doing so, we helped their coaches generate almost 7,000 fans on Facebook. This has resulted in an 80% increase in attendance and 30% increase in camp registration since they began the campaign.

You can also use Facebook to find your Sororities, Fraternities and School Organization and create a relationship with them. This provides a direct link into the life blood of your college athletic programs, the students! Example of such is San Diego State volleyball who follows 18 different on campus groups giving them access to over 15,000 of their followers.

So in summary, use social media to find, attract and retain your local fans.

2.  It’s a Relationship, not a Microphone

One of the biggest pitfalls coaches and athletic department officials fall into with social media is thinking it’s a way to “broadcast” information instead of a platform to engage fans. There is no greater example than with your local media.

Every local, national or regional TV station, radio, blogger and reporter is on Twitter and they all are looking for news to share with their followers. But if all you do is use Twitter as a microphone soon people go deaf and tune out your message.

So here are some simple rules to follow on Twitter to get more out of your efforts.

Keep your follower to following ration at 1:1 or 2:1. Engage with your followers. Share their stories. Be relevant!  It is about quality and engagement not about having 1,000’s of followers. For instance, one Division I women’s sports program we researched has over 1,100 followers but only follows 16 people. They have tweeted over 1,700 times but hardly any where re-tweets, replies or relevant stories other than their school’s scores and updates which resulted in only a hand full of people actually re-tweeting or sharing that information.   

On the other hand, TCU has a 1:1 ratio and re-tweets or replies to followers regularly. In exchange TCU has had ESPN Dallas, Fox News DFW, local news reporters and radio personalities writing stories about their program, re-tweeting about the program and even resulting in radio interviews for the coach.

So remember it’s a relationship and not a microphone.

In Part two of the 5 Best Practices of Social Media for Sports, we will show you the gas that fuels the engine and focus on Design, Content and Promotions.

Lodestone Social Media is a recommended resource for increasing the use of social media in your sports program.  Whether you’re looking to engage more fans, or find creative ways to showcase your program to recruits, the experts at Lodestone are helping to create amazing social media websites for your competition. 

If you want to know more about Lodestone, check out this great summary video at http://budurl.com/SocialSports or feel free to reach out to the author, Mark Drosos, at mark@lodestonesocial.com with any questions.

New Volleyball Technology Tool Lets College Coaches Actually…CoachMonday, January 31st, 2011

Mike Ressler is becoming a household name in the world of college volleyball.  And, for good reason.

His technology, StatEasy, has revolutionized the way college volleyball coaches track statistics and edit video.  And it’s popular because Ressler comes from a volleyball coaching background, where he spent hours editing video and logging statistics.

“I can recall three different ‘Ah ha!’ moments that really shaped the direction of StatEasy”, says Ressler.  “The very first was when I was an undergraduate assistant for the women’s volleyball team at Carnegie Mellon University.  The head coach had asked me to be responsible for statistics for the team and gave me a DOS-based software program that the Sports Information Director used.  I spent a lot of time fighting with the outdated software, trying to get it to take the stats that she and I were interested in, as well as give us reports in a format that was useful to us.  When I finally gave up on fighting with the software, I knew I had to make something that would suit her needs; otherwise, I would be stuck taking stats by hand and spending all of my time counting tick marks on a page.”

“It all really came from a desire for me to save time”, adds Ressler.  “I didn’t want to have my head buried in a clipboard immediately after every match.  I was fortunate enough to have a coaching mentor who had lots to say both during and after the matches, and it was important for me to be able to be a part of that by listening carefully to what she had to say.”

But what was born out of the desire to save time quickly became an even more complete solution, thanks to a short comment from one of the coach’s relatives.  “I was showing the product to my brother-in-law when he casually said, “Boy, this would be great with video.”  When he said that, my jaw pretty much hit the floor.  Of course!  Video review was one of those tasks that would really help our players but took so long for us to either put together or fast-forward and rewind through the video that it just wasn’t worth it.  Simplifying the statistics collection process as well as the video review process really got me excited for my own teams as well as those of my friends.”

The third piece of the puzzle fell into place when Ressler realized that StatEasy was a perfect recruiting tool for club coaches who wanted to show off their players, as well.  “One time, I started telling a college coach about one of the club players I was coaching, but when I used StatEasy to pull up all of the video of her over the course of a season, the college coach was very impressed.  While the coach was impressed with the player, I was impressed with what I was able to do in a matter of a few seconds using the product I had created…I pulled up skill-specific video of my club player on-demand for a college coach and let him skip to the clips he wanted to see.  Using StatEasy as a recruiting tool is a natural fit, and it’s something that coaches are using it for more and more.”

As the technology advances and his client list grows month after month, Ressler is confident that his easy-to-use technology is going to become a mainstay in the world of college volleyball coaching.

Want to see StatEasy in action?  Just click here.  It’s surprisingly affordable, and is a recommended technology solution for volleyball coaches who are looking to spend more time actually coaching their players, and less time tracking valuable information by hand. 

Using Signing Day to Create Buzz with Your RecruitsMonday, January 31st, 2011

Wait, you mean you can “use” all the publicity and buzz around the upcoming Signing Day to create some positive buzz with your recruits?

Even if you aren’t a big-time program?

Yes.

The signing date – one of six signing periods in the NCAA – gives you a unique window of opportunity to tie-in all of the publicity and news coverage with you and your program at your school.  And, you can do it even if you aren’t a sport in the upcoming signing period frenzy.

Here’s what our research has uncovered:

Prospects in nearly every sport, at every level, now associate playing for a college with an official “signing day” event.  That official act is desired, because it cements the reality of the situation into their minds.  Any kind of ceremony associated with any decision makes it all seem more “official”, and it also meets our expectations of what we’ve imagined that decision to look and feel like.  Why don’t newlyweds simply fill out the necessary paperwork, find a government official to verify that both individuals are agreeing to be married, and skip all the ceremony?  You know the reason.

In truth, a very small percentage of future college athletes will sign a Letter of Intent tomorrow.  But for all the others on the outside looking in, it’s a big part of their hopes and dreams – and expectations - for what the day should look like.  And whether you know it or not, it’s a great opportunity for you to stand out to all the Juniors you’re recruiting for next year.

Here’s how to get those prospects excited about you, your program and the idea of making a commitment:

  • Send out a short, personalized message to your prospects about committing to your program. We suggest something referring to all the news about college signings that they’ll be seeing over the coming days, and the fact that you are thinking of them today as you look ahead to next year’s class for your program.  (Note: If you are one of our clients, and you want ideas on how to fit this in to your current recruiting campaign or need us to produce a message, email or call me directly).
  • Send it soon. Within the next week or so.  The timing of this type of message is critical, because media coverage of the February signing date is by far the most publicized of all the signing dates throughout the year.  This is the week to take advantage of all that buzz, and send some of it back your way.
  • Send it no matter what division level or sport. One mistake a lot of your competitors will make this week is assuming that this signing period “isn’t for them”.  They’re wrong (but lets not tell them, o.k.?)  If you’re a Division III coach, you can use all this publicity to get your prospects thinking about you.  Remember, you’re looking to send a quick message to them associating this current event with your interest in them as a prospect.  Even if your division doesn’t use the NLI, you can still use the idea of committing to your program – the act of making that big, final decision – in this message.  And you should.
  • Tell them what to do next. It’s important that your message doesn’t just talk about how much you want them to sign with your program down the road, and then leave them without anything to do in response to that.  Ask them to act on your message:  Reply back and tell you if they’re interested in scheduling their campus visit, find out if they know anyone who is signing a NLI this week, ask if they have any questions about how committing works at your college…anything that gets them to respond back to you and open the door for communication between them and you.

I’ve found this to be an effective tool in creating some good short-term focus on you and your program, using something that they’ll be hearing about all week long if they’re tuned in to the national media.  Both letters and email work well, although email is especially effective because it allows them to reply back immediately and start that conversation that I mentioned as one of the goals of this communication.

They key is to make the message personal to your prospect, and relate it to making a commitment to your program.  If it’s done properly, you’ll find that you’ll really get the attention of your prospects and get them thinking about signing with you when next year rolls around.

We’ll be discussing more original approaches and creative strategies at the upcoming National Collegiate Recruiting Conference this Summer.  Click here for all the details…it’s a one-of-a-kind annual conference for coaches who are serious about becoming recruiting pros.

Want to see all of the speakers and content from previous national conferences?  Click here to order our complete 3-DVD and workbook sets that coaches are using to build their recruiting resume.  It’s over 13 hours of instruction from a collection of the nation’s best and brightest when it comes to recruiting, marketing, communication and relating to teenage prospects.

The Lost Art of Managing Your Prospect’s ExpectationsMonday, January 24th, 2011

It really is a lost art, you know.

Very few college coaches, I find, can actually do an effective job of managing their prospect’s expectations during the recruiting process.  And to be candid, this is an article that I feel somewhat unqualified to write; I’m not completely sure that I would do a bang-up job at managing my recruit’s expectations were I to coach collegiately today.

It’s easy to understand why:

  • Recruits make their decisions earlier and earlier, meaning there is more time to change their mind after making that early commitment.
  • Recruits make their decisions based largely on how they feel about their connection with a program, according to our research.  When you’re dealing with a teenager’s feelings, you’d better be prepared to manage their expectations or be run-over by them.
  • Parents of recruits and their expectations?  Don’t get me started…

What kind of expectations am I talking about? 

Well, among all of the unique expectations that we could talk about from campus to campus, probably the number one “expectation” that needs active managing by college coaches is scholarship money.  Money, and the emotions and expectations surrounding what the athlete and his or her parents feel is owed to them by an interested college coach, is the primary focus for most prospects coaches deal with on a regular basis.

So as we talk about the lost art of managing your prospect’s expectations, I’m going to focus on the “money expectation” on the mind of your prospects.  There are some key things to master if you’re a college coach wanting to take more control of the recruiting process, and all of them can provide coaching staffs with a much better relationships – and overall results – in their recruiting efforts:

  • First and foremost, focus on honesty.  When we go to a campus to work with athletic departments and their coaches, we hear athletes that we interview talk about how important honesty is in their decision making process.  As a coach, you need to paint an honest picture of what you are planning for your recruit.  If your scholarship is going to be less than 100% (which is what most of your prospects are expecting, even if they have no business doing so) you need to explain that to them as early as possible, and in as much detail as possible.
  • The details matter.  A lot.  The details about your offer, or some other aspect of your program that requires management of your prospect’s expectations, are vital.  Withhold details until later in the process, and risk losing their respect and totally destroying any chance of effectively managing their prospects’ expectations.
  • Try to talk to your recruits as partners.  If you bring them to your side of the table and help them see things from your point of view, you will probably find it easier to get them to agree to your line of reasoning.  Notice I didn’t say they would necessarily “like” it, but they will understand it and, more often than not, accept it.  If you’re talking about money and scholarship amounts, one of the most important things you need to do as a coach is to get them to understand how your funding works, compare it to similar athletes on your team, and trust that your details will show you to be an honest and reliable information source.
  • Get them to talk about what they want.  It sounds like an amazingly simple concept, but answer me this, Coach:  When was the last time an athlete you were recruiting revealed exactly what they want from you and your competition, and what will end up being the deciding factor in their decision.  You’re going to have to work hard to get them to talk, but once you do it’s much easier to manage the expectations that you’re vividly aware of, right?

A few weeks ago I talked with a Division I basketball coach who mentioned that he felt like he and his staff was “getting lucky” when it came to signing really strong recruiting classes, and wanted to know if there was a quick way to turn that around.  My answer incorporated the four points I explained to you today. 

As the the saying goes, it’s better to be lucky than good in college sports.  However, when it comes to your prospects expectations of you and your program, it’s better to manage their expectations than quietly hope they see it your way at some point.  Much, much better.

Want to learn more about your prospects and what drives them to connect with one program while rejecting another? 

Make sure you attend this summer’s National Collegiate Recruiting Conference in Nashville, June 3-5, 2011.  We’ll be focusing on specific topics of recruiting that coaches have said matter most to them.  Want to join us?  Register early for big discounts…click here for all the details!

Reading Your Prospect’s Crunch Time “Buying Signals”Monday, January 17th, 2011

Now that the bowl games are over, the real big wins (or big losses) are starting to happen.

Coaches all over the country are entering the final weeks of the battle for this year’s recruiting class, and even getting early positive (or negative) signs for the next year’s prospect class.

What tends to surprise me as we start work with new clients is how few college coaches today are able to read fairly clear “buying signals” from their prospects.  What’s more, I find that coaches are not actively looking for these signals, relying instead on the off-and-on direct statements that their prospects make from time to time.

So, are there better signs available to college coaches to help them pick up the early signals that a prospect might be interested in their program?

We think there are.  In fact, over the years of collecting research data on prospects making their final decision, we’ve identified several reliable signals that are given by a prospect who is interested in a coach and his or her program.  We wanted to share those with you today…here they are:

  1. They ask questions about when you are going to be offering scholarships or opportunities to commit to their program.  If they bring up the question, you should know that they have a serious interest in your program.  There’s no need to wait…if they are the kind of athlete you would want in your program, then jump ahead to talking about a commitment to your school.  If you wait, you will risk losing them within a short time…the kind of prospects who are ready to verbalize a willingness to commit early are also faster to look elsewhere if their signals are not answered. 
  2. They ask questions about cost.  That can be direct questions about the tuition price of the school, what they would have to pay, or even comments wondering how they are going to afford the cost.  All of those questions and comments revolve around the fact that they are actively trying to figure out how they can afford to go to your school.  Recruits who aren’t serious about you will never bring up cost.  Recruits that have an interest in your school will always bring up cost.
  3. They ask questions about how long you’ve been with the program, and if you’re planning on staying with the program.  When a recruit is serious about you, they will try to find out if you have a commitment to the school that they are seriously thinking about committing to.  As we talk about in our two recruiting workbooks for coaches, its important for you to give them confidence in you as a coach and in your program’s direction.  If they sense uncertainty within the program, they will likely delay making a commitment to your program. 
  4. They ask a repeat question.  This is a strong signal that they are seriously thinking about signing-on with your program.  If they ask you to repeat something that they told you earlier, or if a subject comes up a second or third time during your conversations with them, you should know that they are really, really interested in you.
  5. They make negative comments about other schools, coaches or programs.  If you have a prospect who opens up to you and offers an opinion on a competitor, you have a prospect who is highly interested in your program.  We don’t make comments about other people like that if we aren’t really comfortable with the person we are talking to, or if we don’t care about what they think.  The reverse is true if that person is interested in you and your program.
  6. They ask questions about the quality of aspects of the school or program.  “How new are your dorms?”  Or, “How many Top 20 teams are on your schedule next season?”  Or, “What percentage of your graduates are accepted into a Master’s program?”  All of those are questions about the quality of your school and your program.  Only kids (or parents!) that are really interested in your program ask those kinds of questions.
  7. They ask you questions about your qualifications and coaching history.  As we teach athletic departments and coaches when we go to a school to conduct one of our On-Campus Workshops, your story and background as a coach is vital to them buying in to you and your program.  You need to learn how to showcase yourself as the leader of the program, and build the case for good prospects to see the logic of choosing what you can offer them.
  8. They ask specific positive questions about your school or program.  These questions are rare, so when you hear them you really need to take them seriously and accelerate the recruiting process.  It might be a question like, “How did team get to be so close with each other?”  Or, “Can I try to room with the girl who hosted my during my campus visit?”  Positive questions are little nuggets of gold.  Don’t overlook them!
  9. They ask specific how do I questions about your school or program.  ”How do I sign up for the new suite-style dorms that just got built?”  Or, “How do I know what my final tuition cost will be?”  Any kind of question that starts with “how do I” are important: They signal that your prospect is actively figuring-out the process of being a student-athlete on your campus.  In other words, they are “projecting” themselves as already being an athlete on your team.  Run with that!  Be the coach that feeds that feeling of already being a part of your program.
  10. They ask to see something on campus again.  “Can we go back and take another look at the dorms?”  Or, “Can I see the weight room again?”  Uninterested prospects don’t want to spend more time with you on campus.  They’ll politely shake your hand and be on their way (probably to the next college).  However, the prospects who are highly interested will want to linger and take a closer look at what you have to offer them.
  11. They give you verbal “buying signals”.  Parents are great at this.  During a campus tour or phone conversation, listen for comments like “Wow, I didn’t know that”.  Or, “Oh really…that’s interesting.”  Or, “Great, that’s what I thought.”  Those are great signs that they are engaged mentally with what you are saying and what they are seeing. 

So, now you know what to look for.  The next step?  Acting on the signals the right way, and at the right time.  We’d love to help you if you’d like, but the priority for you should be simple:  Develop an action plan for reading these very clear buying signals, and then act on them.

If you becoming a pro at reading these signals from your prospect, you’re going to be three steps ahead of your competition when it comes to winning prospects.  Make a point to doing that as you begin the new year, and wrap-up yet another recruiting class.

SPECIAL OFFER!  If you want to learn these techniques, plus dozens of other advanced training and recruiting skills, make plans to attend the 2011 National Collegiate Recruiting Conference in Nashville on June 3rd through 5th.  It’s going to be our biggest and best yet, and is designed to give the coaches who attend a distinct advantage over their competition. 

You can get all the information and early registration discount here.  If you have questions or would like to ask about our deeper discounts for two or more coaches from the same college, email our conference coordinator Cheryl Corrente at cheryl@dantudor.com.

It’s Hard to Shop for a New Phone with Front Rush’s Sean Devlin Living in Your HeadWednesday, January 12th, 2011

So there I was, minding my own business doing my business on my business Blackberry, when business suddenly ground to a halt.

The call I was on with a coach dropped.  Since I had been on the phone all day, I thought I had just run down the battery and just needed to recharge it.

If only.

When I tried to re-start it, I saw an omminous looking message in the middle of the screen:

JVM Error 102

“That can’t be good”, I said to myself after trying to re-start the Blackberry three times, only to have the same error code appear after each attempt.

So I did what every human now does: I Googled it.  Again, not good.  I could try and fix it and restore my data, but the phone was essentially toast. And, from the looks of the “fix” instructions, I would probably need to go back to college to get that Computer Science degree I’ve always dreaded I would probably need.  Time was a-wastin’, and for someone who runs his business primarily from a cell phone and laptop computer, I couldn’t afford to try (and likely fail) to pull off the temporary fix that was being suggested.

I headed to the local AT&T store knowing that a new phone was in my future.  Not only was that something I didn’t want to do, I also knew I couldn’t spend that much time doing it.  I needed something reliable, and I needed it fast.

In case you haven’t been to an AT&T store to shop for cell phones in a while, let me prepare you for your next experience: It will involve a 19-year old part-time junior college student telling you about features of each phone so fast they’ll all run together and you’ll ask her to go over it again.  She also couldn’t understand why I didn’t seem to care much about how many video games each one could hold, and the quality of the speakers certain models had.  Dual cameras?  Online gaming?  Not important.  Just give me the one that won’t drop a call and fry the phone.

I ruled out the iPhone right away because there was going to be a three week wait for them (I didn’t think our clients would appreciate not being able to talk about recruiting for three weeks…just one of those gut feelings).  That left me with two choices:  The safe pick, a replacement Blackberry, or a new Android style phone.

And that’s where Sean Devlin from Front Rush comes in…

Every time I was about to tell Buffy the 19-year old part-time junior college student who was no assisting me with one of the most important business decisions I’d make in the next two years (unless I want to pay the early termination fee, of course), I heard Sean Devlin’s voice: 

“Dooooon’t Dooooooo Iiiiiiiiiit.” 

It sounded like a cross between Robin Williams’ character in “Dead Poet’s Society” (fast forward to the 4:20 mark on this video) and the weird Area 51 doctor in “Independence Day” after the alien had taken him over in the operating room.  But I swear, it was an audible voice.

I wanted the familiarity of the Blackberry…those easy to feel keyboard buttons, the calendar I was used to using, the layout of the application page….I missed my old friend, and plus didn’t I owe it to my old buddy’s memory to get his fresher, younger cousin as my replacement?

But I kept remembering Sean Devlin’s advice to me (and to coaches) in a recent newsletter article

Blackberry is fading, Android is on the rise – #4 and #5 on his list of seven technology items that we all needed to know about.

“Do I trust my gut?  Or, Sean Devlin, technology guru from Front Rush?”, I asked myself as Buffy was trying to sell me the $60 car charger that goes along with the phone.

Since Sean Devlin’s hair is much longer than mine (a good measurement of his technical expertise), and because it was my gut that always told me I didn’t need to worry about backing-up all my Blackberry content, I went with Sean’s advice that I had read a few weeks earlier.  I am now the proud owner of a Samsung….I can’t remember the model name…the Zit?  the Spec?  the Mombo?  Doesn’t matter…it runs on an Android operating system, which is what Sean says is best

If you’ve actually stayed with me to this point in the story, here’s the point I wanted to make:

I trust the technology experts at Front Rush.  Literally, with my business life.  When it comes to recruiting technology, you should trust them, too.  They know what they’re doing, they treat their clients right, and they always are trying to stay one step ahead of what’s coming down the technology road for people like me.  For that, I am thankful.

So while I get used to a new touch screen keyboard and figure out how to do small things like answer a call (mastered that only 9 hours after I got the phone, thank you very much), why don’t you take a serious look at becoming a Front Rush customer.  They really are the best. 

Thank you, Sean Devlin, for living in my head and helping me choose my new phone.  Keep your hair long, and keep sharing the good information we need to know.

Auburn Wins! Now, How Do You Beat Them in Recruiting? Easy…Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

O.K., maybe it won’t be “easy”. 

And, yes, maybe they’ll have a big advantage over you right out of the gate.

But it is definitely something you can do, if you happen to be recruiting against them. 

Heck, even if you aren’t a Division I coach from a BCS conference, you can still go up against better programs and win recruits.  True, it’s a little more challenging, and you have to make sure that you’re on your A-game, but it can be done.  We’ve seen it happen over and over when coaches use a systematic approach with a compelling storyline.

So, wanna take on the 400 pound gorilla in your recruiting world?  Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Focus on the rivalry.  By rivalry, I mean building-out a recruiting storyline that involves “us vs. them”.  That does not mean I’m suggesting you use negative recruiting against a rival.  First of all, using that strategy against a successful program will probably backfire.  Secondly, you don’t need to resort to that.  You can achieve the same results by focusing on a positive, true statement.  For more on this principle, read this terrific outline I uncovered for you on how to use this succesfully in recruiting.  
  • Relish the underdog role.  Sometimes, that’s all you’ve got.  If your program has struggled, or if there is a consistent behemoth in your conference that you end up battling year in and year out, build a storyline around the challenge of knocking them off and becoming tops in your conference.  A lot of teenage prospects we survey talk about the attraction of coming to a program that is struggling, getting a chance to make a difference earlier than they would at the big-time winner, and sign-on to compete for the underdog.  The key to getting them to connect with that idea?  You have to state your case with both logic and passion, and give them a reason to say no to a more consistent winner and “yes” to your program that may still have a big part of the mountain to climb.  Do you have an underdog story to tell?  Start telling it!
  • Focus on the non-sports attributes of what you can offer.  Can’t sell a winning record and conference championships yet?  No problem, really.  67% of the athletes we conduct research with during our On-Campus Workshops at colleges around the country say that some other factor about the college – location, academic major, relationships with the team or coach – were more important than a team’s record or history of success.  The problem I see quite often is coaches who lead a program that has yet to achieve it’s goals are so focused on what they haven’t done, and are so convinced that everyone else on the outside see’s things the same as they do, they don’t make a point of adjusting their recruiting campaigns to reflect those other strengths.  Take a good look at your current recruiting campaign message content, and see if there are areas that you need to change (or contact us for help doing it).

So whether you were on the losing side in last night’s national championship game, or if you’re just a middle-of-the-pack program in one of the dozens of small conferences that dot the college sports landscape, take heart!  There is a way to tell an effective recruiting story and connect with the prospects that will change the game – and your program’s fortunes – for years to come.

Looking for more great strategies to use in your daily recruiting life?  We’ll gather the best experts on the planet to teach you one-on-one during one fast paced, exciting weekend. 

We invite you to attend the 2011 National Collegiate Recruiting Conference in Nashville, Tennessee this coming Friday, June 3rd through Sunday, June 5th.  There is a HUGE early registration discount, and a limited number of on-site hotel rooms for under $70 per night!  For all the details, click here!

7 Technology Items to Pay Attention to In 2011Saturday, January 8th, 2011

by Sean Devlin, Front Rush

Want to know what college coaches all over the country are going to be talking about when it comes to technology in 2011?  Here’s our list of this year’s top seven technology stories you’ll need to know as we start the new year:

1. iPad 2
Its the original iPad but smaller, lighter, and rumored to have dual cameras. Done deal.

2. iPhone on Verizon
The rumors of this have been going on for a long time now, and yet somehow they have never come to fruition. Well, from what we’re hearing, 2011 should be the year that Verizon takes up the iPhone and tests its network on the most formidable of phones.

3. 4G and the expansion of the mobile web
4G is a marketing term used to describe the next generation of mobile standards. This year will be the break-out year for 4G and the connection rates at which you can peruse the web, and interact with web apps (like Front Rush!) from your smart phone.

4. Android, Android
There are going to be so many Android phones coming out that it will be impossible to keep up with. Let me predict this…most likely, your next phone will be an Android.

5.  Blackberry, who?
Blackberry is releasing their Playbook Tablet (basically their version of the iPad). Unless this thing takes off, you are going to here less and less about the Blackberry.

6.  Speaking of Tablets…
You are going to be inundated with new Tablets hitting the market. This is going to make onsite recruiting a lot more interesting for college coaches.

7.  Facebook
Their innovations are going to push the limits of NCAA rules and guidelines to the extreme.  At the same time, it’s going to give college coaches an untold number of new ways to promote their programs to recruits, and communicate with them as well.

Good luck in 2011, Coach!  And if you need any advice or direction when it comes to your technology or recruiting needs, remember that we are here to help.  You can email me personally at any time at sdevlin@frontrush.com.

Have you heard about some of the new functionality and advantages of the Front Rush recruiting management system?  They’re impressive!  Take a look by clicking here.

A Dime, A Surprise, and Your RecruitMonday, January 3rd, 2011

Many times, college coaches aim for the big “WOW!” with their recruits.

But what if you didn’t need to do that?  What if something small and simple had the same impact as that big moment that you might be trying to pull-off with your recruit?

Science has some good news for you, Coach…

According to psychologist Norbert Schwarz, at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, our moods determine our overall satisfaction with life.  ”Very minimal things”, says Schwarz,  ”can temporarily put you in a good mood, and thus brighten everything else.”

In one of his well known studies at a German university, Schwarz in the course of a day occasionally placed a coin equivalent to a dime on a copy machine for the next user to find.  Later, everyone who used the machine was interviewed about their lives.

“Those who found the dime were more happy and more satisfied and wanted to change their lives less than those who didn’t find a dime,” says Schwarz.  “It’s not the value of what you find. It’s that something positive happened to you, and surprised you.”

Another study, according to an article in The Baltimore Sun outlining this fascinating experiment, asked people leaving a grocery store to evaluate only their satisfaction with their TVs back home. Listen to this: Those who minutes earlier got a free sample of food from the store liked their TVs better than those who missed the sample.  Could a mouthful of cake really sway people’s long term view of their lives overall?  Yes, it appears so.  But, Schwarz says, “The dime” or the pound cake “only works if you’re not aware you’re happy because you found it.”

In other words, the effects of this feeling can be somewhat short-term.  But there are still some important lessons savvy recruiters can take away from this study, and put to work immediately on their campus.  Here are a few ideas on how to make that happen:

  • Plan small surprises during the campus visit.  As the study suggests, they don’t need to be big-budget items.  However, a series of small, unexpected events or circumstances during a visit can leave your prospect feeling positive (at least temporarily) about their visit and your program.
  • Add a P.S. to your email or letter.  In written form, that can be the “surprise” that makes your prospect feel like they’re getting something extra in your letter.  For more on the power of a P.S., click here.
  • Want a great “surprise” that gets a universal thumbs-up from your recruit?  They like it when they hear from your team, according to the research we do when we’re on campus for one of our athletic department workshops.  They tell us that it’s one of the best ways they feel like they’ve been accepted by the team, and it’s one of the best small surprises that that they could ask for as they are evaluating whether or not your program is the “right fit” for them compared to other schools and programs they’re considering.  Of course, there are limits on what you can have your team do in the course of recruiting a prospect, so double-check the rules for your division before you get too far into planning this part of the list.

No matter what you design for your program, you can probably pick at least one or two small things to put in place that doesn’t affect your budget but can still make a big impact with your recruits.  You don’t need dimes or free cake to attract your prospect (actually, there’s probably at least one recruiting violation in there somewhere), but anything small and unexpected can probably add a lot to the overall experience that your recruit takes away from their visit with you, your team and your college.

Looking for more ideas on becoming a little more original in the way you recruit today’s teenage athlete?  Dan Tudor and his team have put together a collection of affordable, informative research and instructional guides for college coaches who want an extra edge in their recruiting battle.  Click here to see what other coaches are using!

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