Dan Tudor

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Do Parent Emotions Trump Your Prospect’s Emotions?Monday, June 27th, 2011

Ward and June Cleaver never seemed to show much emotion when they were solving 1950′s TV family problems.  Today, parents wear their emotions on their sleeves a lot more often.

Most of us, in fact, make emotional buying decisions on a daily basis.  The parents of your recruits, included.

A cup of coffee that you absolutely “need” to start your day, for example.  Or, name brand jeans.  Even the uniforms you choose for your team’s next season.  Every day, we choose emotion over logic in order to make a decision.

So how do emotional buying decisions affect your prospects?  The results may surprise you, actually.

Here’s why: 

As we gather and analyze our data and focus group research from the past year of being on campuses and talking to athletes, we’re surprised to learn that this generation of student-athletes are picking schools based largely on the quality of the relationships they feel they’ve established with the coach and your athletes (see our other research references for more details on the reasoning behind that). 

However, we’re seeing an interesting twist when it comes to the ways parents tend to influence their sons and daughters as they come to their final decision:  They get emotional about a college, either in a good way or a bad way.

That means a couple of things for you as a recruiter preparing to convince a new class or recruits to get interested in your program and your school:

  • We’re hearing consistent stories of parents deciding what school is tops on their list very early in the recruiting process, and they’re picking that school based on two main reasons:  1) The prestige and/or financial benefits offered by the college that is recruiting their son or daughter, and 2) which coach or program they decide is treating them with the most respect (which is why if you’re a TRS client of ours, you see that we design a lot of message content centered around engaging mom and dad with you as a coach).
  • They’ll use logical reasoning to support their emotional decision about their favorite college or program.  In other words, we see that parents are settling on their “favorite” very early on, and then using facts that you (or your competition) presents to support that emotional decision.  And, they have no problem mentioning their feelings and observations to their son or daughter.

One other thing we’re finding that we see as pretty interesting:

You know those recruiting emails that you send to your prospects?  Their parents, the majority of the time, are the ones that are replying to your emails.  About 6 out of 10 times, to be exact.  Kind of scary, huh?  We’ve heard dozens and dozens of accounts from current college athletes who have told us about their parents managing their recruiting conversations and actually communicating back and forth as the recruit.  (Another reason to curse those helicopter parents under your breath, right Coach?)

Now, before we give you some advice on how to successfully combat the emotions of your prospect’s parents, a little clarification:

We’re not talking about every parent.  Just a lot…a slight majority.  And, I’m not suggesting that you should assume a parent is strongly influencing your prospect’s decision in this way.  There’s no doubt that we see parents playing a major role in helping their prospect with their final decision, but this is less about that indesputable fact then it is about what drives their motivation to influence their kids.

With that being said, here are four ways to target your strategy if your goal is to sway the parents over to your side:

  1. Prove that you’re a player.  One thing I can now tell you about the parents of your recruits is that they want their sons and daughters to compete at a place they can feel good talking to their friends about.  So, figure out what you can point to in your program, or on your campus, that is going to give them something that they can feel good about telling other people about.
  2. Start to write your emails with the parent’s eyes in mind.  Just keep that statistic we quoted earlier in the back of your mind, Coach.  What you’ll want to do is write your email to your prospect with the expectation that the parent is going to read it, respond to it, and then talk to your prospect about what you’ve said them. 
  3. Enthusiasm about your prospect counts for a lot!  Parents want to see you pay consistent, serious attention to their kids.  The more passion you show will – over time - cement the idea that you want their son or daughter more than anyone else, in the mind of the parent.  We’ve seen passion cause prospects and their parents to overlook a conference, facilities…even the lack of the prospect’s major at the college!…all because of the passion that a coach showed the prospect.
  4. (See the Tudor Collegiate Strategies fan page for our fourth and final recommendation.  You’ll like it!)

I know a lot of college coaches view parents as a necessary evil in the recruiting process.  Whether you hold to that belief, or actually enjoy getting to know the parents of your recruit and want to actively make them a part of the whole process, we want you to have a good idea of what drives them.

And, the research doesn’t lie:  Parents rely on their emotions to make this big decision, just like most of us.

Want us to be on your campus in the coming months?  We’re setting our visit schedule to campuses around the country, and we’d love to come work with you and your athletic department.  The research we’ll use to uncover some of the secrets to effective recruiting on your campus will change the way you plan your recruiting campaigns (for the better!)  Click here for all the details, or email Dan Tudor directly at dan@dantudor.com to ask him for options and potential workshop dates with your staff.

Changing Their Worldview of You and Your ProgramTuesday, June 21st, 2011

There’s a challenge for many college coaches, and it’s a big one.

You need to change the worldview of your prospect.

Think about that for a second…that’s an amazing challenge!  As if your job as a college recruiter wasn’t challenging enough, not finding a way to change how your recruit defines your program in his or her mind could mean everything else in the recruiting process grinds to a halt.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:  A great recruit has grown up in the shadow of your college.  They’ve seen highlights on the local news, maybe they’ve been to one or two of your youth camps in the Summer, and they may have had a few friends enroll for classes there.  On the surface, those may appear to be advantage.  Afterall, they’ve had a chance to experience your program and the college up close and personal.

However, what we’re finding in our ongoing series of focus groups on campuses around the country is that familiarity is not necessarily good thing.  The problem?  Many of your prospects have already defined you:  They’ve decided if you’re the right size (or not), if your facilities are up to par (or not) and if your program is “good enough” for them (or not).

It doesn’t have to be the example of the local athlete having already defined your school.  We’ve seen examples of a college being labeled “not academic”.  Or a conference being defined as “not a great place for serious athletes”.  Or maybe you’re coming off a season that was less than spectacular, and they’ve decided that “you’re not a winner”.

Each of those three examples are real.  Three of our clients had those exact objections thrown at them.  In other words, their athletes’ had worldviews that had been previously defined, and it was going to be tough to change their mind.

So here’s my question for you:

What are you doing with this next recruiting season to address (and change) any worldview problems that your program may have?

Like I said at the start, it’s not an easy solution.  But, it can be done (and it’s a really important aspect of how your recruit decides whether or not they should pay serious attention to you).  Starbucks did it…before they came around, did we really think of buying a $4 cup of coffee? 

No.

But back to my question about what you can do to change the worldview of your prospects:  It takes planning, it won’t happen overnight, and you’ll have to mold it with a creative, passionate alternative story.

The first thing I’d recommend doing is define what you think your current story is in the mind of the recruits that you really want, but are losing.  Target that specific group.  There are others, I know, but this group seems to be the most highly coveted (or maybe just the most frustrating) to serious recruiters.  So, start by writing down what you think they think of you, and how they’re probably defining you.  Think of the potential negatives that they might associate with you and your program, and make a comprehensive list of those things that might be stacked against you in their mind.

The next step is to take one of those things that you’ve identified as one of the prime negatives that might be associated with your program, and tell yourself that you need to establish it as one of the reasons that your prospects would want to choose you over anyone else.  In short, make one of your greatest negatives one of the first things you ”sell” to your prime recruits.

It sounds counter-intuitive, I know, but it is one of the best strategies I can recommend when it comes to redefining the worldview of your top tier prospects.  More importantly, as I’ve tried to point out when we’re conducting one of our On-Campus Workshops for an athletic department, making sure that you set the boundaries for how your prospect thinks and feels about you instead of your competition. 

That’s an important piece to this puzzle: 

Most college coaches, by virtue of taking a passive approach in defining themselves, allow competitors to set the narrative.  And, in the best case scenarios where a competitor’s meddling is not involved, the void of definition allows an individual athlete to set their own random view of a program, a coach, or a college campus.  In the example I cited earlier, a local student-athlete – left to their own devices – might define your program negatively given a lifetime of observation and time to form their own “story” about you.

This is the core reason I point to a strong, creative, consistent definition of your program as being incredibly important to your program’s long term success.  That means that you’re not just giving them the facts about your school and your program; done correctly, your story should give your prospect a reason why your program should be one of their top considerations.  Simply stating a fact does not do that.  You need to connect the dots for your prospect:  Tell them what the fact is, but (more importantly) tell them how to think about that fact and what it means to them.

By virtue of your role as the seller in this relationship, it is your job to do that.  That, in short, is how you start affecting the worldview of your most important prospects.

So, where’s the “how to” advice on putting that kind of strategy into action?  You won’t find it here, and for good reason: Each and every school, as well as each and every program within that school, will need to create a separate and unique strategy to meet the individual goals of your recruiting message.  And because it’s rather challenging, most college coaches reading this will pull the rip-cord on this article, bail out, and continue with their day.

But if you’re one of the 1% who has read this, feels like it makes sense, and would like to take control of their message, it will be one of the most significant long term investments in your program that you could make.

You have the power to change the worldview of your prospects.  The question is, will you roll-up your sleeves and do the heavy lifting required to do it?

The Tudor Collegiate Strategies Team is scheduling their next series of On-Campus Workshops for college athletic departments.  Are you ready to experience a live, personalized session with you and your fellow coaches?  Recommend us to your athletic director and fellow coaches!  Click here for all the information, or email Dan directly at dan@dantudor.com for a full list of workshop options and schedule availability.

High Tech Secrets to Fixing a Ruined White BoardMonday, June 20th, 2011

by Sean Devlin, Front Rush

We decided to go a little low-tech today because of a mistake I recently made in our office.

You see, we have this beautiful white-board (its actually white-board paint that we rolled onto the wall), and this white-board is under constant use. Well in the midst of a design session, I made the mistake of using a sharpie pen instead of the standard dry-erase marker required on such a medium.

I’d like to believe this is something we all have done. So, of course, the white-board spray does not work…soap and hot water doesn’t go far…and jumping into chemicals is out of the question. Well, as it turns out there is a simple solution:

1) Using a standard dry-erase marker, draw directly over the ink from the sharpie pen.
2) Using a standard dry-erase eraser, erase the lines that you just drew.

And that’s it!  The permanent marker is 90+% gone.

Generally, we like to talk about high-tech type stuff that improves the lives of college coaches, but this was so practical that once we learned it, we had to pass it on.

When they aren’t messing up white boards in their new world headquarters, the geniuses at Front Rush are creating the next generation contact management system for college coaches.  If you aren’t using it yet, chances are you will be soon.  Find out why leading college athletic departments and coaching staffs use Front Rush to help them win recruiting battle after recruiting battle…click here!

How to Use Headlines to Keep Your Prospect’s AttentionSunday, June 12th, 2011

In the give-it-to-me-quick-just-the-facts world that we (and your prospects) live in, what and how you communicate is crucial.

Think about it:  How easy it to tune something out that isn’t worded just the way we want it?  Or skip reading something that isn’t easy to read visually?

Most recruiting letters and emails we see when we begin working with a new client ignore this common sense rule.  And the price to those who send letters that look and sound the same as they did in 1983 is heavy:  This generation of athlete will tune out a coach quickly if the message doesn’t match their need for fast, accurate, interesting information.

The fix?

Something they did really well back in the 1930′s:  Creative, bold headlines.

No, you don’t want to make your recruiting letters look like an old fashioned newspaper…that’s not what I’m getting at.  What I mean is that your text needs some guideposts to keep your reader (the 17 year old impatient kid that you’re trying to recruit) engaged in what you’re saying, and not bailing on your message ten seconds into it.

The best way to do that is to insert a headline every once in a while.  A statement, in bold type, to give your reader and idea of where you’re going and what’s in it for them if they stick with you.  Something like this:

There are some AMAZING benefits to coaches who write with headlines:

Does that make you want to read more?  Does it give you a little taste of what’s to come?  Does it create a little bit of curiosity?

That’s the power of a well placed headline.

So, if you think you’d want to start to use these powerful, easy-to-use weapons in the war of attention you’re fighting with your recruits, here are some tips that we see working for the coaches who are beginning to use them:

  • Try a “How To” Headline.  They work.  We all want to know how to do something, and if there is one group of people who are looking for how to do something (namely, play college sports) it’s your recruits.  Whenever you want to highlight an action you want your prospect to take, start with “how to” to do it.
  • Give them a promised result.  If you are tempting them with a “how to”, don’t stop short…finish it off with a result they can expect once they follow your recommended action.  Let them know what will happen next, what they’ll get from it, and why they should follow your direction.  It’s critical that you give them an idea of what’s in it for them when you if they stick with you.
  • Visually, they help guide your readers’ eyes.  Headlines in the middle of text will cause your reader to jump down the page and stay engaged with what you’re saying to them.  For this generation of teenager, they need all the visual cues they can get to tell them what to do.
  • We remember headlines.  They are a short summary of what we want the reader to know about our topic.  If they don’t happen to read your entire message, the headlines have a powerful way of helping them to remember your take-away from that message.  That’s really crucial as you fight to get your prospects to remember your message instead of your competition’s.
  • They break up your message into logical sections.  Not only does that help your prospect “digest” your message more easily, we find that it helps coaches stay on topic and keep their message simple and on point.  So, if you’re a coach that struggles with what to write, this trick should help you to stay on topic.

So, what should you do next?  Simple…

 Take a current recruiting message and break it up into sections.  Then, add a quick ”headline” to each of those sections.  If you find that it’s too long of a message, or jumps around from topic to topic, break it up into shorter, multiple messages.

Take a fresh look at your overall recruiting message using this proven, easy-to-use strategy.  The result should be a more engaged, interested recruit reading – and understanding – your letter or email.

Are you one of the growing number of college coaches that use Twitter to promote you and your program?  We have a bonus article to give you…it’s all about writing the right headlines when you tweet on Twitter.  All you have to do is click here, “Like” our Facebook fan page, and get these great tips for carving out your place in the Twitterverse. 

4 Easy Ways to Be a More Persuasive RecruiterMonday, June 6th, 2011

Being original, and creative in your message development as a coach, can be exhausting.

I know it, and you know it.  That’s why it’s so easy to just revert to what you’ve done in the past with your recruiting letters and your recruiting emails.  Recycling your past messages saves a heck of a lot of time, after all.

That’s true, but it also puts you in the risky position of losing your prospect’s attention and not engaging him or her in a real connective message.  If your message looks and sounds like everyone else’s message, why should they choose you?  It’s hard to get the “yes” if your message doesn’t set itself apart from the rest.

With that in mind, I pulled-up four easy-to-use strategies to start the Summer off for you.  They were originally developed for a struggling D1 college football program almost three years ago.  These tips, coupled with time we spent on their campus for their coaches, helped to turn their recruiting around (this year, they just missed out going to a bowl game…but they’re much closer to making it happen than before).

I think any coach, at any level, can use these to become more persuasive, more genuine recruiters:

  • Tell more stories about failure.  Most home recruiting visits consist of boasting, bragging, or tearing down a competitor.  Coaches we start to work with seem to want to cram as many success stories down the throat of their prospects as possible when they get the chance to get in front of them via letter, email or personal visit. 

So, the first recommendation that I’ll make is to tell stories of athletes that have failed at your school – IF that failure was the result of a poor choice they made or advice that wasn’t followed during their time under you as their coach.  Telling a story about failure can enhance your credibility, and let the athlete know that you’re being honest with them in what mistakes not to make once they commit to your program.  Honesty, as I’ve been telling coaches this week during our On-Campus Workshops we’ve been doing for college athletic departments, is one of the key things prospects actively look for in a coach and their program. 

One more word of advice: Make sure not to use the real names of athletes that are the subject of your failure stories…your prospect will want to know that you’ll keep their mistakes and failures confidential if they occur once they get to your program.

  • “Understate” rather than “Overstate”.  Instead of making promises of stardom and glory and happily-ever-after, present a range of possibilities that might happen in the athlete’s career at your school. 

Don’t promise them the starting job; instead, let them know what kind of competition they’ll face along with the promise of an equal shot at the job.  In general, make promises on the minimums you can deliver to your prospect.  You know what will happen?  Something really interesting…your prospect will “add to” your minimum promise in their mind, instead of “discount” your pie-in-the-sky promises that are too good to be true – that’s human nature, coach.

  • Never feel bad about taking the “underdog” role.  Why?  People (even your prospects and their parents) have a tendancy to root for the underdog IF a compelling story is presented that builds the case for them joining your quest to build a champion.  Too many coaches I talk to are ready to jump off of the gym roof if they finish last in their conference or take over a struggling program. 

Instead of shying away from being the underdog, embrace it!  But do so with the right approach and the right motivation for your prospect to “join the revolution” and becoming a champion.  Need help with developing your story?  Click here…we’d love to help you. 

  • Plant questions you’d like your competitors to address.  Attacking your competitors directly comes off as petty and unprofessional (like I said before, it loses more prospects than you probably realize).  But during your conversation with your prospect, you can bring up issues, questions or topics that would raise doubts about your competitors.  This is a good, subtle way of planting questions in the mind of your prospect that they’ll want to raise if and when they talk to a competitive school that would recruit them.  Done correctly, this is a great technique for raising your stock in the mind of your prospect.  We go into a lot of detail on how to do this in our two recruiting workbooks for college recruiters.

Persuasive recruiting happens when you have a plan in place, and you execute that plan.  These are just a few of the many techniques you can use to break out of the recruiting doldrums, and do it in a way that propels your recruiting results to levels that would really surprise you.

Look, we all know recruiting at the college level is stressful, competitive and confusing.  Being more persuasive is the great equalizer…it doesn’t cost more, it doesn’t reward longevity, it doesn’t discriminate based on division level.  Learning to be persuasive is the greatest tool you can develop as a college recruiter.

Start with these four principles, and grow from there.

During this Summer break, consider becoming a client of Tudor Collegiate Strategies.  We’ve done some really exciting things for the coaches we’ve worked with this past year…click here for more information!

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