To answer that question, you really need to think of yourself as a box of Fruit Loops. Specifically, the packaging that the cereal comes in.
Ever thought about how you “package” your program?
As a serious college recruiter, you should.
The reason is simple: We all want to know what’s inside the package…we all want to know just who the heck that other person, or that new product, is.
Everything else in this world that you buy as a consumer is packaged very carefully, after a lot of research and study and focus-grouping. Advertisers tweak the font size, change pictures on the cover, worry about what to say on the sides and back of a package. From a DVD to a box of cereal, the packaging is everything.
• Because much of the time, what you decide to buy depends upon how it is packaged.
• Because much of the time, whether you buy it again depends upon how it was packaged.
• Because much of the time, whether you talk about it with others depends upon how it was packaged.
But as a college coach, you often ask your prospects to suspend their desire to see great “packaging” as you recruit them to your program. Not deliberatively, but by default.
You see, psychological studies of how we decide to buy show that most American teens – having grown up in a culture of branding and over-marketing – need to assign a “story” to whatever the decide to have an emotional connection with.
For example, when deciding what music to listen to, the number one factor in their mind is answering the all-important question, “What does it stand for?” Is it what a tough guy would listen to? Does the singers fashion style match their own? Does the singer’s world-view, politics or religion line-up with what they believe in? In this example, it’s not just about the music: It’s about what the music stands for, and how it’s packaged.
However, like I said a moment ago, I see college coaches all over the country not paying attention to their “packaging” and what the “brand” of their program says to the prospect they are desperate to come and play for them. And then, they get frustrated when the prospect doesn’t seem to be interested and isn’t “connecting” with what they’re saying during the recruiting process.
While your message and “story” are going to be different than your competitions, and every situation is completely unique when it comes to developing a good brand strategy for your individual program at your college, there are a few key ingredients to putting together a winning brand that defines who you are, and why a prospect should be interested in taking a serious look at you. I’ll tell you about them by asking you some questions I’d like you to answer in your mind as you read them:
• How does your prospect define you? In the end, it actually doesn’t matter much what you think of your program. If it’s not being received in a positive way by your prospect, they won’t connect with you. And if they don’t connect, they won’t come. That’s why when I am asked to come and conduct our on-campus workshop at a college campus, one of the priorities for me is to do research with groups of student-athletes on how they define the school, and why they connected with the coach’s message. It’s the first question that needs to be answered to build out the rest of your message and define what the program’ “package” looks like in the mind of your prospect.
• Does your story match their expectations? Generic brands on supermarket shelves are huge money-makers for the store. Their profit margin is much higher than other name brand products. However, it’s hard for the store to sell those brands. Even though they put them at eye level and give you discounts compared to the other name brands, we resist buying them despite the fact that many of them are manufactured by the same people who produce the name brand items. Why is this? Because the packaging often misses our expectations. Not enough color, not the familiar iconic image on the front (where’s my Toucan Sam?!?) or just plain unfamiliarity with how it looks. Inside, it’s a great product (or at least as good as the name brand). Outside, it doesn’t meet our expectations. So, Coach…does your story and your “packaging” connect with what today’s student-athletes are looking for in a coach and a program?
• Do your testimonials tell the story? Do you have athlete testimonials and stories on file? On your website? Are your prospects reading them? If the answer to any of these questions is “no”, you are missing out on an incredible marketing opportunity for your program. On the front of almost every DVD you buy, there’s some critical acclaim quoted by a movie reviewer right at the top for you to see. Look on the back cover of almost every book, and you’ll find praises for the work from other authors or experts in that particular field. Why is so much prominent space reserved for testimonials? Because they work. We trust a third-party verifier’s glowing words of praise more than we’d trust the author saying it themselves. For those of you that have read our two advanced recruiting workbooks for college coaches, you know how to construct believable, recruiting-enhancing arguments on behalf of your program as told by your past and current athletes.
• Do you know what they’re saying behind your back? I remember an experience nearly two years ago when I was unexpectedly “upgraded” to a brand new Toyota Camry at the car rental counter. At the time, I jokingly asked what I did to deserve that, and she replied that a lot of people didn’t want to drive their Toyotas because of the braking and acceleration problems that forced the recall of thousands of cars around the country (I’m guessing she gave me the once-over and figured I was expendable as she assigned my waiting-to-be-recalled Toyota) For my organization, even though we hold our client list in strict confidence and make a point not to publish testimonials, our biggest source of new clients for our Total Recruiting Solution program are other coaches. They are “talking behind my back”, but in a positive way. In Toyota’s case, the public was “talking behind their back” in a very bad way a few years ago, and it dramatically affected their business. But either way, they’re talking. What are they saying about your packaging and your brand behind your back?
Your program’s packaging is so important because it precedes everything else in the recruiting process in your prospect’s eyes. Your first impression when they give you that first look is crucial.
Pay attention to your packaging. Your prospect is.
Perfecting your brand image in the mind of recruits is just one of the session topics we’ll be exploring in greater detail at the upcoming National Collegiate Recruiting Conference. Register now to take advantage of our early registration discount and save big on the cost to attend. And, if you can’t be there, order our conference DVD and notes and see every presentation at this year’s conference. Click here to reserve your copy.