Dan Tudor

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Why Your Prospect Avoids Fear (and What To Do About It When You’re Recruiting Them)Monday, September 30th, 2013

When I was a Sophomore in high school, I had this bad habit of hiding my algebra homework under the desk in my room so I wouldn’t have to do it.  Immature, yes.  Self-destructive?  Mr. Grayson tried to make that case a few times.  And yet, I did it.  Over and over again.

Before I could fly to visit clients today, I had to submit to various levels of security checks from the wonderful folks at the TSA.  I’ve been patted, scanned, swabbed, and questioned.  I’ve been asked if I have any liquids in my carry-on, and if I remembered to remove my belt before walking through the scanner. Over and over again.

Do you have an insurance policy?  Do you get an annual check-up?  Do you get a little nervous when a Friday the 13th rolls around?

It’s all about our fear of fear.  Understand what I’m saying:  When I was foolishly avoiding my algebra homework, it wasn’t a fear of math that I was suffering from.  Avoiding the homework was a preventing me from fearing the test and my impending D+ in algebra class.  Insane line of thinking, right?

(Lets forget for a moment that a lot of coaches I’ve talked to over the years are reluctant to press their prized number one recruit for a final decision because they don’t want to hear “no”, even though it’s likely that the non-response from that recruit clearly signals that a “no” is only a matter of time.  Not that different from my irrational fear of my algebra homework, is it?)

Now, let’s apply this to your prospects:

If you’ve had us on your campus anytime in the past few years, you know that one of the big things we try to make coaches understand about this generation of college recruits is that they have a fear of making the wrong decision.  They are scared of saying the wrong thing to you during a phone call, scared to commit to an unofficial visit, and scared to answer your phone call.

They, like you perhaps, have a fear of fear.  They’ll avoid an honest conversation with you to avoid the fear of saying something wrong.  Insane line of thinking, right?

That’s who you’re recruiting, Coach.  That’s why your prospect avoids fear, and why it’s sometimes so hard for you to do your job as a recruiter.

With that in mind, here are a few key principles we see working well for programs around the country that we get the chance to assist as clients:

  • Always focus on their feeling of being fearful.  It’s not actual facts that your prospect is scared about…it’s the feeling of being scared that they’re trying to avoid.  So, if you’re a recruiter who is focusing on selling your facility or last year’s record as a way of overcoming that fear that’s ingrained in the mind of your prospect, you’re going to struggle.  Instead, address the question of why they are feeling scared about something – making an early decision, visiting campus, returning your phone call.  That’s the secret, Coach…focus on the feeling that’s creating the fear.
  • Ask them what scares them most about the whole recruiting process.  Logically, if they have an irrational fear that needs to be discussed as a part of the recruiting process, who is more equipped to lead that conversation: You, or the teenage recruit?  (If you chose the teenage recruit, go back to the beginning of the article).  Of course you have to lead that conversation!  And it starts by asking them the question that most coaches don’t think to bring up: “What scares you the most about the idea of choosing a college program?”
  • Put fear on the table, and tell them what you think they’re thinking.  Tell them what you see them being scared about, and see if they agree with you or not.  It’s easier for them to react to a statement about what you think they’re thinking, than it is for them to tell you what they’re thinking.  Confusing and a little sad, yes.  But we find it to be true, so use it to your advantage.

There is a lot that’s tough for us to outline exactly what you should do when it comes to this fact about their fear, because so much of it revolves around the core principles your coaching staff chooses to adopt.  For example, I can’t tell you whether or not it’s time to press this year’s #1 recruit…maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t.

The point is, fear is driving everything that your prospect does during the recruiting process.  How you react to that fact will determine how successful you are with this generation.

There’s no reason for not having a will, other than to avoid thinking about death.  Applying that truth to how your recruits are reacting to your invitation to come visit campus – and how you change your message – is going to be more and more important with this generation of teenage prospects.

4 Vital Recruiting Strategy Questions for Your Coaching StaffMonday, September 23rd, 2013

They aren’t optional – you have to answer them.

And, they aren’t multiple choice (not if you want to be successful in an increasingly challenging recruiting environment).

These four questions I’m going to ask you are going to need to be answered in detail, and specifically for your program.  Your answers aren’t going to be the same as the college down the street.

They are questions that revolve around your central approach to your recruiting message.  Most college staffs haven’t answered them before, which gives you an automatic advantage if you take a few minutes to answer them for your program.  Why? Because it’s hard to recruit coherently and effectively without any kind of philosophical guidelines you’ve established – no matter if you’re a major college staff, or a one-man show.

That’s what we’re aiming to fix today.  Here are the questions that I’d love to see you develop answers for as you head into the meat of your recruiting season:

  1. Who are the recruits you are trying to connect with? I’m not looking for names, I’m looking for traits.  Not athletically, but demographically…geographically…personality type.  Once you define those types of characteristics of the recruits you’re going after, you’ll be surprised at how well you focus on those recruits.  That’s a major problem we find with many coaches: No definition of what they’re all about.  Are you trying to sell your program to everyone?  You’ll end up selling it to no one.  So, how do you answer that question, Coach?
  2. Why are they going to choose you?  For most of you reading this, you aren’t coming off a conference championship – much less a national championship.  Heck, forget titles.  Chances are there’s a program you compete against that has better locker rooms, newer dorms, more scholarship money, or a better location.  So the big question is also a simple one: How are you going to change their perspective?  How do you change your story?  And once you change their minds, what then?  You need to know what your end game is before you enter a serious recruiting battle for a recruit you really need.  So, how do you answer that question, Coach?
  3. What tools are you lacking?  Most coaches can easily define what they are good at doing when it comes to recruiting.  On the flip side, many aren’t aware of what skill sets they lack (a more popular expression of this concept would be “they don’t know what they don’t know).  So, if you’re being honest with yourself and the coaches on your staff, what three things do you need to get better at right away?  What are the things you do wrong?  An honest self-evaluation is in order if you want to be a long term success in college recruiting.  So, how do you answer that question, Coach?
  4. What do you need to make successful recruiting happen more often?  Think about the times everything has fallen into place, and you land the next level prospect.  What went so right?  What happened that time that didn’t happen all the other times?  I recommend you develop a prototype of the ideal recruiting process, the ideal campus visit, and the ideal sales message.  You should also be asking yourself what some of the common mistakes in your ongoing recruiting efforts are (again, be honest!).  What do you need to do in order to duplicate the big successes in the past?  So, how do you answer that question, Coach?

More than ever before, you and your program need to define what you’re all about.  Stand for something.  Tell a GREAT story (in case you haven’t noticed, mediocre stories don’t cut it anymore).

Defining the answers to those questions will go a long away towards helping you build a firm foundation that you can recruit from – and be much more successful with it in the process!

Dan Tudor and his staff at Tudor Collegiate Strategies can help develop the answers to those important questions.  We help programs around the country, at all different levels, year around.  Click here to learn more about what we do, and why it works, or email Dan directly at dan@dantudor.com.

GoPro Cameras Are A Great Way To Show Your Coaching CreativityMonday, September 23rd, 2013

by Sean Devlin, Front Rush

We here at Front Rush been playing around with GoPro cameras. These are the devices that a lot of extreme sports athletes wear on their helmets to record videos from their point of view. Let me tell you, they are very impressive. To start off, they are inexpensive $200 to $330 depending on the model. The only add-on that is required is an SD card (the thing that stores all the video) and they are approximately $40-$80 . After that, it just gets better.

First off, they are built to get beat up. The default casing is waterproof so you don’t have to worry about weather conditions. Secondly, they are mountable to almost anything: helmets, tripods, your wrist, your jacket, your body, whatever. No doubt you have seen some antics with these things where you are watching from the perspective of a dirt bike rider doing back flips or a skateboarder clearing a set of stairs. And this is just the beginning of the creativity.

All of the models have built-in Wi-Fi. This means that the GoPro can be mounted anywhere and with a remote controller (or an iPhone app), you can control the recording with a simple click of a button. And with that click of a button, the quality of video is as good as it gets. If you have any ambition of posting video to the web, the GoPro can record at definitions far higher than what you can stream on YouTube.

There are a ton of accessories and they are all inexpensive. Whatever you are looking for, you can probably find. Whether that is a tripod or a way to attach it to a fence or pole, or a helmet mount, there are inexpensive options and third party suppliers.

The GoPro also records audio which is a nice touch. The only negative is that it does feel a bit old school to attach the files to your computer instead of remotely transferring them. But, this is just a mere drag and drop, but still an extra step compared to what you may be used to on your iPhone or Android device. Overall,  the GoPro is a great tool for coaches and players alike. As soon as you start using one your creativity knows no bounds.

 

Every Prospect Needs a DeadlineSaturday, September 14th, 2013

 

National Collegiate Recruiting Conference – Coach TestimonialsWednesday, September 11th, 2013

We think our National Collegiate Recruiting Conference is pretty great.

Fortunately, the coaches who attend it do, too!

Here’s a sample of what they had to say after leaving the NCRC.  Join us for the upcoming 2014 NCRC in Boston this June, Coach!

 

See our speaker line-up and get registration details…just click here.

National Collegiate Recruiting Conference – Coach Testimonials from Tudor Collegiate Strategies on Vimeo.

Making Sure Your Team Isn’t Licking the Taco ShellsTuesday, September 10th, 2013

A national restaurant power like Taco Bell employs smart, well-educated people to craft a branding message that results in increased business and loyalty to their menu and story.  Literally tens of millions of dollars of carefully crafted advertising is dedicated to telling this story every year, in just the right way and with just the right balance of entertainment and information.

And then a minimum wage employee licks the tacos shells. Or, across the street at Dominos, they’re doing horrible things to your pizza.

All of that marketing expertise, all of the money, and all of the carefully crafted marketing messages…they’re down the drain.  All because of a kid and his friends killing time with a cell phone camera.

In the same way that fast food restaurants try to clamp down on their minimum wage employees so that they don’t ruin the marketing strategy and brand name of the corporations they work for, colleges and coaches tend to try to clamp down on their student-athletes.  Many athletic departments view them as liabilities waiting to happen in the recruiting process (“What if they take that recruit to the frat party?”  “How do we know what they’re going to be doing for those ten hours overnight?”  “What if they tell the prospect about what happened at practice the other day?”).

And then there’s the military.  They know that the best way to make peace with a local population and establish roots in a new territory is through the efforts of soldiers – the lowest paid, most junior-ranking members of the military.  Handing out candy, talking to local children, helping to re-build a school…those things are the basis of a theory called Krulak’s Law, named for Marine Corps Com­man­dant Gen­eral Charles C. Kru­lak. He talked about it in a 1999 arti­cle titled, The Strate­gic Cor­po­ral:

“In many cases, the indi­vid­ual Marine will be the most con­spic­u­ous sym­bol of Amer­i­can for­eign pol­icy and will poten­tially influ­ence not only the imme­di­ate tac­ti­cal sit­u­a­tion, but the oper­a­tional and strate­gic lev­els as well. His actions, there­fore, will directly impact the out­come of the larger oper­a­tion; and he will become, as the title of this arti­cle sug­gests – the Strate­gic Corporal.”

Which brings us to you, Coach.  How are you using your army of “boots on the ground” – your team – to recruit your next class of athletes?

So much of it depends on the quality and individual personality skill-sets of your team that it is virtually impossible for me to outline a four point one-size-fits-all plan that will work for every coach in every situation.  That said, there are some general principles and key questions I think are important to talk about so that coaches can craft their own approach in how they use their current team to recruit their future team.

The first point I’ll make is that, in my opinion, not using or limiting your current team of student-athletes in the recruiting process is a mistake.  That goes beyond a personal opinion, and really points to the research which clearly points to the interaction with your team being one of the biggest contributors to your “brand” in the eyes of a recruit.  Want to overcome subpar facilities and a town that isn’t all that exciting on a Saturday night?  Get them to fall in love with the guys on your team.  Want to see nine months of intense recruiting efforts go up in smoke in a matter of seconds?  Let them spend time with that jaded, dissatisfied Senior who you just benched (trust me, they have no problem with licking the taco shells in front of one of your recruits).

It’s your job as a college coach to not only put together great game plans for competitive success, but also great game plans to build your team and make them part of this crucial recruiting effort you engage in each and every year.  To do that, I feel one of your primary responsibilities is to understand what’s going on with your team personally, from top to bottom.  Unlike the starting line-up you’ll take into a competitive contest, every team member matters when it comes to your recruiting effort.

One of the key questions each coach needs to address in formulating a strategy for recruiting interactions with their teams is who will make up that primary contact – underclassmen or your upperclassmen?  Without a doubt, we have seen underclassmen make a bigger impact in the process versus their older counterparts.  They are closer in age to your recruits (who seem to get younger and younger every year), which is important.  Your recruits want to know who they will be competing with – in fact, we’ve heard numerous college athletes look back at their own recruiting process and point out how irrelevant meeting and hanging-out with a team’s Juniors and Seniors is.  Why?  It’s pretty basic: They know those older athletes won’t be around when they finally join your team.  Why have them spend time with those older student-athetes?

Another key question for  a coach to answer is how to incorporate time with student-athletes in their recruit’s visit schedule to campus.  From what I’ve seen play out in thousands of recruiting scenarios, more time with your younger athletes is always going to be better than less time.  Even if it means fewer meetings with older men in bow ties in an ivy covered building on the other side of campus?  Especially if it means fewer of those meetings!  Your success rate for recruiting visits will rise proportionally with the amount of time you allow your recruits to just hang out with your current team.

But what about those disaster scenarios you have looping through your mind as a college coach who is leery of handing over so much power to a group of new teenagers who have been on campus a few weeks or a few months?  The biggest piece of advice I can give you as a coach that would make you feel more at ease is to encourage you to meet with your team as soon as possible, standing in front of them with a white board and a dry erase marker, and have them establish what they should do with a recruit, what they shouldn’t do with a recruit, and what they will do to keep each other accountable.  Have them establish their own rules of what gets talked about and what stays private, as well as where they should and should not take a visiting prospect.

Coaches who have gone through this exercise know that it’s extremely effective, and will actually make your team more enthusiastic about hosting visits – especially if you convey the idea that they get a voice in the process.  Let them know you want their two cents at the end of the visit to determine whether or not you should recruit that athlete.  Of course, your vote trumps their opinion.  But I will say that in my experience, your team is usually right on the money when it comes to how that recruit will fit in to your current team culture.  Pay attention to them, Coach…they instinctively know who’s right for your team.

Whatever rules you decide to establish, understand that your team has incredible power to promote – or irreversibly damage – your brand.  As the chief architect of that brand, I suggest you devote time to establishing the right culture and message in conjunction with your team.  If you do, you’ll like the results.

What to Do Now That Your First Contacts Are DoneMonday, September 2nd, 2013

So what’s your plan now?

For most coaches around the country, you’ve now officially started the formal recruiting process with a new class of prospects. The first letters, emails, phone calls and social media messages have been sent. And, if you’re fortunate, maybe you’ve had some of your prospects reply to your initial outreach efforts.

Or, maybe they haven’t.

Regardless, you’re now faced with the daunting two-word question that haunts even the most savvy college recruiter:

“What’s next?”

The answer to that question is crucial.  in fact, it will undoubtedly determine what kind of class you end up with in the months to come. For more than a few coaches, it will determine whether or not they keep their jobs.

So, what should be next? I wish there was a simple, one-size-fits-all answer to that question. However, as you probably already know, the answer for one program and one division level varies greatly from another program at another division level.

That being said, I wanted to outline a few key successful approaches that we’ve seen work on a consistent basis over the years in working closely with individual coaching staffs and conducting research around the country. As you review these strategies and key strategic questions for your program to consider, adapt them to your individual situation:

How are you going to establish the foundation for proving that you are the smart choice? In an age where this generation of student-athlete seems to be gravitating towards more fluff (Twitter and Instagram: I’m talking to you), a surprising trend has taken shape when you uncover how this generation of recruit actually makes their final decision: They have to justify it logically. It’s true that they can emotionally gravitate to a coach or a school throughout the process; however, at some point in the later stages of the process, they (or their parents, or their coach) start asking the important question of “is this a smart decision.” What you do with your communication between now and that final decision will determine if you pass that important test, and end up being a prime consideration for them.

How are you going to establish the foundation for proving that you are the emotional choice? Since I just made the case that they will initially gravitate to a coach and program that creates an emotional tie with them – the ones that make them feel the best at the start – it’s important to have a strategy for how to create that feeling in the first place. One of the examples I’ll use when we present our On-Campus Workshop to an athletic department staff is Starbucks. They are the master of creating and managing a feeling when you walk into their stores…the color on the walls, the music that’s heard, the inviting furniture…all of that is done specifically to create a feeling of warmth and comfort. As a smart recruiter, what is your plan to create the right feeling for your recruits now that the initial contact message is in their hands? If you don’t have one, you’re introducing random results into the process (that’s why every Starbucks looks and feels the same; they want you to have the same consistent feeling in each and every store). So, what’s your plan for establishing a feeling that they will gravitate to over the coming months?

The important of engaging the parents early. Our research finds that parents are polite, yet anxious, as you begin to contact their sons and daughters. On the one hand, they know that they aren’t supposed to interfere with the process and let you explain your interest to their young student-athlete, and on the other hand their irresistible urge is to step in and play a part as soon as possible in making sure that the process begins smoothly. We also find that there is an element of competition in their actions; if they are able to help their son or daughter manage the process, maybe that will give them a leg up in the competition for a scholarship or roster spot. While the majority of your competition will ignore the parents as long as possible – and fail to do the most basic functions like getting their prospect’s parents’ cell phone and work email information – I want to encourage you to do the opposite. Establish early contact with the parents of your recruits, and work to establish that same emotional connection with them. Call them, email them, ask them questions, and engage them. If you do, what you’ll find is that they are ready with really useful information, and more importantly, they will look at you as a coach that respects their opinion and input and is treating them as a valued partner in the recruiting process of their son or daughter. Do you have a plan to communicate with your prospect’s parents as you start the process?

Establish a mutually agreed upon timeline for making the final decision sooner rather than later. Do everything you can, as soon as you can, to find out when your prospect (and, yes, their parents) sees themselves making a final decision. Even if they can’t give you an exact date, a general time of year that they verbally commit to is really important. Not only will you find out how long you probably have to recruit that prospect, you’ll also gain valuable insight into how they’ll be making their decision: Will they be making it after taking visits to several schools? Do they want to commit sooner rather than later? Are they being realistic about the process and how they will navigate through it over the coming months? Most coaches we observe wait to have this conversation until after they know the prospect is interested in their program; from my experience, I see it being a critical set of questions to answer so that a coach understands exactly how to strategically design a messaging plan that earns their prospect’s interest. As you start your conversation with each of your prospects, come to an agreement on what the timeline will be for making a final decision.

Are you establishing control of the process? Are you going to control the recruiting conversation and the decision making process, or will you abdicate that role to them? Note that I am not suggesting you “force” them or “trick” them into deciding that you are the best choice (as if you or I have that power). No, what I am suggesting is that you should establish yourself as the party that will be guiding them through the recruiting process, rather than telling yourself that your job is to give them your school’s information, answer questions, and then stand by and wait politely for their decision (if I just described you, I imagine I don’t need to give you a detailed explanation of how unnerving and frustrating that makes the whole task of recruiting, right?). Your job, as a college recruiter, is to guide your athlete’s decision – from start to finish. Not trick, not force, but guide. You do that through effective questioning, establishing logical “next steps” throughout the process, and continually giving them the smart reasons that you and your program are the right choice. So, as you start the process with this next class, how do you plan to establish that role as the leader of the conversation and their trusted guide in making the right decision?

That’s not an exhaustive list, of course. And, some of these questions may not be applicable to you or your program. Heck, you may be knocking all five of these out of the park and not need to adjust your approach at all.

However, if you had the feeling that you were spinning out of control with your last class, and that you really were ineffective when it came to carrying on a logical, consistent conversation with your recruits and their parents – and you’re getting that sinking feeling that this year is turning out to be the start of the same bad story – now is the time to act.

It starts with a plan, and developing answers to these five immediate ares of focus should be the beginning of a more strategic approach to this next recruiting class.

Dan Tudor and his team offer one-on-one help with formulating a research-based approach to communicating with recruits. If you’d like to see what that looks like, and get an overview of his approach, email him at dan@dantudor.com.

Use the $300 Million Button In Your Recruiting ContactsSunday, September 1st, 2013

by Sean Devlin, Front Rush

So often times you are just a test subject. You are part of a test to figure out how to make someone else a lot of money.

Its true. Decisions by enterprising companies are made depending on how you interact with something relative and how other people react to that same thing. If you react the way they want and so do many other people, then you have proven their hypothesis…if not, they will reiterate and try something else.

When you go to a site like Amazon.com and you bounce around searching for a book, or ski pole or whatever, Amazon is showing you one version of a page. Somebody else might be looking for the exact same stuff on Amazon but they will see a completely different version of the same page (or subtly different depending on the test). What’s happening is Amazon is testing which version of the same page converts to getting customers to check out and buy their items and which is making them more money. They may show two totally different versions of the same page, or they might be testing subtle differences like the size of the font.

The famous story in this space is the “$300 Million Button”. It’s a story of how testing a specific site and simply changing a few aspects of the checkout button caused an increase of $300 million in revenue. Click here for the link to that story.

So how does this apply to recruiting? Well if it has to do with marketing AND web, you get the double wammy of direct correlation. Just like Amazon tests its web pages for conversion, you should be testing your campaigns for the same. It doesn’t necessarily have to apply to your web-page (although if it did, that’s awesome). It can apply to your emails, your phone calls, everything. So the next time you send out a mass email to recruits…send out 2 versions. Fifty percent of the recruits get one version of the email and fifty percent get another. You should try different subject lines, different email content, different email templates (with pictures). Try them all. If you are using email tracking software, then you can see which had more opens, which had more people click links, etc.

If you want the recruits to fill out online forms, track which email induced more completed forms. Once you do one test, then do another and another…keep reiterating and improving and keep testing. Then once you get the testing process down with email, try it with phone calls, text messages, everything.

The technical term is A/B testing and there are a million resources on the web relative to the same. Definitely check it out.

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