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September 1st, 2008

6 Secrets to Writing Better Recruiting Letters

We’ve just completed delivery of our Total Recruiting Solution program to coaches all over the Dan Tudorcountry who use our team of experts to help create more effective recruiting plans. 

Even for myself and our team of team of experts that create these recruiting plans for coaches, starting with a blank page on a computer screen can be pretty intimidating some days.  It can take a while to get those juices flowing and come up with something creative that will get the attention of a high school kid who is bombarded daily with all sorts of advertising and marketing messages.

Over the years, we’ve developed some tricks and techniques that help us to break through that occasional writer’s block hurdle, and I wanted to share a few of them with you today in case you face the same kind of struggle from time to time. 

Here are six of our break-through secrets that you can try the next time you’re struggling to come up with a great recruiting letter:

SECRET #1:  Compartmentalization

Writing an out-of-the-park grand slam recruiting letter or email is a process that consists of many steps, hundreds of actions, and thousands of tiny decisions:

Thinking about who your prospect is and why he needs your product… 

Coming up with your attention-getting strategy – your theme, headline, and lead idea…

Researching what your school offers, your competitors’ strengths, and their recruiting strategies…

Organizing your attack – determining the order in which you’ll guide your prospect through your reasons why he or she should commit to your program…

Pouring the appropriate research, notes, and ideas into each section of your recruiting plan outline…

Writing your first draft…

Buffing and meticulously detailing each succeeding draft until you know that you couldn’t improve it even if someone held a gun to your head – and that any change you consider at this point will actually weaken the copy…

And, finally, sticking a fork in it, because it’s done.

Now if you have a lick of common sense, you’re going to feel overwhelmed when you contemplate all the steps you have to complete in order to perfect the project at hand. And that’s okay. It just means you’re in touch with reality.

But you’re going to have to get past "overwhelmed" and on to work. And the only way I know to do that is to mentally chop the job into little, tiny, manageable pieces. So you tell yourself something like this: "I do NOT have to write a recruiting campaign today. All I have to do is the research. Or part of the research."

Thinking about the work this way does more than just relieve your anxiety about producing recruiting letters and emails. It blows all that procrastination you’re usually guilty of at the beginning of a project right out of the water, and gets you moving forward towards creating a good recruiting letter.

SECRET #2:  Getting into a good flow

Ever have a day when you sit down to work and the next thing you know it’s time for dinner… you have to force yourself to stop… and when you reflect on the day, you’re amazed by the quantity – and, more important, the quality – of what you accomplished?

That, my friend, is the "good flow" that I’m talking about. And getting into that flow state is my goal every time I sit down at my desk to work on a client’s recruiting package.

The fact is, good flow equals better recruits. Because the more flow you experience during planning and writing your recruiting campaign, the faster the project goes and the better your end product is.

Hummingbird recruitingBut good flow doesn’t "just happen." Flow is kind of like hummingbirds: They show up naturally if you just create an environment that attracts them. For me, that means a quiet work area and a good night’s sleep. The right background music. No interruptions. No distractions. And every tool I need to do that day’s job readily at hand.

That’s just me. You’ll have to figure out what works for you.

SECRET #3: Constantly visualizing success

Yes, I know. What could possibly be more cheesy than dusting off the decades-old concept of "positive thinking"?

Thing is, like all laws that survive the test of time, positive thinking works.  Good coaches know this, deep down. 

What personally drives me is the phone call I’ll get from a wowed coach client when he sees my recruiting plan I’ve created for them for the first time… the call telling me he had too many recruits reply back to their recruiting email campaign…and, of course, the high fives we do here at Selling for Coaches when a coach gets the athlete they really, really want.

Whatever your motivation, try keeping it in mind as you write.  Make that the thing that drives you and commits you to doing your best. 

SECRET #4 "Know thyself"

Feelings are more intense than thoughts.

So, they can have a way of blanking your mind and freezing you like a biker who just spotted a grizzly in his headlights. That’s why you have to understand how negative emotions affect your work.

For example, you may feel overwhelmed at the beginning of a project to come up with new recruitingWorrying letters or emails. Discouraged when a solution doesn’t come fast enough. And then your inferiority complex kicks into overdrive when you see how you think your competition is doing it a lot better than you and your coaching staff is.

It helped me when I realized that 99.9 percent of all negative emotions are probably not caused by objective truth. And, therefore, the vast majority of all bad feelings are baloney.

So when I experience a negative emotion while I’m working, I pause for a moment and ask myself, "What thought zipped through my mind just before I got bummed out?" After recognizing how ridiculously wrong that thought was, I can almost instantly dismiss the negative emotion and dive back into the work.

Try it. It works.

SECRET #5: Screw the rules!

You’ve learned too many letter-writing rules. And, frankly, they’re getting in the way. If you’ve hosted SFC for one of our On-Campus Workshops, you know what I think of many of the letters that go out to your recruits (they need total re-working, in most cases).

So instead of worrying about the rules you learned in high school and college, focus on your prospect and be a salesman in print. Think, "If I were in a room with my best prospect and needed to get his attention, engage him, present the reasons why he should come to play for me and my program – what would I say to him?" Then let the conversation flow naturally out of your fingers to the keyboard and into your document, as if you were talking to them one-on-one.  Less formal, more conversational.  That’s the key.

There’ll be plenty of time in later drafts to think about which rules you broke or didn’t follow. The first draft is about speed.

SECRET #6: Do some bedtime reading

Let your last action each day be to read what you wrote to a recruit that day. File it away in your subconscious mind. And go to work the minute you wake up in the morning so the connections your brain made overnight find their way onto the page.  Try it once…you’ll see how well it works.

Take advantage of the above six "secrets" from Selling for Coaches religiously on your next recruiting message project, and you’ll be surprised by how much more quickly it goes and how much easier the writing feels.