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June 19th, 2018

The First Contact Piece You’re Sending

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

Between starting work with new clients and being asked to audit individual letters and emails, the first contact piece is something I’ve been spending a lot of time on these past few weeks.

It’s an extremely important communication (maybe the most important one), so I thought it might be helpful to share a bunch of ideas and strategies with you today. These are things that continue to produce positive results for our clients at the beginning (i.e. they get a student’s attention, generate a response, and start the process of building a recruiting relationship).

To be clear, I’m referring to the first communication piece that your school sends a new inquiry or prospect whenever they enter your funnel. That could happen tomorrow, or it might not be until December or January.

The first thing that you and your admissions and marketing colleagues need to do is come up with an answer to the following question – “What’s the goal of our first contact piece?” I would argue, and I’ve done so many times in this newsletter, that it’s to get their attention and create engagement.

Email open rates are helpful, but an actual response rate is an even better metric to use. Engagement gives you that. It’s proof that your message was received, read (or least skimmed through), provided some amount of value or intrigue, and proof that your call to action worked.

The biggest problem I see with most first contact pieces is they look and sound just like 98% of other schools do. It’s just a different template and a different set of facts and figures topped off with a call to action that asks the student to visit campus or encourages them to call or email a general admissions phone number/email address if they have any questions. I don’t believe that’s a winning strategy in 2018.

Now let’s talk about what will work, starting with whom the communication comes from, and what kind of communication you send. The strategy we continue to use with our clients is a result of ongoing focus group surveys we conduct with the students themselves. We ask incoming or current college freshmen that just went through the college search process the following two questions:

Question 1: “When you started your college search, which person from a college would you have preferred to hear from first?”

Answer:

Admissions Counselor – 82.6%

Director of Admissions –17.4%

Context for you – Students have told us that a message from anyone in a position of leadership (especially if they’ve never met that person) is intimidating and, in their minds, a mass piece. It’s more plausible in their minds that an admissions counselor would actually take (and have) the time to reach out to them.

Question 2: “What’s the first kind of communication you think a college should use with a student at the beginning of the process?”

Answer:

Letter – 43.3%

Email – 32.6%

Phone Call – 21.3%

Text Message – 2.8%

Context for you – Students have told us that a letter is a tangible, safe interaction (especially when they don’t know the person). They also believe that a letter takes more effort than an email, and as such, they view it as a more personalized form of communication.

Let’s move on to the body of your first contact piece, which again I’m recommending should be a letter that comes from each individual admissions counselor. Here are some tips:

  • Shorter, less formal, and more conversational. The longer it is, the harder it is for the student to take it all in. And in most cases they’re not ready for tons of information yet, nor do they care about it… which causes them to stop reading before the end and increases the chances they’ll miss your call to action.
  • Forget about all the facts, figures, and history. It comes across as “selling” and studies suggest that we’re more apt to reply to something that doesn’t sound like an advertising message.
  • Instead, introduce the admissions counselor and make it clear that he/she understands the college search process is confusing, scary, etc. and that the goal is to make it easier for the student and his/her family. Establish the counselor as the go-to person.
  • Use words and a tone that creates excitement and makes it clear that the admissions counselor is looking forward to getting to know the student and hear more about what he/she is looking for in a college. You could even go so far as to tell the student he/she is a priority.

Finally, let’s discuss your call to action. I want you to avoid asking the student to visit your campus. This is something that’s really hard for a lot of schools to buy into. Let me explain the reasoning behind my statement.

If you tell a student, “I want you to come to campus,” or you ask them “When can you come to campus for a visit” in the first contact piece or during the first high school visit/college fair visit, it jumps several spaces ahead on their recruiting game board so to speak. You’re trying to skip a bunch of steps in their mind, and it just doesn’t seem right. Only bring it up once you have either a) spent two or three conversations asking them questions and getting to know them, or b) they bring it up…that would apply to their parents, as well. Push the visit too early, and, according to our research, you’ll seem disingenuous.

Instead, ask a specific question as your call to action. You could ask about their fear or their must-haves as they look at different schools. Whatever it is, it needs to be defined and not overly broad and general. Otherwise a lot of students don’t know what kind of response you’re looking for, and fear of sounding dumb will prevent many from responding at all.

Encourage them to respond back quickly with their answer. Tell them you’re excited to hear what they have to say because providing that feedback will give you a better idea of what information about your school will be useful to share with them next. In short, I want you to give them a “because”.

Follow the advice that I’ve given you today and I’m confident you’ll see increased engagement immediately with this next class of students.

And if at any point you want me to review your first contact piece and offer feedback, all you have to do is ask. It won’t cost you anything but your time. Simply email me.

June 18th, 2018

Dad’s Cry, Too

by Mike Davenport, Coaching Sports Today

I cried for 20 minutes today.   

I’m a stoic-type guy. I’m used to compartmentalizing and burying my emotions. But not today. Today was different.

It was checkin-day.

I dropped my oldest off at college—to start his freshman year.

And there’s a lot of misery in the World right now, so depositing my kid at a good college to get a good education is supposed to be a happy event. I get that.

But here’s the thing, I’ll miss him. Really miss him.

Here’s the bigger thing—the important thing—the thing YOU should know as a college coach—I’m NOT the only Dad who cries.

There are others—lots.

Dads And Crying

We go to the car while mom gets the dorm-room ready. We cry in the parking lot.

“It’s allergy season,” I heard one guy say today.”

Another, wiping his face, broadcasted, “Got stupid sunscreen in my eyes, again.” And that guy had been a Marine.

Me? I told one guy my eyes were bloodshot from drinking. I haven’t had a drink in 30 years.

So, why should you as a coach care?

Because the person who recruited weeping-Dad’s child (male or female) might be missing an opportunity to shine.

What if a you wandered around the parking lot with a box of tissues? Dispensing as needed. Patting a few dads on the back. I can think of worse duties.

And if checkin-day has come and gone? Give the recruit 10 postcards, and make sure he mails one each day to his Dad. Jeez, I haven’t gotten a postcard in years, and never one from him. That’d be cool.

Y’know, if a text rolled in right now, and one of my son’s new coaches said, “Hey Dad, no worries, we’ll take good care of him,” that would be nice.

Better yet, if the coach called and said, “Hey Dad, I know you’re tight with your son. Thanks for trusting me, I will make sure he keeps you updated, emailing/texting/whatever-social-you-like-connecting each day,” that would rock my world.

Or set up a Dad’s section on your team’s website. Dads will like that, even if it is something silly.

If any of those happened I would be blasting all my friends, “Those coaches got it together, your son should go there.”

Some people say college is a time for parents to let go, cut those strings. Wander around the parking lot on checkin-day, and see how well that message goes with the Dads.

And bring tissues, they will get used.

(Oh yeah … This also applies to high school, middle school, and pee wee sports. Trust me, I’ve been there too. It does.)

Want more coaching wisdom from a longtime coach and advisor? Visit his website, Coaching Sports Today, for career building advice and winning coach philosophies that will enrich your college coaching career.

June 18th, 2018

6 Morning Routines for Championship Coaches

by Mandy Green, Busy Coach

As a coach, you’re no stranger to the 12-hour workdays. You stay at the office until 9 or 10 p.m. — or until you just can’t read another email or make another recruiting phone call– before you force yourself to go home for a hasty dinner, a little more work and a few hours of shut-eye. The next day, you get up and do it all over again.

That was my life for about 11 years. One day bled into the next until I finally decided I needed some balance. I wanted to make an impact with my team and have time for a fulfilling family life outside of work.

To transform my workday, there are a lot of things I have been doing during the day when I am at work.  I decided it was time to take it a step further by taking more control of my mornings. I have done a lot of research about this and my best sources are The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod and Mel Robbins, Author of The 5 Second Rule.

I have already noticed A LOT of very positive effects from intentionally switching up my mornings.  This 60-90 minutes I am not focusing on myself in the morning has also helped me have more meaningful, successful and productive days.

Here are seven steps to revolutionizing your workday so you can accomplish more:

1. Wake up earlier.

An early-morning routine is powerful because it allows you to take time for yourself. In the early hours, it’s quiet, and there are fewer people vying for your attention. Many successful CEOs, including the former CEO of PepsiCo, begin their workday before 6 a.m., and if you can fill those hours with something meaningful, it will set the right tone for your day.

2. No email or even looking at your phone for at least the first hour of your day.

When you grab your phone first thing in the morning to check messages, your mind can’t help but shift into reaction mode. When you constantly check your phone, it can lead to increased stress, because you feel an immediate need to respond to demands. Before you know it, you’ve lost control of your day. Instead of letting others dictate your priorities, give yourself at least an hour to focus without external distractions. 

3. Express gratitude

Gratitude is a powerful way to put things into perspective. By acknowledging the things that are working in your favor, the one thing that isn’t won’t seem as problematic. As soon as you wake up, say three things you’re grateful for to start your day with positive energy.    

4.  Rewrite your goals every morning.

You already know the importance of setting goals. The problem is that a lot of people just write their goals down once and then forget it.  I suggest writing down your goals every morning to help ensure they don’t fall by the wayside.  If they are out of site, they are out of mind.  Revisit them every day and you are more likely to find time to work on them. 

5. Nourish your body.

Just as your mental state in the morning sets the tone for the rest of your day, what you eat for breakfast helps determine what you’ll eat throughout the day. If you begin with a healthy breakfast, you’re more likely to continue that trend. Remember: Your health and energy is everything. It deserves more attention than those emails.

6. Get moving.

A good morning workout is invigorating, especially if you have great music or a motivational podcast that gets you fired up. I start my mornings with a quick 10-15 minute workout and then some stretching — but running, yoga, weight training or even a brisk walk can be good for your health and make you more productive.

If you’re already stretched thin, you’re probably thinking that you don’t have that much time to devote to yourself first thing in the morning. But the ROI is too great to ignore. When you’re happy, energetic and focused, it does wonders for your productivity as a coach. Take it from me. 60-90 minutes for yourself first thing in the morning is just what you need to take your team and program to the next level.

June 12th, 2018

Yes, You Can Learn From Howard Stern

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

No, that’s not a misprint. There are actually a number of things that you can learn from Howard Stern that will make you a better recruiter and/or a better leader.

The shock jock, as he’s known to many, has amassed tens of millions of listeners on Sirius XM satellite radio and has been deemed by some the most powerful interviewer in American broadcasting. Billy Joel even called his interview with Stern “probably the most astute and insightful interview” he’d done.

I listen to the Stern show a lot when I travel, and if you’ve never heard Howard interview a guest on his show, you don’t know what you’re missing. Pick your favorite celebrity or music star and type their name along with Howard’s into Google when you have a few extra minutes. Chances are he’s interviewed them at some point. His recent interviews with James Corden and Cardi B are particularly insightful and worth the listen.

Over the years I’ve noticed a few things that Howard does consistently during his interviews, each of which I want to talk with you about today. These are techniques that I would recommend you consider implementing (if you’re not already) during your conversations with prospective students and parents.

  • Eliminate any fear at the beginning. Howard starts off a lot of his interviews with small talk and a compliment for his guest. It’s low pressure and makes the other person immediately feel safe and comfortable. Similarly, when you talk with students, don’t immediately bombard them with all kinds of questions and a push to visit campus or complete your application. Worry more about putting them at ease and eliminating any fears they might have.
  • It’s not an interview it’s a conversation. If you remember one thing from today’s article I hope it’s this point. Don’t approach your conversations with students (at college fairs, school visits, campus visit events, etc) like it’s an interview. The goal as I’ve stated in numerous articles before is to get and keep their attention…to make a connection and have future conversations. Many of Stern’s guests rave about how fun and memorable their interviews with him were. Many have been back multiple times over the years. Would your students say the same thing about the phone calls and contacts they have with you? You’ll discover the answer when you try and connect a second time. Make your conversation more casual, and make it about them. Do that, and you’ll gain all kinds of valuable information and insights from the student or their parent.
  • Don’t interrupt. Just like it probably drives you nuts when other people don’t let you finish your thoughts and sentences, the same thing holds true for the students that you’re recruiting. I know it can be tempting to get so excited about something that you jump in and cut them off. Don’t do it. Stern always lets his guests finish telling a story or answering a question to the point where there’s often a second or two of dead air.
  • Have a list of effective questions and follow-up questions. Stern has become a master at asking specific questions that get his guests to talk more openly and freely about themselves than they typically do in public. His questions don’t just lead to answers, they lead to stories. It doesn’t take him long (and it won’t take you long either) to discover what motivates the other person or why something is or isn’t important in their mind. Howard also does a great job of latching on to a guest’s answers and digging deeper with follow up questions like “What’s going on there,” or “Help me understand that.” Context matters.
  • Don’t be afraid to go in a different direction midstream. Any time you ask a prospect or their parents a question that then leads to unexpected points of interest, don’t be afraid to change the direction of the conversation. At the same time be mindful of those tough subjects where digging too deep isn’t worth the risk.
  • Don’t be afraid to poke fun at yourself (or address your school’s negatives). Howard pokes fun at himself all the time. It makes him more genuine, and it reminds his guests that he’s human and makes mistakes just like them. Don’t be afraid to share a funny story about something silly or unintelligent that you’ve done. And don’t be afraid to address your school’s negatives either, whatever they may be. Every college has something. That transparency will separate you from your competitors who only talk about the positives. This generation of students (and their parents) is looking for colleges that are demonstrating honesty during the recruitment process.

Some or all of these six bullet points may have simply been timely reminders for you today. That’s great! For everyone else, I encourage you to take one or more of them and consider how it or they can help you become a better recruiter.

Lastly, at the beginning of this article I mentioned leadership. All six of these points are applicable to you if you directly manage others in your office. Leadership isn’t just about giving direction. It’s about getting to know every single person you manage (their motivations, wants, needs, and fears) and figuring out what each of them needs from you so that they can achieve their own personal goals and the goals that you’ve set for them.

I hope you have an amazing day and week!

As always, reach out and connect with me on email, phone, or text if I can help you with something.

June 11th, 2018

Are You Good Enough to Coach Your Sport?

by Dr. Mike Davenport, Coaching Sports Today

We coaches may look composed and tough on the outside, but on the inside we often have the same fears and worries that typical folks have.

I know from my own experiences, and a survey I did of recently hired coaches, that one of those worries is, “Am I good enough to coach my sport?”

I call this one of the “3 am wake-up worries” that coaches suffer. (You can probably guess where that name came from.)

So are you? Are you good enough to coach your sport?

Let’s find out.

Balancing act

A critical step to finding out if, in fact, you are good enough to coach your sport is to balance two items. Those are (a) the talents-skills you possess, and (b) the coaching outcomes your program/organization/school requires of you.

You see, if we set up a simple little teeter-totter like this one . . .

with the two items on either end, we can get an understanding if we are good enough. So, if your talent-skills basket outweighs your outcomes basket, then there’s a solid chance you are good enough. On the other hand, if your outcomes basket is heavier, chances are you aren’t good enough.

Harsh, harsh, harsh, but probably true.

Let’s drill down further…

What talent-skills do you have?

I’m going to recommend two steps. First, grab a piece of paper or a computer page and list your talents and skills. Sounds simple, and it’s a good place to start.

Yet as social psychologist David Dunning writes “people overestimate themselves.” And we certainly do.

It’s called illusory superiority, and it’s human nature—meaning everyone does it Coach, not just us. It’s just something we have to deal with, and the next step can help.

Now, take your list and let’s get feedback.

Give your list to someone. Not just anyone, but a person who

  1. knows you
  2. knows coaching
  3. who you can trust to give you honest feedback

Does she/he agree with what you’ve written? Now have that person ask you questions such as:

  • Are you a good communicator?
  • Do you have basic, intermediate, or advanced knowledge of your sport?
  • Do you know the sport’s rules?
  • Can you recruit?

As you respond to the questions watch his/her eyes.

If he asks you, “Are you good with people?” And you respond, “I certainly am” and his eyes grow wide in amazement…well…you’re getting feedback that you probably aren’t as good with people as you think you are.

Take that list, and keep it safe.

What coaching outcomes are required of you?

Now the hard part…

After you’ve gone through your interrogation it’s time to determine what outcomes are expected of you.

I did this when I was applying for my head coach job at Washington College. I asked the Athletic Director point blank, “What outcomes does the school want from me?”

Nothing shocking came out of that conversation, but the answers were critical in me taking the job, and I’m sure the question helped them see me as a serious candidate who may be after more than just a coaching-gig.

So go to your immediate supervisor and ask the question. Don’t make assumptions here. Ask the question. You need to know the answer.

Compare

Distill the information you’ve just gathered.

  • Make two columns on a piece of paper/computer page with talents-skills on one side and outcomes on the other
  • Fill in what you know under each column
  • Analyze

Are you talent-skills lacking? Start a plan of self-improvement.

Are the outcomes required well below your talent-skills? Chances are you are going to get bored.

This is a simple exercise, but one that could be important to your coaching success, and your coaching longevity.

Give it a try.

Dr. Mike Davenport is a former college coach and current consultant who works with coaches to improve their recruiting, and their college coaching career. Visit his library of articles and advice at CoachingSportsToday.com, or email him at mike@dantudor.com.

June 11th, 2018

80/20 Your Way to More Coaching Success This Year

by Mandy Green, Busy Coach

The Pareto principle states that 20% of a person’s effort generates 80% of the person’s results. The corollary to this is that 20% of one’s results absorb 80% of one’s resources or efforts. For the effective use of resources, the coach’s challenge is to distinguish the right 20% from the trivial many.

Identify the high-payoff activities within your program.  High-payoff activities are the things you do that bring the greatest value to your program, team, or staff.  They are the three to five activities that lie in your “sweet spot.”  You do them with excellence.  These activities could be building relationships with recruits, making phone calls to parents, sending emails to recruits, managing your current team, etc.  They are your unique discipline or distinctive skills and abilities that distinguish you from other staff members. 

Being able to prioritize your personnel, time, and energy will allow you the freedom to produce more efficient results. 

Here are a few exercises taken from John Maxwell’s book Developing the Leader within You that should get you started:

Task Priorities

Determine what 20% of the work gives 80% of the return. These activities could be building relationships with recruits, making phone calls to parents, sending emails to recruits, managing your current team, etc.  They are your unique discipline or distinctive skills and abilities that distinguish you from other staff members. 

Make a list of the tasks that you are working on today, this week, and in the near future. 

Place each task next to the appropriate category below.

  • List of things to do now (High Importance/High Urgency). Tackle these tasks first;
  • List of things to do (High Importance/Low Urgency). Set deadlines for completion and get these tasks worked into your daily routine
  • List of things to delegate (Low Importance/High Urgency). Find quick, efficient ways to get this work done without much personal involvement.  Delegate it.
  • Low Importance/Low Urgency: Busy or repetitious work.  Delegate it. 

Staff/Team Oversight and Leadership Development

  • Determine which people are the top 20% producers.  Start by making a list of everyone on your team.
  • For each individual, ask yourself, ”if this person takes a negative action against me or withdraws his or her support from me, how big will the impact be?”
  • If their absence would hinder your ability to function, put a check mark next to that name.
  • When you finish making the check marks, you will have marked between 15 and 20 percent of the names.  These are the vital relationships that need to be developed and given the proper amount of resources to grow your program.
  • Meet one-on-one with the people you checked above. 
  • Spend 80 percent of your “people time” with the top 20%
  • Spend 80 percent of your personal development dollars on the 20%

Sit down and spend the time to find out how this principle applies within almost every aspect of your program, and you have the power to set the vital priorities which will mean the difference between failure, survival, and success. This principle will save you time, effort, money and resources, and take you further down the road to success.

Knowing what your high-payoff activities are and actually doing them, however, are two very different things.  Many surveys that I have read over the past several years have shown that the average American worker spends only 50-60 percent of the workday on activities specified in her or her job description.  That means that workers waste 40-50 percent of their time on low-payoff activities, tackling things that others with less skill or training should be doing.  Are you in this category coach?

By disciplining yourself to clearly identify your high-payoff activities, and then by filling your calendar with those things and appropriately delegating, delaying, or dropping the low-payoff activities, you can and will get more productive things done everyday, reduce your stress, and increase your happiness.   

The more time you spend doing the high-payoff activities, the more value you will bring to your team, program, and staff.  By disciplining yourself to clearly identify your high-payoff activities, and then by filling your calendar with those things and appropriately delegating, delaying, or dropping the low-payoff activities, you can and will get more high-payoff activities done everyday, reduce your stress, and increase your happiness.    

Homework-Time tracking on an Activity Log.  Do a Realistic Time Audit

Time management experts stress that before you can make needed changes in the way you manage time, you need to look at how you spend your time now. What activities or tasks are taking up the biggest chunks of your life? What items do you hate or put off most? Are you allowing others to dictate uses for your time that aren’t productive or don’t fit your agenda?

By doing a brutally honest assessment, you can begin to change the way you manage yourself in relation to time.

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