Dan Tudor

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December 15th, 2014

Branding Your Program Effectively at the Start and End of the Recruiting Process

Why should a college coach care about their program’s “brand”?

Seriously, do you even have time for that?  With your limited budget, not enough hours in the day, administrative duties, student-athletes knocking on your office door, parents emailing you about playing time…am I really suggesting that you even begin to care a little bit about what your “brand” is in the eyes of your recruits?

Only if you really want them.

With this generation, branding is everything.

What shoes they wear, what music they listen to, what private school they attend, which clothing contract your school has, where your U.S. News ranking sits…it all matters at two certain points in the recruiting process, according to our ongoing research:  At the very beginning, and (if you don’t change their minds during your ongoing conversations) at the very end.

How you control those two points in the process will likely dictate the outcome of each and every one of your recruiting battles.

(That’s why you should care about your program’s “brand”)

Here are my recommendations for building a strategy around those two important parts of the recruiting process:

 

Controlling your program’s brand perception at the start of the recruiting process

Understand that nobody but you can establish your program’s brand at the start of your conversation.

Nobody. But. You.

If you don’t buy into that reality, you can stop reading now, because nothing else we talk about is going to matter.  Too many college coaches believe one of two things: 1) When it comes to their brand, they are hostage to their location, conference, division level, budget, history, and all of the other reasons coaches invent to not firmly and consistently establish their brand for their recruits.  Or, 2) their job is to coach, not try to establish their own brand and learn exactly what that entails.

A few coaches – many of whom are the coaches you admire in your sport because of their success – have figured out an amazing secret: If you consistently, confidently an creatively tell the story of why they should want to be a part of your program, you have a strong chance of landing that recruit.  You can be one of those coaches.

What it takes, at the start of the process, is to understand that most recruits don’t come in to the conversation with you as a “blank slate”.  There is some kind of definition they have started to assign to you at first contact, and most of the time its negative.  So, starting with that concept, let me ask you:

What are you saying to those prospects to convince them that you’re worth considering?

What are you telling them that makes the case for why they would be crazy not to come and compete for you?

Those aren’t throw-away questions.  They are the start of developing a real brand as a college coach who wants to take recruiting to the next level.  So, here are three things to do next:

  1. Develop a calendar of consistent messaging to your recruits, across multiple formats (mail, email, social media, phone).  Commit to it, and don’t leave any of those options out of your plan.  They all count, according to your recruits.
  2. Don’t prove to them that you want them.  Prove to them why they should want you.
  3. Let your prospect determine whether or not what you’re selling is “good enough”.  Don’t make their buying decisions for them.  Your job is to make the best case possible as to why they should want you and your program.  Focus on that.

Controlling your program’s brand perception at the end of the recruiting process

At this point, you’ve spent months either doing a really fantastic job of establishing your brand, or a horrible job of it.

Let’s deal with the more negative possibility first: If you’ve ignored those three core principles outlined for the start of the recruiting process, it’s likely that – at best – your recruiting results are random, and at worst they are really suffering.  Without controlling your brand identity at the start of the process, it is impossible to re-define it at the end of the process.

If, however, you’ve done a fantastic job of establishing your brand, you’ve now set yourself up for a strong branding message at the end.  Which is vital, for one big reason.

At the end of the process, your recruit’s natural inclination is to gravitate to the “safe” choice: The school with the winning record, the highest ranking on one of the twenty three college lists out there, the college closest to home, the one that’s offering the most money…those are all the “safe” choices.

Your job, at the end of the process, is to anticipate that they are having second thoughts about your brand.  No matter how much you think your recruit is leaning towards committing to your program, assume otherwise.  Continue to confidently, consistently and creatively explain to them why they should want to be with you and your program.  Especially after a campus visit.  Especially in the weeks leading up to their final decision.

So let me ask you two important questions as you end the process:

How are you managing your prospect’s timeline and tailoring your message to that timeline?

How are you calming their fears and making it o.k. for them to choose you over one of their “safer” choices?

Just as is the case at the start of the branding process, those aren’t throw-away questions.  They are the culmination of developing a real brand as a college coach who wants to take recruiting to the next level.  So, here are three things to do next:

  1. Control your prospect’s decision-making timeline.  We’re not talking about forcing them to choose you (that’s impossible, by the way), we’re talking about fully understanding when and how they will make that decision, and then holding them to that timeline.
  2. Maintaining your level of confidence and enthusiasm at the end, just as you (hopefully) have been doing since the beginning.
  3. Giving your prospect an ongoing supply of positive reasons to choose your program.

Branding is a key part of successful recruiting.  At it’s core, its coming up with a compelling story to tell your recruits, and then doing that consistently over a long period of time – just like a television ad campaign.  Take this part of your job as a recruiter very, very seriously.

If you’re a Client or Premium Member, we’ve produced a 20 minute video talking about the entire concept of successful branding in college recruiting.  Watch it here when you get a chance.

December 15th, 2014

How to Effectively Talk About Paying for College With Your Prospects (and their parents)

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

During a recent phone call with a good friend he mentioned that his daughter, a high school junior, was starting to receive a lot of mail from colleges and universities. What he said next is something that I’m sure many of you in admissions have heard a thousand times. “Most of the schools she likes are really expensive and I have no idea how we can afford any of them.”

Knowing that their family had visited a couple of those schools earlier this fall, I asked him if any of the college counselors had touched on financial aid before, during or after the visit. “Not one of them.” In the words of Tom Hanks’ character in Apollo 13, “Houston, we have a problem!”

More than ever before today’s prospects, and their parents, are limiting the college search to schools they believe they can afford. By doing this, many students sacrifice their best “fit” for an apparent lower cost option. Several do so without researching affordability or talking to an admissions or financial aid counselor at the better “fit” institution.

Studies have shown that when students were asked where they obtain information on financial aid, both admissions offices and admissions counselors ranked near the bottom of the list. Instead, your college’s website and the student’s high school counselor are the top sources. This is a trend that needs to change.

Discussing the issue of paying for college is a challenge. I won’t dispute that. It’s a frequent topic during my one-on-one counselor meetings when we conduct one of our On-Campus Workshops. How then do you approach your prospects correctly?

We have some strategies that we’ve seen work over the past few years, and we think you can use them to help overcome the “money” objection as you talk with this next class of recruits.

  • Be prepared to start the conversation early on. The “money” objection is one of the most common negatives that many schools face. We tell clients the worst thing they can do with any objection, including this one, is avoid talking about it in the hope that it will magically disappear. It won’t. If your admissions team is not prepared to talk about money with your prospects, it’s going to be hard to secure their commitment. Being able to explain the process ahead of time will lead to a greater comfort level, and a lot less questions later on when you try to convert those admits to deposits. I would also strongly recommend you have that talk with the parents, not the parents and your prospect together.  It’s a sensitive topic, and we find that your prospect’s parents will be more open with you if their son or daughter is not there.
  • Ask the parents of your prospect how this crisis is effecting them. That type of question is one of the “15 Great Questions” that author, speaker and founder of Tudor Collegiate Strategies, Dan Tudor, and I, recommend to college coaches and admissions teams during our On-Campus Workshops.  You need to understand how this crisis is effecting them, and what obstacles it creates when it comes to considering your school.  By engaging the family in that conversation, you will help them connect the dots, which is something they value. Mom and dad will also become your allies.  Considering how important their feedback is in their child’s decision, you cannot afford not to reach out to them.
  • Guide them step-by-step, and always emphasize what that next step is. We’ve talked many times in previous articles about how important transparency is with this generation of recruits. The college selection process is both confusing and stressful. You and your staff need to be their guides from start to finish. Be sure and reiterate key dates and deadlines well in advance. If you want to avoid “sticker shock,” explain to them how the bottom-line total is calculated and why that’s the important number to remember. In addition to the FAFSA, be prepared to discuss each of the three main types of financial aid – loans, grants and scholarships, and programs such as work-study. As an honest guide who makes the details easy to understand, you will gain their trust.
  • How you communicate the value your school offers matters. Especially in your letters and emails.  If you have a family who is worried about finances, your basic recruiting letter is going to have an even harder time getting through to them and grabbing their attention.  Communicating clearly, systematically and with some originality is vital. When you discuss the value or ROI that your college’s graduates have experienced, have institutional data or at worst national data at your disposal, in addition to success stories of your alumni. It’s your job to show the value of your school’s diploma, and the benefits that will come as a result of the experiences your prospect will gain during their time on your campus. When done correctly you will be able convince many of your recruits and their parents that cheaper isn’t always better.
  • Collaborate with your school’s financial aid staff. The days of directing all “money” questions to your financial aid office are coming to an end. Admissions’ collaborating with financial aid is now essential. If your college hasn’t merged the two entities, then I strongly recommend you do some cross training. Understand what financial aid officers look for and how they make their decisions. Be able to navigate your school’s financial aid website, because if you can’t do so, you can guarantee your prospects won’t either. Cultivating these relationships will make a tangible difference. Remember that both offices are working towards the same goal of enrolling the “best fit” students.
  • Understand that they might have the money, but aren’t sure they want to spend it on your school. When a family talks about not being able to afford your school, understand that in some cases they can afford it, they just haven’t decided that they want to. Ask yourself what would happen if a bigger brand name school with a perceived higher academic reputation entered the picture for your prospect and offered the exact same financial aid package. Chances are that family would find a way to “make it work” financially. Just remember that more often then not your prospect has the money, they just aren’t sure they want to spend it on your school. You then need to consistently and creatively find ways to get them to justify the expense and why it’s worth the investment.

At the end of the day there will be times when despite your best efforts, you won’t be able to overcome the reality that some families just cannot afford your school without taking on significant financial debt. Your goal is to present smart reasons why your school is the “right fit” for their child, and demonstrate greater value than your competition.

Want personalized help in creating a better recruiting strategy? CLICK HERE to learn about our Admissions Recruiting Advantage options that schools around the country are using.

December 14th, 2014

Featured Series: The ‘Miracle’ Behind Herb Brooks’s Miracle On Ice

by Charlie Adams, StokeTheiFireWithin.com

You need to sign talent in recruiting and then develop it. Yes, there are many other factors, but talent is a biggie. The movie Miracle ends with captions of what happened to the players from the gold medal-winning 1980 US Olympic hockey team. What Disney showed was what they did as far as ‘real jobs in the real world’ and did not show that over half of the 1980 team would play in the NHL, some for many years. It was like in a subtle way the director wanted the audience to think these guys weren’t good enough to have been pros, when in fact just over half were NHL caliber.

There is a perception out there that Herb Brooks drove around with a bus and got some hockey guys and went to Lake Placid and beat the mighty Soviets 4-3. The reality is he had a lot of really talented players with physical gifts.

Buzz Schneider could run a 4.2 in the 40. Bill Baker looked like he had stepped off a Viking ship. Mark Pavelich was quicker than a butterfly with hiccups. Ken Morrow was a 6’4 sentry of a defenseman who would win four straight Stanley Cups with the Islanders right after the Olympic run.

When I work with college programs, my point is that it was NOT a miracle back in 1980. It was EARNED. There is no reason that every college program cannot reach their dreams because that team showed it was possible. After really hearing their backstory, your players and coaches will feel there is NOTHING they cannot accomplish and NOTHING they cannot overcome.

The players Herb basically recruited to the Olympic team were not as skilled as the Soviets. Herb knew he couldn’t match their skills in seven months so he focused on maximum conditionging. “We may not be the best team in Lake Placid,” Herb would say, “but we WILL be the best conditioned.”

Herb would tell them that they did not have enough talent to win on talent alone. He didn’t mean they had to get more talented to beat the Soviets and Czechs, but they had to become a total and complete team, have the ability to take advantage of opportunities, and be in Sparta-like condition.

“You don’t put greatness in people. You pull it out.” Herb always said that and he pulled it out of them over 7 months from July 1979 to February of 1980. He would say, “Men, I appreciate your talents and therefore I am going to maximize them.”

When Herb brought the 60-plus players to Colorado Springs in July of 1979 that would be whittled to 20 just before Lake Placid, he brought a lot of talent in. But as I have said before, he was looking for the right players and not the best players. Here is an example from my background. I was a TV News sports director at local stations for 25 years, including South Bend, Bakersfield and New Orleans. When I was in South Bend many top line sports reporters wanted to work at the CBS station I was at because Notre Dame football was on a tear from 1988 to 1993. I would get job applications from guys in big markets and pro sports backgrounds. I would listen to them, but would always hire a guy from a smaller college with a more humble background. That was the right guy. The best guys, the ones with the big names from having played pro ball, would be happy in Notre Dame football season, but I knew once I asked them to grab a TV news camera and drive to Bremen High to shoot girls basketball in the dead of winter, they would recoil in horror. Instead, I hired guys like Dean Huppert who had played tennis at D2 Univ of Indianapolis, and Greg
Carroll, who had played soccer at Xavier, and Greg Kerr who had played baseball at VCU. In over 25 years, I had people call in sick less than ten
days. That’s because they cared. And, they were very talented. People like Dan Tudor, who was a sports reporter for me at KBAK TV in Bakersfield and would go on and develop his Selling for Coaches program.

So, like Herb, in recruiting go for talent, but the right kind of talent. Don’t buy into the myth that the Miracle on Ice team was a lucky thing that happened. They earned it. Sure, the Soviets probably ‘won’ that 4-3 game in that they out shot the U.S. boys 39-16, but Herb had put together enough talent that was opportunistic enough to outscore them.

And in the end, in the big game that is all that matters.

Motivational Speaker Charlie Adams delivers his More Than a Miracle program to college coaches and athletes. He explains how the 1980 Miracle on Ice was not so much a miracle as it was work ethic, remarkable vision and leadership, commitment to change, commitment to team, and perseverance.
Charlie can be reached at StokeTheFireWithin.com and at charlie@stokethefirewithin.com

December 8th, 2014

Developing Successful Campus Visits

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

I recently conducted one of our effective on-campus admissions workshops for a college in the Northeast.

When it came to recapping their focus group research the most impactful discovery was that 85% of the students surveyed said the campus visit moved this particular school up, or to the top of their list. Despite those numbers, one of the school’s senior counselors wanted to discuss ways they could turn a great visit into an amazing one-of-a-kind visit, the kind that creates that “feeling” all recruits rely on to help them choose a college.

Let me ask each of you a question. “When’s the last time your admissions office took a step back and evaluated your campus visit?” Some of you might be saying to yourself, “Jeremy we haven’t had any complaints about our visits, so why spend time doing that?” A visit to your campus is number one on your prospect’s list for determining if your school is the right one for them.  Our ongoing focus group research on campuses around the country indicates the face-to-face communication you have with a prospect will determine what kind of chances you have at securing their commitment to join your student body. Unfortunately, that same research also suggests that many schools are delivering virtually identical visits, and therefore not providing prospects with strong enough proof as to why their school is the right fit.

Lets back up for a minute. First and foremost, you have to give your prospects a reason to come to campus. It starts with your recruiting message. You must be telling a compelling enough story using a mix of communication that ultimately creates anticipation in their minds. Your prospects want to buy what you’re selling, but you need to give them a reason to do so. They will anticipate coming to campus if they’ve been given exciting peeks at what awaits them when they get there. This is an opportunity for you and your admissions staff to use creative thinking and paint them that picture.

O.k., back to auditing your campus visit. The first thing I encourage you to focus on has nothing to do with the tour route or your tour guide. During your walk across campus, look for things such as burnt out light bulbs, weeds, trash in stairwells and paint in need of touching up. We see little things such as these all the time when we participate in campus tours during workshops and client visits. If we see them, that means your recruits and their families notice them as well. They may seem minimal in the grand scheme of things, but I encourage you to reach out to your school’s physical plant and see if these small projects can be prioritized. The result will be more comments about your school’s “beautiful campus,” which again is something that contributes to creating that “feeling” for your recruits. The campus visit sets the tone for the rest of the recruiting process.

Now that you understand how critical every aspect of the campus visit is to successful recruiting, let’s discuss some common mistakes that colleges make when they’re hosting these visits. Keep in mind this feedback comes directly from our research with students just like those on your campus.

Too many scheduled meetings. The absolute worst thing you can do as a school is to cram as many meetings as possible into your prospect’s visit. All of that running around leads to exhaustion. Students can only take in and process so much information, so quality must be emphasized over quantity. They want to get a feel for how well they will fit in on your campus. A day full of meetings destroys that possibility. You need to carve out some down time for rest and self-exploration.

Non-Impactful meetings. I understand that certain departments at your school want to be involved in the campus visits. Here’s the problem. Students consistently tell us that sitting through a meeting with people they will likely never see again is a buzz kill. They become bored and never get a sense of how what’s being explained is beneficial to them. Most importantly, very few of these meetings factor into their final decision. One meeting I would however highly recommend you consistently block time for is with someone in your school’s career center. As the cost of higher education continues to rise, families want to know more about ROI (Return on investment).

The length of your campus tour. The average college campus tour lasts between 60 and 75 minutes. Our research, which again is feedback from students, consistently tells us this is too long. Make the time one day to join or follow a tour group and watch what happens after about 30 minutes. Students become uninterested and start to check their cell phones. Like it or not, that’s this generation of recruits. They have an extremely hard time staying focused, particularly after that first 30 minutes.

Your tour guide’s presentation. There’s two parts I want to address here. First off, your tour guides must be enthusiastic individuals who have no trouble engaging your prospects and their families. Delivering the campus tour in a dull, monotone voice is an immediate turn off. Furthermore the guide must be well educated on every part of campus, including any recent changes and additions. Finally, they must remember the importance of TMI. I’m referring to discussing social issues and personal experiences on campus that are irrelevant and inappropriate. The second key takeaway here is the worst thing your visit experience can offer a recruit is the exact same thing the last two visits they went on offered. Your tour guide’s talking points must be defined. If all they’re doing is talking about the renovation of this building, the history of that building, and so on, then that’s a problem.

Not highlighting the “why.” Every campus has the same things – dorms, a cafeteria, a place where students congregate, a library, etc. All of those things are great and they need to be highlighted, but not enough schools emphasize why each of those should matter to that specific recruit. Maybe your freshmen dorm room sizes are larger than most, or your cafeteria allows students once a week to fill up a container as full as possible with food and take it back to their dorms for later on. Wouldn’t it be worth pointing out why those things are beneficial?   Doing so allows your prospect to visualize, and as we’ve stated many times previously, that’s another part of helping create that “feeling.”

No personal touches. In a previous article we discussed how personalization is the secret to increasing enrollment. You must incorporate personal touches and create a genuine welcoming environment for families. That goes for your prospect as well as mom and dad because we all know how important a role they ultimately play in their child’s decision. Welcome signs, parking spaces with their name on it, and providing background information to others who will be involved in the campus visit are good places to start. This is another chance for your counselors to be creative.

Letting them leave campus without telling them what’s next. Here’s something we see happen all the time. A school hits a home run during the campus visit. Everyone’s excited. Mom and dad along with their son or daughter get into the car and start the long drive home or to the airport. As they finish recapping the visit, the question of what’s next always arises. Too often the admissions staff doesn’t clearly lay out that next step for the recruit before they leave campus. We also advise clients to ask the prospect if they can see him or herself as a student on your campus. Failing to do one or both of these means you’re missing a giant opportunity for your school.

If your school has recently evaluated and addressed any campus visit issues, minor or major, I applaud you. Let me challenge you now not to be afraid to re-tweak things going forward. If you’re in the majority that hasn’t done so, start dissecting your visits now. Do not wait until next year. You can make easy changes quickly and effectively that will improve the overall experience for your current group of prospects.

It’s also a great idea to ask your tour guides for their input on the campus visits. Ask them what you should do more and less of. They’ve recently gone through the process and have a better feel for what today’s student wants.

Need help creating a campus experience that will allow your school to stand out from the competition? Invite us to conduct an on-campus workshop with your school in the New Year. We can help! Contact Jeremy directly at jeremy@dantudor.com for more information.

December 8th, 2014

Building A Relationship With Your Prospect’s Parents

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December 8th, 2014

Some Must Reads About The “Miracle On Ice”

by Charlie Adams, StokeTheFireWithin.com

College coaches often like to read books on coaching legends before them. In my research on how the Miracle on Ice happened, besides trips to Lake Placid and interviewing those connected to it, I have read and re-read every book out there on it. What’s ironic is that because it became such a huge event back in 1980, the nation’s top media was there. As a result, many remarkably talented writers have documented their story.

As I have said here before, Herb Brooks was a top D1 coach for 7 years at Minnesota before taking over the Olympic team. In several books his recruiting strategies are shared. There is a wealth of insights that can help college coaches today in recruiting and beyond.

One book I suggest is ‘Herb Brooks : The Inside Story of a Hockey Mastermind.’ It is by John Gilbert, the sports writer that covered Herb, his recruiting and much more.

‘America’s Coach: Life Lessons and Wisdom for Gold Medal Success: A Biographical Journey of the Late Hockey Icon Herb Brooks’ is another book I highly suggest you have as Ross Bernstein also gets into Herb’s philosophies of recruiting and building a program. Bernstein also includes texts of many of Herb’s motivational talks, and they are priceless. Bernstein has also written ‘Remembering Herbie’ which really gets into the remarkable impact Herb had on people through relationships. Recruiting is all about building relationships.

The brilliantly talented writer Wayne Coffey wrote a New York Times bestseller called ‘The Boys of Winter’ which gets into the back story of the players and their families and their remarkable dedication to the craft of skating and hockey. I have read that book 6 times and find it fascinating. It would be a great read for you over Christmas.

The book ‘One Goal’ by John Powers and Art Kaminsky really goes behind the scenes on the sculpting of that Miracle team. What I have found is that all these books offer different perspectives and each has gems in them that can be valuable to college coaches and athletes.

‘Going for the Gold’ by Tim Wendel was written not long after 1980 and has timeless tools in it on how Herb recruited not the best players out there, but the right players.

When I ordered some of these older books, I was saddened to see that some of the used copies I got used to be in libraries, and had been discontinued in those libraries. It has been 35 years since Lake Placid and if we are not careful we are going to start to lose their story. I was a sports anchor for a quarter of a century and have followed sports closely for 40 years, and never have I covered or found a story as fascinating as their story. When I speak, I often ask groups if they remember it. Many over 50 do remember where they were. Younger people have seen the movie Miracle, but so many either don’t know of their story or have no idea how powerful it is.

I find college athletes that hear my research on them become enthralled with how their team came together to record the greatest moment in United States sports history. They come away feeling there is no team that they cannot defeat and nothing they cannot overcome.

Motivational Speaker Charlie Adams delivers his More Than a Miracle program to college coaches and athletes. He explains how the 1980 Miracle on Ice was not so much a miracle as it was work ethic, remarkable vision and leadership, commitment to change, commitment to team, and perseverance.
Charlie can be reached at StokeTheFireWithin.com and at charlie@stokethefirewithin.com

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    LEVEL 1 - Recruiting Foundations
    Through Level 1, you will learn some of the foundational skills and knowledge necessary to become a successful college athletic recruiter. At the end of each module there will be a quiz that must be passed with 85% or higher. In addition to the quiz, you must complete the Module Competency outlined at the end of each module. Both the quiz and module must be completed in order to move on to the next module.
    Module 1 Recruiting Letter Format-
    Unit 1 Recruiting Letter Format
    Module 2 How To Find Out What Your Prospect Isn't Telling You-
    Unit 1 How To Find Out What Your Prospect Isn't Telling You
    Module 3 Utilizing Social Media-
    Unit 1 Utilizing Social Media
    Module 4 Involving A Prospect's Parents-
    Unit 1 Involving A Prospect's Parents
    Module 5 Setting Fair And Firm Deadlines-
    Unit 1 Setting Fair And Firm Deadlines
    Module 6 Revising Your On-Campus Visits-
    Unit 1 Revising Your On-Campus Visits
    Module 7 Your First Contact-
    Unit 1 Your First Contact

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