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August 23rd, 2016

Do You Really Know What Your Prospects Are Thinking?

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Prospective students think differently than you do. But you know this…or do you?

I ask because a surprising number of admissions counselors that I talk to don’t realize it, and it’s preventing them from becoming dominant recruiters.

Many of you are concerned with your school’s history, your school’s location, and other “stuff” as you build-out your recruiting story for your prospects. Oh, and you need to be able to offer a better financial aid package every time too, right?  Otherwise there’s just no way that you can get more prospects to visit your campus or increase your enrollment.

In the majority of cases, that kind of thinking is flat-out wrong.

I can tell you that with confidence because we’ve had the chance to personally interview hundreds and hundreds of your students over the years.  They’ve told us how they make their final decision, and what matters most to them.  In the end, if you look at the data it’s obvious that your prospects value things differently than you do.

Let me give you some common examples:

  • They think how you treat them and communicate with them is more important than what your dorm rooms looks like. Personal relationships rank higher than your on-campus student housing, no matter how new the dorms may be, time after time.
  • They think the way your students treat them during their campus visit will tell them if your campus makes them feel wanted and if they can fit in. If other students (not just the tour guides) aren’t friendly and welcoming when your prospect is touring campus, the chances that prospect will end up enrolling at your school take a significant hit.
  • They think their parents are very important to the decision making process. In many cases this generation of students rely on their parents to help them make any major decision. If you aren’t recruiting the parents at the same time you recruit their child, you are making recruiting harder than it needs to be.
  • They think that you talk too much during your phone calls. Don’t take it personally, but if you’re doing most of the talking during any phone call you have with a prospective student, you’re hurting your school’s chances. If doesn’t matter how important you think the information you’re giving them is, more time talking does not equal more interest from your prospect.
  • They think your emails and letters are too long and look and sound the same as every other college that’s sending them stuff. Your prospects tell us that they scan those email and letters versus reading them from start to finish.  They also tell us that most of the information is boring and not personalized enough.
  • They think it’s great when you ask questions about their wants and their needs versus just selling your school. Make sure you’re making it more about getting to know them rather than selling your school or your academic program right away.
  • They love it when you write them personal, hand-written letters and post cards.
    They’ll read every word of a hand-written note you send to them. They tell us as much, because they understand that hand-written notes take more of your time. In their minds they think that means you put a higher value on them than other prospects. And would you be surprised to also learn that your prospects tell us they wonder what you thought of them after that first phone call or visit to campus. Yet another great opportunity to send them a personal note.
  • Social media matters to them and they think you don’t do a good enough job of using it to your advantage. This is one of the biggest pieces of advice that your students offer up when we ask them what your admissions department needs to do better in terms of how you communicate with this next class you’re now recruiting. One student summed it up best when she said, “Be more where we are”.

Are there exceptions to these rules?  Of course. But I’ll guarantee you that the majority of the prospects you just started recruiting think this way.

If you’re on board and now wondering what you can do to change the way that you communicate and recruit this next class, here are some quick tips:

  • Simplify your communication with them.  Be more direct and to the point.  That’s what they want.
  • Communicate through multiple channels consistently and effectively. Develop messages that allow you to get, and keep, back-and-forth conversations going.
  • Ask them questions that other admissions counselors avoid or don’t believe need to be discussed. Topics such as fear and their timeline.

Now is the time to start matching your communication with what your prospects are thinking.  Once you do, recruiting will get a lot easier.

Want more engagement from prospective students? It starts here!

August 22nd, 2016

Overlooked Foundations of Recruiting (and Tree Houses)

 

I’m not an expert tree house builder.

In fact, this is my first attempt at building a tree house. You do these kinds of things when you have a ten year old son.

Don’t get me wrong: If you stand back, tilt your head just right, and squint to kind of make it all blurry, it looks perfect. It supports the weight of a 200 pound man (that’s me in the first picture…easily identified by my K-Swiss tennis shoes). It’ll get the job done.

But it’s far from perfect.

So, what went wrong? One of the corners of the platform didn’t have a perfect 90-degree angle. Which means all the other corners don’t have perfect 90-degree angles, which some (most?) contractors and construction pros would argue is a recipe for disaster when it comes to how your project is going to end up looking.

And as you can tell, my project is going to end up looking like…well, like it was built by someone who was not an expert tree house builder. It’ll get the job done, but it’s not going to win any award.

Which brings me to you, Coach:

For most of the programs we begin work with as clients, there are a few less than perfect 90-degree angles in their recruiting strategy. They’re getting the job done, and recruits are coming to their program, but maybe not in the numbers that they really need. And maybe not the quality they were hoping for. And maybe it was a little more stressful than they feel that it should be.

That’s the result of a poor foundation. It looks ugly when you’re building a tree house, and it can be even uglier when you apply that idea to recruiting strategies.

Now, if you’ve been reading our blog for a while, this is where you might expect me to start talking about consistent messaging, engaging the parents the right way, or asking for the sale. But instead, I want to focus on a few overlooked aspects of building a solid recruiting foundation for your program:

Ask them how often they want to talk to you

A lot of coaches assume that just because they are ‘allowed’ to talk to a recruit more frequently, they should.

But that’s not the case. In fact, in one of our recent focus group research studies, only 27% said that they wanted to be talking to coaches who are recruiting them once every week. That means that 73% of the prospects you are probably recruiting right now chose some other time range that was different than once per week.

Doesn’t it make sense to ask your recruit how often they want to talk back and forth with you?

Focus on your fourth message

Most coaches around the country put a lot of time and attention into their first message out to recruits. And, the second and third messages get a lot of attention, too.

But when you get to the fourth message, we find that things start to go down hill. Quickly.

IF there is a fourth message, it starts to bore a recruit. Or it sounds the same as all the others. Or, it starts sounding like the coach who sent it doesn’t really know what to talk about.

What if you and your coaching staff put the same energy and creative effort into messages 4, 5, 6 and beyond? The results might surprise you. You’ll find that today’s generation of recruits will actually continue to talk and engage with you over the long haul if your message is creating curiosity and talking about aspects of your program that you haven’t reviewed before.

Establish when they’ll make their decision

One of the things we’re really starting to spend a lot of time on when we conduct our multi-day recruiting workshop on a college campus is the idea of establishing a fair but firm deadline, and then leading a prospect through the process in order to make a decision before that deadline.

Most coaches are a little apprehensive about establishing a fairly firm deadline, mainly because it takes away a coaches’ flexibility and options. That might be true, but not doing it can give your prospect license to procrastinate, put off a visit to your campus, or suddenly add another school to visit around the time you thought they were going to give you their decision.

Agree on a time when they will make their decision – especially if it can be months in advance, to give them plenty of time to go through the process. You’ll be viewed as fair, and you’ll be able to get a much better idea of how serious your prospect actually is about your program.

As you begin a new recruiting campaign, take some time to search for areas that you might be overlooking, or haven’t revised in a while.

They are your 90-degree angles that need to be as close to perfect as possible. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a recruiting plan that looks like the tree house I’m in the process of trying to put together. And trust me, there are better ways to do it.

 

August 22nd, 2016

You Used TO Call Me On My Home Phone

chrisMby Chris Mateer, Front Rush

The recruitment process requires a fine balance between maintaining contact and giving the student-athlete room to breathe. As a coach, the last thing you want is to go too long without maintaining some form of contact. At the same time, too many calls can become intrusive, especially considering a senior-athlete’s busy schedule. Luckily, the rise of email, text, social media, and, yes, even Snapchat, have given both coaches and student athletes more flexibility than ever in how they go about the recruitment process. These relatively new forms communication leave coaches with countless decisions to make regarding how to contact a recruit. We’ll stick to addressing just one of these decisions today though: when do you pick up the phone and make the call and when do you simply press “send”?

When to Call

It seems growingly unpopular among high schoolers to make phone calls to anyone who isn’t a family member above the age of 40 on a day that isn’t a birthday. Simply put, talking on the phone isn’t convenient or efficient. It requires making conversation and enduring that occasional awkward moment when you both start talking at once and feel like you interrupted each other. Despite this, almost every coach considers making calls a vital component of the recruitment process.

Calls let your prospects know, for however long you’re on the phone, your attention is on them. For a high schooler, the importance of this cannot be understated. In some regards, the inconvenience of a phone call are its strengths. A call lets your recruits know that you thought of them and took the time out of your evening to make that call.

Calls also give a great glimpse into you as a person and as a coach. Use this time to laugh, ask questions, and get to really know your recruits. Among all the spreadsheets, stats, and online profiles, you’re still recruiting a person.

When to Text

Voicemail is mostly a thing of the past. Leaving a message is a nice formality, but the response rate is not great. If the recruit doesn’t answer the phone, send a text. More often than not, this results in an almost immediate response. Usually (and hopefully) it will be a quick “Hey Coach! Sorry I missed your call, out at Chipotle with the team. Can you talk tomorrow?”. Boom, mission accomplished. Other times, you’ll be less lucky and that response will give you a quick heads up that your time is best spent elsewhere. Some recruits will just ignore calls, but will feel more comfortable letting you know they’re not interested or committed elsewhere via text. Don’t worry, there are other fish in the sea and this will save a lot of time and effort in the long run.  

Beyond following up on a missed call, texts can provide that opportunity to strike the sweet spot between maintaining contact and not overwhelming your recruits. Sending over a quick check-in between calls asking how school is going, how their offseason conditioning has progressed, or how a low-key competition went is the perfect time to check in with your recruits. These texts will provide good talking points when making that next call and let your recruits know you’re still interested.

 

August 16th, 2016

Do You Excel at These 7 Things?

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

All summer long I’ve offered you a series of articles that I hope will aid in your professional development.

Remember, doing some critical self-evaluation is important if you want to improve a particular skill and ultimately become a more dominant admissions professional.

One of the most popular parts of our On-Campus Training Workshops is the 1-on-1-counselor consultation. During these meetings a couple of counselors always ask me what skills and traits I believe separate a high performing counselor/recruiter from an average one.

If you’re expecting to see words like “organized,“ “friendly,” and “good communicator,” that’s not where this list is going. Those are givens. Instead, I’m going to share some skills and characteristics that I see consistently, not just in admissions counselors who excel, but also in nearly every elite business professional that I’ve ever met.

How good are you at these 7 things?

  1. Problem solver. It’s crucial that you possess the ability to both discover problems and develop solutions. Remember, you’re dealing with teenagers and young adults who want to have their problems (chiefly – how to pick the right college and how to pay for it) solved. It starts by asking effective questions at the right time.  If you can’t do that, you’ll miss out on opportunities to solve problems and separate yourself and your school from the competition.
  2. Translator. Don’t ever, ever assume that an 18 or 21-year old student, and quite possibly many of their parents, know what FAFSA, PPY, EFC, COA, ROI, Early Action and Rolling Admission all mean. You will need to translate those industry terms into layman’s terms, quite possibly more than once. You’ll also need to do so in such a way that doesn’t make your prospect or their parents feel incompetent.
  3. Listener. One of the bigger mistakes I continue to see a lot of admissions counselors make is they give information before they get information. They provide more information than is necessary, and in many cases, they give out the wrong information (based on their prospect’s wants and needs). Want to know how to determine if you’re a good listener? The good ones, and I mean the really good ones, ask effective questions that get their prospects to not only reveal their “wants” and “don’t wants” but also how they would like the college search process to play itself out.
  4. Closer. Simply put, effective “closers” (those who turn admits into deposits) understand it’s about the relationship just as much as it is about the sale. Selling is about building a relationship with your prospect (and their parents) throughout the recruitment cycle. When you consistently prove you’re a resource and come up with ways to answer their wants and needs, you develop trust and loyalty. That will lead to positive outcomes.
  5. Empathy. Some people are born with this skill while others have to develop it over time. Truly understanding your prospect, their life situation, fears, motivations, and dreams isn’t an easy thing. The counselors that struggle with this skill are generally the ones that are more concerned with what they need from their prospects and not what their prospects want from them. Let your recruit know that you understand his or her “want” and have a solution to satisfy that “want.”
  6. Always look to improve. With success often comes comfort. When a person reaches a goal, there can be a tendency to assume that if they repeat the exact same steps again it will produce the same results. It’s a common mistake. Those that rise to the top value both positive and negative feedback and are willing to invest to improve their skills and attitudes. Be proactive, and seek out learning opportunities.
  7. Remain passionate. It’s a magical word that can help you win over recruits. As I’ve said before, passion is not an act and is hard to fake. Real passion for who you are and what your institution provides can make all the difference in the world.  Passion will lead to meaningful long-term relationships with your prospects (and their parents) every single time.

If you’d like to talk in greater detail about one or more of these critical skills and attributes, and how you can incorporate them into your recruiting strategy, don’t hesitate to email me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com

August 15th, 2016

Browsing For Browsers

IMG_2590 (1)by Josh DiCristo, Front Rush

Have you ever heard from a student athlete that a website you’ve sent them to isn’t displaying correctly or looks wrong? Usually the first question is “What browser are you using?”. Some websites will even ask the question for you – they greet you with a message telling you to switch browsers for a better viewing experience. No “Hi there!” or “How was your day?”, instead you get, “Please use Google Chrome”.

Rude.

It’s a strange request, the first time you see it. You’d think that the internet is a massive, global network so surely it can all be accessed in some global way. Why are there multiple browsers, anyway? The same question could be applied to Mac vs. PC or iPhone vs. Android – all browsers are built slightly differently and are better for slightly different uses. So when you’re scouring the internet hunting for wild recruits (okay, I know that’s not exactly how it works but just let me have my fantasy), what browsers should you use?

Chrome

Chrome is arguably the most reliable web browser as well as the most current. Though it’s updated about as often as Firefox, it’s ability to keep up with trends is greater than any of its competitors. That is to say: when in doubt, the site will work on Chrome. Chrome is the overall winner when it comes to speed and performance and also allows the most opportunity for personalization through chrome extensions. Like this one, which changes every image on your page to a picture of Nicolas Cage. Hey, I never said all of the extensions were useful.

Microsoft Edge

Edge is the newest browser on the market so you’re forgiven if you haven’t heard of it. Replacing Internet Explorer as the default browser on PCs starting with Windows 10, Edge is remarkably efficient when it comes to battery usage and is fast when it has to load simple pages. If you’re frequently visiting sites with lots of features however, you may want to look elsewhere. Considering it’s the newest browser on the market, its speed and reliability is impressive, though it’s not first place. Give it a few years and maybe it’ll be near the top.

Internet Explorer (IE)

With the release of Edge, updates for IE have ceased. You’re probably fine to keep using it for now, but it was always the slowest and least adaptive browser in the first place and it’s just going to get worse as time goes on. In a year, you might as well sit at your computer and yell, “SHOW ME CAT PICTURES” rather than use IE to search for it. Actually, in a few years voice-controlled computers could be a thing. That’s not as crazy as it seems.

What I’m saying is don’t use Internet Explorer.

Netscape Navigator

Your computer is legally old enough to drink. Get a new one.

Firefox

Firefox is built in a different language compared to other browsers on this list, so when it converts a page from code to a display on your window, don’t be surprised if the page seems a little… off. The browser is fast (though not the fastest), reliable (though not the most reliable), efficient (though not the most efficient, but it makes a strong case), and will keep your personal internet data safe (actually, it’s the best at that). There’s a fair share of pros with Firefox so, like all browsers, it really depends on your usage. If you left your charger at home and you’re scared of WikiLeaks, this might be the choice for you.

Safari

Safari doesn’t eat up nearly as much battery power as it’s competitors and it’s just as fast, but you’ll see some of the same issues as Firefox when it comes to webpages displaying incorrectly. In addition to that, not all features will load properly on Safari. Although if you love Apple products and live in an Apple household and have debated legally changing your name to begin with a lowercase ‘i’, then you’ll enjoy Safari for how it interacts with your other devices. Otherwise, you may find other browsers more reliable if you depend on the internet for your day-to-day.

Opera

Oh, Opera. The most popular web browser in Sub-Saharan Africa and Bangladesh (that’s true). Look, Opera’s actually a really good option when it comes to speed, performance, personalization*, reliability, privacy, your webpages will look normal, blah blah blah, but be honest with me. Did you know Opera was even a web browser before you read this article? You won’t have any problems if you use Opera, I’ll give you that. Just know that when you ask your nephew for help with your internet, he’s just going to download Chrome and call it a day.

AOL CD-ROM

Honestly I’m just impressed that your computer still has a CD-ROM drive. If I give you the tracklist, can you burn me a mix CD? Don’t worry, you can find most of the songs on Napster.

*Want to know why Opera is good at personalization? Because Opera allows you to download and use any Google Chrome extension on their browser. Cheaters.

August 9th, 2016

Helping Your Prospects Wake-Up From Their Summer Doldrums

Think it’s hard for you to get back into the swing of things heading into a new school year, Coach?

It can be even harder for your prospects.

They’ve been working out or playing in tournaments, and they’re burned out. They’ve been on vacation, and they don’t want to face the reality of going back to school. And even if they are coming back to that reality, the last thing they want to start doing is begin making hard decisions about college and their future. It’s much easier to put all of that off, not think about about it, and see if they can drag out the lazy, care-free days of Summer.

That means it’s your job, as a college coach and as a recruiter, to get them to re-focus on the recruiting process. And preferably, get them to to place the bulk of that focus on you.

So as we begin the time of the year when coaches and their college programs rev-up for another year, I wanted to pass along several key engagement strategies we’ve seen work coming out of the Summer and into a new Fall season:

You MUST talk about something new. For recruits that you’ve been talking to for any amount of time, now is the time to introduce something new into the conversation. Our studies are showing that while continuing to tell a consistent, compelling broader story to your recruits, your personal conversations with prospects should offer something different heading out of Summer. Now is the time when your recruits are looking for new reasons to continue to talk to you one-on-one.

They’re looking for that “next step”. Coming out of Summer, teenage athletes tell us that they often feel a little stuck. They want to look smart in continuing to talk with you, and they want to know what to do next as you continue to recruit them, but they aren’t sure what’s right. That’s why many of you experience what feels like disinterest from your prospects this time of year; the thing is, it’s not that they’re not interested…they just don’t know what should happen next. Never forget that you’ve been through this process before, but they haven’t. Be a guide.

It might be time to set a deadline. Or, at least a timeline that clearly establishes your expectations as to when a decision needs to be made. This is the easiest time of the year to do that, in the sense that it’s a natural calendar break (end of Summer, beginning of Fall and their new school year) which contributes to an overall feeling that new timelines make sense. In other words, when you start a conversation about deadlines or timelines that you want your prospects to pay attention to, doing it during this time period makes sense and ‘feels’ right to your recruits.

Outline your process for them. As an extension of the deadline and timeline conversation, take them inside your decision making process: Detail for them what you’ll be doing in evaluating them and other recruits this Fall, describe the type of prospect that you’re no longer recruiting (and why you stopped recruiting them), and make clear when you see yourself being done with recruiting. Prospects are craving this kind of behind-the-scenes information that help them understand they “why” behind some of your requests during the process.

Give the parents of your recruits a clear to-do list. One of the best ways to determine if your prospect is serious about you heading out of Summer is to find out if their parents are equally serious about you and your program. And the best way to do that is to give those parents a to-do list, and see if they respond. Some ideas: Tell them to help their son or daughter get their application submitted by a certain date, get back to you on a weekend that works for a visit to your campus, establish a regular time for you and they to talk to one another during the Fall, or ask them to email you a list of their questions about you, your college, or the process so that you can help them with answers.

Establish one clear selling point. One of the most difficult hurdles that your prospects face this time of year, as they talk to you and listen to your message (and the messages of your competitors), is trying to figure out how to define you. They need, and want, a one-line definition of you and your program that defines your main selling point. Once that’s established, you can certainly weave that into your program’s ongoing story to your recruits. Without it, you risk sounding like too many of your competitors: Too vanilla, no definition. Heading into this time of year, that can be the beginning of the end.

That last point needs to be emphasized. As recruits head out of Summer and into the Fall, there will come a point (soon) where they will want to start to whittle their choices down to make this whole process more manageable. Unless you give them smart reasons to define you and your program the right way, you allow them to make-up their own definition of you and your program. Do you really want to give that power over to them heading into this Fall?

This is an important time of year in the recruiting process, Coach. Make sure you establish yourself as a player heading into the Fall, and do it with a strategy in mind. If you do it correctly, you’ll be the coach that re-focuses your prospects heading out of the Summer.

Need help in defining your story for recruits? That’s what we do every week, every month and every year for our roster of clients. We do it using the latest research and communication techniques, and it works. If you want to take a different approach to your recruiting this year, contact Dan Tudor directly at dan@dantudor.com and ask him to explain how the process works, and why it is so effective.

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