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10 Reasons Why Your Recruiting Efforts Might Be Falling ShortTuesday, May 24th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

It happened this year not only to first-year admissions counselors but also some veteran ones – They didn’t reach their enrollment goals for their territory or demographic.

Many of you are worried. I know because you’ve talked with me about it. Something went wrong this recruiting cycle and you’re not exactly sure what, or why. You just know that it can’t be the same result with this next class of students.

Recruiting (which is really selling, remember) is an essential duty and responsibility in just about every single admissions/enrollment counselor’s job description. If you don’t recruit well, you might not keep your job. And even if they let you keep your job, it’s no fun going to work everyday unhappy and feeling like you’re walking around on eggshells. I’ve heard way too many counselors use words like “uninspired” and “miserable” this spring.

Today I’m going to take a different approach with my article. Instead of focusing on what you should be doing to be successful at selling and recruiting, I’m going to suggest some reasons you might be failing or falling short of your goals.

A word of warning: Some of these statements may seem harsh. Taking criticism can be a difficult thing. I want you to think of it as “tough love”, because I also know that you can use criticism (like I have many times before) to give you a competitive edge moving forward.

See if any of these struggles plague your recruiting efforts:

  • You are unprepared and unmotivated.  Sound harsh?  It isn’t in the case of some counselors, and unfortunately even some admissions leaders.  A number of counselors I speak to or meet with don’t take recruiting seriously. It’s not a job where you can just show up unprepared and wing it. No preparation will equal poor results every single time.  Is it hard to be more prepared and motivated than your competition to recruit?  You better believe it is!  Start now to prepare yourself for future recruiting battles.
  • You don’t believe in your ability to recruit. Believe it or not more counselors than you might imagine struggle with this.  They come up with a strategy for dealing with something they hate like recruits who don’t say much or overbearing parents, and when it doesn’t work they feel like they can’t get the job done. Selling effectively is a constant learning process.
  • You don’t know how to accept rejection.  Counselors tend to get down on themselves when an admitted student tells them no. Many start to develop a negative attitude and a defeatist outlook when it comes to recruiting.  Remember, they aren’t rejecting you personally they’re rejecting your school’s offer.  There’s a difference.  Don’t become bitter, and don’t lose your optimism.  Maintaining your confidence and belief in your ability in the face of rejection is key to succeeding.
  • You fail to master the fundamentals of sales.  I’ve said it many times before: Like it or not you are a salesperson.  Your job is convincing students and families why your college or university is the smart, right fit for them, and how it will help prepare them for the next phase of their lives.   Those kinds of selling skills aren’t something that business and admissions professionals are just born with. The difference is most business professionals are forced to learn those skills when they go to work.  Big companies put a lot of time and money into their corporate training programs.  Unfortunately that’s not always the case in admissions and enrollment management. That means as an individual you need to actively seek out resources that can help you to be the best. They’re out there, you just have to do a little digging.
  • You blame others when things go wrong.  Dan Tudor and I talk about this all the time with counselors and coaches. When you start blaming others for your recruiting failures, you’ve lost the psychological battle in selling.  Don’t blame your admissions director, financial aid staff, your school’s academic standards, the prospect’s parents…stop it.  Accept responsibility for your mistake or lack of effort and make it your goal to be the best recruiter on your admissions team instead of looking for the next scapegoat.
  • You fail to develop long term relationships.  How many high school counselors or community college professionals did you really work at developing relationships with this year?  Did you expand your recruiting network?  Failure to develop relationships with people who will advocate your school to a prospective student or parent without you asking is a common problem we see when we come in to help develop a winning recruiting strategy at colleges around the country.  I’ve been on that side of the desk and I’m here to tell you again that it will be worth your while to reach out and connect more then just when you need to set up a visit or request a transcript. If they feel you’re partnering with them for the good of their students, they will almost always advocate your school.
  • You aren’t able to overcome objections.  I talk about it frequently here in this newsletter.  This is the number one reason most counselors fail when it comes to recruiting.  Why?  There aren’t very many students who are going to say “yes” when you have failed to answer each one of their concerns.  Bring us to campus and learn our techniques to overcome objections. You’ll find that recruiting will get a whole lot easier and more enjoyable.
  • You don’t want to accept change.  Many people who work in admissions and higher education are creatures of habit, and they like it that way.  Change is constant, and if you’re trying to recruit a student/family using all the same techniques and communication strategies that you did even 3, 5, or 10 years ago, you’re probably struggling. Whether they’re a teenager or non-traditional student, times have changed. An easy example would be social media and texting. Do you know how important those communication methods are for today’s student, and how they want you to use them? To be the best you have to embrace change and learn to succeed under new and changing circumstances.
  • You aren’t persistent enough.  “I’m waiting for that prospect to call me back” or “I’ve already told them that information a bunch of times.”  Counselors who consistently make statements like these are the ones who fall short in recruiting. Being professional and persistent are keys to selling in the business world, and a big key to success in the college recruitment world.  Don’t give up easily.  And, as I talked about in this recent article, if a student picks another school instead of yours, be professional in how you respond to them.
  • You don’t “ask for the sale”.  You want to give them their space and you don’t want to pressure them. They’ll call or email you when they’ve made a decision. That’s the mentality too many admissions counselors continue to take. “Asking for the sale” is NOT about pressuring the student. If you’ve understood their needs, built trust, gained agreement along the way and answered any objections, the next logical step is to ask for this. You can also practice what’s called a “trial close” if you think the student is ready to “close”. This technique is one of the many things we work with admissions teams on during our on-campus workshops.

Hopefully none of these 10 reasons apply to you.  For many of you though, some will apply.  Here’s the next step: Determine how to erase any of these bad habits.  Even just one of these can cripple your recruiting efforts.

Need help?  Have a question about one of the bullet points?  Contact me via e-mail at jeremy@dantudor.com or call my cell at 612-386-0854.  We thrive on working with counselors and other admissions professionals who need help formulating a winning strategy when it comes to recruiting, marketing and communication.

The Secret Weapon of Your Recruitment Campaign, and Why It WorksTuesday, May 17th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

A couple of weeks ago our family added more sports equipment to the bin. The newest additions are a helmet, bat, glove, ball and cleats. Oh and a special bag of course, because how else is my almost 7-year old daughter going to carry all that stuff to softball practice.

Over the past 15 months or so my daughter has tried her hand at gymnastics, soccer, basketball, and now softball. Each time right at the start the same thing has happened. She gets frustrated because she isn’t immediately able to score every goal, make every shot, or hit a pitch that’s not sitting on a tee.

The late Jim Rohn – entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker — has said, “Success is neither magical nor mysterious.  Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals.”

We all know the importance of building good habits. To get better at something it takes practice on a consistent basis, which is becoming harder and harder for many people to accept because we live in a society full of instant gratification.

As you shift your focus to this next class of prospective students, I can’t stress enough the importance of being consistent from start to finish with all of your recruiting communications. It sounds easy enough, but for many admissions teams this is arguably their greatest challenge.

If your office doesn’t have a clear long-term plan to consistently communicate all the different parts of your school’s story and the things that make you unique, you’re making recruiting harder. And when I say a long-term plan, I’m not referring to just the marketing materials that get sent out at various points during the recruitment process. I’ve seen some really great pieces before, but those alone are not a winning communication strategy…not with this generation of students.

Today I’m going to provide you with a more effective way to build your next recruiting plan and discuss why consistency works with this generation of students.

Let me begin by outlining the different types of communication that a solid recruiting campaign needs to consistently feature. This is what we give our clients each month as a part of their research-based custom recruiting communication plan.

  • Written communication. Both mail and email matter to your recruits. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen admissions departments make in 2015-16 is thinking students don’t care about a personalized letter anymore because email is their preferred method of communication. Our ongoing focus group research on campuses across the country continues to show that students wanted to be contacted by mail every month. That same research also confirms that your students want you to send a logical, foundational message about your school every 6 to 9 days. That’s the right amount of time according to the research.
  • Phone calls. I know it’s tempting, but don’t try and skip right to verbal communication. Sacrificing letters and emails, even if you start the recruitment process a little later than usual, is not a winning strategy. A large majority of your prospects just aren’t comfortable with you starting the conversation that way. Mix in phone calls after you’ve sent letters and emails first.
  • Social media. In the age of Smartphones it’s becoming more important that you communicate with prospects through social media. While it remains unlikely to make or break your college, it can determine whether or not you form a solid connection with a recruit, or make the kind of missteps that exclude you from future communication online. Utilize social media to give them an ongoing, behind the scenes look at life inside your college a couple of times a month.

This generation reacts to a good, consistent combination of all of these facets of recruiting.  If you only focus on one or two communication methods with your recruits, you’re leaving the door open for a competitor that will utilize all of their communication resources.

You might have noticed that I left out text messages. As it stands today, I want you to resist the temptation to “recruit” via text message. There’s a right way and a wrong way for admissions to use text messaging during the recruitment process. Click this link for that information.

Now let’s move to “the Why” – why consistency works and can be a secret weapon for you:

  1. It gives your prospect a predictable flow of information. Pretty obvious, right? As obvious as it may be, there are still hundreds of colleges and universities whose recruiting communications are anything but consistent. For example, some schools come out of the gate strong for the first month or two and then run out of things to say before really gaining traction.  Others slam students with information at various (key) points in the funnel but provide little in-between. My recommendation for you is to use what we call the “drip, drip, drip” method of communication. From start to finish communicate small chunks of information about your institution that explain why your recruit should want to come there. When you extend your messaging out over the entire recruiting cycle, and not just when it’s convenient, you’ll win over some recruits simply because other schools fall off.
  2. Your recruits value consistent communication. It’s a proven fact – today’s prospective student appreciates and values you being there from start to finish. When we work with clients and help them develop a messaging campaign for an entire year, we often hear stories like the following one from students. When it came time to make a decision between multiple colleges they felt a little more loyal to one because that school communicated with them the most during the recruitment process. It might not seem like the smartest way to pick a college, but that’s what this generation of recruits says matters to them.
  3. Consistency prompts a response. All of your communication should focus on building the relationship between you, your prospect, and his or her parents. Everything you send out should prompt a response that creates back and forth conversation. This will lead to them feeling more connected with you. It may take you five, six, or even ten times before you get that response but remain consistent and stay the course. Believe it or not most prospects are looking for a reason and permission to reach out and contact you once a relationship has been developed. Most won’t do it on their own. Start by asking them a question or getting their opinion about something that’s being discussed in your email. When you have a call to action like this it gives them a safe, non-committal way to connect with you.
  4. It builds trust and loyalty. Building close relationships with your prospects and their families is all about communicating on a personal level. That takes time and is hard to accomplish if you’re inconsistent with your contact. When you try to understand the problems that your prospect (and his or her parents) faces, you’re sending a strong message that you care. Over time your reliability to help problem solve will build trust. It will also build loyalty and what you’ll find is the prospect continues to interact with you rather than your competitors.

Our clients achieve and exceed their enrollment goals when they provide a consistent message using a variety of communication types. Over time if you’re consistent you become hard to ignore. As other colleges peel off, you will move up your prospect’s list.

A small word of caution – schools can be consistent but with a poor message or poor phone etiquette. We see it happen all the time…in fact it’s why one university became a client of ours recently. Generating a weak message consistently can be as bad as getting a great message out randomly.

Do you have a hard time coming up with talking points for your messaging? We can help. It’s what we do. Take the next step and contact me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com We’ll set up a call to talk strategy.

I Want You to Become the Best ‘Siri’ You Can Be (How and Why)Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

If you have an iPhone (like me) then you know all about ‘Siri’, Apple’s personal voice assistant. She, or he, can tell you the fastest route to your destination, where the closest In-N-Out Burger is if you’re in Texas (like I was a few weeks back), the answer to a math problem, or the answer to a random question that suddenly pops into your head while you’re watching a television show (this happens to my wife all the time).

‘Siri’ is a problem solver who can provide you with answers and solutions to help make your life, and the daily decisions in it, easier. That sounds like something prospective students and families might find useful during the stressful, and at times confusing, college search process.

Effective problem solving is a characteristic of every great recruiter, sales professional and leader. If you don’t currently think of yourself as a problem solver, I want you to consider making a change. Why? For starters, less problems will equal happier, more appreciative students, families and co-workers. Beyond that, when you provide someone with a solution to their problem, it typically increases your value as an “expert”. That’s one way to separate yourself from the competition as well as stand out in the mind of your boss.

Problem solving is easier when you know how to approach it effectively. Too often I have admissions counselors tell me they take a “make it up as I go” approach. A more effective method is to turn problem solving into a habit and come up with a good process to use when approaching a problem. Without that process you risk your solutions being ineffective.

The following seven-step process can help you become a more effective problem solver:

  1. Anticipate potential problems. You don’t have to wait until your prospect, their parents, or your boss comes to you with a problem to react. Be proactive. Anticipate common problems that you will face during the summer months and into the next cycle and create a plan ahead of time.
  1. Identify the problem and ensure clarity. When you encounter a new problem, it’s important to recognize it right away and ensure that you deal with the real problem and not its symptoms. It’s also important that you don’t make the assumption that everyone involved understands the problem the same way. Get clarity by coming up with an agreed upon written or verbal definition of the problem.
  1. Determine the cause of the problem and analyze it. Most problems have multiple parts. Take time to identify and record what those are. For example, if your campus visit is getting poor marks you might think the problem is with your tour guides. However, if you look a little deeper, the real issue might be a lack of training. Within that training there are different parts and elements. Once you’ve identified the parts and elements that you think contribute the most to the problem it’s time to analyze each of them in greater detail.
  1. Identify possible solutions. Now it’s time to brainstorm. If you’ve worked hard to define and analyze the problem up to this point, your solutions may in fact be quite obvious. Using the campus tour example again, if the tour guides lack of knowledge is causing the complaints from students and families, the obvious solution is to review the training program and make sure that all the important information is clearly communicated.
  1. Evaluate each solution. Look at the pros and cons of each solution and make sure the solutions you’re going to present involve feedback from the appropriate people when necessary. If it’s a team problem, then include the rest of your admissions team. If the problem has for example to do with a personality issue of one of those aforementioned tour guides, then talk to the appropriate people who can offer objective advice as well as those who will be tasked with implementing the solution.
  1. Offer solutions OR Carry out the course of action. If you’re going to offer solutions to a problem, present only one or two. If you offer too many suggestions you risk confusing the other person and allowing him or her to become indecisive. Be extremely clear on the solution and ask the other person you’re helping to repeat it back. If you’ll be the person taking the lead and acting on the chosen solution, move forward at the appropriate time and be mindful that you may encounter some obstacles during implementation.
  1. Follow-up and monitor. Once the plan has been put into effect, don’t forget to follow up and monitor the situation. Any additional problems must be dealt with quickly. After the solution has been implemented it’s essential to measure its success including getting feedback from people affected by any changes that occurred. It’s also a good idea to keep a record of outcomes and any additional problems that came about.

When executed together these seven steps provide a foundation that can help you become a more effective problem solver. They’ve worked for our clients, and I’m confident they will work for you!

We help college and university admissions teams with their professional development year-round. If you’d like to learn more about how our clients continue to GROW and WIN, call me directly at 612-386-0854 or click here to send me an email.

This Might Be Why They Didn’t Deposit to Your SchoolTuesday, May 3rd, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Another ‘College Decision Day’ has come and gone. You can exhale now. I hope both you and your team reached your enrollment goals.

When it comes to students that you missed out on, typically there are many potential reasons why. If you’ve had me on campus to work with your admissions team you know that our research reveals one solid fact that every college admissions and enrollment professional should be aware of when it comes to what’s important in developing a recruitment strategy: Your prospects are trusting their feelings as they make their decision about you and your institution.

That’s the feelings you create while you recruit them, how effective your letters, emails, phone calls and social media posts are at creating the right feelings, as well as the feelings they get when they experience you and your campus community during that all-important campus visit.

We continue to see this generation of students make their choice based on how they feel and then justify it with the facts and data that they receive from you. Emotions are consistently outweighing logic. The important question then for you is, “What kind of strategies do you employ to give your prospects the feeling you want them to have about your school?”

Making them feel wanted is a great starting point. But, if you really want to break through the hard exterior of today’s teenager you need to go one step further and get to the core of that student and his or her parents.

Here are six ideas that I recommend you put into practice with this next class of prospects.

  1. Establish an early foundation for proving that you are the emotional choice that “feels” right to them. When you create an emotional tie with your prospect early in the recruitment process we’ve found that they will usually gravitate towards your school. It’s imperative to have a strategy for how to create that feeling in the first place. One of the examples I use during our On-Campus Workshop is Starbucks. They are the master of creating and managing a feeling of comfort when you walk in to any one of their thousands of stores. They use the lights, the comfy couches, the music and the free Wi-Fi. It’s all done with a purpose. As a smart recruiter you need to have a plan to create the right feelings for your next class of prospects now that the initial contact message is in their hands. If you fail to do that, you’re introducing random results into the recruitment process. So, what’s your plan for establishing a feeling that they will gravitate to over the coming months?
  2. Use keywords in your recruiting communications. If you’re a frequent reader of this newsletter, you know how much today’s prospective student wants to be valued and have their wants and needs viewed as important. Why not tell them exactly that? Three simple words – “I appreciate you.” Try it and see what happens. Or if you’re face-to-face with the prospect how about, “I believe in you.” Those are powerful words that your prospect will respond to. Then think of other things you can tell them in the coming weeks and months that will emphasize the idea that you appreciate and value them. In addition, this year’s class of college prospects are telling us that having an admissions counselor inquire about how a prospective student “feels” about certain things on campus gets a much more in-depth response.  It encourages open discussion without the idea that there is a “right” answer that the prospect should be giving.
  3. Write things down and then use them as future reference. Taking notes is proof and it honors someone’s thoughts. This works well in-person when you’re talking to either the recruit or their parents. It shows the other person that you value what they’re telling you. Down the road when you refer back to those notes it will remind them that you were truly listening to their wants and needs, and it shows that you treat them as a valued partner in the process.
  4. Answer “why” during the campus visit. Too many schools show what they have to offer during the campus tour but fail to answer why it matters to a specific prospect. When you answer the “why”, it allows your recruit to visualize, which is a key ingredient in creating those all-important feelings.
  5. Demonstrate more passion than the next counselor. I consider passion to be the most underrated tool in admissions recruitment. If you want to know why, click here for that article. If your prospects are using emotion to make their decision, we’ve seen plenty of cases where the counselor who shows the same kind of passion and emotion connects the best with that student. A passionate recruiter takes the time to understand the wants and needs of everyone involved in the decision making process. Doing this creates a more enjoyable experience and generates excitement and other feelings that a recruit relies on to make their final decision. Oh, and the last time I checked, passion isn’t a budget related item that your competitor has more of (unless you let them).
  6. Telling the best stories will result in enrolling the best students.  When I talk about “telling stories”, I’m not talking about lying or embellishing. You have to give your listener (your prospect) a story to buy into because they will buy it, and believe or not, they’ll even pay more for it in many cases. As you explain your school’s story, be sure to relate how that story connects to them.  The best recruiters in the country take the time to create a story that their prospects can visualize and understand. If you didn’t do that this year, it cost you and your school some of those “best fit” students.

When you create the right feelings in the minds and hearts of your prospects, and those around them, you greatly increase your school’s chances of enrolling those students.

If your enrollment numbers aren’t what you want/need, let me explain to you how our research-based approach to communicating with students is working for college and university admissions departments nationwide. All YOU have to do is email me, and we will set up a time to connect and discuss.

If Your Prospect Picks Another School, Here’s What You Should DoTuesday, April 26th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

It’s happening right now to admissions counselors across the country: admitted students are saying thanks but no thanks to a school’s offer of admission. What’s even worse is some of those “no’s” are coming from recruits that many of you probably had penciled in as “yeses.”

The reasons will vary. Some will be legitimate, and some will make absolutely no sense whatsoever.

For most of you losing a recruit to another school should not signal gloom. I phrase it that way because if your no’s start to equal or out-number your yeses, I strongly encourage you to self-evaluate and discover why your recruiting efforts are failing. If you need help correcting bad habits or mastering closing techniques, feel free to reach out to me via email.

Today I want to focus on what to do next when your undecided admits pick another school. Handling this situation effectively is something that separates an average recruiter from a great recruiter.

Here are four simple tips to help you deal with rejection from your prospect:

  1. Don’t overreact. Sounds easy enough, right? If only that were the case. You just spent months, or in some cases even longer, cultivating a relationship with the recruit and their parents, and in an instant, all your hard work goes out the window. Combine that with fatigue and stress about yield, and it’s easy to see how a negative response from a prospect could become the tipping point for some counselors. Take a deep breath and exhale before responding to their email. If you get the bad news during a phone call, try hard not to change your tone and become bitter and combative with the already nervous teenager on the other end of the line.
  2. Respond gracefully (because doing so can lead to future “yeses”). When a prospect chooses another school send them a personal note wishing them well. Why, you ask? For starters very few counselors actually do this, so it will leave a lasting impression. “But Jeremy they picked a different school so that doesn’t matter at this point.” Oh, but it does! That kind of professionalism will pay dividends down the road when others around that prospect or their parents ask about your institution and the overall experience that they received from you. This goes back to one of my personal pillars of successful recruiting – Who’s recruiting for you, when you’re not recruiting. Think about that for a minute.
  3. Ask them WHY. Successful people in any line of work learn from their mistakes. Instead of trying to end the conversation abruptly when a recruit tells you they chose a different place to spend the next four years, use this as a learning opportunity. Ask them why they chose a different school, listen carefully to their answer, and thank them for their honesty. Your goal is not to try and change their mind (although we’ve seen it happen before) but simply to learn. What most counselors tell us they find is there was an objection left unanswered, or the school the student chose did a better job of consistently communicating with them during the process. Once you learn to overcome objections in particular you’ll find that recruiting gets a whole lot easier and more enjoyable. If you’re hearing the same objection or complaint from several prospects, it’s time to make some changes and come up with a new strategy. By doing so, I’m confident you’ll find that you get fewer “no’s” and more “yeses.”
  4. Never let rejection get you down.  Counselors, specifically less experienced ones, tend to get down on themselves when a prospect rejects their school’s offer.  Many develop a negative attitude and begin dreading the recruiting process.  Remember, they’re not rejecting you personally, they’re rejecting your school’s offer.  There’s a difference.  Don’t beat yourself up, and don’t lose your optimism.  Maintaining your confidence and belief in your ability in the face of rejection is key to future success.

It’s getting late in the recruiting year.  Are the results what you expected?  More importantly, are the results what you want and need?  If the answer is “no”, then let us explain what our Admissions Recruiting Advantage program is all about.  Here’s what to do…email me at jeremy@dantudor.com so we can arrange a time to show you what other admissions departments have already discovered.

6 Pointers for Creating Impactful Recruiting LettersTuesday, April 19th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

It’s the first thing my 6-year old daughter does when she gets off the school bus: She runs over to the mailbox to retrieve our mail.

This started about a year ago after she received a recruiting letter, of sorts. She had received mail before from her grandparents, but this time was different. It was a flashy envelope addressed specifically to her from the kids club at our local mall.

As we walked up the driveway, my daughter tore open the envelope. Inside was a letter with her name hand-written at the top, listing upcoming events that “members” could experience as well as other perks that came from joining the club. As she read me each bullet point the level of excitement in her voice increased! I’ll let you guess what we did 15 minutes later.

The same “feeling” that came over my daughter last spring showed up again earlier this month. Inside our mailbox was the latest edition of National Geographic for kids. Her grandparents had signed her up without telling her. After jumping up and down for a few minutes she ran inside and promptly began reading the magazine (out loud of course). Since that time she asks me every single day when the next magazine will arrive.

It’s that kind of excitement and those kinds of “feelings” that you should strive to create with prospective students when putting together your recruiting communications.

Direct mail is a vital part of any successful recruiting campaign. Despite advances in technology, your recruits continue to tell us that there’s no substitute for good old-fashioned letters:

“Letters in the mail are a really effective way to recruit students.”

“Letters are a lot better because they’re physical, but make them stand out and catch our eye so we don’t throw them away.”

Both of those quotes appeared in a recent focus group research survey we did prior to leading an on-campus admissions workshop. We see similar statements all the time in the surveys we conduct.

The bottom line is letters still matter to this generation of students. Emails can easily be deleted and text messages are sometimes ignored. Letters on the other hand are real, written proof that a prospect can hold in their hand and show others, confirming that they’re wanted.

Before I offer up some secrets to creating effective recruiting letters, I have a question for each of you. Have you ever asked yourself why you’re sending a recruiting letter? It’s an important question, and one that you need to raise. Yes it’s important for prospective students to learn more about your school.   More than anything though, each recruiting letter should be built to generate a response. When you get a response from your prospect it confirms they’re genuinely interested, and you now have a basis for future communications. This is particularly valuable during the early stages of the recruitment cycle.

Now, here are 6 pointers that you should follow if you want your recruiting letters to make a big impact.

  1. Most admissions departments and counselors start a recruiting letter with what we call a “warm up.” The first paragraph contains facts, figures, and a lot of “fluff.” I want you to get rid of the fluff. Studies have shown this generation of students doesn’t want this. If you choose to keep it, you risk them losing interest before you even get started.
  1. Your main objective in those first couple of sentences should be to grab their attention. That means formal and professional, which is what I’m guessing most of your messages currently are, isn’t going to be effective enough. You need to be more direct. Consider starting with a statement that’s short and to the point. It needs to be something that gets their attention and makes them want to read further.
  1. Visually your letter needs to be easy to read. Think about your reaction when you receive a lengthy email with all kinds of numbers and links from your boss. You’re in the middle of cleaning out your inbox and want to keep things moving along. How many times have you closed it and said, “I’ll read it later.” Do you want that same reaction from your prospects?
  1. When coming up with a list of things you want to highlight to your recruits, don’t forget to ask yourself why they will care about what you’re telling them. It has to matter to them; otherwise it won’t work.
  1. In the middle of your letter, it’s crucial that you continue to keep them hooked. This is where we see a lot of admissions departments struggle. They choose a topic and try to jam everything into one letter. That’s the wrong approach. Instead, your goal should be to give them no more than two or three pieces of information on a single topic at one time. Additional points regarding that same topic should be communicated over several weeks. The reason behind that is simple. Teenagers forget things quickly. Let’s use your school’s location as an example. If you present everything that makes it great all at once, it won’t resonate for very long.  Instead I want you to take a long-term approach, like we do with our clients when we assist them with message creation.  That way when you’re ready to move on to something else it will be clear to your prospect why your school’s location is perfect for them and why they should be excited about it.
  1. At the end of your letter think long and hard about what you want them to take away from it. Avoid being passive and saying something like, “If you or your parents have questions feel free to contact us.” That’s not effective. Instead, demand some type of action from them. If you want them to call or email you with specific information, tell them that, very clearly. Tell them when to call or let them know when to expect an email from you. Always set up the next communication.   Our research continues to confirm that your prospects want you to do that for them. If you don’t tell them what to do, don’t be surprised when they don’t respond.

If your recruiting letters aren’t generating a good response, we can help revamp them using proven techniques.  It will save you time and provide you and your team with an Admissions Recruiting Advantage.

Email me today at jeremy@dantudor.com for more information about how to get started.

A Magic Formula to Getting a Read On Your RecruitsTuesday, April 12th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Last week a veteran admissions counselor who reads this newsletter reached out to me for the first time. It quickly became clear that she was really frustrated, mainly with a handful of her undecided recruits.

“These teenagers,” she said. “They know all they want to know about us and it still takes them forever to make up their minds…Do you have a magic formula or something that will clue me in on what they’re thinking?”

My reply to this counselor: “Tell me what kinds of questions you’ve been asking these students lately.”

“I’m just trying to see if there’s anything else they need, and when they think, they will make a decision.”

Are you facing a similar situation?  You’re asking questions of your undecided students, and all they’re giving you is one-word or short answers or maybe even not getting back to you at all anymore.

Not a fun scenario, right?

The good news is, after you read this article you will have a strategy to use, and you won’t have to wonder about it anymore. In fact, there is a magic formula, of sorts, that you can use at any time during the recruitment process that will help erase all the mystery when it comes to what your recruits are thinking.

It’s called a follow-up question.

That’s it? You got it.

When we want to get a read on someone we ask that person a question. They proceed to respond, and typically many of us just accept their answer and move onto another topic.

Now, how many times after the fact have you thought to yourself that those responses to your questions actually revealed very little, and when it comes down to it, you learned nothing new about the other person?

The key to getting a true understanding of people and their thought process lies in asking a good follow-up question. Why then don’t more admissions counselors do that? In my experience, many counselors aren’t actually paying close enough attention to ask a detailed follow-up question. Maybe you’re on your sixth call of the night with a bunch more to go, and you’re trying to keep things moving along (I’ve actually been told this exact thing before by multiple admissions counselors). It’s really hard to ask a good follow-up question if you’re not truly “locked in” to how your recruit (or maybe their parents) responds to your initial question.

Another possibility is the “I don’t want to be pushy” justification. Often newer counselors tell me that they’re hesitant to probe further because they don’t want to seem pushy or have the recruit feel nagged.

Let’s go ahead then and put our plan into action. Here’s how a typical conversation right now with an undecided student could go. Start by asking them:

“How will you make your final decision?”

Cut to the chase and ask the student upfront how they will be making their decision on which college to attend.

After the student answers, here’s the next question I want you to ask:

“And then what?”

They’ll tell you more. And then you ask, “And then what?” again.  And they’ll tell you more. And on and on until you finally get to the real source of their decision – the financial aid package, their parents’ input, or maybe a school’s location or size. The bottom line is, you’ll know what their decision rests on.

This strategy will also work at other key junctures of the recruitment process (not just the end).

Here are a couple of other effective follow-up questions that we’ve recommended to our clients:

  • “What does that mean?”
  • “Can you help me understand that a little better?”
  • “Why is that important to you?”

I can’t stress how important asking a follow-up question is. It’s an essential tool for any business professional to use when they seek to understand how a sales decision is going to be made, or when you’re wondering what a recruit is thinking or where your school ranks versus your competition.

Try it. I’m confident you’ll like the results.

By the way, if you have a particular question, problem or recruiting issue that you want addressed and answered, don’t hesitate to email me just like that veteran counselor did last week. I’ll get right back to you.

Asking or Telling: Make Sure You’re Taking the Correct ApproachTuesday, April 5th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Most college admissions recruiters go to great lengths to tell their recruits all the reasons why they should commit or deposit to their school. Today, I’m going to show you why you might be taking the wrong approach if you’re doing it that way.

It has to do with the very subtle difference between telling your prospect to commit versus asking them if they can see themselves as a part of your school’s student body.

There’s science to back up what I’m about to tell you. The research that’s been done on this topic tells us that it’s smarter to ask and get them to visualize that commitment if you want them to eventually accept your school’s offer.

If you tell someone, particularly a young person, what you think they should do, many of them tend to shut down because they feel like you’re sending the message that you know better than they do.

When you ask your recruit to make a verbal statement about his or her intent on a future action, such as whether or not they see themselves living in your dorms or attending a campus event, they’re far more inclined to follow through with that commitment.  That research is one of the big reasons we make sure our clients know how to ask effective questions. Our customized recruiting messages are designed to start conversations between our clients and their prospects and focuses on having their prospects commit to doing things like replying to their email or coming to visit their campus.

It’s those small commitments that can signal genuine interest from a prospect.

Here are a few more things that I would recommend you do with current and future recruits that you’re targeting:

  • When you’ve received some of those small commitments that I just spoke of, ask your recruit about their intent to attend your institution.  This is an important step! Just asking the question can have a big impact on your recruit.  Don’t tell them to commit…ask them if they’re ready to commit.
  • Try hard…I mean really, really hard to get some kind of affirmative answer. Again, the research shows that if the student gives you a positive statement more than likely they will eventually act on it.
  • If you can, get them to make that statement in some kind of public way in front of their parent(s) or while they’re on campus for a visit or admitted student day event.  It drastically increases the likelihood that they will commit to you.
  • If they don’t respond in a positive way on the first try, don’t freak out. Asking consistently over time in a professional, collaborative way can build a feeling of trust and get them to understand that you and your school are serious about them.

The lesson here is pretty simple. Instead of spending time just telling your prospect how great your school is, make sure you ask them if they can see themselves as a part of your campus community. If you haven’t already done that with all of your current undecided seniors or transfers, you now know what your next move needs to be.

Gaining those small commitments throughout the recruitment process is a more effective way to getting that big commitment at the end!

Do you need help putting together the right message for your prospects? We create recruiting campaigns for admissions departments all over the country.   You don’t have to wait until the next recruiting cycle to get started. All you have to do is email me and ask about becoming a client of Tudor Collegiate Strategies. Together we can dominate your competition.    

How You Can Take the Early Lead With JuniorsTuesday, March 29th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Are you ready to tackle the Class of 2021?

Yes, I know…you’re still working on this current group of students which is why each of my articles over the past six weeks has focused on conversion and yield. So, if you’re wondering what kinds of questions you should be asking down the stretch or what the silent treatment from recruits might mean, click those links because I’m here to help.

Having said that, I also know that many of the admissions counselors reading this either just started spring travel, or are about to. My goal today is to make sure you get started on the right foot with this next class of prospective students.

Spring college fairs and high school visits with juniors, or other underclassmen, should never be undervalued. Often times counselors tell me they find themselves going through the motions during these events and visits because all they can think about is converting seniors and hitting their numbers. I hope that doesn’t sound like you, but if it does, email me. I’m happy to listen and offer advice.

Your follow-up communication in the weeks after spring travel is extremely important. Early in the process many prospective students are looking to see which schools maintain consistent contact. In their minds, it’s an indicator of just how serious your school is about them.

Determining those early talking points can be a challenge for many counselors. In fact it’s one of the biggest reasons that admissions departments start working with us. They’re tired of sending the same first letter and viewbook and not generating any back and forth conversation.

It starts by defining what gets them to keep talking to you after you make that first contact.   Our research shows that when a prospect and his or her parents are comfortable engaging in conversation with an admissions counselor, that school immediately moves up the list.

Here are six things that current high school juniors want and need to know from your initial messages:

  • If possible, remind them where you met. This is a great example of the obvious getting overlooked. Most counselors don’t even think to mention where they first met a prospective student. And yet, recruits tell us it’s one of the easiest ways for them to determine that your school is serious about them initially.  It gives them context for why you are reaching out to them and more importantly why they should take the time to reply back to you.
  • Tell them what you like about them. This generation of students wants to know what you like about them. Why? Believe it or not, some of your prospects aren’t sure they’re good enough to be considered by a school such as yours. Pointing out two or three specific things a student mentioned to you, or you saw from their information, is another important way to tell them they “have what it takes” to be considered for admission to your school. If you include these first two points in your initial letters and emails, you will see an increase in replies versus a more generic, non-specific message.
  • Create curiosity. If you’re a frequent reader of my newsletter you understand that the worst thing you can do early on is cram tons of information about your college into a letter or an email. If you want a response from your prospect that is. By being short and to the point, you will leave room for their curiosity to take over. It’s also important to craft messages that after being read by your prospects leave questions unanswered. Are you doing that now?
  • Share the positives and the negatives.  Counselors that talk only about the positives associated with their school are missing the boat.  This generation of students (and their parents) is looking for colleges that are demonstrating honesty during the recruitment process. Remember, students and parents are coming into the conversation with biases for and/or against your school. If you paint a “perfect” picture in everything you show them and tell them, you run the risk of making them question whether they’re getting the real story from you. It’s best to show your “cracks” before they show up in unexpected places or at unexpected times.
  • Engage the parents. Our research finds that many parents are anxious as you begin contact with their child. They want to play a part in the recruitment process, and naturally they too have questions they want answered. While a majority of your competition will ignore the parents for as long as possible, I encourage you to do the exact opposite. Begin contact with them early and work to establish that same emotional connection. If you do, you’ll find that they’ll be more than willing to contribute useful, usable information during the process.
  • Have a call to action. This is essential if you want them to respond to you. I’m not talking about asking them to visit campus or fill out your application. There’s a time and a place for those, and it’s not always right out of the gate. Instead, try asking your prospect at the end of your email if what you’re saying matches up with their list of priorities and “must-haves.”  Not only will this demonstrate that you understand the process is about their wants and needs, but you’ll also be making them feel more comfortable engaging with you.

Early communication with a prospect is about getting a response. Your goal should be to get a back-and-forth conversation going, and let the relationship (and their interest) build from there.

Is your admissions team stressed about converting those admits or preventing summer melt? They don’t have to be. Bring me to campus to lead one of our famous two-day training workshops. Your team will leave with more confidence and better tools that they can use immediately with recruits. The next step is to send me an email.

Breaking the Tie Between You and Your CompetitionTuesday, March 22nd, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

How are you preparing to do that?

I ask because what you do during the next few weeks will in large part determine whether or not many of your undecided students choose your school.

A number of my recent articles have focused on conversion, and this one will follow that trend. Right now there’s a big group of admissions counselors around the country “sweating it out.” Your school’s financial aid staff is trying to work their magic and put together packages that will help seal the deal with your prized prospects.

Here’s something interesting that we continue to see. Typically there comes a time late in the process where the following question enters the conversation:

Your prospects and their parents are trying to figure out if, and how much, you care.

Respected business marketing guru Seth Godin makes the same point when it comes to what we look for as adults:

“We’re hyper alert to the appearance of caring. We want to do business with people who appear to care, who appear to bring care and passion and dedication to their work. If the work expresses caring, if you consistently and professionally deliver on that expression, we’re sold.

The truth is that it’s what we perceive that matters, not what you bring to the table. If you care but your work doesn’t show it, you’ve failed. If you care so much that you’re unable to bring quality, efficiency and discernment to your work, we’ll walk away from it.

It’s probably hard to argue against this line of thinking.  The majority of our research shows that prospective students are looking to see who cares the most from start to finish.  More specifically, how does the admissions staff treat them, particularly at the end of the process.

So, how can you show your prospects that you care more than the competition this time of year? Here are five basic strategies that have consistently worked for our clients:

  1. Keep them updated as the process unfolds. We continue to find that a lot of admissions counselors make the fatal mistake of not communicating regularly with their recruits during this nerve-racking time of year.  In many cases you’re waiting for information just like your undecided prospect. That’s fine, but you need to consistently give them an update on what’s going on.  Even if your latest update has nothing new to report, this is a must do! I can’t stress this key point enough.
  1. Provide them with examples of how you’re working behind the scenes to help get them the best possible package. The more that you can use this time to demonstrate how you are doing some heavy lifting behind the scenes for them goes a long way towards getting them to perceive that you care more.  Remember, what we perceive is even more important than what we are doing in many instances (actually caring and working hard behind the scenes is important too of course!)
  1. Get to know the parents (if you haven’t already). If you read this newsletter often, then I probably sound like a broken record. The thing is, often times the recruitment process is so rushed that counselors never really take the time to get the parents on their side (if you were at my IACAC presentation a few weeks ago you know this a BIG mistake that many counselors make, and one that needs rectifying). I want you to make a concerted effort to contact your prospects’ parents and ask them questions about their son or daughter. Not sure what to ask them? Email me, and I’ll help you. Spending time with the parents is critical to setting yourself apart from other counselors who don’t have a deep relationship with family members other than their prospect.
  1. Ask them what objections they need answered.  Just because you still have good back-and-forth conversation with your prospect this late in the process doesn’t mean they are ready to say “yes” once that financial aid package comes in. Take this time to ask them these two questions: “Give me one or two big questions about our school that you’re still trying to figure out.” and “If there was one thing about campus that you could change, what would it be?”  Those two questions just might open up a new conversation about an objection that’s still on the table. If you don’t ask these questions, though, you’ll never be 100% certain.
  1. Connect them with your current students. “Your students made me feel like they wanted me more than all of the other colleges combined” and “The more I talked to students, the more it became clear that everybody is just one big community that looks out for each other.” Those are just a couple of the recent responses we received when we asked students what the deciding factor was that led them to pick their current college. Your current students, specifically your freshmen, just went through the same tough choices and dealt with the same sorts of feelings that many of your undecided prospects are dealing with right now. Are you creating opportunities for them to connect? It can tip the scales in your favor very easily if you do.

Right now many of your recruits are trying to figure out how to “break the tie” between you and the other colleges they’re considering. You need to prove to them that you care more than the other guys. It may be the most important thing you’ve done to this point!

Considering doing some staff training this summer or fall?  We can make it easy for you, and I guarantee it will be the most comprehensive two days of recruiting skills training that you’ve ever experienced.  Did I mention it’s also inexpensive? Your next step is to click this link and email me.

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