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10 Strategies for Building Trust With Prospects (and Parents)Monday, June 29th, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

What’s the most frequent reason why admissions counselors (particularly younger ones) experience inconsistent recruiting results?

An admissions director who was picking my brain on various topics asked me this question the other day. My response was, “They don’t fully gain the trust of their prospects and their prospects’ parents.” It’s a common, yet critical mistake.

Building trust takes time. The relationship with your prospective student and his or her parents must be cultivated and nurtured throughout the entire recruiting cycle. The greater the level of trust, the greater your number of deposits will be. Mark it down.

Ask yourself this question – Would you invest tens of thousands of dollars in a product when you’ve only known the person selling it to you for a week, or maybe even a month? My guess is, probably not.

When your prospects are reading your letters and emails, and listening to you talk on the phone or in person, they’re trying to figure out if they trust you enough to make that financial and emotional commitment to your school. Some of those same prospects have told us that both they and their parents fear that things sound “too good to be true,” and question whether they’re being misled. You can help them overcome that skepticism by making frequent contact and delivering information that they not only view as valuable but at the same time also proves your school’s value.

Here are a few proven strategies for building trust with prospects and their parents:

  1. Demonstrate empathy. If you don’t empathize with your prospects and their parents how can you expect to understand their problems and objections?
  1. Do your homework. Before you make that first phone call to this next class of prospective students be sure you’ve gathered some basic facts and information about whom you’re calling. I continue to be amazed at the number of counselors who reveal to me that they make these calls blindly. The reason I hear most often is, “I don’t have the time.” The easiest way to build trust is to show your prospect or their parents that they’re not just another name on your list. Show them you know something about them that your competition probably doesn’t (because they, “don’t have the time”).
  1. Be helpful during every communication. I’ve told you this before but it bears repeating.  Your prospects want you to solve their problems…all of them. They’re looking for ideas, information and insight at every turn, especially when it comes to paying for college. If you can leave no doubt in their minds that your intent is to be a resource and help them out, you’ll gain their trust every single time.
  1. Don’t overpromise. The last thing you want to do when trying to build trust is cross the line and sound ridiculous. Kids, not to mention their parents, are smart cookies. Never promise results that you can’t deliver because you think doing so will put you closer to “sealing the deal.”
  1. Display a quiet confidence. Your prospect is looking for reasons why your college is that “right fit.” The admissions counselor who isn’t confident or is afraid to tell their recruit why their school is the best is going to have trouble gaining that prospect’s real trust.
  1. Be honest, even if the truth hurts. It would be great if your school were the perfect fit for everyone. It’s not, and that’s okay. Honesty is one of the key traits that allow others to rely on you. When you’re willing to admit that your institution needs to improve on “A,” or that one of your competitors has a better (fill in the blank) than you do, it’s actually a good thing. Your prospects know both you and your school aren’t perfect.
  1. Be a good listener. The quickest way to destroy trust is to rule the conversation. When you do most of the talking, you make it impossible to discover what is really motivating them to consider your school. Anytime you begin a new relationship with a recruit, make it your goal to let them do most of the talking.  If you want to encourage conversation, use open-ended questions. These will lead to valuable information.
  1. Be a resource, not a salesperson. Each of you is one or the other. Which one are you? (Hint: resource is good, salesperson is bad). Both Dan (Tudor) and I tell our clients all the time that the key to achieving successful and consistent recruiting results is to be a resource rather than a salesperson. If they see you as a resource it’s easier to connect with them. When you connect with them they’ll see you as someone they can trust.
  1. Talk about your success stories. Many of your prospects tell us that real life testimonials and success stories from recent graduates are extremely helpful. These words from people just like them provide real proof that your prospect’s fears can be conquered, and their dream of going to college can and will be achieved. Videos in particular have proven extremely effective because the words are literally coming straight from your student’s mouth.
  1. Demonstrate commitment. Showing commitment is one of the simplest things we can do, yet for some reason many of us fall short here. A common example I hear about is making phone calls later than scheduled. If you tell your prospect 7:00pm, don’t ever assume that 7:10pm is okay. “Oh but I ran late with another recruiting call.” Say that and you’re telling your prospect, or his or her parents, that not only is their time not valuable, but that (insert other prospect’s name) is more important than they are.

Developing trust is essential. Without it you significantly decrease your chances of turning prospects into deposits. With it you’ll have an opportunity to cultivate highly profitable relationships. It’s worth the effort.

Jeremy Tiers and the team of recruiting experts at Tudor Collegiate Strategies answer questions and work with admissions professionals every day.  If you have a question, just email Jeremy at jeremy@dantudor.com.  

Winning Over Your Prospect’s ParentsMonday, June 22nd, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Breaking bad news to someone is never fun.

Last week during a phone call with an admissions director that wanted to talk about strategies for improving his college’s yield, I had to do just that. The facts of our conversation were pointing towards one big reason why his office experienced completely random recruiting results this past cycle – his entire team (mostly new counselors) underestimated just how important a factor parents are in the recruiting process.

Sending parents an occasional email and talking to them during the campus visit is not a winning strategy. Take that approach, and you’ll be hard pressed to discover what the parents of your recruits are really thinking (yes it matters). Plus, you’ll probably become frustrated at the power you ultimately see those same parents having on their child’s final decision.

Put yourself at your prospect’s kitchen table for a minute. As a parent, would you let your 16 or 17-year old son or daughter call an admissions counselor that’s requested contact, and allow your child to take anything beyond the very basic first steps of communication with him or her?  Not without talking to you, their parent, first right?

You’ll understand then why I find it surprising that many talented, smart college admissions recruiters spend a majority of their time and energy forming a relationship with a prospective student without really talking to the parents first.

Easier said than done, I get it. That’s why today’s article is here to help.

The first thing a number of you will need to do is embrace the idea of talking to your prospect’s parents. The reason is simple. In some of our latest research, we found that 91% of recent incoming college freshmen say that their parents had substantial influence in their final decision making process. Knowing that fact, how can you even consider not making it a priority to start the conversation with the parents as early as possible?

As we explain in our On-Campus Workshops for admissions, one of the big differences with this generation of prospective students is not only do they want their parents to be involved in the recruitment process, but they expect it. More and more, we hear examples of students who tell us point blank that they look for admissions counselors who engage their parents when they have the opportunity to talk to them.  Do you do that?

Furthermore, when we asked the parents if they felt like colleges were doing a good job of including them in the recruiting process only 54% “agreed strongly.” That means 46% are feeling like there could be more done to include them as a part of the process.  Imagine chopping your previous recruiting list in half.  That’s how many parents are feeling like you’re not doing a good enough job of making them feel like they’re important to you.  The scariest part should be that you probably don’t know which of your parents are on what side of the line.

My advice to you then is simple. You need to become okay with talking to your prospect’s parents, sometimes even in place of your prospect. They’ll most often accurately speak for their son or daughter and actually give you a lot of intelligent, useful information.

Next, I want you to ask yourself the following 3 questions as you prepare to begin another recruitment cycle. I would even recommend bringing these up at your staff retreat or planning session this summer. If you’re going to win over your prospect’s parents you’ll need to address all three.

  1. How soon are you incorporating a conversation with the parents of your recruit into your recruiting plan?
  1. What percentage of messaging are you dedicating to recruiting the parents of your prospects? (Yes, separate messaging to parents is a must.)
  1. What kind of questions are you asking parents to get them to reveal what’s important to them as they help their son or daughter make their final decision?

By this point I hope you agree that parents play a pivotal role in the recruitment process.

Here’s some more useful information that we’ve gathered from our research and focus groups at college campuses around the country.

  • Parents want honest answers about how your school is different from the competition. The college brochures look the same, the websites look the same, and the message is largely the same. How are you different from your competition?  I mean really different The counselors who can communicate those real differences to parents will earn their trust. Considering how important the parents’ views are to their child come decision time, this will be a big “win” for you in the recruiting game.
  • The biggest things that parents want content about are cost and ROI. Specifically, how much will your school truly cost, and will their son or daughter be able to get a job when they graduate? Your messaging to and communications with parents absolutely must address these two “wants.” Additionally, I would suggest you include clearly defined qualifications for various scholarships and other aid as well as employment rates and starting salaries. Be prepared to start this conversation early, and make sure what you’re telling them isn’t going to be different when they speak with a financial aid counselor later in the process.
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out to parents on Social Media. Want to know why more and more teenagers have left Facebook for Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat? Parents have joined the social media revolution, primarily Facebook (that means it’s not “cool” anymore). Our research has shown that prospects want you to reach out to their parents this way. Some colleges are even taking things one step further by creating Facebook pages specifically for parents of prospective or enrolled students. It’s yet another way to answer questions and increase engagement.
  • Consistency matters to parents. Once you make contact with parents it’s vitally important to know that they expect you to communicate with them as much as with their son or daughter.
  • Enthusiasm about your prospect goes a long way. Parents want to see you pay consistent, serious attention to their kids.  The more passion you show will, over time, cement the idea that you want their son or daughter more than anyone else.

While a majority of your competition will ignore the parents 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.

It’s critical that you develop recruiting plans for your prospect’s parents. You need to schedule calls, send emails, and probe the parents regarding their wants and needs for their child. If you do, they will look at you as the admissions professional that respects their opinion and input and sees them as a valued partner in the recruiting process of their son or daughter.

Need help creating effective recruiting letters and email messages that will win over parents (and prospects)? We work with admissions clients year-round doing just that! Email me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com for more information.

How Good Are You at These 8 Things?Monday, June 15th, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

When’s the last time you did a self-evaluation? If your answer is “I don’t know,” or “I can’t remember,” then today’s article is definitely for you.

If we’re sharing, my last self-assessment was this past week. It came on the heels of our National Recruiting Conference. After three days of learning and networking with college coaches, admissions professionals and business/marketing experts from around the nation, I re-evaluated some the approaches that I use. Why, you ask? It’s my belief that true professionals never stop learning. Research is always discovering new things, and trends are always changing.

One of the most popular parts of our Admissions Recruiting Advantage Workshops is the 1-on-1-counselor consultation. During these meetings one or two counselors inevitably ask me what skills and traits I believe separate a high performing recruiter from an average one.

If you’re expecting to see bullet points 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 top admissions recruiters, but also in nearly every elite recruiter or sales professional that I’ve met.

In no particular order, here they are:

  1. Problem solver. It’s crucial that you possess the ability to both discover problems and develop solutions. Remember, you’re dealing with teenagers who want to have their problems (chiefly – how to pick the right college and how to pay for it) solved. Approach those problems, and any other objections, with the frame of mind that you are a problem solver. Counselors who do that will be the ones who turn admits into deposits.
  1. Translator. Don’t ever assume that a 17 or 18-year old student, and quite possibly many of their parents, know what FAFSA, 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 (and his or her parents) feel inept.
  1. Listener. One of the biggest mistakes a lot of salespeople 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 process to play itself out.
  1. 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. Your average recruiter only focuses on closing the sale. Selling is also about building a relationship with your prospect (and their parents) throughout the recruitment cycle. When you 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 recommendations and future deposits.
  1. 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.”
  1. 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. Utilize professional coaches and mentors.
  1. Remain in control of the sales process. A common mistake that counselors make is losing control of the sales process at some point. The high performing recruiter takes his or her prospect through an orderly, planned, systematic process of agreeing that their college is best suited for their prospect’s needs and goals.
  1. Remain passionate. There’s that magical word again that can help you win over recruits. As I’ve said before, passion is not an act. Real passion for who you are and what your institution provides can make all the difference in the world. The passionate person consistently says, “I’m going to make a difference today,” whereas everybody else thinks, “same (insert nasty word), different day.” Passion will lead to meaningful long-term relationships with your prospects (and their parents) every single time.

Want to talk in greater detail about one or more of these eight critical skills and attributes, and how you can incorporate them into your recruiting strategy? Email me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com or give me a call at 612-386-0854.

How to Make Sure Your Recruiting Emails Are Opened and ReadMonday, June 8th, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

When you log into your email account how do you decide what messages to open?

Unless it’s from your boss, most of us use the subject line as the deciding factor. It’s a quick and easy way to decide whether to read the email now or later (which means it probably gets deleted without ever being opened).

That same type of decision-making occurs every time one of your prospective students goes to his or her email inbox and finds messages waiting from you and your competition. Which ones do they read? Which ones do they scroll past?

Just like you, it often comes down to the subject line. The more creativity and thought you put into your email subject lines, the greater chance you have of getting your message opened and read by your recruits.

It’s something we factor into the messaging that we create for our clients as part of the Admissions Recruiting Advantage. Why?  Our job is not only to improve the click-through rate but also generate a response from recruits for our clients. Great subject lines are a big key to doing both of those things.

For those of you that are wondering if today’s recruit still uses email, the answer is an emphatic “yes.” One of the questions we ask in the focus group research survey we conduct as part of an on-campus workshop is, “What was your preferred method for admissions counselors to contact you?” Email is the leading vote getter every single time.

Before I give you some ideas that we’ve seen work, there are two key questions that you need to ask yourself if you’re serious about improving this part of your recruiting campaign:

  • Is your content useful to the prospective student that is reading it?
  • Has your communication up to this point built anticipation of what’s coming next?

For your messaging to be effective, what you talk about has to matter to that specific recruit. For example, sending out information on student housing isn’t going to be helpful if your prospect lives in town and is strongly considering commuting from home due to finances.

Regarding anticipation, your recruit will anticipate your next message more if you lead into it with the previous message. Simply put, one message should set up the next message and so on. This is something that we see a lot of counselors struggle with.

Okay…If you’re ready to improve this aspect of your recruiting in an effort to get more prospective students to open more of your emails, here are some subject line ideas that will produce results.

  • Make it clear exactly what the email is about. Subject lines should clearly convey something important or timely to your recruits. In a nutshell, you want to communicate that if they don’t open and read this email, they’ll miss out on something of real value.
  • Don’t make it so formal. If you’re sending out information on your student housing, don’t make the subject line “ABC College student housing information.”  That’s what most of your competitors will do. You need to STAND OUT. Get creative and write something like, “Here’s where you can live next year!” See the difference?
  • Make it really, really short. Short words or phrases are attention getters.  In this case, because most subject lines are long and rather mundane, you need to use a few well-chosen words. Effective keywords include “New,” “You,” and “Deadline.”
  • Create curiosity by asking a question. To increase the chances that your email is opened it needs to offer intrigue. Using student housing as an example again, you could say, “Is your room at home as nice as our new on-campus suites?” Keep in mind, however, that the body of your email must deliver what you promised in the subject line, or your future email messages will lose credibility.
  • Cut off half the sentence. It might prompt them to wonder what the other half says.  For example, “My admissions director wanted to know if…”
  • Be different every single time. Do not become a repeat user no matter how effective a particular subject line was previously. We’ve found that there’s a noticeable drop in open rates when you do. Take a few minutes to be creative.  Don’t be boring.

There’s one final fact that I want you to keep in mind about the way today’s recruits process email from colleges and universities: At the end of your message, they want to know what’s next.

If you’re a client of ours or a frequent reader of this newsletter, you know how important it is to have a clear call-to-action. We recommend you narrow it down to just one thing.  Make it simple versus complicated and time-intensive.

Remember, early in the recruitment cycle your goal is a conversation, not a conversion.  Aim to get a back-and-forth conversation going, and let the relationship (and their interest) build from there.

Getting this next class (and future classes) of recruits to open and read your emails doesn’t have to be a constant challenge. It all starts with an effective subject line.

Now is the time to schedule Jeremy Tiers to come and speak at your college this fall.  Our On-Campus Workshop has trained numerous counselors and admissions professionals on more effective ways to recruit this generation of prospects (as well as their parents).  Get the details by emailing Jeremy directly at jeremy@dantudor.com with the subject line, “We want to hear more about you coming to campus!”  He will respond with all the details.

5 Recruiting Lessons for Admissions Courtesy of Johnny SheltonMonday, June 1st, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

If you didn’t watch the season premier of America’s Got Talent last week you probably have no idea who Johnny Shelton is.

Hopefully after this article you’ll remember him for what his story and stand out performance can teach you as you strive to have more meaningful conversations and develop a deeper connection with your prospects.

Shelton is a 25-year old singer/songwriter. In a segment shown by AGT before he went on stage, Shelton shared his story about his son who lost his battle with cancer on his fifth birthday.

When Shelton came out on stage, he explained that he wrote the song he was about to perform as a tribute to his son and uses it as his special way of communicating with his child. Once the crowd learned the entire backstory, it quickly became clear that everyone felt a connection to Johnny Shelton.

His performance was nothing short of remarkable. Emotions ran very high. The next day his Facebook page was filled with supportive comments from people around the country. No doubt about it, Johnny Shelton had captured the hearts of many.

In the midst of watching his performance some very important recruiting lessons for college admissions surfaced. Since my previous “lessons from my daughter’s soccer practice” article is one of the most read on the admissions portion of our website, I thought it would be good to write a follow-up article that another real life lesson can teach you about effective recruiting:

  • Capturing your audience’s emotions. Shelton delivered a moving performance that inspired the AGT judges and brought members of the audience to tears. Judge Heidi Klum said his song, “made me very emotional.” Your goal should be to create those same feelings and emotions in the hearts and minds of your prospects. Our national study of how recruits make their final decision revealed one solid fact that every college admissions professional should be aware of when it comes to developing a winning recruiting strategy – Your prospects are trusting their feelings as they make their decision about your college or university. Those are the feelings you create through the various methods of recruiting communication as well as the feelings they get when they visit your campus.
  • Everyone talks about the “good.” Don’t be afraid to talk about the “bad.” Admissions counselors who only talk about the positives associated with their school are missing the boat. It would be great if your prospects never had an objection to your school…but who are we kidding. Johnny Shelton could have just come out and sang his song. Instead he didn’t shy away from talking about a very difficult time in his life. This generation of students (and their parents) are looking for someone that can demonstrate honesty during the recruitment process. As we’ve said in the past, it’s good to show your school’s “cracks” to your prospects. Think of it this way. If you try and present the “perfect” college situation for your recruit in everything you show and tell them, you likely run the risk of making the prospect question whether they are getting the real story from you.  In other words, it’s best to show them your “cracks” (the bad) before a competitor paints that picture.
  • Passion wins. If you’re a frequent reader of this newsletter, you know that I think this 7-letter word is the most underrated tool you have at your disposal. Shelton received a standing ovation from the crowd and the judges, thanks in large part to a very passionate performance. If you prove you’re a passionate recruiter who sincerely cares and takes the time to understand the wants and needs of your prospects, you’ll come out victorious more often than not.  This is especially true when the final decision is a close race.
  • Great recruiters understand the importance of storytelling. The lyrics of Johnny Shelton’s song told the heartbreaking story about his son. Afterwards, judge Howie Mandel said, “I’m speechless when you told us your story.” Effective stories are essential to the recruiting process. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not telling you to make up something that’s untrue or embellish the prestige of your school so you can gain a prospect’s commitment. What I want you to do is give your prospects something they can connect with when it comes to what your institution is all about. Your recruiting materials, phone calls, and even campus visits have to tell a “story” that you want them to buy into. Are you doing that right now?
  • Go ahead and be gutsy. It took a lot of guts for Johnny Shelton to come on national television and perform a song as personal as one about losing a child. It also takes some guts for an admissions counselor to ask their prospect an effective question like, “Right now, where can you picture yourself going to college next year?” Some of you won’t feel comfortable being so forward, but this effective question can yield a gold mine of information when asked correctly. It’s important to note that you’re not asking them to make a decision on the spot but rather what their thoughts are right now in terms of where they can picture themselves attending college next year. There’s a big difference.

Remember these five lessons that I’ve laid out as you develop your recruiting plan for this next class of prospects.  They will pay dividends.

Want to speak further about these or other valuable recruiting lessons?  Email me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com

Tips For Enhancing Your Social Media Connection With ProspectsMonday, May 25th, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Connecting with today’s prospective student has become a new and more complicated adventure for college admissions departments nationwide. Social media is a big reason why. It has changed the way that high school students approach the college selection process.

According to a new study from Pew Research Center, 71% of teens use more than one social media network site. Those same teenagers are using the various channels to not only gather information on colleges but also to help them make their decisions. Not fully convinced? Here’s how both Twitter and Instagram have helped students find that “right fit.”

Most colleges and universities are active across multiple social media platforms. Your admissions office and/or staff likely have Facebook and Twitter accounts, and possibly are on Instagram. My question is, “Are each of those platforms being used effectively?” While social media is unlikely to make or break your college in the minds of your prospects, it can help deepen your connection and allow you to stand out from your competition.

Today I want to provide you with some basic tips on how to use social media to your advantage with this next class of prospects.

  • Remember that it’s only one part. To start with, let me be clear that social media is only one part of an effective recruiting communication strategy. Just because a large portion of your target audience is constantly on their smartphones doesn’t mean that you can substitute social media contact in place of hand-written letters and phone calls. Your prospects continue to tell us that a regular flow of mail, email, phone calls, personal contact and social media is what they’re looking for.
  • Don’t forget our golden rule. Our expanding research on social media has produced one very important rule that this generation seems to gravitate around: There are different rules and comfort levels for different prospects. Here’s what that means. Some of your recruits will have no problem with the admissions staff communicating with them by following them or sending a direct message on social media. Others however have a greater need for privacy and don’t want you to venture into this part of their world. My advice: Ask each prospect what they’d be okay with. Keep it simple and let them know why you’re asking that question. Explain that you want to communicate with them the way they want to be communicated with. You might be surprised how much they will appreciate that.
  • Less news, facts, and figures. We continue to see colleges and admissions departments use their Facebook feeds and Twitter timelines to primarily post school press releases. There’s also a group that relies heavily on facts, figures, and statistics. If your school falls into either of these categories you should know that you run the risk of boring your recruits early on. A mix of these with more personalized posts is fine, but using social media to pass along news or brag about rankings won’t consistently sell your prospects on your school.
  • More visual behind the scenes content. The social media content that we see working best is visual, normal everyday stuff that you probably take for granted. By visual I’m referring to pictures and videos. These capture the attention of your prospects and their short attention span better than text. Go ahead and showcase the personality of your campus and the student body. The more relaxed and uncut the better. Encourage student-generated content, especially around school traditions. Those genuine interactions and images are powerful and can help create an emotional connection that is hard to accomplish over the phone or through a letter with your recruits.
  • Come up with creative and attention getting headlines. Remember that short attention span I referenced? If your headline or post isn’t east to read visually or worded the way that your prospects want it, they’ll just tune you out. Create a headline that makes a statement and offers the reader an idea of where you’re going and what’s in it for them.
  • Post consistently. The worst thing you can do is create social media accounts and then post randomly. What message do you think it conveys to a prospect or his or her parents if they search for you or your school on social media only to discover there hasn’t been a post in over a month? If social media content is to aid in your recruitment it’s important to post consistently. That consistency will build recognition and memorability. (If you want to know how often the research says you should post on the various social media platforms, click here)

Social media should be an important part of any effective recruiting communication plan for admissions. It’s free, simple, and it’s the future of communicating effectively with your prospects in conjunction with the right mix of letters, emails, and phone calls.

If you have questions about any of this feel free to email me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com

Recruiting Calls: How to Make Sure Your Prospects Remember YouMonday, May 18th, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Spring yard work. That’s what I’ve spent the past two weekends doing. Trimming, planting, burying my down spouts, and mulch…lots of mulch. Does this sound familiar?

I’m clearly a bad judge when it comes to mulch because I ended up making not one, not two, but three trips to the local garden center in the same weekend. As I was checking out with the last round of mulch, the cashier (same one as the previous two times) asked to see my card so she could verify the signature. Upon doing so she says, “Oh I remember you…you’re the guy with that ugly signature.”

I’ll be the first to admit that my signature is a little messy and hard to read. Truth be told this isn’t the first time either that a store employee somewhere has pointed those facts out. The point I’m trying to make is simple. My ugly signature gets me remembered.

In this age of smartphones and social media, it’s amazing that so much of the recruiting relationship with prospective students still hinges on making a great old-fashioned phone call.

Making effective phone calls is a challenge for many admissions professionals, particularly those early recruiting calls. Instead of trying to cultivate a meaningful relationship with the nervous teenager on the other end, many counselors end up focusing on one thing – selling their school. As I’ve touched on before, that’s the wrong approach. You risk your prospect becoming annoyed, bored, or even worse, both.

Your goal during those early recruiting phone calls should be to “plant the seed,” grow the relationship and find ways to be memorable. When you accomplish that your prospects will look forward to that next recruiting communication. If you do it over time your school will be the one on their mind when they’re ready to make a decision.

Here are 5 strategies that will get your prospects to remember you:

  1. Eliminate their fears early in the conversation. One of the things we discuss during our on-campus training workshops is just how present your prospect’s “fear” is throughout the recruiting process. As a result, you should expect them to have their guard up during the onset of any initial conversation. One of the easiest ways to remove that fear is to demonstrate right out of the gate that you’re a passionate recruiter. Passion is both hard to fake and contagious. Tell your prospects why you think they’ll be a good fit at your school. Ask him or her questions that will reveal things that excite them. You can then use those in future recruiting communications. Demonstrating passion will remove any doubts and provide a level of comfort for your prospects.
  1. Be authentic. I know it can be tempting to list every single reason why your institution is the “right fit” during those early conversations with prospects. The problem is most of your prospects tell us that method of selling comes across as pushy and doesn’t make for an enjoyable conversation. What resonates with today’s recruit is an authentic discussion where you let them get to know the real you, and you really listen to what they have to say. Be honest, open and direct about the recruitment process. It sounds easy enough, but the reality is few counselors have completely mastered this skill.
  1. Stay current. Pop quiz. Do you know who Calvin Harris is? Are you familiar with ‘Pitch Perfect 2’? (If you answered “no” to either I recommend you click on the links after you’re done with this article) Effective recruiters who want to be remembered are “students of the game.” They keep up on trends and what’s popular with their target demographic. That knowledge then allows them to engage in and develop deeper connections with their prospects, who by the way love to talk about movies, music and celebrities. Make a statement or ask a question about something from the current pop culture landscape. You might be surprised by the response you get.
  1. Listen and then prove that you were listening. Your prospects have a lot of questions they want answered. Will you allow them to have control of the conversation? (Hint: It’s okay to do so). Assuming that you’re on board with me, sit back, listen, and take notes…lots of notes. You can then use that information in future letters and emails. For example let’s say your prospect shares who their favorite music artist is. Why not take one of that artists’ current songs and change a verse or two to contain lyrics about your prospect and your college. Cheesy, right? You’re exactly right, and it works! The lyrics you come up with are insignificant. The fact that you took time to listen to your prospect and come up with something unique about them immediately differentiates you and will be remembered.
  1. End your conversation with something impactful. Pick your favorite television drama. There’s a reason at the end of every episode something big happens or a question is left unanswered. It causes you the viewer to feel something and/or create anticipation for next week’s episode. That same rule can and should be applied to your recruiting contacts. You should always set up your next communication. Ask yourself, “What can I get them to anticipate next?” If you’re a client of ours you know how important it is to have the flow of the recruiting process move as efficiently as possible toward securing a campus visit. What about telling them a story or making an impactful statement. Those are the kinds of things that are committed to memory.

Try putting one or all of these strategies into practice with this next class of recruits during those early communications. Doing so will make your prospects take notice and achieve more positive results for your recruiting efforts moving forward!

Need help formulating a strategy and putting proven ideas to work for you and your admissions team?  Become a client of ours. We work with you one-on-one to create and execute a recruiting plan that will get results.   Email me directly for more information.

4 Strategies to Developing Your Recruiting RelationshipMonday, May 11th, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

I heard it again last week. In the middle of my conversation with a first-year admissions counselor who was reflecting on the past 10 months, he blurted out, “I never really thought of this job as a sales position, but that’s what it basically is.”

At a time when colleges and universities are looking especially hard at the bottom line, admissions professionals must be able to consistently market and sell their school to prospective students and their parents. That’s the bottom line.

One of the biggest challenges we’re often asked to address during our On-Campus Training Workshops is how to get and keep the attention of today’s typical recruit. It’s an on-going battle that’s for sure. If the teenager on the other end wants to ignore your recruiting message, you can’t stop him or her. What you can do however is provide them with compelling reasons to choose your school over the competition.

Here’s even better news! You don’t need to have a big time budget to successfully communicate your message and cultivate a positive relationship. You just need a few easy strategies that savvy business professionals use on a daily basis.

Think about how you develop relationships in your personal life. Any good relationship is built on trust. When there’s trust, there’s loyalty. When a relationship has those two characteristics that means there’s a genuine concern for each other’s well being.

Your recruiting relationships should be developed the same way. You cannot expect your recruit and his or her parents to commit to your institution if they don’t trust you. When you build trust, loyalty will follow. Your recruits will want to continue to interact with you rather than your competitors.

It’s important to start establishing those real, caring, long-term relationships with your prospects early in the recruitment process. If you do, you’ll have an easy time proving to your recruits (and their parents and others around them) that you’re concerned about them, and want to help solve their problems. You’re not just there trying to sell a college. You’re there to help.

If you want to differentiate yourself from counselors who will read this and then forget about it later today, try these four proven strategies for establishing those all-important prospect relationships.

  1. Be specific when telling your recruiting story. Are you currently developing a story that tells your recruit something very specific or very memorable about your college? Sometimes a specific focus can help you tell your school’s story in a much more compelling way, and give recruits a reason to listen to what you’re saying.
  1. Understand that different recruits have different problems. Your recruits all have worries, fears and hopes. Here’s the thing. Those of a traditional student (teenager) are going to be very different from those of a non-traditional student (single parent, mid-career professional). If you don’t believe that then you’ll rarely connect with prospects the way you need to if they’re going to enroll at your school. It’s your job to try and put yourself in each recruit’s shoes and develop separate messaging that will truly help them. When you do that you’re sending a strong message that you care.
  1. Make your recruiting messages personal. When you effectively use personalization during the recruitment process you stand out from the crowd. To build a close relationship with your prospect and his or her family you must communicate on a personal level no matter the type of contact. That includes mail, email, phone calls, social media and face-to-face contact. I understand doing this will take up more time and involve some creative thinking. The end result will be a feeling of being wanted. That’s something that every single recruit is looking for.
  1. Commit to utilizing social media. Let me be clear. I’m not talking about your admissions Facebook page. I want you to invest more in your personal Twitter and Instagram accounts (both are free). Don’t have one or both? You’re missing out on a prime opportunity (according to a new study, 92% of teens report going online daily) to reveal the “real you,” as well as offer a behind the scenes look at what makes life at your college so great. As always, no matter what type of communication you use, you must be consistent if you expect favorable results.

A quick word of caution. Don’t ever pretend to be someone you’re not. Your sincerity, or lack thereof, will always shine through.  Teenagers today are smart.  They know when you’re telling them the truth and when you’ve embellished a little too much.

These four strategies will help you quickly establish real rapport with your prospects and increase your school’s chances of enrolling them when a decision is ready to be made.

We help colleges and universities improve their recruiting relationships year-round. If you have a specific question or want help developing a winning strategy call Jeremy directly at 612-386-0854. Or feel free to email him.

Could This Be Why They Didn’t Deposit to Your School?Monday, May 4th, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

May 1 has passed. Hopefully your school achieved its enrollment targets.

When it comes to prospects that you missed out on, there are many potential reasons why. If you’ve hosted us on campus to work with your admissions department and learn how to recruit more effectively, you know what our studies show: A large majority of the time that final decision comes down to how your prospect “feels.”

Freshmen frequently offer responses like “feeling of a person and not a number,” or “the feeling of community on the campus” in response to why they chose that particular school on one of our customized research surveys.

Throughout the recruitment process many admissions departments are coming to the conclusion that they must create the right feelings in the minds and hearts of your prospects because they trust those feelings as they make their decision about your college.

How do you do that? Making them feel wanted is a great starting point. However 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 the recruit and his or her parents.

Here are five 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 recruiting cycle we’ve found that they will usually gravitate to 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 when presenting 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 the thousands of their 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 feeling for your prospects now that the initial contact message is in their hands. If you fail to do that you’re introducing random results into the process. So, what’s your plan for establishing a feeling that they will gravitate to over the coming months?
  1. Use keywords in your communications with them. If you’re a frequent reader of this newsletter you know how much today’s prospective student wants to be valued and viewed as important to someone else. So then 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 that will emphasize the idea that you appreciate and value them. In addition, this year’s college prospects are telling us that having a college representative 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 they should be giving.
  1. 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’re valuing 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 an important individual.
  1. 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.
  1. Be passionate. I consider passion to be the most underrated tool in admissions recruiting. If you want to know why, click here. When people smile, speak with enthusiasm and look others straight in the eye, they become hard to ignore. In the process they bring joy to those around them. 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 decision.

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.

Tudor Collegiate Strategies offers one-on-one help with formulating a research-based approach to communicating with recruits. If you’d like to see what that looks like, and get an overview of our approach, email me at jeremy@dantudor.com.


The Secret Weapon of Recruiting Communication (And Why it Works)Monday, April 27th, 2015

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Building good habits can be difficult. Take for example my golf game. I started playing in my late 20’s. No lessons, I just went out and tried to “hit em’ straight.” As you can imagine I experienced up and down (mostly down) results.

I enjoyed the game so I asked a friend who was a local golf pro for some pointers. In a nutshell he told me fundamentals plus practice would equal better results. 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.”

If I wanted my golf game to improve, I was going to have to be consistent with my practice and game habits.

As you prepare to begin another recruiting cycle, I want to stress the importance of being consistent when it comes to recruiting communications with your prospects. I know it sounds easy enough, but for many admissions teams this can be one of their greatest challenges.

If your office doesn’t have a clear long-term plan to consistently communicate your school’s story, I strongly encourage you to start developing one. I don’t want you to be the school that panics come wintertime because they haven’t done anything consistently or offered anything of value to their recruits since that initial communication. We’ve seen colleges in that situation try to cram everything together in hopes of catching back up to the competition. I’m here to tell you that method rarely works.

Today I want 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’s start by reviewing the different types of communication that a solid recruiting campaign needs to consistently feature.

  • Written communication. Both mail and email matter to your recruits. According to our research you need to send a logical, foundational message about your school every 6 to 9 days. That’s the right amount of time according to your prospects.
  • Phone calls. I know it’s tempting, but don’t try and skip right to verbal communication. Sacrificing letters and emails is not a winning strategy. Your prospects want more. Mix in phone calls, but be sure that your recruit is comfortable with that type of contact first.
  • Social media. In the age of smartphones it’s becoming more important how you communicate with prospects through social media. While it’s 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 your prospect’s future communication online. Utilize social media to give them an ongoing behind the scenes look at life inside your college at least once a week. If your office has the resources it might even happen every couple of days.

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

Now to “the Why” – why consistency works.

  1. It gives your prospect a predictable flow of information. Seems obvious I know yet many counselors don’t have that long-term game plan. They come out of the gate strong for the first month or two and then run out of things to say before really gaining traction.  Here’s the problem with that approach. Most prospects won’t make a decision until later in the process. Instead let me encourage you to take what we call the “drip, drip, drip” method of communication. Communicate small chunks of information about your college and why they 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.
  1. Your recruits value consistent communication. It’s a proven fact – today’s recruit appreciates and values you being there from start to finish. When we work with clients and help them develop a messaging campaign using focus group research, 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.
  1. Consistency prompts a response. Your ultimate objective when you communicate with a prospect should be to get a response. You want to create a back-and-forth conversation. It may take you 7, 8 or even 10 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, and most will not do it on their own. Start by asking them a question or getting their opinion on email or social media, not with a phone call. Not too many teenagers today are willing to jump right into a 20-minute conversation with you when they know virtually nothing about you or your institution. When you have a call to action it gives them a safe, non-committal way to connect with you.
  1. 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 – so the recruit wants to continue to interact with you rather than your competitors.

Our clients have achieved enrollment success 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. Trust me we’ve seen it happen. Generating a weak message consistently can be as bad as getting a great message out randomly.

Not sure what the best strategy with your next class of recruits should be? Having a hard time coming up with talking points for your messaging? We can help. It’s what we’re here to do. Contact me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com


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