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Establishing Trust With Prospects and ParentsTuesday, June 21st, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Why is it that many of us don’t hesitate to sponsor or donate money to one of the neighborhood kids when they ring the doorbell with that Jump Rope for Heart form? What’s our primary reason for buying Girl Scout cookies other than the fact that they taste really good?

Conversely, why do we try and get off the phone as fast possible when a telemarketer calls?

It boils down to trust. The organization sponsoring the child from our neighborhood or those girls selling cookies has spent years building trust, and we have faith that our donation is going to a worthwhile cause. The reason we don’t trust the telemarketer that calls is because we don’t know him or her, and something just doesn’t feel right about a complete stranger calling us at home to sell us something.

The gut reaction we have to each of those scenarios has big implications for college admissions professionals.

Most of us don’t like interacting with people we don’t feel like we can trust. Prospective students and parents are no different. Establishing trust with them early on is an important element of the college search process that often times we see admissions undervalue. Without trust, how can the student believe that your school will deliver on those statements or assurances that get made during the recruiting cycle?

Lately I’ve been talking to a number of admissions directors who are reassessing how their institution interacts with prospects and parents. If you’re doing the same or plan to have discussions about your communications during an upcoming retreat, I encourage you to remember that the same factors you use to judge the trustworthiness of people and organizations are being used by this generation of prospects, and their parents, to judge your trustworthiness.  Many of those prospects and parents tell us that early in the process they’re figuring out whether or not to have a serious interaction with your school based on whether they feel like they can trust you or not.

The decision to interact happens before your prospect actually listens to what you have to say. How you construct your letters, what you say in your emails, the layout of your website, and how you interact with them on social media will determine whether or not you get to communicate with that prospect.

I’ll bet you might be surprised at how many different types of interactions factor into whether or not a new prospect chooses to trust you enough to communicate with you or a member of your admissions team.  Here are a few of the most important:

What your website and email templates look like: When they look at those properties, which studies say they do, what’s the brand image that comes to their mind?  If you’re a smaller school, do you look like the bigger brand institutions?  If you’re a well-known college or university, how are you separating yourself from your other big-name competitors?  These are serious questions that you need to consistently ask.

Your first letter or email between you and your prospect: Does it look and sound like everybody else’s, because I can guarantee you that when you reach out and communicate with a prospective student for the first time the way your message is worded is going to determine whether or not they feel you’re worth interacting with. When you’re writing your message, does it sound like you would if you were talking face to face with your prospect?  Or, does it sound so formal that your prospect is going to know it’s the typical, mass mail, semi-personalized message they’ve become used to seeing from your competition?

What they’ve heard about you:  If your prospect has heard good things about your school from people he or she knows, the entire relationship changes. You automatically get the benefit of the doubt. That begs the question: What are you doing to make sure that your current students, as well as the students (and their parents) who chose another college instead of yours, experience superior customer service? Remember, you can actually control what they’re saying.

Their fear:  As we talk about extensively in our On-Campus Workshop that we conduct for college admissions departments, your recruit’s fear is present throughout the recruiting experience.  What are you doing to answer that fear?  How are you doing that early on as well as late in the process? If you don’t think their fear matters, you’d be wrong, and I’d strongly encourage you to read my article in last week’s newsletter.

What you’re asking them to do early on: If you’re asking a prospect to reply to your email early in the recruiting process, there’s a decent chance that’s going to happen.  On the contrary, counselors and schools who want to jump into an early conversation about a campus visit or filling out the application immediately might be going too fast, too soon.  Urgency like that rarely leads to increased trust from your prospect. Be mindful of what you’re asking them to do and whether or not you’ve given then ample reasons as to why they should.

What they see about you social media:  How well you post on Facebook, Instagram and the other social media platforms matters to this generation of prospects.  In fact, it matters a lot!  Your online presence is one of the most immediate impressions that gets formed by your recruit.  And in most cases it helps to determine how much interaction they wish to have with you and whether or not they’re excited to learn more about your school.

You understand it’s about them:  How are you proving that you understand the college search process is about their wants and needs and not why you think they’d be crazy not to pick your school?  More importantly, how are you communicating that?

Your honesty:  This generation of prospects and their parents are actively searching for people who prove they’re honest.  It’s vital that you demonstrate that honesty and showcase it to them through your recruiting emails and letters.  Don’t be the counselor who, in trying to build trust, over promises and under delivers. You need to repeatedly demonstrate that you are the counselor they can trust.  That means from time to time it’s okay to admit when you’re wrong or your school isn’t better than a competitor in a particular area. The counselors who are trusted always end up with a decisive advantage.

How consistent you are in your recruitment efforts: How much did you communicate with this next class of prospects when they were juniors? Do you have consistent messaging for transfer students? These are important questions in the minds of your prospects.  When we work with new clients and take their admissions team through a series of focus group questions to determine how best to help formulate their recruiting strategy, one of the most common themes that stands out as being vitally important to prospects is how consistent a counselor or school is in the way they communicate.  If your school sends a couple of messages at the start, and then is hit-and-miss during the rest of the recruiting process, you’re probably going to get labeled as inconsistent.  If this sounds like you, then make a change now because our research shows that’s going to hurt you when your prospect reaches their final decision.

Since you’re going to be judged by this generation of prospects, doesn’t it make sense to make sure you’re taking an intelligent, thorough approach to establishing trust?

Good luck!

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

What Are You Doing About Your Prospect’s Fear?Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Yesterday my daughter had a dentist appointment. Nothing major, just one of those twice a year check-ups.

During breakfast she said, “Daddy, the one thing that’s scary about the dentist is the sucking thing they put in your mouth.” The technical term for that long dental suction tool is a saliva ejector (I Googled it because I was curious).

On the drive over, and while we waited for her to be called back, again she mentioned the “sucking thing” and her fear of it. I calmed her down by telling her that Daddy has the same thing put in his mouth every time he goes to the dentist for a check-up.

Do you get nervous if you have to give a speech or presentation? Do you hate heights? How about spiders and insects? Or maybe, like my daughter, you dislike those trips to the dentist.

It’s all about our fear of fear.

Now let’s apply this to prospective students, who in many cases, have not one but multiple fears when it comes to the college search process.

If you’ve had us on your campus you know that the biggest fear this generation of students has is the fear of making the wrong decision. They’re scared to answer your phone call, scared of saying the wrong thing to you during said call, and scared to ask you for help solving their problems.

They, like you perhaps, have a fear of fear.  They’ll avoid an honest conversation with you to avoid the fear of saying something wrong.  Sounds crazy, right? Like it or not, that’s who you’re recruiting.

Your job, if you’re going to be a dominant recruiter and truly be your prospects’ “go to person”, is to find out what scares them and address it.

With that in mind, here are a few strategies we see working well for our clients around the country.

  • Focus on their feeling of being fearful.  It’s not actual facts that your prospect is scared about, it’s the feeling of being scared that they’re trying to avoid. For example, if you’re focusing on selling your school by talking about last year’s ranking by publication ABC as a way of overcoming the fear that’s ingrained in the mind of your prospect, you’re going to struggle.  Instead, address the question of why they’re feeling scared about something – leaving home, visiting campus, or returning your phone call. That’s the secret. Focus on the feeling that’s creating the fear.
  • Ask them what scares them most about the whole recruiting process. Logically, if they have an irrational fear that needs to be discussed as a part of the recruiting process, who is more equipped to lead that conversation: You, or the teenage recruit? Of course you have to be the one to lead that conversation!  It starts by asking them the question that most counselors don’t think to bring up – “What scares you the most about the college search process?” This is an extremely effective question early in the recruiting cycle. If you don’t ask it, you’re missing out on a BIG opportunity to both solve a problem and develop trust.
  • Tell them what you think they’re thinking.  Tell your prospective student what you see them being scared about and see if they agree with you or not.  It’s easier for them to react to a statement about what you think they’re thinking than it is for them to tell you what they’re thinking.  Is it confusing? Yes.  Regardless, it’s what we find to be true, so use it to your advantage.

These three approaches are meant to merely be a starting point.

Just remember, fear is driving almost everything that your prospects do during the recruitment process. If you can help calm their fears (which is one of the biggest things your prospects really want you to do), you will win their trust and in turn be way ahead of the competition who doesn’t believe this is important or doesn’t know how to address fear.

FREE HELP! Yes you read that correctly. If you’ve got a question about recruiting, leadership or anything else that can help you do your job more effectively, simply send me an email or call me directly at 612-386-0854.

4 Facts That Matter to Your Prospective StudentsTuesday, June 7th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

You throw them around all the time.

You use them to sell your college or university, and you brag about them in an attempt to separate your school from a competitor.

Facts.  We’re talking about facts.

But which facts are worth talking about, and which ones just take up space in your messages to prospective students?  Furthermore, are some facts that you present actually hurting your recruiting efforts?

While this generation of students does rely on facts about a college or university to form their overall opinion of the school, we’ve found that it’s most effective when admissions recruiters tie those facts directly to a benefit the student will receive.

This is a very important distinction that admissions counselors need to begin implementing.  Again, when you state a fact as a selling point of your institution, it is vital that you take the extra step in explaining to your prospect exactly how they will personally benefit from that fact.

Why is that worthwhile? Our ongoing research continues to find that many prospects don’t usually “connect the dots” between the benefits that your school offers and what it means for them personally. They also, as I’ve explained many times before, rely largely on feelings to help them make their final decision.

When you’re able to communicate facts that will personally benefit a prospective student, and get them to understand those selling points, you win, more often than not. Good feelings about your school coupled with these personalized facts are almost impossible to ignore.

Here are 4 facts that we’re seeing recruits rate as very important in their decision-making process:

  • Your on-campus housing. Interestingly, you don’t always need the newest and biggest dorms or apartments to win.  Instead, you need to make sure your prospective students understand how they will have fun living there and how easy it will be for them to make new friends, “fit in”, and enjoy campus life. By the way, your current student’s opinions and personal stories go the furthest in selling your on-campus housing to your recruits.
  • The food on campus.  Prove to prospective students that they will eat well, and you’ll have an advantage over your competition just about every single time.
  • How a degree at your school will trump a degree at another school.  Every admissions counselor in America loves to talk about the academic strengths of his or her school.  I’m here to tell you that you’d better be ready to prove it to your prospect (and their parents) with real-life examples as to how your school is going to better prepare them to find and successfully start a career.
  • How the admissions staff, and how current students, treat them during their campus visit. Regardless of location or school size or type, these two factors rank at or near the top on almost every single focus group survey we’ve done over the past year. Today’s generation of students can easily spot the difference between those who are acting friendly and welcoming, and those who truly are. We see quotes all the time that contain phrases like, “everybody was welcoming and you could tell they really love their school”, and “the student ambassadors were super friendly and could answer or give a polite response to all of my father’s hundred questions!”

The improper use of facts is a major problem in student recruitment.  We see and hear about it almost daily.

If your admissions and enrollment team commits themselves to taking the extra step of stressing facts that prospective students care about, as well as finding how best to tie those facts personally to those students, you’ll gain the upper-hand over your competitors who are content with reading this research and then choosing not to change the way they are telling their story.

Tudor Collegiate Strategies can help you formulate your strategy when it comes to presenting facts about your school that get attention.  We can take our research and put it to work for you making a big difference in your overall recruiting efforts.  To learn more, simply contact me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com

The Social Media MeltTuesday, June 7th, 2016

counselor-brianThis is the fourth and final post in a series from a college admissions counselor attempting to navigate the current admissions recruiting cycle. He is Brian Switay, assistant director of recruitment in his second year at Stevens Institute of Technology, a private research university in Hoboken, New Jersey.  His stories are intended to provide an inside look at the challenges he faces as he aspires to grow and advance in the profession.

In his first post, which you can read here, Switay talked about keeping up with the inquiries.  His second post offered tips to help other counselors successfully climb the admissions ladder.  The third installment focused on admitted student days and bringing in the best class possible.

By Brian Switay:

Ahh, summer is almost here. Time for vacations, lounging on the beach, ice cream, long walks and exploring boardwalks and amusement parks. However, the summer also brings the dreaded summer melt! With more and more students double depositing it seems as though summer melt has been increasing each and every year. So, what can you do?

I would like to use this article to encourage each of you to partake in a virtual chat room, if you will. Please join me on Twitter @brianatstevens and share with me your summer melt strategies.

Today however, I will share some ideas with you first. There has been a lot of discussion about which ideas and implementations will help deter melt from happening, which are controversial and reasons that some schools are not reaching out to students at all.

One of the “newest” forms of reducing summer melt is the almighty text-messaging avenue. Students seem to always have their phones attached to them but never pick up the phone when you call. Schools have resorted to reaching out to students through this medium. According to The Social and Behavioral Science Team through the US Government, 20-30% of college-accepted high school graduates fail to matriculate in college in the fall (https://sbst.gov/projects/reducing-summer-melt/). By sending students personalized text messages with key dates to remember, studies have shown that 68 percent of students, who were sent the text message, enrolled in the college in the fall. However, 64% of students who did not receive the text message also enrolled. So, does this medium really work?

At Stevens we have not yet put our proverbial toe into the texting world. I personally feel as though texting is still an invasive practice that if used incorrectly, can develop potentially dangerous effects. About a year or so ago my cell phone number was placed on my business cards. Students, and more frequently, parents, would call my cell phone at their convenience. So, I would be receiving calls to my personal cell phone at midnight or later. In a day where students, and some parents, believe that the response should happen immediately, text messages seem like phone calls but worse. Also, depending on your prospective students, your phone might never stop vibrating.

To combat the texting initiative for summer melt I have encouraged students (and some mothers) to instead direct message me on Twitter during the summer months. The reason for this is if I am away from my desk or on vacation, these students still feel connected and I can help answer questions even if I’m not “in the office”. It has seemed to be effective, and slowly more and more students are starting to follow me. I am interested in seeing how the Twitter direct message strategy works this summer and fall with today’s “social media savvy” generation.

One of my responsibilities at Stevens is to promote our social media handles. Our social media director and I have really been focusing on expanding our reach on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Frequently I tweet different key dates and try to keep the students engaged by using different hashtags and prompting conversation. Between the decision release of Early Decision II and Regular Decision, I launched #AskADuck. This was the catalyst that started a webinar including current students who were available to answer questions that were submitted in real time by students who had deposited at Stevens. Now, this isn’t summer melt, but I am working on holding another webinar in the middle of the summer where students can once again ask current students and recent graduates about what they enjoy(ed) and will miss about Stevens from incoming freshmen.

While this will be the first adventure into the forum moving forward, we for the most part have not been too involved in the melt process, minus the emails that are released over the summer reminding students to apply for housing and to get other paperwork submitted. I know moving forward that applications like SnapChat, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook have and will continue to play a large factor into the summer melt, just as much as Wait List availability will.

What do you think? I would be interested in hearing what your method is when it comes to battling summer melt? Please tweet me at @brianatstevens to continue this conversation.

How You Can Be More Interesting to Prospective StudentsTuesday, May 31st, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Challenges. We all have them.

One of the biggest challenges that many college admissions teams face in this highly competitive environment is coming up with something interesting to say.

Furthermore, there’s the challenge of writing things in a way that actually connects with this generation of prospective students. Both hurdles are extremely challenging for many college admissions recruiters who are being asked to do more with less time.

In my ongoing effort to help you become a smarter, more efficient recruiter, I want to pass along some proven ideas on how to actually be interesting to your prospects, specifically with what you write about in letters, your emails and on social media:

  • Don’t be afraid to be wrong (within reason, of course).  This is part of an overall strategy of being transparent.  Being wrong means you’re human, and that’s a quality that our research says today’s prospects, and their parents, value significantly.  Talk about a part of your application process or your campus visit that your institution is trying to improve.  The honesty will be refreshing to your recruits.  Of course, exercise reason when you do this.
  • Don’t be afraid to be right.  Build yourself as an expert, and give away your knowledge to prospective students and families. We’re all drawn to people who we believe can help us get to where we want to be. Your prospects are no different. When they accept you as an expert admissions counselor, it goes a long way towards erasing any doubts that may exist about your school in their mind.
  • Surprise your prospects.  Jim Belosic, CEO and co-founder of ShortStack, a company that helps build engaging social media contests and marketing campaigns, says that one of best ways to deliver exceptional customer service and be more interesting is to constantly be on the lookout for ways to “surprise and delight”. There are so many different opportunities throughout the recruitment process where you can make your prospect’s day. Are you trying to do that now? When you surprise and delight, your prospects and their parents will stop and pay attention. In a marketplace overflowing with colleges and universities that look and feel the same, setting yourself apart from the competition is a key factor in winning over a student.
  • Make your prospects laugh. Successful communicators have been doing this for ages, and as long as it’s appropriate for your prospect, humor can get them to pay attention to your recruiting message.  Easier said than done, of course, but I encourage you to look for ways to get your recruit to smile and laugh.
  • Make sure you are ALWAYS telling a great story.  I’ve talked about this over and over again, and we use it as a foundation for creating our Total Recruiting Solution (TRS) plans for our college admissions clients.  At their core, stories support your key recruitment points, make solid openers, and teach your prospects while entertaining them.  And, a good story can make you a legend in recruiting. I’m not talking about the occasional anecdotes on social media or in one of your letters or emails. I’m talking about the story that gets told over and over again for years to come. Forget about all the others…tell me that one.  As you tell those stories, don’t forget to explain how your prospect fits into them.

Being interesting isn’t easy, and converting that interest to your letters, emails and social media posts is even more challenging.  If a counselor can master the art, there is almost nothing that they won’t accomplish in the competition for the best students.

Strive to be interesting creatively, and watch what happens to your recruiting results!

Need help developing your story?  From our customized On-Campus Workshops to one-on-one personalized recruiting message creation as a part of our Total Recruiting Solution plan for college admissions departments, we have a lot of resources that can help counselors become more effective recruiters.  If you’d like to learn more, just send me an email directly.

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.

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