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Do You Really Know What Your Prospects Are Thinking?Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

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

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

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

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

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

Let me give you some common examples:

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

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

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

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

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

Want more engagement from prospective students? It starts here!

Do You Excel at These 7 Things?Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

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

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

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

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

How good are you at these 7 things?

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

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

What to Do Next After Your First Contacts Are DoneTuesday, August 9th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

What’s your plan now?

Many admissions departments around the country have officially started the recruitment process with the next class of prospective students. The first emails and letters have been sent, and the first phone calls have been made.

If you’ve been asking the right kinds of questions, and you’re trying to understand your prospects’ individual wants and needs and not just selling your school, maybe you’ve even had some of them engage with you and begin the application process. If you’re shaking your head no, keep in mind it doesn’t have to be that way. We can help.

Regardless, you’re now faced with the daunting two-word question that worries even a veteran, confident college admissions recruiter: “What’s next?”

The answer to that question is critical. In fact, it will undoubtedly determine what kind of results you have in the months to come.

So, you tell me. What do you think should come next? It would be great if there was a simple, one-size-fits-all answer to that question…but there’s not. The answer will vary significantly from school to school.

Having said that, today I want to outline a few successful approaches that we’ve seen work on a consistent basis the past couple of years for our clients. As you read through each of these strategies and key questions, I want you to ask yourself how you can adapt them to your school and your specific situation:

How are you going to start to establish that your school is the smart choice? Our research has uncovered a surprising trend with this generation of students in terms of how they actually make their final decision – They have to justify it logically. It’s true that they can emotionally gravitate towards a college throughout the process, however, at some point in the later stages, either they or their parents start asking, “Is this a smart decision.” What you do with your communication between now and that final decision will determine if your school ends up being seriously considered.

How are you going to start to establish that your school is the emotional choice? Every year in the early stages of the recruitment process we see prospects gravitate to an admissions counselor and college that creates an emotional tie with them. It’s important to have a strategy that will help create that feeling in the first place. One of the examples both Dan (Tudor) and I use when we present our On-Campus Workshops is Starbucks. They have mastered the art of creating and managing a feeling of comfort when you walk into any one of their thousands of stores nationwide. The color on the walls, the music that’s playing, and the inviting, comfy furniture…it’s all done specifically to create a feeling of warmth and comfort. What’s your plan to create the right feeling for your prospects now that the initial contact message is in their hands? If you and your admissions colleagues don’t have one, you’re introducing random results into the recruiting process.

You MUST engage the parents early. Our research also finds that most parents are both polite and anxious as you begin to contact their child. On the one hand, they don’t want to interfere with the process, and on the other hand, their urge is to step in and play a part as soon as possible. A big reason behind their urge to be involved is a result of their child asking them to. While the majority of your competition will ignore the parents as long as possible, and fail to do basic things like getting their prospects’ parents names and cell phone information, I want to encourage you to do the opposite. Establish early contact with the parents of this next class of recruits and work to establish that same emotional connection with them. Call them, email them, ask them questions, and engage them. If you do, what you’ll find is they’re happy to provide you with useful information, and more importantly, they will look at you as the admissions counselor that respects their opinion and input and is treating them as a valued partner in the recruiting process of their son or daughter. Do you have a plan to communicate with your prospects’ parents at the beginning? If not, you’re missing a BIG opportunity to create some separation from other colleges.

Work to establish a mutually agreed upon timeline for making their decision. Do everything you can as early as possible to find out when your prospect (and his or her parents) sees a final decision being made. You don’t have to get an exact date. A general time of the year is fine. By simply asking a few effective questions about the prospect’s timeline not only will you find out how long you probably have to recruit that prospect, but you’ll also gain valuable insight into how they’ll be making their decision. Most counselors we observe wait to have this conversation until after a prospect applies for admission. Don’t let that be you. If you’re willing to ask a few critical questions early in the process, you’ll be able to strategically design a messaging plan that earns your prospect’s interest.

Are you establishing control of the process? Are you going to control the recruiting conversation and the decision making process, or will you relinquish that role to them? What I’m suggesting is that you should establish yourself as the counselor that will be guiding them through the recruitment process rather than telling yourself that your job is to give them your school’s information, answer questions, and then stand by and wait politely for their decision. A large part of your job is to guide your prospect’s decision from start to finish. Not trick, not force, but guide. You do that through effective questioning, establishing logical “next steps” throughout the process, and continually providing them with smart reasons why your institution is the right choice. How do you plan to establish that role as the leader of the conversation and their trusted guide?

After reading these strategies and questions, some of you may discover that you need to make some major changes in how you recruit during the early stages of the process. I’m sure some of you other readers may not need to adjust your approach at all.

If you had the feeling with this last class that you were really were ineffective when it came to carrying on a logical, consistent conversation with your prospects and their parents, now is the time to act.

Our Tudor Collegiate Strategies team offers one-on-one help with formulating a research-based approach to communicating with recruits. It will save you time and eliminate a lot of frustrations. The next step is to email me at jeremy@dantudor.com

Critical Recruiting Strategy Questions For Your Admissions StaffTuesday, August 2nd, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

If you’re a regular reader of this newsletter then you know I’m always looking for ways to help you with your professional development. If you’re a new reader, welcome, and now you know too.

Over the past few months I’ve told you why you should be a resource and not a salesperson, how you can be more interesting to prospects, and I’ve given you reasons why your recruitment efforts might be falling short.

Today I want to ask you some critical recruiting strategy questions. They aren’t optional – you have to answer them.

Why? Because I want you to be successful and dominate what has become an increasingly challenging recruiting landscape.

The four questions I’m about to ask you are going to require some thought and should be answered in some detail.

Each of these questions pertains to your central approach to your recruiting message. Many college admissions staffs haven’t truly answered them before, which will give you an automatic advantage if you take a few minutes to answer them for your institution. Doing so will also allow you and your admissions team to recruit more logically and effectively.

Here are the questions that I want to see you develop answers for as you head into another busy and eventful recruitment season:

  1. Who are the prospective students you’re trying to connect with? I’m not looking for actual names. I’m looking for traits.  Things such as demographics, geographical information, and personality type.  Once you define the characteristics of the prospects you’re going after, you’ll be surprised at how well you focus on those recruits.  That’s a major problem we find with many admissions counselors – No definition of what their school is all about.  If you try to sell your school to everyone, you’ll end up selling it effectively to no one.  So let me ask you, “How do you answer that question right now”?
  2. Why are they going to choose your institution?  For many of you reading this, you aren’t coming off a year where you significantly increased your enrollment. In fact, many of you may have experienced a drop. Chances are there’s a direct competitor of yours that has better campus dining, newer dorms/buildings, offers more merit aid, and maybe a better location.  So the big question is also a simple one: How are you going to change their (your prospects and their parents) perspective?  How do you change your story?  And once you change their minds, what then?  You need to know what your end game is before you enter a serious recruitment battle for a high achieving student. So let me ask you, “How do you answer that question right now”?
  3. What tools are you lacking?  Most admissions leaders can easily define what their team is good at doing when it comes to recruiting.  Conversely, many aren’t aware of the skill set(s) their team lacks. So, if you’re being honest with yourself and the counselors on your staff, what three things do you need to get better at right away?  What are the things you do poorly, or wrong, as a leader? Honest, ongoing self-evaluation is important if you want to achieve long-term success in the college recruitment world.  Many schools are tasked to “get more done with less”. Are you using that as your excuse when you don’t reach your goals, or are you digging deeper to find an alternative solution? So let me ask you, “How do you answer that question right now”?
  4. What do you need to make successful recruiting happen more often?  Think about the time(s) when everything fell into place and you reached, or even exceeded, your enrollment goals.  What went right?  What happened that time that didn’t happen all the other times?  I recommend you develop a prototype of the ideal recruiting process, the ideal campus visit, and the ideal sales message. If you need help with one or all of these things I encourage you to reach out and connect with me. It’s what we do. You should also be asking yourself what some of the common mistakes in your ongoing recruiting efforts are (again, be honest!).  What do you need to do in order to duplicate the big successes in the past?  So let me ask you, “How do you answer that question right now”?

More than ever before, you and your institution need to define what you’re all about. Tell a great story (it’s one of the things that separates an average recruiter from a superstar recruiter).

Coming up with answers to those four questions will go a long away towards helping you build a firm foundation that you can recruit effectively and efficiently from.

We’re starting work with multiple new clients this month. Each school understands they need a different approach to student recruitment, and we understand that each school is different and unique. Find out how our research-based approach can work for you and your team. All you have to do is email me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com

Developing Your Recruiting RelationshipTuesday, July 26th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

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 prospects. It’s an on-going battle that’s for sure. If the teenager or twenty something 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 others’ 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 admissions 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 prospects something very specific or very memorable about your institution? 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.
  2. Understand that different recruits have different problems. If you’re an avid reader of this newsletter, you know that 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.
  3. 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 prospective student is looking for.
  4. Commit to utilizing social media. Let me be clear. I’m not talking about your admissions Facebook page (although that’s not a bad idea either). I want you to invest more in your personal SM accounts. If you don’t you’re missing out on a prime opportunity to reveal the “real you,” as well as offer a behind the scenes look at what makes life at your school 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 in the end increase your school’s chances of enrolling them.

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 me at 612-386-0854…or just send me an email.

 

And the Award Goes to…Monday, July 18th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

For many people, like my wife, award shows are can’t miss television.

Last week I watched the ESPYs (short for Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Awards). Once a year ESPN assembles some of the greatest athletes in the world all under one roof and then celebrates and relives the best moments of the past calendar year.

Award shows highlight the amazing work of people in any given industry or profession.  In addition to that, they bring about healthy competition and allow for both personal and team growth.

In honor of the ESPYs, last July I came up with the inaugural TCS Awards for college admissions. There is one small difference. I’m not actually handing out trophies to specific people today. Instead, I’m going to give you some very important reminders and strategies that will help you as you begin to recruit this next class of students.

Here we go.  And the award goes to:

Courage Award – This award goes to the Admissions Director who scrutinizes their recruiting communication plan every single year. I’m not referring to your marketing materials…they aren’t one in the same. You can’t expect to increase enrollment if you don’t have a consistent comm. flow plan that contains messages that engage both prospects and parents all year long. Even if you only fine-tune a few emails and letters, it’s vital that you figure out what messages are resonating and which ones are falling short. For many directors, that may very well mean you have to forget the letter writing rules of the past.

Best Breakthrough Counselor – This award goes to the counselor who made a significant breakthrough in their recruiting techniques. Instead of using the “blanket approach”, they understand that different recruits have different problems as well as different wants and needs. If you ask the right questions at the right points in the process, you will obtain useful information that will aid you in their individual recruitment.

Best Championship Performance – This award goes to the counselor, new or veteran, who has delivered the best performance turning admits into deposits. They create an emotional tie with their prospects early in the process because prospects trust those feelings as they make their final 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.

Best Director/VP of Enrollment – This award goes to the Director or Vice President of Enrollment who creates and maintains a motivated and confident admissions team. They understand that, just like today’s recruit, each of their staff members is different and has different motivations. As a leader, they are consistent with their message, ask for input and new ideas, and understand the importance of both ownership and recognition. This year’s winner also values collaborating with other offices on campus, specifically financial aid. They set up cross training between their counselors and those in financial aid so that skill sets are expanded and time is used more efficiently.

Best Upset Award – This award goes to the counselor who isn’t afraid to go up against the big name competition because they know they have a winning strategy. That strategy uses multiple communication channels to deliver a consistent series of short, logical, fact-based messages as to why your school is the “right fit.” It also contains an explanation of why being the smaller name is the smarter choice. The academic reputation at your school, the smaller class sizes and individual attention…whatever makes the most sense for you to stress to your recruit. It needs to be something.

Best Comeback Award – This award goes to the counselor who doesn’t avoid talking about objections and instead confronts negatives that they consistently hear about their school early on. They anticipate the common ones (like financial aid), get clarification, acknowledge and add information, and become a problem solver for their prospect.

Best Moment Award – This award goes to the counselor whose hard work is rewarded in a major way when they get a big YES after they “ask for the sale”. Most admissions counselors rarely “ask for the sale”, instead assuming that their prospect will just tell them whenever they make their final college decision. I want you to remember that if you’ve built trust, understood your prospect’s individual needs, and answered any objections, the next logical step is to ask for this.

Thanks for being a part of the 2nd Annual TCS Admissions Awards, and enjoy the rest of your day. We’ll see you next year with more awards for admissions professionals.

We continue to help admissions departments GROW and WIN by taking a systematic, research-based approach to developing the right recruiting messaging. If you’d like to talk about how we can do that for you and your admissions team this year, email me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com

4 Important Things About Communicating With This Next ClassTuesday, July 12th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

The other day during a phone conversation with an admissions counselor he referred to talking with prospective students as “complicated”. I’m sure many of you would echo that sentiment.

As you prepare to have conversations with a brand new class of prospects, I want to give you some advice on how to not only communicate but also connect with them. You’ll have to pick and choose which of these ideas apply best to you, the way you talk, and your approach with your prospects, but I think you’ll find this a good starting point on the road to connecting with this generation of students (and quite possibly their parents).

Most admissions offices around the country have officially started the formal recruitment process with a new class of prospective students. The first letters, emails, phone calls and social media messages have been sent. And, if you’re fortunate, maybe you’ve had some of your prospects reply to your initial outreach efforts. I say “maybe” because our research continues to show that fewer students these days are actually reading what you’re sending.

Regardless, you’re now faced with the daunting question of, “What’s next?”

The answer to that question is crucial. In fact, it will undoubtedly determine what kind of applicant pool you end up with in the months to come.

Having said that, I want to outline a few key, successful approaches that we’ve seen work on a consistent basis for our clients around the country. It doesn’t matter if you’re at a public or private institution, or you have a small, medium, or large student enrollment. As you review these strategies, I encourage you to adapt them to your individual situation.

  • Be comfortable with asking your prospects which social media platforms they use and if it’s okay to communicate with them through those networks.  Our expanding research on this topic indicates there’s one very important “rule” for this generation: Different students have different rules. A large number of students we’re hearing from indicate that they have absolutely no problems with an admissions counselor following them or direct-messaging them on social media.  There is however a good size group of students that has no desire to interact with admissions on social media. In their minds it’s their space to communicate with their friends.  My advice to you is to ask each prospect what they’re okay with. Let them know the reason you’re asking is because you want to be the counselor who communicates with them the way they want to be communicated with. What you’ll find is they will appreciate you asking, rather than just assuming it’s okay.
  • Engage with your prospects’ parents…and start early. As I explain in our On-Campus Workshops that I lead for admissions departments, this generation of prospects not only wants their parents to be involved in the recruitment process, but they expect it. Knowing this fact, my recommendation to you, is you should be okay with talking to your prospects’ parents in place of your prospect…not every time, but most of the time. They’ll usually speak truthfully for their son or daughter and actually provide you with intelligent, useable information.  That in and of itself isn’t breaking news. However, a big mistake that we continue to see admissions departments make is delaying contact until later in the process (i.e. after their child applies or visits campus). I want you to work to establish that same emotional connection with the parents of your prospects from the beginning.  Call them, email them, ask them questions, and engage them. If you do, what you’ll find is that they’re ready with really useful information, and more importantly, they will come to view you as the counselor and school that respects their opinion and input and is treating them as a valued partner in the recruitment process of their son or daughter.
  • It’s all about the back and forth conversation. All of your communication should focus on building and strengthening the relationship between you and your prospect.  That doesn’t happen if what you’re sending them doesn’t prompt them to feel more connected with you. If letters and emails have started to go out and you’re not getting responses and learning key pieces of information about your prospects, you’re falling behind. Back and forth communication is vital! It starts by crafting messages with information that your prospects care about and that promotes engagement.  In addition, you need to ask the right questions at the right times, and then listen and gather information that you can use in future communications. Without back and forth conversation, it’s going to be very hard for you to determine if a prospective student is actually reading what you’re sending, finds it appealing, and if it aligns with what they’re looking for in a college.
  • Become a problem solver for your prospects. It’s something they tell us they want from admissions time and time again when we do focus group research on campuses across the country. In fact, here’s one response from a survey last month that drives home this point (The question asked was what do admissions counselors need to do differently or better as they communicate with this next incoming class):I had one really good counselor and one not so good. The really good counselor was very quick to respond to my emails and questions and always found an answer if they didn’t know it themselves. My not-so-good counselor just threw pamphlets at me and did not help me find answers to my questions.” Which one of those counselors are you?

Not getting responses to your early letters and emails? Don’t have separate messaging for parents? We can solve both of those problems for you. If you’d like to know how, simply click this link and email me.

Which One of These Are You?Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

I hope everyone had a great 4th of July weekend! Now, let’s discuss another strategy that can help you become a more dominant recruiter.

Here’s a fact: Prospective students (and their parents) see you as either a salesperson (bad) or as a resource (good).

The key to successful selling, otherwise known as student recruitment, is to be a resource rather than a salesperson.

I’m constantly asked, “What do my prospects really want from me?” The answer is actually rather simple. They want to feel that you’re genuinely trying to help them achieve their goals.

Here’s what I mean. A lot of admissions counselors believe they have to “sell” their school early in the process and try to move prospects as fast as possible towards applying, visiting, and ultimately making a decision. Each of those is important, but what if I told you I think there’s a more effective approach that you could take. It’s one that will still allow you to achieve those goals and at the same time do it in a way that consistently makes your prospects feel like you’re actually making them a valued partner in a process that’s supposed to be about their wants and needs in the first place.

If you approach your prospects with information and bullet points about your school, they’re going to view you as a salesperson.  However, if you ask your prospects effective questions about them, and provide them with ideas and answers that help them meet their goals, they’re going to see you as a resource. And, in the process of taking that approach what you’ll find is you still have the opportunity to discuss key things that make your college or university unique and a good fit for that student (aka selling).

There are huge benefits that come from being a resource for your prospects. For starters, it’s much easier to connect with them.  If you connect with them, they’ll see you as someone they can trust.  When you develop a reputation as someone who is trustworthy, you’ll become the “go-to” counselor for help and advice.   Add it all up, and you significantly increase the chances of your prospects applying, visiting, and choosing your institution.

When you’re a salesperson it’s all about you, what you want them to do, and why you think they’d be crazy not to pick your school.

Does that mean if you’re a salesperson you won’t be able to connect with and gain your prospect’s trust? No, but I promise you it won’t be easy, and it’s going to take a lot more time and effort than you probably have available.

Like we outline with new clients, early in the recruitment process it’s vital that you connect with your prospects. If you don’t connect with them, it makes it much harder to convert admits into deposits.

Sales expert Jeffrey Gitomer has a great rule to remember when you’re in a selling (recruiting) situation: The percent of time your prospect does the talking dictates your chances of securing their commitment.  If they talk 20% of the time, you’ll probably have a 20% chance of enrolling them.  If they talk 80% of the time, you’ll probably have an 80% chance of enrolling them.

Gitomer’s point? If you want to sell your prospect that your school is the “right fit” for them, you need to give them the answers they need.  You need to be the resource they’re searching for, and you need to do it by making everything you do and say about your prospect and not about you.

The minute you cease to be attentive to their wants and needs, you run the risk of losing them to a competing school that will be.

Here are a few additional things you can do to become a resource for your prospects:

  • Respond quickly & deliver information in an easy to understand, engaging format
  • Stay current on trends and pop culture
  • Continually polish your sales and problem solving skills
  • Consistently network and exchange ideas with other admissions professionals
  • Admit when you don’t know something (then let them know you’ll find out)

Here’s my recommendation to you: Check your brochures, your recruiting letters, and your talking points during phone calls and campus visits.  How much of each is centered on your prospect, and how much of it is stuff you’re pushing about you and your school?

If you like the advice you’re getting in our newsletter you’ll love the one-on-one access you have to our staff and the extra training you and your colleagues will get as one of our clients. Click here for all the information.

How to Make Sure Your Recruiting Messages Get ReadTuesday, June 28th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Two of the ongoing challenges for many admissions and enrollment teams across the country are:

  • Getting a prospective student to open the communications that come after your first letter or email
  • Getting the student to actually read those subsequent letters and emails

I didn’t even mention whether or not the words and tone of your emails and letters actually make an impact in the mind of the student reading it.

I think we can all agree that we live in a “buyer’s market” for students when it comes to selecting a college. Today’s student has options and approaches the process from a different angle.

That means your recruiting communication plan shouldn’t have the same look and feel as it did even five years ago. It’s an important piece of a winning recruiting strategy and needs to constantly be scrutinized with a fine-tooth comb.

Today I want to focus on your recruiting letters and emails and how to get your prospects to pay more attention to them.  The more effective you are in your writing, the better you’ll be able to tell your school’s unique story to your recruits.

Here’s something else that you need to know! Our research shows that a prospective student will most often draw their initial picture of your school through the letters and email messages that they receive.

See if you can apply these four proven tips to your recruiting messages to get a more meaningful response from your prospects:

  1. Make it look more like a website. According to studies, most of us today ‘scan’ websites for information.  Do your letters and emails have the same look and feel of a website?  If not, you’re not taking advantage of our society’s preferred method of looking for (and finding) information.  The days of trying to cram all the facts you can about your school in small font are over.  Short, logical, fact-based messages is the strategy I want you to employ. Your recruiting letters need to look, sound and “feel” different than they probably do now.
  2. Questions, questions, questions. Our research also finds that today’s generation of students wants and needs you to ask them questions.  Some prospects don’t know what to ask you, while others are just too scared to do so.  Even if they don’t answer every question you ask in a letter or an email, they will actively engage with you in their mind.  Eventually, they stand a better chance of replying to you and taking the next step in the recruiting process.  Generating that back and forth communication doesn’t happen by accident. Make sure you ask them the right questions at the right time in the right way.
  3. Be bold and use bold. Bold type is another way to set your ideas in motion with your prospects.  We see a lot of letters that admissions or marketing write with bold type in a traditional place…usually at the beginning of a sentence or main idea.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  However, if you really want to interrupt your prospect’s train of thought, try bold face type at the end of a main idea.  That way, they’ll have to re-read what you were talking about before the boldface type, which further engages your reader.
  4. Forget the rules. The writing rules that is. We’ve all learned way too many letter-writing rules. And, honestly, they’re getting in the way of your messages being read by a large group of your prospects.  As I’ve explained before, your letters and emails shouldn’t look and sound like the NFL rulebook.  Instead, think, “If I were in a room with my one of my prospects and I needed to get his/her attention, engage him/her, and present reasons why they should want to be a part of our student body, what would I say to him/her?” Then, let the conversation flow naturally.  What I think you’ll find is what our clients already know – less formal and more conversational not only works but also does not make you sound any less professional.

Those are four very easy, very effective ways to re-capture the attention of your recruits when they get one of your envelopes or open one of your emails.

If you want to take your recruiting to the next level and truly deliver outstanding customer service, re-read some of the letters and emails that went out this past year with your name on it. Ask yourself if they look and sound like something that one of your prospects might want to read and (more importantly) respond to.

Would you like even more help? I’m happy to look over one of your messages and offer honest feedback free of charge. All you have to do is ask…which you can do by clicking this link and emailing me.

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

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