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It’s So Important I Tell You ThisTuesday, September 19th, 2017

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

Thank you. It’s important I start with that because while I know many of you will read this article from start to finish, I also know that there are some who will stop after the first paragraph or part way through. Either way, I want you to know how grateful I am.

Your emails, phone calls, tweets, the anonymous questions you ask in the Reader Q & A, and the success stories that you share with me throughout the year after using a strategy I recommend are what fuel me…pushing me to do even more for you, and some days causing me to get a little emotional (eyes watering) like in Boston this past week at the NACAC National Conference.

On Saturday morning, a reader of this newsletter who I had never met before stopped by my booth with a colleague of his to say thank you. With a big smile on his face, he thanked me for the knowledge and strategies that I share each Tuesday, and he also touched on the discussions that have resulted in his office after sharing articles of mine.

There were a lot of amazing moments in Boston for me, but that conversation was the most memorable.

As you interact with prospective students and parents in the coming days, weeks, and months, always be mindful that your college is just one of many reaching out to them through the many different available channels.

For you to successfully engage with these families, you need to understand how to influence them on a personal level. That means taking the time to really get to know who they are – their wants, needs, motivations, and their fears. If you don’t take this approach you go from being someone who they’re excited to learn more from, to just another college representative delivering a sales pitch…no matter how much they like your college on the surface.

Much like I never forget those of you who connect with me and thank me for helping you, your prospects and their parents will never forget you when you truly make this process about them. Caring, being thoughtful, and just being plain relatable never go unnoticed, even if they don’t verbalize that to you…because less and less people are like that.

Once they “know you” and it’s clear you’re consistently trying to help guide them through what is a confusing and complicated college search process, they’ll listen and they’ll engage as you tell your school’s story and explain why your college is a good fit for them.

But it has to be about them. The students have to be at the center of everything you’re doing.

The people who understand that and communicate with prospective students and parents the way they want to be communicated with will win, and in some cases, win big.

Before I sign off until next Tuesday, I have one quick request. Will you please forward this article to one person (or more) in higher education you think would benefit from reading it? It could be an admissions colleague, a peer at another institution, or a friend.

Thanks again, and as always you can reach me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com

An Intangible Thing in Student RecruitmentTuesday, April 4th, 2017

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

Over the weekend I came across a newspaper article in which college admission counselors and EM leaders shared recommendations and what they wish students knew about the college search process. I always find these pieces interesting, and this one was no different.

The biggest themes that stuck out in the article were the value of visiting campus, taking advantage of the personal attention that colleges offer, and communicating more with admissions counselors (asking the right questions) at schools they’re serious about.

I want to focus on number two and three, and here’s why. On the surface, both of those points don’t seem to be asking for too much from this generation of students. Or do they?

We all acknowledge that anxiety and stress accompany the college search process. If you need more proof, go to social media and start searching terms like “college decision”.

And yet each week I continue to get frustrated calls, texts, emails, and social media messages from college admission professionals who want to know what they need to do to get more students to “take the initiative,” “talk,” and “tell me what they’re thinking” so I can provide them with the relevant information.

I think before you can realistically expect any of those things to occur you need to understand just how real your prospect’s fear is, and you need to find a way to start alleviating it.

When your prospects are reading your brochures, letters, emails, social media posts, and text messages, as well as when they visit your campus, they’re trying to figure out if they TRUST you enough to not only listen but also engage with you.

The greater the level of trust not only with you, but also with your colleagues and current students, the higher the probability that student will enroll at your school. Remember, college is a purchasing decision where trust is essential.

How can you emphasize trust to your prospect and have them actually come away feeling more connected with you and believing that your institution could be the “right fit?”

Here are some suggestions that continue to get results for our clients:

  • Be easy to talk to. It’s such a simple concept, yet it’s something that many admission professionals just don’t pay attention to. The text and sentence structure that you use in your letters, emails, social media campaigns and text messages matters. You need to make it easy for your prospect, most of who are already scared to have a conversation with you in the first place, to actually reply to you.
  • Demonstrate empathy. If you don’t empathize with your prospects and their parents how can you expect to really understand their problems and objections? Make getting to know them the priority, not your selling your school.
  • Do your homework ahead of time. Before you make that first phone call to this next class of prospective students, or before their scheduled campus visit, gather some basic facts and information about the student and their family. I continue to be amazed at the number of counselors who tell me that they enter that initial conversation without any talking points unrelated to their school. We live in the social/digital age, so there really isn’t any excuse. You only get one chance to make a good first impression. Having those “connectors” as I call them is an easy way to build trust quickly. Show your prospect that they’re not just another name on your list.
  • Be honest, even if the truth hurts. It would be great if your school were the “right fit” for everyone. It’s not, and that’s okay. Honesty is one of the key traits that allow others to rely on you. When you’re willing to admit that your school needs to improve on (fill in the blank), or that one of your competitors has a better (fill in the blank) than you do, it’s actually a good thing.
  • Be a good listener. For a lot of people, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. The quickest way to destroy trust is to dominate the conversation. When you do most of the talking you make it impossible to discover what’s really motivating the student to consider your school. When you want to cultivate your recruiting relationship, make it your goal to let the student (or parent) do most of the talking.
  • Don’t overpromise. The last thing you want to do when trying to build trust is sound ridiculous. Never promise something that you can’t deliver because you think doing so will put you closer to (getting them to apply, getting them to commit to a campus visit, getting them to commit/deposit).
  • Exude a quiet confidence. Your prospect is looking for a reason to trust you. A counselor who isn’t confident or can’t explain to them why they’d be a great fit at their school is going to have trouble gaining that prospect’s real trust.
  • Be a resource, not a salesperson. You’re either one or the other in their minds. Both Dan (Tudor) and I tell our clients all the time that the key to achieving successful and consistent recruiting results is to be a resource rather than a salesperson. When your prospects see you as a resource you’ll find that they’ll initiate contact with you more often, and some of them will even reach out for advice on how to handle situations with other schools that they’re considering.
  • Be authentic. It’s okay to show real emotion from time to time. And by the way, it’s really hard to fake authenticity. You either are or you aren’t.
  • Use a phrase such as, “You can trust me to help make this process less stressful for you and your family.” Let me be clear that a phrase like this shouldn’t be used unless you plan to back it up 100% of the time. That means you respond to emails and text messages, and you return phone calls promptly. That means you help them find solutions to their problems on their time, not just when it’s convenient for you. And that means you do your very best to put a checkmark next to each of the nine bullet points prior to this one.

Let me leave you with this question. Right now if someone asked your undecided students or your next class of prospective students (and their parents) how much they feel they can trust you, what would their answers be?

Was this article helpful? I’m always interested in hearing what you think. And if you have a question about trust or any other aspect of student recruitment, let’s start a conversation (or at least get one scheduled on the calendar).

 

A Very Important 3-Letter WordTuesday, February 7th, 2017

Bballpracticeby Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

It happened the other day during my daughter’s basketball practice. The coaches were teaching the girls (1st and 2nd graders) how to set and use screens when one of them blurted out, “Why are we doing this?”

I expected the head coach to respond with something like, “This is what we’re working on”, or “Because I asked you to.” Instead he stopped the drill and explained to the girls why setting a screen was helpful to get them open, which then would give them a better chance to score…and that’s something they all wanted to do.

The way coach handled that situation reminded me of an important communication strategy that I need to bring to your attention today.

Think about all the times you ask your prospects, parents, co-workers, faculty, student workers and others on campus to do something for you. Quite often if you only share what you want done, it can come across like you’re giving orders. And if you explain how they need to do it, it’s like you’re micromanaging.

What if you always explained why something needed to get done?

When you provide the “why” to someone, you educate, motivate, and empower that person. And when they feel like an active participant in something that involves them, and they understand the value and benefit doing it will bring everyone (including themselves), they’re more likely to move forward.

Here are some situations during a typical recruitment cycle when you need to explain the “why”. I want you to ask yourself if you’re consistently doing that now.

  • When you want a prospect to visit your campus
  • When you want them to complete their application or get you a transcript
  • When you want them to come back for an admitted student day event
  • When you want them to stop by their high school counselor’s office to talk about outside scholarship opportunities
  • When you want them to reply to your email
  • When you want them to give you a phone call or answer your call

When people understand the “why”, they’re way more likely to accept the “what”. Take the time to answer and explain the “why”.

And if you’re in a position of leadership, explaining the “why” will help you get buy in on a task or project from team members as well as build team chemistry. When I work 1-on-1 with admissions counselors, tour guides and office staff, as a part of one of our recruiting workshops, “not explaining why” is a common frustration that gets voiced to me.

Do You Care More Than Your Competition?Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

jer2017by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

What’s your answer to that question?

I’m asking because what you do during the next month or two will in large part determine whether or not many of your undecided admits select your school.

If you’re wondering if “caring” more than your competition can actually impact a student’s final decision, look no further than our ongoing focus group research on college campuses nationwide. Students continue to consistently tell us that how the admissions staff treats them throughout the college search process influences their decision more than factors like affordability, location, and the prestige of the name of the school.

“I loved how my admissions counselor (counselor’s name) made a point to communicate with me and get to know me personally. It really feels like he cares about me and my concerns. And I feel like he made a point to not only know me, but also remember me from the first time he met me.”

I see quotes like that one all the time from students when we administer our recruiting survey as a part of our on-campus workshop with a college/university.

Your teenage prospects and their parents are trying to figure out if, and how much, you care. And it’s not that different for the growing population of transfer students. They’ve been through the process once before, and in most cases, they’re now paying extra close attention to your customer service.

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

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

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

So, how can you show your admits, or any other prospects in your pool, that you care more than the competition? Here are five basic strategies that have consistently worked for our clients:

  1. Stay consistent and keep them updated. A lot of admissions counselors make the mistake of not communicating regularly with their admits during this nerve-racking time of year.  I’ve had counselors tell me that they can’t think of anything new to talk to the student about, or they don’t have anything of substance to say to the student until the financial aid package is completed. That’s fine, but you need to consistently give them an update on what’s going on.  Even if your latest update goes something like, “nothing new to report, but I’m calling over to the financial aid office every day and I’ll keep you updated.” I can’t stress this key point enough. When your admits (and their parents) see ongoing, regular contact from you, they make the judgment that your school has a greater interest in them and values them more.
  2. Give them examples of how you’re working behind the scenes to help get them the best possible financial aid package. The more that you can use this time to demonstrate how you and everyone else at your school are doing some heavy-lifting behind the scenes for that student goes a long way towards getting them to perceive that you care more.  Remember, what we perceive is even more important than what we’re doing in many instances (actually caring and working hard behind the scenes is important too, of course!)
  3. Ask them what objections or questions they need answered.  Just because you’ve been consistently communicating back-and-forth with your admits doesn’t mean they’re close to saying “yes”. Take this time to ask them these two questions: “Can you give me one or two big questions about our school that you’re still trying to figure out?” and “What do you see as the next step in this process?”  Those two questions might just open up a new conversation and even reveal an objection or question that they’re struggling with.
  4. Connect them with your current students. “Your students made me feel like they wanted me more than all of the other colleges combined” and “The more I talked to students the more it became clear that everybody is just one big community that looks out for each other.” Those two quotes hammer home a theme that I see often when we ask students what the deciding factor was that led them to pick their current college. Your current students, specifically your freshmen, just went through the same tough choices and dealt with the same sorts of feelings that many of your undecided students are dealing with right now. You need to create opportunities to help them understand how they will “fit in” on your campus.
  5. Use this time to get to know the parents (if you haven’t already). Yep, here I go again. Parents, parents, parents. All this month I continue to hear from, and have talked to, admissions counselors who tell me that they have admitted students whose parents they have yet to connect with. You cannot and should not expect a student to commit to your school if you haven’t spoken with their parents at least once…and honestly it needs to be multiple conversations. Not sure what to ask them? Click this link and email me right now. I will help you. Spending time with the parents is critical to setting yourself apart from other counselors who don’t have a deep relationship with family members.

If you have any questions about this article or the strategies that I’ve recommended, I’m happy to have a discussion with you. The next step is to send me an email.

Follow Jeremy Tiers and TCS Admissions on Social Media:

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@CoachTiers

 

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@tcsadmissions

 

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

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