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The First Contact Piece You’re SendingTuesday, June 19th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

Between starting work with new clients and being asked to audit individual letters and emails, the first contact piece is something I’ve been spending a lot of time on these past few weeks.

It’s an extremely important communication (maybe the most important one), so I thought it might be helpful to share a bunch of ideas and strategies with you today. These are things that continue to produce positive results for our clients at the beginning (i.e. they get a student’s attention, generate a response, and start the process of building a recruiting relationship).

To be clear, I’m referring to the first communication piece that your school sends a new inquiry or prospect whenever they enter your funnel. That could happen tomorrow, or it might not be until December or January.

The first thing that you and your admissions and marketing colleagues need to do is come up with an answer to the following question – “What’s the goal of our first contact piece?” I would argue, and I’ve done so many times in this newsletter, that it’s to get their attention and create engagement.

Email open rates are helpful, but an actual response rate is an even better metric to use. Engagement gives you that. It’s proof that your message was received, read (or least skimmed through), provided some amount of value or intrigue, and proof that your call to action worked.

The biggest problem I see with most first contact pieces is they look and sound just like 98% of other schools do. It’s just a different template and a different set of facts and figures topped off with a call to action that asks the student to visit campus or encourages them to call or email a general admissions phone number/email address if they have any questions. I don’t believe that’s a winning strategy in 2018.

Now let’s talk about what will work, starting with whom the communication comes from, and what kind of communication you send. The strategy we continue to use with our clients is a result of ongoing focus group surveys we conduct with the students themselves. We ask incoming or current college freshmen that just went through the college search process the following two questions:

Question 1: “When you started your college search, which person from a college would you have preferred to hear from first?”

Answer:

Admissions Counselor – 82.6%

Director of Admissions –17.4%

Context for you – Students have told us that a message from anyone in a position of leadership (especially if they’ve never met that person) is intimidating and, in their minds, a mass piece. It’s more plausible in their minds that an admissions counselor would actually take (and have) the time to reach out to them.

Question 2: “What’s the first kind of communication you think a college should use with a student at the beginning of the process?”

Answer:

Letter – 43.3%

Email – 32.6%

Phone Call – 21.3%

Text Message – 2.8%

Context for you – Students have told us that a letter is a tangible, safe interaction (especially when they don’t know the person). They also believe that a letter takes more effort than an email, and as such, they view it as a more personalized form of communication.

Let’s move on to the body of your first contact piece, which again I’m recommending should be a letter that comes from each individual admissions counselor. Here are some tips:

  • Shorter, less formal, and more conversational. The longer it is, the harder it is for the student to take it all in. And in most cases they’re not ready for tons of information yet, nor do they care about it… which causes them to stop reading before the end and increases the chances they’ll miss your call to action.
  • Forget about all the facts, figures, and history. It comes across as “selling” and studies suggest that we’re more apt to reply to something that doesn’t sound like an advertising message.
  • Instead, introduce the admissions counselor and make it clear that he/she understands the college search process is confusing, scary, etc. and that the goal is to make it easier for the student and his/her family. Establish the counselor as the go-to person.
  • Use words and a tone that creates excitement and makes it clear that the admissions counselor is looking forward to getting to know the student and hear more about what he/she is looking for in a college. You could even go so far as to tell the student he/she is a priority.

Finally, let’s discuss your call to action. I want you to avoid asking the student to visit your campus. This is something that’s really hard for a lot of schools to buy into. Let me explain the reasoning behind my statement.

If you tell a student, “I want you to come to campus,” or you ask them “When can you come to campus for a visit” in the first contact piece or during the first high school visit/college fair visit, it jumps several spaces ahead on their recruiting game board so to speak. You’re trying to skip a bunch of steps in their mind, and it just doesn’t seem right. Only bring it up once you have either a) spent two or three conversations asking them questions and getting to know them, or b) they bring it up…that would apply to their parents, as well. Push the visit too early, and, according to our research, you’ll seem disingenuous.

Instead, ask a specific question as your call to action. You could ask about their fear or their must-haves as they look at different schools. Whatever it is, it needs to be defined and not overly broad and general. Otherwise a lot of students don’t know what kind of response you’re looking for, and fear of sounding dumb will prevent many from responding at all.

Encourage them to respond back quickly with their answer. Tell them you’re excited to hear what they have to say because providing that feedback will give you a better idea of what information about your school will be useful to share with them next. In short, I want you to give them a “because”.

Follow the advice that I’ve given you today and I’m confident you’ll see increased engagement immediately with this next class of students.

And if at any point you want me to review your first contact piece and offer feedback, all you have to do is ask. It won’t cost you anything but your time. Simply email me.

What Are You Doing About This?Tuesday, June 5th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

You probably know this but it bears repeating – the average attention span is now eight seconds long. To give you context, according to some studies, that’s less than the nine-second attention span of your average goldfish.

The 2018 world we live in is full of choices, and everybody is getting marketed to from so many different directions that our brains are getting tired. Throw in social media and the growing number of apps, and well it’s no surprise that young people in particular are drowning out the noise more than ever.

I’m talking with you about this today because it ties in with the way that prospective students take in the recruiting messages that you and your school send to them.

Having creative content (i.e. messaging that looks and sounds different) that’s easy to take in and offers value to the reader has never been more important.

This generation of students has been conditioned to receive information in a certain way and in certain amounts. How you give them information is almost as important as the information you give them.

So, how do you ensure that your recruiting messages aren’t wearing out your prospect? Here are four things I want you want to think about:

  • How much information do you give them at the beginning? The majority of prospective students aren’t ready to take in the massive amount of information that most colleges unload on them in the early stages. One of the surest ways to alienate a prospective student is to immediately give them a long list of statistics, facts, figures and random talking points about your school, your academic programs, etc. In fact, we’ve found that colleges who take this approach at the beginning almost instantly see their prospects tune them out for future conversations. The goal early in the process should be to get their attention, generate a response, and get a back-and-forth conversation going. If that didn’t happen this past cycle, go back and review the first and second communication pieces that you sent out. Were you trying to get their attention and a response or just giving them a ton of information that they may or may not care about, let alone be ready to take in?
  • This generation of students is busy. How are you making the college search process easier for them? Along with a general fatigue, there’s another important element to how your emails and letters may be making prospective students feel. If they’re busy, which you and I both know they are, it diminishes their desire to want more information. Making the process (and the conversations that come with it) easier for them to take in is a simple way to make you and your school stand out and to improve your customer service. Your messages should be shorter in length, more conversational, and be limited to one topic. Remember, students are looking for help with what is a confusing and scary process. Give it to them, and you’ll gain their trust and their loyalty.
  • A college search without a timeline will quickly become exhausting. “There are too many forms to fill out and some of them take forever.” That’s a direct quote from one student this past cycle when we asked them about the most frustrating part of the college search process. When prospective students don’t know how much is left to do or when it needs to be done by (and why it’s so important in some cases), it becomes mentally exhausting. Working together with your students and their parents to build out a defined timeline with markers early in the process is the easiest way to avoid that exhaustion.
  • How much information do you give them later on?  After students have been admitted and you’ve delivered your financial aid awards, your prospects need logical points to reference. Giving them specific things later in the process will help them differentiate your school from your competitors, and it will also help them justify a decision to pick your school. Too many schools slow down their communications after the admitted stage. That’s when your admits and their parents need your information, specifically the value part, the most…even if you’ve already told them before. From start to finish, there needs to be a consistent flow of information that explains why your school is the “right fit” for that particular student.

Do you have a question about this article? Reply back and ask away. Or if you happen to be reading it secondhand, you can email me: jeremy@dantudor.com

And if the emails and letters that your school is sending are in need of an overhaul, then let’s start a conversation about how we can help you get and keep the attention of more students this next recruiting cycle. I’m happy to share the communication strategy we help our clients execute, and why it continues to work!

They’re Everywhere! More Recruiting Tips From My TravelsTuesday, May 29th, 2018

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

What a way to end my spring travel. Last week started with 48 hours in Atlantic City during which I gave the keynote speech at NJACAC and presented a breakout session. Then it was home for 12 hours to sleep in my own bed and have breakfast with my wife and daughter. And then it was back to the airport to fly to the opposite coast and Spokane, WA for 36 hours to speak at PNACAC. I had so much fun connecting with many of you in person!

When I travel, my eyes and ears are always paying attention. Why? Because there are people all around you that can teach you really valuable recruiting techniques. So, when I see or hear something of note, I add it to a Word document and then eventually I pass it along to you in an article like this one.

Here are nine things to think about if you want to become a more effective recruiter and communicator:

  • Earning trust. We have a lot of options when we fly. Last week during my layover at Minneapolis-St. Paul airport I met Captain Mark and First Officer Jason who work for Delta. Prior to boarding our flight, both of them were walking around the gate area striking up conversations with many of the passengers…including me. Not having seen others do this before, I asked Captain Mark about it. He told me that in his mind it was extremely important to earn the trust of customers before they flew with him. Plus it was another way to personalize the traveler experience. Without either, he said, how was he or the airline he flew for any different than the rest? My question to you is, how are you earning the trust of your prospective students and their parents?
  • Perfecting your approach. Have you noticed that more bartenders are asking you for your name? Some like Robert in Wichita, KS and Nate in Peoria, IL, will even go so far as to describe how the food is prepared and why the food at their restaurants is better than the rest. It’s all about how they first establish contact with a new customer. That sets the tone for the customer relationship even if it’s only for a few minutes. When done correctly, it increases the likelihood of repeat business. How much time do you put into figuring out what your approach sounds like to prospective students?
  • Using compliments. It’s a simple thing with a massive ROI. Compliments help you make a connection and cultivate a relationship. They also show that you care, which is something that prospective students tell us they’re actively looking for.
  • Pay attention to body language. Are you aware that your body language reveals things to total strangers including prospective students and their parents? It’s true. Why does that matter? It might surprise you to know that research indicates over 65 percent of our communication is done nonverbally. In fact, studies show that nonverbal communication has a much greater impact and reliability than the spoken word. Therefore, if a prospective student’s words don’t match with their body language, you’d be wise to rely on body language as a more accurate reflection of their true feelings.
  • Prove that you can solve their problems. It’s crucial that you possess the ability to both discover problems and develop solutions. Remember, you’re dealing with young people who want to have their problems (specifically – how to pick the right college and how to pay for it) solved. It starts by asking effective questions. If you can’t do that, you’ll miss out on opportunities to solve problems and separate yourself and your school from your competitors.
  • Know what your competition has to offer. How much do you really know about the three or four schools that you constantly compete with for students? Without that knowledge it’s hard to outline the differences between your student experience and theirs. Let me clarify. I don’t want you to focus on negative recruiting. Instead, I want you to be able to passionately explain why your school is a better fit. Are you able to consistently do that in a professional way?
  • It’s how you say what you say. In other words, the “feel” of the language you use with prospective students is even more important than the facts you’re relaying to them. As I’ve said before, our research clearly shows that this generation of students is focused more on how you make them feel. That’s one of the big reasons we focus on the overall tone of the messages and recruiting strategy that we help develop for our clients.
  • Are your letters and emails speaking the right language? Stop worrying so much about everything being “on brand.” Your communications, specifically the letters and emails you send, need to be shorter, and they need to be all about them. Use language that we all speak every single day. And most of all be consistent.
  • Do they understand why, how, and when to take action? And if the answer is yes to all three but they’re still not moving forward, what’s holding them back? Your prospect is always moving in one direction (towards you) or the other (away from you). They never stay neutral.

Looking for more ideas that can help you in your day-to-day? Reply back to this email and let me know what you need help with.

P.S. I want to give one more big shout-out to NJACAC President-Elect Carlos Cano and everyone else from Jersey for their hospitality last week. What an amazing group!

The Goal When You Send That Email or LetterTuesday, January 30th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

I ask that question regularly when I’m speaking to college admission professionals at workshops and conferences. Today, I’m asking it to you.

When your school sends a recruitment email or letter to a student or to a parent (regardless of what stage they’re at), what do you want the result to be?

The most popular answers I get are:

  • “We want to give them information about something”
  • “We want them take action” (i.e. visit, apply, make a decision)

Both those answers make sense, but I want to offer you an even more effective strategy that you should employ. It’s a simple yet highly effective approach that our team has helped numerous colleges successfully execute throughout a recruiting cycle.

Too many colleges simply send emails and letters and then cross their fingers that they are read and acted upon. Instead of just informing, I want you to inform with content and storytelling that consistently creates engagement between your staff and a student or parent.

Put another way, I want you to aim to get a response to many of the emails and letters that you send, while also having them set up, or at the very least tie in with, the next message that will be sent.

Here’s why both of those are vital to any effective recruiting campaign:

  • Generate a response. Don’t you want to know what the student or parent thinks about the information you’re sending them? You should because there’s massive value in discovering what’s important to them and what’s not and then using that information to help you and your school more effectively recruit that student and understand their mindset. The problem is most colleges struggle to get and keep the attention of prospective students because their emails and letters overwhelm them with a long list of statistics, facts, figures, and random talking points. That’s not what generates a response or any other sort of significant action. And it’s unrealistic to expect someone to engage without having some consistent interaction first, during which a comfort level and rapport are created. Once you have their attention, your emails and letters need to have a more conversational voice, be shorter in length, and have different calls to action that encourage specific feedback. Finally, generating a response will also allow admissions counselors to have another measure of demonstrated interest for a student and allow them to build on that feedback and cultivate that all-important recruiting relationship.
  • Set up the next message. Arguably the biggest thing our team continues to find when admissions departments ask us to review their communications plan is an overall lack of continuity. A lot of comm. flow plans contain a bunch of singular pieces instead of a continual flow, and those pieces usually come from different people instead of one consistent voice. This approach can quickly become confusing for the student or parent and create possible gaps in your messaging. When you deliver a consistent stream of impactful messages, and you let them know what’s coming next, you build trust with your audience via that consistency. I want your students and parents to be expecting the next message and the next step, not wondering if or when it will come.

If your recruiting emails and letters don’t do these two things then you’re making student recruitment harder than it needs to be…and it doesn’t have to be that way.

Do you have a question about this article? As always, I’m only an email, text, or phone call away. Scroll to the bottom of today’s newsletter for all my contact information.

And if you’d like me to offer an outside perspective on your current communications plan or even just review a few of the emails and letters that your school sends, email me at jeremy@dantudor.com You don’t have to be a client of ours, and the only thing it will cost you is time.

Enjoy the rest of your week!

Is This How They Would Describe Your Communications?Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

“Confusing” and “overwhelming”.

Those were the two words a high school junior used to describe the college recruiting process, namely the NCAA rulebook, to me this past week. The young man is a football player whose dad is the brother-in-law of one of my neighbors.

As a family, they’re struggling to figure out not only the complex language in the NCAA rulebook, which depending on the division level is between 272 and 428 pages long, but also how to differentiate between all the college mail (emails and letters) he’s receiving.

Knowing what I do, my neighbor recommended they reach out to me and ask for advice.

So, what can the conversation that ensued between this family and me teach college admissions professionals? A lot, actually.

Not enough college marketing and admission professionals appreciate the need for using the right language in their recruiting communications to this generation of students. I’ve reviewed lengthy letters that use the same tight margins, font, wording and letterhead from 20 years ago. I’ve also reviewed emails from counselors and directors that bounce from subject to subject without any kind of connection. The end result is confusing and overwhelming.

When was the last time you and your colleagues did some serious reflection on how your individual letters, emails, social media posts, and even the questions you ask prospects and parents on the phone are constructed? I think that should be ongoing.

Today I’m going to provide you with some tips to help make sure that your recruiting communications are clear, effective, and successful.

  1. Put yourself in their shoes. Read what you’re about to send and ask yourself if you would find this helpful and easy to read. Furthermore, don’t be afraid to show it to one of your current freshmen and ask them for their thoughts. Understanding your audience helps you to determine how you should arrange your information and what kind of details will be important for a specific segment of your population. It also influences the tone of the text, which is something I’ll get into more about in a just a minute.
  2. Less is always better. The worst thing you can do, especially with new inquiries, is try and explain everything about your college or university in those early letters, emails, and even during that first phone call…if you want a response that is.  The tendency for many in Higher Ed when they write and speak is to use not only more words but as many big words as possible. Our research with your students clearly shows that this generation is most apt to respond out of curiosity instead of information.  When you’re trying to explain something, less really is more. Again, use short, logical, fact-based repetitive messages where you leave room for their curiosity to take over.
  3. Word choice matters. If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to revise your letters and emails to ensure your prospects read them, focus more on your word choices. While many of you might immediately add more descriptive adjectives ex. “We’ve got a really beautiful new science building!” I’m going to recommend a different approach: Verbs. Verbs are action, while adjectives are descriptive. Verbs also give your prospects a positive feeling and do a much better job of answering the “why.” And, I would argue that occasionally it’s okay to start a sentence with the word “and” or “but,” especially if your goal is to increase personalization in your communications.
  4. Tone matters. When you have a face-to-face conversation with someone, you use the other person’s body language, specifically their tone and facial expressions, to assess how they feel. Letters, emails, and even text messages don’t allow for such a determination. That means you can’t tell when the other person misunderstands something. In addition to your word choices being important, both punctuation and capitalization matter. As an example, exclamation points should be used to express excitement. But, they can also easily be misinterpreted depending on their placement. Ask yourself, “Is there a chance that your message could be misunderstood without visual cues?”
  5. One topic per paragraph. Limiting paragraphs to one idea or topic is essential for clarity. When you don’t, it’s not only confusing, but it also can be downright overwhelming to your prospects (and their parents).
  6. And when it comes to your financial aid award letter. Is it straightforward? Are you clearly explaining the differences between scholarships, grants, loans (subsidized vs. unsubsidized) and other fees? If loans are included, consider providing information about loan interest rates, monthly payments and other terms and conditions. Financial aid can be a scary and confusing topic. Is your award letter making things more or less stressful for a family?
  7. Clear next steps. Above all else, narrow it down to just one thing. Make it simple like “reply back with your answer to that question,” versus a laundry list of things to do…rarely will they all get accomplished. Remember, in the early and middle stages of the recruitment process, your goal should be to get and keep a back-and-forth conversation going.

Do you have any questions about this article? I’m just an email away at jeremy@dantudor.com

And, I’m happy to review some of your current letters and emails and offer an outside perspective if you’d like.  All you have to do is ask.

How to Figure Out If All Those New Names Are Really InterestedTuesday, September 12th, 2017

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

During my travels the past few weeks, two clients posed the same question that’s probably on the mind of a lot of admissions counselors and directors as they comb through a new list of names for this next recruiting cycle:

“How do I find out if this student is seriously interested in our school?”

It’s a legitimate question, and one that needs to be answered if an admissions counselor is going to effectively manage their territory in the early stages.

The good news is I’m confident you can quickly gauge the interest of a prospective student if you use one or both of the strategies I’m going to give to you today.

Using these strategies will help you:

a) Gain valuable information that allows you to develop a stronger recruiting relationship with a student and keep the process moving forward.

Or

b) Eliminate or move a student down your list much faster.

Here they are:

  1. Use a call to action that asks for their opinion on something. Either in your first letter or email, or sometime during your first conversation with a student, ask them a question about the college search process in general (not something specific to your school). For example, you could ask them about fear, must-haves, or what the “best college” looks like in their mind. Let me add that the reason this strategy consistently works for our clients is because the question is asked in a conversational tone by an admissions counselor after the counselor establishes that they’re here to help make the college search process easier.
  2. Ask them for, or help them develop, (if they don’t have one) a timeline for the whole process. And within that, give them a soft deadline to come visit campus (if they haven’t done so already).  There’s no “perfect time” to ask for a campus visit nor is there a certain timeline that works for every single student. Recruiting is 100% situational…always remember that. The point is, when you mutually agree on a timeline it indicates serious interest, and we’ve found it will prompt them to take action sooner. That action could be a campus visit or something else like completing your school’s application. This strategy has also helped our clients determine that their school is the student’s “back-up” school…which is actually a good thing because you may have just saved yourself months of hard work recruiting a student that had little to no intention of ever seriously considering your college.

I encourage you to test out one or both of these strategies right now with some of the new names you recently obtained. And then let me know how it goes!

If you’re going to NACAC, I’ll be arriving in Boston tomorrow (Wednesday) afternoon.

Stop by Booth 311 and say hello, OR text or call me at 612-386-0854 and we’ll set up a time to connect, OR come join me at the #EMchat meet-up on Wednesday night at 8pm at City Tap.

The Power of ‘3’ When You Recruit StudentsTuesday, June 27th, 2017

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

During my travels this month, I’ve heard from a number of admissions counselors who are trying to figure out how to best connect with today’s teenage prospect. Everyone wants a competitive edge as they begin to build relationships with this next class of students.

If you want to convince more prospects that your school is that “right fit,” then your recruiting communications better be impactful and generate a high level of engagement from prospects and parents.

Unfortunately, a large majority of those same prospects continue to tell us that most of the emails, letters, postcards and other marketing pieces they receive from colleges still look and sound the same. It’s the primary reason why a lot of admissions departments are becoming clients of ours. They want to make sure their recruiting emails and letters are truly personalized and don’t just inform, but inform and engage.

Today I’m going to offer you a piece of advice. This simple technique will increase the chances of making your points stick with your prospects.

It’s all about the power of ‘3’. It works in writing, and as our clients have discovered, it also work in phone conversations.  It’s a principle that suggests that things that come in threes are funnier, more satisfying, and more effective than other numbers of things. There’s also evidence that our brains are more likely to remember information when it comes in threes.

Think about it for a minute. Most people have three names. And we say things like, “It’s as easy as one, two, three.”

Communicating with your prospects is no different. They want ideas about your school grouped in threes because they’re wired just like you and I are. So, if you’re interested in getting a better response than you’re used to from prospective students (and parents), consider employing this concept.

Here’s how it works. Let’s say you’re trying to talk or write to your prospects about your school’s highly rated Accounting major or School of Business. You might normally talk about the major’s/school’s reputation once and then expect your prospect to connect the dots themselves.  Instead, try this line of reasoning that groups your argument in a group of three:

“Our Business School was rated one of the strongest in the nation by Forbes this year. The return on investment for our graduates from programs like Accounting and Finance, which you mentioned you’re interested in, continues to be on the rise. In fact, Forbes also ranked us in the top 10 in both total 5-year MBA gain and years to payback.

Let me tell you about one of our recent graduates, Kelly Smith. She was offered a job at a Fortune 50 company immediately after graduation.  She told Forbes in an interview that the extra level of commitment and preparation by her professors was one of the biggest reasons she was able to land such a high level position so quickly.

The best part for you is those same professors continue to shape our curriculum with the changing landscape and expand their networks. That means we will continue to give our students an edge against other Business School graduates.”

Let me break it down even further – Put your strongest proof at the beginning, and devote the most time and attention to that point.  Your goal should be to get the reader to sit back and take you seriously. You should also make sure you vary the proof that you offer them.  In the example I gave you, I started with a strong statement that statistically told my prospect why our School of Business was elite. Next, I gave proof of what the school and its professors did for a recent graduate. Thirdly, I offered up proof that the school is continuing to grow.

This technique has been used for decades in business marketing strategies. It will work for you because it meets our wired need for a group of three in the reasoning you present to prospective students and their parents.

During the discussions you and your admissions team have this summer, I encourage you to consider talking about the power of ‘3’ and how it can help you deliver more effective recruiting communications.

As we approach the 4th of July holiday weekend, what’s one question about recruiting or leadership that I can answer for you? Take 3 minutes and anonymously ask me your question here. It will help me help you as well as other readers of this newsletter.  You can read all the past reader questions (and my responses to them) by clicking here.

Two Student Recruitment SecretsTuesday, March 21st, 2017

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

When was the last time you sat down either by yourself, with your admissions colleagues, or with your school’s marketing team and really took a hard look at the recruitment communications that you’re sending out? It’s an important question, and if you haven’t done it lately, and by lately I mean sometime in the past 8 to 12 months, I strongly recommend you schedule some time to at least start a conversation about this topic ASAP. In today’s recruiting environment you just can’t afford not to.

During our ongoing research with students across the country we ask them to give us feedback about the communications they received during the college search process:

  • “I suppose I would say that you should just be friendly. College students are nervous and afraid, so a kind voice is usually more than enough to get the ball rolling.”
  • “Casual e-mails from the counselors make the process feel so much nicer.”
  • “It’s nice when the emails and letters are even slightly personal as opposed to the automatic ones colleges send out.”
  • “We get hundreds of emails during senior year. Make it shorter and actually interesting because everything sounds the same and we get distracted easily.”

Each of those responses echoes sentiments that we read quite frequently. This generation of students thinks that what you’re sending them isn’t personalized, is full of boring content, is way too professional and academic sounding in most cases, and is too long. On top of that, most are also convinced that you’re recycling word for word your letters and emails year after year after year. Again, this isn’t me telling you this, this is what your clientele is saying. Public university or private college, the feedback is the same.

If you’re reading this and thinking that what I’m talking about is someone else’s responsibility at your school and not yours, I’m here to tell you it’s time to change your mindset. Schools that are increasing enrollment and yield understand that recruitment is always a team effort!

So, where should you start? Begin by asking this simple question – “Why are we sending what we’re sending, and what’s the goal?” A lot of colleges do a great job of informing or storytelling. The problem is that’s only part of an effective strategy…and that brings me to the first secret I want to share with you today. It’s not about just informing; it’s about informing and engaging. You should want to know what each person receiving that email, letter, or postcard from you thinks about the information in it because there’s massive value in knowing that!

Now I’m not about to tell you that creating consistent engagement in your communications is simple to do because it’s not. Crafting engaging messages that are personal yet distributed to the masses is a strategic process that involves a massive amount of time and a ton of hard work. That’s why our team at TCS handles that responsibility for all of our clients.   It makes the day-to-day work in those admissions offices a lot more manageable and less stressful.

On to secret number two. Over the years our team of experts at TCS has learned to forget the rules – the writing rules that is. Believe it or not, most of those writing and grammar rules so many of us learned over the years are preventing many college admissions professionals from truly connecting with this current class of prospective students.

Instead of worrying about the writing rules you learned in high school and college, I want you to think, “If I were in a room with my best friend, a family friend, or the son/daughter of that friend and I needed to get their attention, engage them, and present the reasons why they should be excited about this school – what would I say to them?” Then let the conversation flow naturally out of your fingers to the keyboard or to your pen as if you were talking to them one-on-one. Be less formal and more conversational. That’s the key.

For some of you reading this article, the strategy of forgetting the writing rules will be hard…I mean really hard to the point where it might even be a non-starter because you’re afraid the end result will be tacky or unprofessional. I get it. Often times when I’m talking with a new client of ours those same concerns come up. They receive their first set of custom recruitment messages from us with a different tone, verbiage, and calls to action than they’re used to and it causes them to worry. About a month or two later after sticking with the plan, I’ll get an email or call from that Admissions Director or VP telling me the engagement/open rate is higher than ever before and the messaging is creating conversations the team never had before.

The reason why this approach works, and why you should take these two secrets and run with them, is because as I said earlier, this is what your clientele wants from you. They’ve told us, and I’m telling/reminding you. Plus, when you give them something they want and need, it creates comfort. And comfort leads to more back-and-forth conversations that will give you a competitive edge in the student recruitment arena.

If you enjoyed this article, I’d love to hear what you thought of it on Twitter, or my LinkedIn page. Thanks for your time and attention today!

Are You Making This Mistake?Tuesday, February 21st, 2017

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

A couple of weeks ago I had a Director of Admission reach out to me. She was catching up on a bunch of my newsletter articles and came across one about recruiting communication plans.

I came to find out after the fact that she had been worried for a while about her school’s comm. flow plan. She thought a lot of their content was good, but she was concerned that the emails and letters were individual pieces that didn’t connect well, if at all, and on top of that she has a relatively young team of counselors many of whom are still learning how to manage their territories and improve their communication with families. My article had given her the push she needed to ask for an outside perspective on their communications plan.

Last Friday, I had a follow-up phone call with this Director. I offered some advice on the tone and language in their messaging, and we talked about how often (and through what channels) her counselors should be communicating at various stages. Then I expressed my concern about the gaps in their communications after a student is admitted.

That’s what I want to talk about with you today. Slowing down communications after a prospect is admitted is a big mistake, and it’s one that will impact your yield in a negative way.

During our On-Campus Workshops with admissions departments, I constantly talk about not only forming a meaningful connection with a prospective student and his or her family, but the importance of strengthening that bond throughout the entire recruitment cycle.

When discussing this communication issue with counselors during 1-on-1 meetings that accompany our admissions workshop, the responses I get usually go something like, “They already know everything about our school,” or “I don’t want to repeat the same things over again.” My response to those statements is simple. If you fail to continue to have meaningful conversations with your admitted students, don’t be shocked when many of them choose to enroll elsewhere. Let me take that one step further. If you’re having trouble coming up with things to talk about with this group of students, I’d wager to say you haven’t built a strong enough rapport yet.

Here’s the good news – If you’re making this mistake, there’s still time to fix it.

Below are three easy-to-implement ideas on how to effectively manage this crucial time period in the recruitment process:

  1. Please, and I’m pleading with you here, keep giving them reasons why your school is the “right fit.” This generation craves direction. Even after they get admitted, many of them are still looking for good reasons to ultimately choose your school. Make sure you’re giving those to them, and make sure you’re doing it on a consistent basis. Let me remind you that your prospects tell us they want a logical, foundational message about your school every 6 to 9 days. That doesn’t change after you admit them. And when I say a logical, foundational message, I’m not talking about reminders to fill out your housing form or sign up for an admitted student day event. There has to be more substance in your messaging. You need to continue to reinforce the idea that your college is the perfect place for them to spend the next four years…and here’s why. If you choose not to take that approach and instead wait until an admitted student day event to try and “close the deal”,” you’re significantly decreasing your chances for success.  Like it or not, other colleges will continue to send them letters and emails. And would it surprise you to know that admitted students have told us that they even start to consider new schools because they just aren’t 100% sure yet that they’ve found that “right fit?” You need to continue to cultivate your recruiting relationship with this group of students. Don’t just assume that they already know everything they need to know.
  2. Make sure you’re talking to the parents.  Why?  As most of you already know, our on-going research on how prospects make their final decision tells us that parents are the biggest outside influencer. That means if you don’t communicate consistently with them at this point in time, you leave open the possibility of unanswered questions or objections. We’ve found that a conversation with the parents during this critical time period can be very insightful. It guarantees that everybody is on the same page, plus parents will often provide admission counselors with usable information (assuming they ask the right kinds of questions) about their child’s thought process, “tie-breakers,” etc.
  3. Ask about their timeline for making a decision. If you’ve maintained consistent communication from the beginning, asking a question at this point and time such as, “Walk me through your timeline of making your decision,” will rarely be viewed as “pressuring” them. Conversely, if you’ve been inconsistent at staying in touch and reminding them you’re here to help, I’d advise you to proceed very carefully when it comes to this line of questioning. If you ask and the student tells you that they aren’t sure and they haven’t really thought that far ahead, you can explain that setting a reasonable deadline will help them see the end of what is a tough, stressful process. And you can even use something like a housing deadline to provide more logic. If the student still avoids a discussion with you on this subject, understand that there’s a chance they’ve already made a decision not in your favor, and they’re just too scared to tell you. On the other hand, if they start to share some details about their thought process, a great follow up question would be, “What are the big questions that you’re still wrestling with?” Getting your admit to set a reasonable deadline will give you a yes or no that will enable you to move forward.

Should you use these three guidelines?  If what you’re doing now involves you feeling like you aren’t in control of the process, if your prospect hasn’t returned your phone calls, or if you’ve stopped sending emails and letters that offer value and tell your school’s story the way you did in the early stages, then I think it’s a smart move.

My goal each week is to provide you with information and strategies that will help you become a better communicator and a more efficient recruiter/leader.  DID THIS HELP?  I’d love to hear what you think – jeremy@dantudor.com

 

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Prospects and Parents Will Open More Of Your Emails If…Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

nacac16jtby Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

…You use the right subject line.

Think about it. Every time you go to your Inbox, what is it, other than who it’s from that ultimately leads you to open, scroll past or delete (without reading) each email? It’s the subject line.

As a quick example, over the weekend I was going through my Inbox…I had emails from people trying to sell me stuff; others with boring subject lines, some in ALL CAPS (don’t do that), and even one that had the subject line spelled incorrectly. The first email I chose to open had the subject line, “Need Your Advice”. That’s what got my attention. (It was an admissions counselor reaching out for advice/feedback on an email he’s writing for after his school’s Preview Day event)

That same type of decision-making takes place every time one of your inquiries, prospects, admits, commits and parents go to their Inbox and find messages waiting.  Which ones do they read?  Which ones do they not pay attention to?

Just like me, and probably just like you it often comes down to the subject line.

Still not convinced that you need to pay close attention to your subject line? Consider this – 205 billion email messages are sent every day. That means it’s becoming harder and harder for any of us to get (and keep) the attention of our readers.

So, if you want to get more of your emails opened, here are some ideas that we’ve seen work as well as a couple of extra tips:

  • Personalize it. I’ve reiterated numerous times in previous articles how important it is to use personalization (and use it correctly) throughout the recruitment process. We all love the sound of our own name, and when you include the recipient’s name in the subject line, it adds a feeling of rapport. Plus, according to the Science of Email Marketing, emails that included the first name of the recipient in their subject line had higher clickthrough rates than emails that did not.
  • Tell them you’re about to help them with something. Be really specific. Examples could include, “5 tips for filling out the FAFSA easier”, or “This will help you understand your financial aid package”.
  • When every email from you is urgent, none is. At least that’s what many of your prospects tell us.  Use urgency when it’s actually useful, like when there’s a real deadline or compelling reason to contact you immediately. If you use urgency too often, you’re going to find it a lot harder to cultivate your recruiting relationship.
  • Ask a question. Make it short, make it compelling, and create curiosity.  If you’re asking a question in your subject line that you know is relevant and matters to your prospect it will draw them in.
  • Chop-off half the sentence (like I did today).  Doing that tends to prompt the recipient to wonder what the other half says, especially when the subject line clearly offers value for him/her.
  • Make it really, really short. Short words or phrases get attention. For example, “Deadline” or “Scholarship”.
  • Use a call to action. Calls to action in the subject line have proven effective for our clients when we recommend them for a specific email that’s a part of the monthly recruiting communication plan we create. Even a simple “Check this out!” or “I need your feedback” can serve as a motivating call to action and indicator that a response is or is not being requested.
  • Be different every single time.  There are very few subject lines so amazing that they should be used over and over again.  Take a few minutes to be creative.

What you put in your subject line is arguably the most important factor in getting your emails opened and read. If you’re not consistently taking that part of your emails seriously, I implore you to make a change immediately.

Now on to the fun part! As a way for me to thank you for being a loyal reader of this newsletter, I want to give you the opportunity to win something. It’s 30 seconds of your time for 30 minutes of mine.

All you have to do is click on this link and send me an email before 11:59 PM PST today (Tuesday, January 24, 2017) with your best or most creative email subject line. In the body of your email just put the words newsletter contest. I’ll pick my 3 favorite email subject lines and each winner will receive an email from me tomorrow (Wednesday, January 25) about how to claim their prize.

One last thing – Please review and considering changing your current “out of office” auto-reply email(s).  This is another opportunity for you to be creative and show off some of your personality!  Most admissions counselors don’t take the time to have some fun with that email that goes out to peers, parents, and most importantly your prospects.  This is another little thing that can make a big difference for you.

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