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We Need to Talk About Those Emails and LettersTuesday, November 6th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

 

We need to talk about them because words like confusing, overwhelming, and boring continue to show up in our surveys way too often when we ask students about the emails and letters they receive, and the conversations they have, with colleges during their search.

Too many colleges still don’t appreciate the need for using the right language in their recruiting communications. The result is lower levels of engagement and less action being taken.

I’m not just referring to what your marketing and communications staff might send out either. I’m also talking about the emails, letters, hand-written notes, and text messages that admissions counselors send out on any given day, as well as the phone calls that they make.

They all have a structure to them. And there’s a right way to construct and deliver your message if the goal is to get a response, have the reader take another specific action, or get a back-and-forth conversation going. That’s what I’m going to help you with today, because many of the students considering your school right now will engage with you throughout their college search process if you follow these best practices.

  • Don’t try and “sell” your school at the start. There are all kinds of studies out there that suggest we’re more likely to reply to something that doesn’t sound like an advertising message. Many initial messages that colleges construct jump right in to “selling” their school. My recommendation is that you be patient and take a long-term approach. Start by getting them comfortable enough to engage with you, and then ask them questions that allow you to discover their wants, needs, fears, etc. Very few inquiries or prospects (especially high school students) are ready to take in sales-related messaging from a school right away.
  • Put yourself in their shoes. As I’ve explained many times before, students are scared and confused during their college search…about a lot of things. Before you send them any sort of communication, read it and ask yourself if you would find this both helpful and easy to read. The answer needs to be yes to both. And if you want to be extra sure then go ahead and show it to one of your current students or student workers and ask them for their thoughts. It’s okay to do that. 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.
  • Let them know that you want and value their feedback. It might surprise you but students tell us in surveys that they wish colleges would ask their opinion on things. Many of those same students also want you to tell them that it’s both okay for them to offer feedback, and that you appreciate their willingness to share.
  • Less is always better. I’m probably not the first, second, or even third person to tell you that your messages and conversations need to be shorter. Less really is more with this generation of students. Instead of trying to cram a bunch of different points on a specific topic into one email or one letter, break them up into sequential communications that connect and hammer home the big point you’re trying to make. And limit your paragraphs to one idea for clarity. When you don’t, it’s not only confusing, but it also can be downright overwhelming to your prospects (and their parents).
  • Word choice matters. If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to increase your engagement levels, focus more on the words that you use. The solution is to take a less formal and more conversational approach. That approach won’t make you sound unprofessional. Instead, you’ll become more relatable, believable, and more authentic. Also, make it a goal to have your emails, letters, and texts flow just like a regular conversation, meaning don’t talk at the other person and give them orders, talk with them. Lastly, it’s okay to start the occasional sentence with the word “and,” “but,” or “because.” And it’s okay to use a … to continue a thought.
  • Tone matters. When you have a face-to-face conversation with someone you use their 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. The tone you use will help you create excitement and anticipation.
  • Consistency matters. Make sure you’re communicating foundational, logical facts to prospective students about every six to nine days. That’s how often they want communication from a college according to our research. Along with your emails and letters mix in the occasional phone call and text message depending on the student’s preferences and the stage they’re at. Our research solidly indicates that when a student sees ongoing, regular contact from a college that follows the other points I’ve outlined so far, not only do they engage on a more regular basis, but they also make the judgment that the school is more interested in them, and values them. Those feelings are what every college should want prospective students to feel.
  • Establish a “go-to person.” I’ve talked about this at length in previous articles but it needs to be mentioned again. Have one consistent voice in your recruiting communications (emails, letters, phone calls, text messages). Eliminate the admissions.edu email address and/or the 1-800 number/general admissions office phone number. Students are less likely to engage with you when you take that approach for a number of reasons, namely fear. Establish a “go-to person” for all of their questions and concerns. That person, who I recommend should be their admissions counselor, should be doing the bulk of the communicating with a student/family from start to finish. We use this strategy in the messaging we create for colleges and it’s extremely effective.
  • One call to action, that’s it. I’ve been asked to review and offer feedback on a lot of recruiting emails this year, and almost every single one has had multiple calls to action. When you include more than one CTA you increase the chance for confusion and you decrease the chances that the student will do any of what you ask. Choose one thing and be clear. As a by-product of doing this you’ll also have shorter emails/letters.

Change is hard, I get it. But if you’re not getting engagement or you’re struggling to get students to take action I want you try one, two, or all nine of these things. They continue to work for our clients and other colleges I’ve recommended them to and I’m confident that they’ll work for you.

If you enjoyed this article, please share it with your colleagues.

P.S. I’m happy to review one of your current emails or a letter and offer an outside perspective if you’d like. No strings attached. All you have to do is email me and ask.

How Many of These 29 Things Are You Doing?Tuesday, October 16th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

 

There are a number of different ways that you can create better recruiting stories. While I was doing some fall cleaning, I came across a bunch of them in various documents and notes on my MacBook.

My first thought was to pass along these tips and recruitment strategies to you in this week’s article. Not all of these will apply to you, but a lot of them will.

And whether you’re a long time reader or one of the many new people that have been added to my newsletter community over the past few weeks, reply back and let me know what you think about this article…or about the newsletter…or both. My goal continues to be to help admissions professionals grow, lead, and win. Thank you for your continued support!

  1. Write down three things you know prospective students don’t care about. Stop talking about those things immediately.
  2. You have to decide to tell your story. It starts there. Too often colleges revert to a list of statistics, facts and data that they relay to prospective students. Worse yet, most colleges stop telling their story way too early in the process, thinking (mistakenly) that once they actually begin speaking one-on-one with a student, they don’t need to continue telling their story.
  3. Eliminate the myth that direct mail isn’t effective as a communication tool. I know postage costs a lot, and yes eliminating or minimizing it would also save a lot of time. Too many colleges have decided that this generation doesn’t read mail and/or doesn’t want it. Our ongoing survey research continues to show the exact opposite. Students understand letters take more time to craft, and they use that as tangible proof that a college is “serious about them.” And if you want data to support this point, 58.4% of students in our surveys said they wanted a letter from a college once a month during their college search. Another 25.4% said once per week.
  4. Go through your upcoming emails and letters and take out all of the “big words.”
  5. Be okay with starting an occasional sentence with the word “and” or “but.” This generation of students could care less whether it’s grammatically correct or not.
  6. And use a more conversational tone. That won’t make you less professional, it will actually make you more relatable.
  7. Have one consistent voice in your recruiting communications (emails, letters, phone calls, text messages). That person, who I recommend should be the admissions counselor, should be doing the bulk of the communicating with a student/family from start to finish.
  8. Start a conversation about fear. A Director (and reader of this newsletter) did exactly that as part of her open house welcome remarks this past weekend. Multiple parents expressed their appreciation to her.
  9. Use Facebook if you want to tell your stories to parents on social media.
  10. Use Instagram and YouTube to tell your social media story to prospective students.
  11. Most colleges do not produce social media content native to each platform.
  12. Facebook ads and Instagram influencers. Google them both right now, and educate yourself if you haven’t already.
  13. Consider having one or more of your current students Vlog their journey during the school year. I’ve been recommending this to colleges for the last two years and the handful that have listened have seen amazing results. This is the next BIG thing. Be an early adopter.
  14. If you want to increase engagement, change your call to action to a question that asks for the reader’s feedback or opinion on something.
  15. Consistency over volume.
  16. The best idea won’t work without the right execution.
  17. If your current students were tasked with convincing their friends from high school (or community college) to choose your school, how would they do that? You should ask them and then discuss their feedback within your office.
  18. Don’t be afraid to talk about cost, value, and financial aid early on with parents (as well as their son or daughter).
  19. Don’t give up on students who don’t seem to be engaged with your story. Many are still listening and just not responding yet.
  20. As the recruiting process moves forward, the story should get more and more narrow, focused on them specifically.
  21. In many conversations, context matters more than you think.
  22. As you tell different stories, your goal right now in October should be to get them to campus…not to apply. Don’t skip this important step, because the campus visit continues to be where feelings occur and where the decision is made for many.
  23. The campus visit is the most important aspect of your story. Does everyone involved in your visits (namely your tour guides/student ambassadors) understand and believe that? What stories can they tell? And how is your campus visit a different feel from your competitors?
  24. Most parents will vote to have their son or daughter stay close to home, or go to the school that costs less, unless you tell them why your school is the better, smarter choice.
  25. It’s hard to continue to tell your story effectively later in the process if you don’t keep track of previous conversations with students and their parents in your CRM.
  26. Look for objections and enthusiastically address them with prospective students.
  27. A large majority of your admitted students need you to tell them why to pick your school over the others on their list.
  28. Recent student outcomes (by major) are becoming more and more important to this generation of students.
  29. Phone calls will continue to offer massive ROI to those who can execute them correctly. “Voice” leads to deeper relationships.

Recruiting, like story telling, is a process. Respect that process, manage it, and remember, it should always be about them.

What You Should Do With All Those New NamesTuesday, September 18th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

    

As your admissions team navigates through college fairs and high school visits, I’m sure everyone has been accumulating plenty of new names to add to your database. Once those leads are inputted, now what? How are you going to get those students excited enough to visit campus or start filling out your application?

That early impression, specifically the first one you make with name buys or new inquiries, or the initial follow-up you have with new students after a college fair or school visit, is something you don’t get a second chance to make. How are you going to build excitement or build on the excitement you’ve generated and begin creating those feelings that convince students to take the next step in the process with your school?

Our ongoing focus group research continues to show that students are looking to see who contacts them consistently early in their college search process. And, just to be clear, I’m not talking about sending a bunch of marketing materials to them over those first few weeks. I’m talking about personalized, helpful, and easy to digest communications that clearly show them they’re important and that you understand this process is about them. In their minds, this is a strong indicator of just how serious you and your school are about them.

Here are some ideas that I urge you to consider if you want to make all those new names count:

  • Deliver that first communication right away. There needs to be a clear strategy in place as to how those new names will make their way into your CRM quickly, even when you’re on the road. If that’s something you’re struggling with, or if the strategy in your office isn’t clear, I encourage you to talk to your supervisor immediately. Sending a prospective student that first communication in a timely fashion is extremely important. I’ve previously discussed who the first contact piece should come from and what kind of communication that first one should be. If you missed that article or you need a quick refresher, click this link.
  • Limit the selling. This one isn’t a new idea, but rather a reminder. Take it easy on all of the info, numbers, and statistics about your school. Our research shows that most students aren’t interested in being “sold” on your school right away. In fact, you can’t realistically do that in a first email, letter, or phone call, so don’t try. The goal of your first contact or two should be to get the student to engage with you, to find out as much as possible about the students’ wants and needs, and to learn how they see themselves going through the college search process.
  • Tell them what you like about them (be specific). It might surprise you, but this is one of the top things that prospective students want to know right away. It’s also something that your competition probably isn’t doing, so you’ll stand out. Why do you think your school is a good fit for them? How will your school help them transition smoothly both academically and socially? And how can your school help prepare them for success after graduation? Those are some of the questions that you need to answer early on.
  • Plan to stay consistent. Make sure you’re communicating foundational, logical facts every six to nine days through a variety of communication methods. That’s what our ongoing focus group research says most students want in terms of frequency. Our research also indicates that when a prospective student sees ongoing, regular contact from you, not only do they engage with the messaging on a more regular basis, but they also make the judgment that your school has a greater interest in them and values them more.
  • Address that other 4-letter F word. I would argue that fear drives just about every decision that students make during their college search. One of their biggest fears is making the wrong decision…there are others. I want you to create a discussion around this topic and then help them come up with a plan to alleviate their fear. Do that, and you’ll win their trust and in turn gain a major advantage on your competition who doesn’t believe this topic is important or doesn’t know how to address it.
  • Come up with a list of better questions. Knowing that prospective students are nervous or in many cases scared to have a conversation with you, especially early on, the kinds of questions you ask are extremely important. Questions like “What are you looking for in a college?” are fine, but they’re also probably going to get you a vanilla, untrue answer much of the time. Instead, ask them to walk you through how they’re going to make their college decision, or ask them what are two or three must-haves that they need to see in their future college. The better the questions, the greater chance you have of connecting with your prospect, understanding their mindset, and ultimately coming up with a strategy to successfully recruit them.
  • Create curiosity. We frequently remind our clients about the importance of crafting emails or ending a phone call with unanswered questions, especially early in the process. You want to create curiosity and prompt them to want more interaction from you…something that makes them want to go to the next step in their communication with you. (Hint: Creating curiosity is done by giving less information, not more).
  • Start a conversation with their parents immediately. Establish early contact with the parents, and through consistent communication, work to establish that same emotional connection with them. Make it clear that your goal is to help make this entire process easier for their family. 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 person that respects their opinion and input and is treating them as a valued partner.

As I said earlier, communication with new prospects and inquiries (and parents) should result in one thing at the start of the recruiting process – a response. I want you to do everything you can during the early stages to create an environment where students feel comfortable enough to communicate back and forth with you.

If you’d like to talk about this article further, or if feel like you’re off to a slow start with this next class, I’m happy to help. Reply back and let’s start a conversation.

Two More Things I Need to Tell YouTuesday, June 26th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

 

Happy Tuesday. It’s crazy to think we’re in the final days of June already!

Last week my article focused on the first communication piece that you send to prospective students…what kind, who should it come from, etc. If you missed it, click this link and get caught up, because quite honestly it might be the most important article I write this summer. Plus, it ties in with what I’m going to share with you today.

Remember, the first thing you need to focus on as you start to reach out to this next class of students is, how are you going to get their attention? Then, once you have their attention, how are you going to get them to consistently engage with you?

In addition to employing the strategy I outlined last week, here are two more communication tips that will help you increase your early response rates.

  1. Don’t give them everything all at once. When a topic is completely defined right away for the reader, many don’t see any reason to engage with the sender. So, instead of telling them everything all at once, (which usually results in a message that’s way too long) I want you to create a little mystery in your messaging. Hold back a little. Don’t tell them everything in one letter, a single email, or even during a phone call about why your school’s location is unbeatable, or how your academic/learning environment is different than your competitors. Instead, hint at things to come in the future that you want to talk with them about. You’ll create curiosity, and you’ll give them a reason to engage with you the next time you reach out. And believe it or not, over time, that approach will actually result in some of your prospects reaching out to you on their own for more information.
  2. Ask them for their opinion on something. I alluded to this in last week’s article when I talked about your call to action. Instead of pushing them to visit or apply right out of the gate, ask a specific question that asks for their opinion on something. I want you to do that so that your prospect understands you’re actually talking with them, not just at them. It makes a big difference! You’re personalizing the process and making it clear that their opinion is important to you. Furthermore, the information you get back from them can help you in future conversations.

Got a question about this? Something else I can help you with? Reply back and ask away. Or if you happen to be reading this article on our website or because someone forwarded it to you, you can email me: jeremy@dantudor.com

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!

How Are You Really Different?Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

That is one of the biggest questions that prospective students want you to answer for them during the student recruitment process.

Just about every college and university has a campus, classrooms, professors, residence halls, a dining facility, a student center, and so on. Are all those things the same at every school? I don’t think so.

Sure, a lot of colleges offer similar experiences, but there are also a lot of things that make your school, and every other college that your prospects are considering, unique.

The problem is, too many colleges continue to look and sound the same in the eyes and minds of most prospective students (your website, your communications, your campus visit, etc).

Instead of just saying you have “professors who care,” start providing concrete, detailed examples of how they care. And if you have a “friendly, welcoming community,” then give some more context that allows your prospect to connect the dots and understand why that kind of atmosphere is important and how it will make their experience at your school more enjoyable and worthwhile.

If you’re a client of ours, or you’ve had me on your campus to lead an admissions training workshop (or you happen to follow me on Twitter), then you know how much I constantly stress the importance of being unique, original, and even surprising when it comes to how you approach and handle student recruitment.

One thing we continue to hear from students in the ongoing survey research we conduct is that aside from a college’s profile (small, private; large, public, etc) and the actual dollar amounts in their financial aid award, they struggle to understand what makes school A different and better than school B and C when it comes to fulfilling their wants and their needs. This generation of students is craving a reason to choose a college based on the unique selling proposition it offers them.

Before I give you some ideas on how to be different and stand out, let me back up for a second because I want to quickly address something that’s come up a lot in conversations I’ve had this year with admissions counselors and those who hold positions of leadership…plus it ties in with this article and I just believe it’s that important.

Truly standing out takes real courage! I would argue that a lot of college admission and Higher Ed professionals are scared to overhaul a process, change their approach, or move forward with an unconventional idea because of a fear of failure.

Making a change individually or recommending change within the office isn’t easy, but if you want different results and you want to stay ahead of your competitors, it’s what needs to be done. Nobody bats a thousand. We’ve all made mistakes, and we’ll all make more mistakes down the line. Without those mistakes, it’s hard to achieve real growth.

If you’re in agreement with me, I also encourage you to remember that not every prospective student and family is one in the same. Sometimes a great recruiting idea that generates results with one student or segment of students might not be effective for another. And always be mindful of the fact that the execution of an idea doesn’t always happen seamlessly the first time around. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea that won’t produce the results you want.

Here are a few aspects of the student recruitment process where we’ve helped schools take a different approach and subsequently make a considerable impact:

  • Emails, letters, brochures and other communications. Study after study says that this generation of students no longer reads things in their entirety. Why then do so many colleges still take the long-winded, cram every fact and statistic about their school in small font approach in their efforts to reach students and families? If you know that your prospects scan everything then go ahead and make your communications shorter in length and have them focus clearly on just one idea. Then have that communication set up your next message and so on. As far as the language you use, if you want to create a reaction and get engagement from your reader (so you can find out what they actually think about what you just shared with them), you need to forget the writing rules. Take a less formal and more conversational approach. That approach does not, I repeat DOES NOT, make you or your school sound unprofessional. It actually makes you more relatable, which makes establishing a relationship with a prospect or parent much easier.
  • Campus visits. More and more I’m hearing stories of students feeling overwhelmed by all that they see and hear during a campus visit. That’s not the feeling you want them to have considering how important the campus visit is in a student’s final decision. Let’s start with your information/welcome session. Most colleges offer a quick overview of their campus along with information on academics, financial aid and scholarships, as well as the application process. Be honest. Do you find your current presentation riveting? Start by offering separate sessions for both students and parents. Each group values different things so come up with topics accordingly. For students, how about a current freshman or sophomore talking about “living with a roommate” or “how I not only survived freshman year, but thrived”. You want it to be something that grabs and keeps their attention, offers value, and is memorable. Speaking of separating students and parents, would it surprise you to know that some students have told us they think the campus visit would be more impactful if students and parents were given the same tour but in different groups? And then there are your tour guides. Do you treat them as part of your admissions team, and do they understand the important role they play in the student recruitment process? When they give tours are they just reciting a script and discussing the history of various building on your campus, or do they understand the importance of storytelling and how to effectively do that throughout a tour?
  • Social media. Students continue to tell us that in their opinion most colleges don’t know how to use social media effectively. The argument I hear a lot from admissions and marketing professionals is that creating great content on social media is extremely difficult and time consuming. I disagree, and here’s why. You’re over thinking it. For example, stop spending hours and hours trying to create fancy videos that look like a movie and are narrated by someone your prospects don’t know and can’t relate to. Whether you like it or not, it almost always comes across as forced and fake. If you really want to showcase your school’s personality, then go document. Have real students and real people (faculty, admissions staff, food service people, RA’s, etc) document what a normal day on campus looks like through their eyes as it happens. It’s okay if the hair isn’t perfect and there isn’t music playing in the background because that’s real and raw. And instead of posting picture after picture of the exterior of buildings on your campus, why not showcase what happens inside those walls. There are so many great stories just waiting to be told if you’re willing to do so, but don’t forget to explain why what you’re documenting matters. Do you know what Instagram influencers are? You need to because you have some on your campus right now that I’m betting would be more than happy to help you with free content. Just remember, real and raw wins over forced and fake a hundred times out of a hundred on social media.
  • How you recruit others around your prospect (namely their parents). Have you ever asked yourself who’s recruiting your prospects for you when you’re not? It’s an important question. Our ongoing research continues to show that parents are the most important outside influence during the recruitment process…but they’re not always the only one. When it comes to parents and cultivating a strong relationship with one or both of them, why not create a separate communication plan for them? We do it for our clients and it continues to pay dividends in a big way! Now, let’s discuss everybody else that matters in your prospect’s life. This may include their siblings, best friend, girlfriend/boyfriend, high school counselor, pastor, or possibly another mentor, coach, or teacher at school or in the community. If you want to be different, it’s time you started connecting on various levels with each of these influencers so they too understand the value of your school and why it’s the best option for that student.
  • Having a discussion about fear. I have done everything I possibly can in 2017 to hammer home not only how important it is to discuss fear but why it’s a difference maker. Every single one of your prospects is scared of something when it comes to the college search process and the transition from high school to college. What are you doing to alleviate that fear?
  • Re-package your negatives. Instead of avoiding them, tell a different story about those negative aspects of your school that you can’t control. Your buildings and residence halls aren’t as new as some of your direct competitors? Don’t talk about that. Talk about what happens inside those walls and what makes your campus community unique (and then mention that choosing a college based on the newest buildings and facilities is the wrong way to choose where you get an education). Is your college the most expensive option for that student? Explain to them your value proposition in a way they can truly understand. Use detailed outcomes and provide examples of recent graduates who also paid more but felt it was well worth the investment. Whatever the story say it confidently, and repeat it over a long period of time.

Here’s the great news – I believe that anyone, if they work hard enough, can come up with a truly amazing idea that can help them and/or their school stand out from the competition.

The next step once you have an amazing idea is arguably the hardest for a lot of people. Go and execute it, or go and present your case on why you believe you and/or your colleagues need to do it. That can take some courage, but an amazing idea executed well can make all the difference.

Think about it, and enjoy the rest of your week!

P.S. I thought you might enjoy this sunrise picture I took in North Dakota last week during my travels there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

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