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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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Truly Standing Out Takes GutsTuesday, December 6th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Your school has a campus, classrooms, professors, dorms, a cafeteria, a student center, and so on just like every other college and university in the country.

Are all those things the same at every institution? I don’t think so. Sure, a lot of colleges offer similar experiences, but there are also many differences between you and your competitors. Despite that fact, so many admissions departments are still much more comfortable following the norm and looking/sounding like everyone else (your website, your comm. flow, your campus visit) versus figuring out a bold move that will truly make you and/or your school stand out.

If you’re a client of ours or you and I have ever had a conversation before, 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 research we conduct is they struggle to understand, aside from the actual dollar amount, what makes school A different and better than school B and C when it comes to fulfilling their wants and their needs. They crave a reason to choose a college based on the unique selling proposition it offers them.

Before I offer 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 fall with admissions counselors and directors…plus it ties in with this article and I just believe it’s that important. Making a bold move and truly standing out takes real guts. I think many people in Higher Ed and college admissions are scared to overhaul a process, or move forward with an unconventional idea, because of a fear of failure. For many people, there’s a fear of failing in front of someone else (your boss, a colleague, a peer at another institution) and hearing “I told you so”, or being made to feel bad for trying something different. Making a change individually or recommending change within the office isn’t easy, but if you want different results, it’s the solution.

Once you’ve accepted the fact that it’s okay to be different, I encourage you to also remember that not every prospective student and family are one in the same. This means that 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 with their prospects:

  • Brochures, letters, emails and other communications. Study after study says that this generation of students no longer reads things from cover to cover. 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 the materials that colleges send, 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 and so forth. 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 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 in the short amount of time that is 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 more and more students tell 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 pointing out 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. I don’t have to remind you how powerful social media is with this generation. Unfortunately, students continue to tell us that most colleges, in their opinion, don’t know how to use SM effectively. The argument I hear from the admissions office 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. How about looking into using a brand ambassador to engage on Snapchat or using Facebook Live as an introduction to your campus or a way to show unique events that happen throughout the year? The possibilities are seriously endless. Just remember, real and raw wins over forced and fake a hundred times out of a hundred on social media. Here’s one more that I just heard about the other day. In addition to traditional acceptance letters, some colleges have begun sending students a congratulatory acceptance “snap” that goes straight to their Smartphone.
  • How you recruit others around your prospect (primarily the parents). Have you ever stopped and 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 for your recruit throughout the process…but they’re not always the only one. When it comes to the parents and cultivating a strong relationship with one or both of them, why not create a separate comm. flow 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 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.
  • Talking about fear. This is one of the biggest points I’ve being trying to hammer home in 2016. 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? Last week during a workshop discussion in Tennessee, I asked the group of tour guides (11 freshmen and 2 sophomores) to raise their hand if as a high school senior they remembered being scared of something at one or more points during the college search process. All 13 hands went up. Then I asked how many admissions counselors at any college they spoke with or visited ever asked about their fear(s). Not a single hand was raised.
  • Re-package your negatives. Instead of avoiding them, tell a different story about the same negative aspects that you can’t control. Your buildings and dorm rooms aren’t as new as some of your direct competitors? Don’t talk about that. Talk about what makes your campus community unique and how they welcome new students. Then talk about how they’ll receive a personalized education from professors who truly care. 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 why the cost difference between you and College B is worth it in the long run, and offer a detailed explanation of why. 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 you and/or your institution stand out from the crowd. I just gave you a handful of ideas that have helped many of our clients create a unique recruitment experience for their students and families.

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 your colleagues need to do it. That takes guts, but an amazing idea executed well can be a game changer.

If Your Recruiting Communications Plan Doesn’t Do These Two Things…Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

ncrc3by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

…then I think you’re making student recruitment harder than it needs to be.

Throughout the year we’re constantly reviewing comm. flow plans and individual pieces for clients and non-clients alike. When Mackenzie Mulligan (TCS Communications Director) and I compare notes, there are usually two consistent themes – the emails and letters inform but don’t encourage engagement (outside of apply or visit), and there’s an overall lack of continuity.

One of the follow up questions I ask the admissions and/or marketing and communications leadership is, “What do you want a letter or email that you send to a prospective student to do”?

The answers I get most often sound something like:

  • “We want to give them information about our school”
  • “We want it to help them move to that next step”

Both answers are good and make sense, but I think there’s an even better strategy that you should employ. It’s a simple, yet highly effective approach that we help our clients execute on a weekly basis.

When we create our clients’ personalized recruiting plans and messages, we always aim to get them a response to the email or letter, and to have that communication set up the next message.

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

  • Generate a reply. The point of an email or letter shouldn’t just be to inform and convince a prospect to choose your school based on what’s written in that one communication.  That’s not realistic. It’s also unrealistic to expect a prospective student to take a big step like apply or visit campus without having some consistent interaction with you or someone in your admissions office first, during which a comfort level is created. That’s why the focus of each of your written communications should be to generate a response from your prospect, be it via email, text, or a phone call. I would even encourage you to specify the response you want.  Without that response, you can’t expect to truly understand your prospect’s overall mindset or their opinion (positive or negative) on the information that you just sent them.
  • Set up the next message.  One of the biggest findings that resulted from our research study on how today’s prospective students make their final decision was the importance of the prospect knowing what to do next throughout the process.  When you send an inquiry, a prospect, or an admitted student an email or a letter, make sure that you let them know what’s coming next.  In other words, a message that goes out next week should set up an expectation that another communication is following in the coming days.  Your recruit should be expecting the next step, not wondering when it will come.  And as I mentioned at the very beginning, your recruitment emails and letters need to connect with each other and provide a continual flow.

It’s imperative to establish this system as early in the recruitment process as possible.

Now I’m going to ask you to do something small for me that will actually benefit you. Take 15 minutes over Thanksgiving break and review some of your most recent emails and letters. As you’re looking them over, I want you to ask yourself:

  • Are they too formal?
  • Are they just a bunch of facts, figures, and fluff?
  • Is there one big idea in them and not three or four?
  • Are they prompting the right kind of engagement from recruits (and parents)?
  • Is there a continuous flow in what’s being sent?

I promise you the answers to those questions will tell you whether or not you currently have a high probability of keeping your recruit’s attention, and successfully recruiting them.

If you’d like an outside perspective on your comm. flow plan or some feedback on a few of your individual emails and letters, email me at jeremy@dantudor.com. I’m here to help.

Enjoy the rest of your week!

How to Make the Most of All Those New Prospect NamesTuesday, October 11th, 2016

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.

A popular question I’m asked this time of year goes something like, “How do we get these new students excited enough that they complete our application?”

That early impression, specifically the first one after a college fair or school visit, is something you don’t get a second chance to make. How are you going to begin creating those feelings that convince a new prospect (namely a high school senior or transfer) to take the next step in the process with your school?

Here are some things I want you to keep in mind as you begin communicating with those new prospects. To be clear, I’m not just talking about the letters and emails that you’ll be sending out.  Your follow-up, ongoing communication over these next few weeks will be almost equally, if not more, important.  Why?  Your new prospects are looking to see who contacts them consistently early on. In their minds this is a strong indicator of just how serious you and your school are about them.

If you want to make all those new prospects and inquiries count…

  • Deliver that first communication right away. Don’t start your recruiting relationship off on the wrong foot. There needs to be a system in place to get those new names into your system quickly. If that’s not happening right now you need to make changes, and fast.  Sending a new prospect their first communication in a timely fashion is extremely important. You also need to determine what type of communication you’re going to send. In most cases, we recommend our clients send a first contact letter instead of an email. It’s a tangible, safe interaction and one that our research finds effective.
  • Limit the selling.  This isn’t new advice, but rather a reminder, if you want to experience early reach-out success. Take it easy on all of the statistics about your school. Our research shows that prospects 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 finding out as much as possible about how the prospective student sees himself or herself going through the college search process.  Avoid asking them what other colleges they’re considering or which schools they’re most excited about at this point. Too much, too soon…that’s what your prospects tell us.
  • Tell them what you like about them (and be specific).  That’s the top thing young people 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 they’ll have no problem fitting in at your school? How can your school help prepare them for success after graduation? Those are the questions that you need to answer for your prospect early on.
  • Stay consistent. Make sure you’re communicating foundational, logical facts to your prospect every six to nine days through a variety of communication methods.  If you don’t do this you risk inconsistent recruiting results. Our research solidly indicates that when a prospect 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.  Those feelings are what you should want your prospects to feel.
  • Come up with more effective questions.  As we’ve discussed before, your prospects are nervous or in many cases scared to have a conversation with you…especially early on. If you want to change that then don’t ask questions like, “What do you want in a college?” That’s a question that gets 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 who else they’ll be leaning on to help them make their decision. 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 a message 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.  Ask yourself, “Am I creating curiosity when I talk with new prospects?”  (Hint: Creating curiosity is done by giving less information, not more).
  • Have a call to action. A call to action is what gets them to respond to you.  You need to tell your prospects what to do and how to do it.  Want them to call or email you?  Tell them that very clearly.  Tell them when to call, and let them know what you want to talk about.  Want them to reply to your email?  Be crystal clear on when to reply and what information to include. Not consistently having a clear call to action is the number one reason most communication flow plans fail. I’d also strongly recommend that you avoid asking new prospects to visit campus or complete your application in those first couple of contacts. When you do that it jumps several spaces ahead on their recruiting game board, and you risk coming off as disingenuous and too hurried according to our research. You need to build to that point. 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).

Communication with new prospects and inquiries should result in one thing at the start of the recruiting process – a response. Your specific goal when a new student enters the funnel over the first few weeks should be creating an environment where they feel comfortable enough to communicate back and forth with you.

If you feel like you’re off to a slow start with this recruiting class, we can help. You’ll start to see a difference immediately after you implement our Admissions Recruiting Advantage program…just ask our clients. Email me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com to learn more.

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

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Secret Weapon of Your Recruitment Campaign, and Why It WorksTuesday, May 17th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

A couple of weeks ago our family added more sports equipment to the bin. The newest additions are a helmet, bat, glove, ball and cleats. Oh and a special bag of course, because how else is my almost 7-year old daughter going to carry all that stuff to softball practice.

Over the past 15 months or so my daughter has tried her hand at gymnastics, soccer, basketball, and now softball. Each time right at the start the same thing has happened. She gets frustrated because she isn’t immediately able to score every goal, make every shot, or hit a pitch that’s not sitting on a tee.

The late Jim Rohn – entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker — has said, “Success is neither magical nor mysterious.  Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals.”

We all know the importance of building good habits. To get better at something it takes practice on a consistent basis, which is becoming harder and harder for many people to accept because we live in a society full of instant gratification.

As you shift your focus to this next class of prospective students, I can’t stress enough the importance of being consistent from start to finish with all of your recruiting communications. It sounds easy enough, but for many admissions teams this is arguably their greatest challenge.

If your office doesn’t have a clear long-term plan to consistently communicate all the different parts of your school’s story and the things that make you unique, you’re making recruiting harder. And when I say a long-term plan, I’m not referring to just the marketing materials that get sent out at various points during the recruitment process. I’ve seen some really great pieces before, but those alone are not a winning communication strategy…not with this generation of students.

Today I’m going to provide you with a more effective way to build your next recruiting plan and discuss why consistency works with this generation of students.

Let me begin by outlining the different types of communication that a solid recruiting campaign needs to consistently feature. This is what we give our clients each month as a part of their research-based custom recruiting communication plan.

  • Written communication. Both mail and email matter to your recruits. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen admissions departments make in 2015-16 is thinking students don’t care about a personalized letter anymore because email is their preferred method of communication. Our ongoing focus group research on campuses across the country continues to show that students wanted to be contacted by mail every month. That same research also confirms that your students want you to send a logical, foundational message about your school every 6 to 9 days. That’s the right amount of time according to the research.
  • Phone calls. I know it’s tempting, but don’t try and skip right to verbal communication. Sacrificing letters and emails, even if you start the recruitment process a little later than usual, is not a winning strategy. A large majority of your prospects just aren’t comfortable with you starting the conversation that way. Mix in phone calls after you’ve sent letters and emails first.
  • Social media. In the age of Smartphones it’s becoming more important that you communicate with prospects through social media. While it remains unlikely to make or break your college, it can determine whether or not you form a solid connection with a recruit, or make the kind of missteps that exclude you from future communication online. Utilize social media to give them an ongoing, behind the scenes look at life inside your college a couple of times a month.

This generation reacts to a good, consistent combination of all of these facets of recruiting.  If you only focus on one or two communication methods with your recruits, you’re leaving the door open for a competitor that will utilize all of their communication resources.

You might have noticed that I left out text messages. As it stands today, I want you to resist the temptation to “recruit” via text message. There’s a right way and a wrong way for admissions to use text messaging during the recruitment process. Click this link for that information.

Now let’s move to “the Why” – why consistency works and can be a secret weapon for you:

  1. It gives your prospect a predictable flow of information. Pretty obvious, right? As obvious as it may be, there are still hundreds of colleges and universities whose recruiting communications are anything but consistent. For example, some schools come out of the gate strong for the first month or two and then run out of things to say before really gaining traction.  Others slam students with information at various (key) points in the funnel but provide little in-between. My recommendation for you is to use what we call the “drip, drip, drip” method of communication. From start to finish communicate small chunks of information about your institution that explain why your recruit should want to come there. When you extend your messaging out over the entire recruiting cycle, and not just when it’s convenient, you’ll win over some recruits simply because other schools fall off.
  2. Your recruits value consistent communication. It’s a proven fact – today’s prospective student appreciates and values you being there from start to finish. When we work with clients and help them develop a messaging campaign for an entire year, we often hear stories like the following one from students. When it came time to make a decision between multiple colleges they felt a little more loyal to one because that school communicated with them the most during the recruitment process. It might not seem like the smartest way to pick a college, but that’s what this generation of recruits says matters to them.
  3. Consistency prompts a response. All of your communication should focus on building the relationship between you, your prospect, and his or her parents. Everything you send out should prompt a response that creates back and forth conversation. This will lead to them feeling more connected with you. It may take you five, six, or even ten times before you get that response but remain consistent and stay the course. Believe it or not most prospects are looking for a reason and permission to reach out and contact you once a relationship has been developed. Most won’t do it on their own. Start by asking them a question or getting their opinion about something that’s being discussed in your email. When you have a call to action like this it gives them a safe, non-committal way to connect with you.
  4. It builds trust and loyalty. Building close relationships with your prospects and their families is all about communicating on a personal level. That takes time and is hard to accomplish if you’re inconsistent with your contact. When you try to understand the problems that your prospect (and his or her parents) faces, you’re sending a strong message that you care. Over time your reliability to help problem solve will build trust. It will also build loyalty and what you’ll find is the prospect continues to interact with you rather than your competitors.

Our clients achieve and exceed their enrollment goals when they provide a consistent message using a variety of communication types. Over time if you’re consistent you become hard to ignore. As other colleges peel off, you will move up your prospect’s list.

A small word of caution – schools can be consistent but with a poor message or poor phone etiquette. We see it happen all the time…in fact it’s why one university became a client of ours recently. Generating a weak message consistently can be as bad as getting a great message out randomly.

Do you have a hard time coming up with talking points for your messaging? We can help. It’s what we do. Take the next step and contact me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com We’ll set up a call to talk strategy.

6 Pointers for Creating Impactful Recruiting LettersTuesday, April 19th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

It’s the first thing my 6-year old daughter does when she gets off the school bus: She runs over to the mailbox to retrieve our mail.

This started about a year ago after she received a recruiting letter, of sorts. She had received mail before from her grandparents, but this time was different. It was a flashy envelope addressed specifically to her from the kids club at our local mall.

As we walked up the driveway, my daughter tore open the envelope. Inside was a letter with her name hand-written at the top, listing upcoming events that “members” could experience as well as other perks that came from joining the club. As she read me each bullet point the level of excitement in her voice increased! I’ll let you guess what we did 15 minutes later.

The same “feeling” that came over my daughter last spring showed up again earlier this month. Inside our mailbox was the latest edition of National Geographic for kids. Her grandparents had signed her up without telling her. After jumping up and down for a few minutes she ran inside and promptly began reading the magazine (out loud of course). Since that time she asks me every single day when the next magazine will arrive.

It’s that kind of excitement and those kinds of “feelings” that you should strive to create with prospective students when putting together your recruiting communications.

Direct mail is a vital part of any successful recruiting campaign. Despite advances in technology, your recruits continue to tell us that there’s no substitute for good old-fashioned letters:

“Letters in the mail are a really effective way to recruit students.”

“Letters are a lot better because they’re physical, but make them stand out and catch our eye so we don’t throw them away.”

Both of those quotes appeared in a recent focus group research survey we did prior to leading an on-campus admissions workshop. We see similar statements all the time in the surveys we conduct.

The bottom line is letters still matter to this generation of students. Emails can easily be deleted and text messages are sometimes ignored. Letters on the other hand are real, written proof that a prospect can hold in their hand and show others, confirming that they’re wanted.

Before I offer up some secrets to creating effective recruiting letters, I have a question for each of you. Have you ever asked yourself why you’re sending a recruiting letter? It’s an important question, and one that you need to raise. Yes it’s important for prospective students to learn more about your school.   More than anything though, each recruiting letter should be built to generate a response. When you get a response from your prospect it confirms they’re genuinely interested, and you now have a basis for future communications. This is particularly valuable during the early stages of the recruitment cycle.

Now, here are 6 pointers that you should follow if you want your recruiting letters to make a big impact.

  1. Most admissions departments and counselors start a recruiting letter with what we call a “warm up.” The first paragraph contains facts, figures, and a lot of “fluff.” I want you to get rid of the fluff. Studies have shown this generation of students doesn’t want this. If you choose to keep it, you risk them losing interest before you even get started.
  1. Your main objective in those first couple of sentences should be to grab their attention. That means formal and professional, which is what I’m guessing most of your messages currently are, isn’t going to be effective enough. You need to be more direct. Consider starting with a statement that’s short and to the point. It needs to be something that gets their attention and makes them want to read further.
  1. Visually your letter needs to be easy to read. Think about your reaction when you receive a lengthy email with all kinds of numbers and links from your boss. You’re in the middle of cleaning out your inbox and want to keep things moving along. How many times have you closed it and said, “I’ll read it later.” Do you want that same reaction from your prospects?
  1. When coming up with a list of things you want to highlight to your recruits, don’t forget to ask yourself why they will care about what you’re telling them. It has to matter to them; otherwise it won’t work.
  1. In the middle of your letter, it’s crucial that you continue to keep them hooked. This is where we see a lot of admissions departments struggle. They choose a topic and try to jam everything into one letter. That’s the wrong approach. Instead, your goal should be to give them no more than two or three pieces of information on a single topic at one time. Additional points regarding that same topic should be communicated over several weeks. The reason behind that is simple. Teenagers forget things quickly. Let’s use your school’s location as an example. If you present everything that makes it great all at once, it won’t resonate for very long.  Instead I want you to take a long-term approach, like we do with our clients when we assist them with message creation.  That way when you’re ready to move on to something else it will be clear to your prospect why your school’s location is perfect for them and why they should be excited about it.
  1. At the end of your letter think long and hard about what you want them to take away from it. Avoid being passive and saying something like, “If you or your parents have questions feel free to contact us.” That’s not effective. Instead, demand some type of action from them. If you want them to call or email you with specific information, tell them that, very clearly. Tell them when to call or let them know when to expect an email from you. Always set up the next communication.   Our research continues to confirm that your prospects want you to do that for them. If you don’t tell them what to do, don’t be surprised when they don’t respond.

If your recruiting letters aren’t generating a good response, we can help revamp them using proven techniques.  It will save you time and provide you and your team with an Admissions Recruiting Advantage.

Email me today at jeremy@dantudor.com for more information about how to get started.

How You Can Take the Early Lead With JuniorsTuesday, March 29th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Are you ready to tackle the Class of 2021?

Yes, I know…you’re still working on this current group of students which is why each of my articles over the past six weeks has focused on conversion and yield. So, if you’re wondering what kinds of questions you should be asking down the stretch or what the silent treatment from recruits might mean, click those links because I’m here to help.

Having said that, I also know that many of the admissions counselors reading this either just started spring travel, or are about to. My goal today is to make sure you get started on the right foot with this next class of prospective students.

Spring college fairs and high school visits with juniors, or other underclassmen, should never be undervalued. Often times counselors tell me they find themselves going through the motions during these events and visits because all they can think about is converting seniors and hitting their numbers. I hope that doesn’t sound like you, but if it does, email me. I’m happy to listen and offer advice.

Your follow-up communication in the weeks after spring travel is extremely important. Early in the process many prospective students are looking to see which schools maintain consistent contact. In their minds, it’s an indicator of just how serious your school is about them.

Determining those early talking points can be a challenge for many counselors. In fact it’s one of the biggest reasons that admissions departments start working with us. They’re tired of sending the same first letter and viewbook and not generating any back and forth conversation.

It starts by defining what gets them to keep talking to you after you make that first contact.   Our research shows that when a prospect and his or her parents are comfortable engaging in conversation with an admissions counselor, that school immediately moves up the list.

Here are six things that current high school juniors want and need to know from your initial messages:

  • If possible, remind them where you met. This is a great example of the obvious getting overlooked. Most counselors don’t even think to mention where they first met a prospective student. And yet, recruits tell us it’s one of the easiest ways for them to determine that your school is serious about them initially.  It gives them context for why you are reaching out to them and more importantly why they should take the time to reply back to you.
  • Tell them what you like about them. This generation of students wants to know what you like about them. Why? Believe it or not, some of your prospects aren’t sure they’re good enough to be considered by a school such as yours. Pointing out two or three specific things a student mentioned to you, or you saw from their information, is another important way to tell them they “have what it takes” to be considered for admission to your school. If you include these first two points in your initial letters and emails, you will see an increase in replies versus a more generic, non-specific message.
  • Create curiosity. If you’re a frequent reader of my newsletter you understand that the worst thing you can do early on is cram tons of information about your college into a letter or an email. If you want a response from your prospect that is. By being short and to the point, you will leave room for their curiosity to take over. It’s also important to craft messages that after being read by your prospects leave questions unanswered. Are you doing that now?
  • Share the positives and the negatives.  Counselors that talk only about the positives associated with their school are missing the boat.  This generation of students (and their parents) is looking for colleges that are demonstrating honesty during the recruitment process. Remember, students and parents are coming into the conversation with biases for and/or against your school. If you paint a “perfect” picture in everything you show them and tell them, you run the risk of making them question whether they’re getting the real story from you. It’s best to show your “cracks” before they show up in unexpected places or at unexpected times.
  • Engage the parents. Our research finds that many parents are anxious as you begin contact with their child. They want to play a part in the recruitment process, and naturally they too have questions they want answered. While a majority of your competition will ignore the parents for as long as possible, I encourage you to do the exact opposite. Begin contact with them early and work to establish that same emotional connection. If you do, you’ll find that they’ll be more than willing to contribute useful, usable information during the process.
  • Have a call to action. This is essential if you want them to respond to you. I’m not talking about asking them to visit campus or fill out your application. There’s a time and a place for those, and it’s not always right out of the gate. Instead, try asking your prospect at the end of your email if what you’re saying matches up with their list of priorities and “must-haves.”  Not only will this demonstrate that you understand the process is about their wants and needs, but you’ll also be making them feel more comfortable engaging with you.

Early communication with a prospect is about getting a response. Your goal should be to get a back-and-forth conversation going, and let the relationship (and their interest) build from there.

Is your admissions team stressed about converting those admits or preventing summer melt? They don’t have to be. Bring me to campus to lead one of our famous two-day training workshops. Your team will leave with more confidence and better tools that they can use immediately with recruits. The next step is to send me an email.

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