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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

“Confusing” and “overwhelming”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

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

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

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

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

Using these strategies will help you:

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

Or

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

Here they are:

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

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

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

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

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

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two Student Recruitment SecretsTuesday, March 21st, 2017

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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.

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