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

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Important Recruiting “Tiebreakers”Tuesday, April 3rd, 2018

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

Here’s something interesting that I continue to both hear and read about. There comes a time towards the end of the college decision-making process where students (and parents) start to think about, and discuss, how much of a sincere interest each school that has made the final cut has taken in them (or their child). This is especially true for student-athletes.

Caring more than your competition is something that I’ve talked to you about before. Our focus group research continues to show that the treatment an admitted student receives from a college’s admissions staff, current students, faculty, and anyone else they come in contact with during the process is a very important factor in their final decision…including sometimes helping to break a tie.

Demonstrating that you care conveys reliability, and it helps to builds trust. Beyond that, it’s also something that you completely control.

“Recruiting tiebreakers” as I like to call them can sometimes be something insignificant to you as an admissions professional but important in the eyes of the student/family. Be mindful of that. I’d also encourage you (if you haven’t done this already) to ask your admitted but undecided students what things they’re planning to use to help them break a tie between two schools if it comes to that, which by the way is a situation that happens quite frequently. You could ask them that question as a call to action in an email or during a phone call.

Here are two other things that a large majority of students tell us they need if the recruiting tie is going to be broken in your school’s favor:

  1. Emotional connections. For most young people, emotion often outweighs logic and facts. Students trust the feelings they get throughout the college search process. Those include the feelings you create through your recruiting communications, the recruiting relationship you develop (or don’t develop) with the student and their parents, and the feelings they get when they visit campus or watch videos on your social media pages or your website. How are you capturing their emotions and creating emotional connections between them and your campus community? Those emotional connections create a feeling of comfort, they create trust, and they offer a sense of acceptance and belonging which is what a lot of students are scared they won’t be able to find at a college. And if you haven’t already done so, now is also a great time to connect your undecided students with current students, specifically your freshmen as they recently went through the same tough choices and dealt with the same sorts of feelings that your undecideds are dealing with right now. Hearing how a current student made that same tough decision and how your school has helped them excel during year one could easily be the deciding factor.
  2. A clear understanding of HOW something at your college is truly different and WHY your college is worth the investment. You have small class sizes, professors that care, a welcoming community, or you’ve got all kinds of options because you’re a larger institution…it’s too general! Plus, virtually all of your competitors are saying the exact same thing. It’s time to offer more detailed stories that explain both the how and the why. Your value can be communicated logically and emotionally, and you need to do both. I would also add that you shouldn’t present the same case or the same exact stories to every single student. Sure, there will be common threads, but part of executing this point correctly is having a clear understanding of the wants, needs, and fears of your admitted student and his or her family.

You may have noticed that I didn’t mention cost. That doesn’t mean price isn’t important and won’t in some cases be the biggest tiebreaker for a student/family. Your goal should be to extract that information (i.e. asking targeted questions) as early as possible by starting a conversation about paying for college long before your school releases their financial aid award. When you employ that strategy you allow yourself (and your school) all kinds of time to prove your value and overcome the cost objection.

Good luck!

P.S. I know May 1 is approaching fast. If you’ve got a recruiting scenario that you’re looking for advice on, or you could use a couple last minute questions to ask your undecideds that will help you yield vital information on their mindset, go ahead and send me an email. Free help, no strings attached.

Something Different That I Need You to ReadTuesday, December 19th, 2017

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

It’s 11:53pm EST on Thursday night and I just pulled out my MacBook in-flight on my way home to Indianapolis.

You won’t read this article for a few days but I just can’t get these thoughts out of my mind, so I’m going to start typing while they’re fresh.

“Why do you care so much?” That’s the question an admissions counselor asked me this week during our 1-on-1 meeting that accompanied the workshop I led. The older I get, the more I’ve actually found myself thinking about this whole notion of a “kindness gene.”

Why do some people care more than others and how is it that a lot of those same people are able to cultivate trust with a complete stranger (and get them to take action on something) after a single conversation?

You can go to Google and find all kinds of studies about character traits, but in a nutshell, there’s a lot of evidence that suggests there is empathy in our genes.

I’m bringing this topic to your attention today because as this generation of students searches for their “right fit” college or university, caring more than your competition continues to significantly impact a student’s final decision.

I have over 3 years of survey data from college campuses nationwide that shows how the admissions staff treats a student and their family throughout the college search process influences their final decision more than factors like affordability, location, and the prestige of a college’s name.

One of the survey questions we ask is, “What was the deciding factor that led you to pick <College Name>?”

  • “My admissions counselor’s motivation to make sure that I knew everything I needed to.”
  • “How much care admissions counselors took in making sure I had all the information I needed, and financial/scholarship plans.”
  • “The contact I had with my admissions counselor throughout the decision process and other staff members whom I spoke to more than once and remembered me.”

Those direct quotes came from surveys at schools in Texas and Minnesota that I visited this week. Just about every time I do a workshop there are similar quotes from other students in a school’s survey.

I would argue that, in many cases, consistently demonstrating you care more than your competition can help a family overcome the cost barrier, the fear factor, and a whole lot more.

As we get ready to enter 2018, I thought it was really important to remind you of this.

You have the ability to show how much you care every single day in every single interaction you have with other people. And it’s easy for another person to tell when you genuinely care versus when you’re trying to act a certain way because you know it’s part of your job.

By the way, if you’re wondering how you can show students and families that you care more than your competitors, here are two easy ways.

  • Listen more to them
  • Stay in consistent contact with them throughout their entire process

Before I sign off I want to again thank you for being a loyal reader of this newsletter. I’ve met so many of you IRL (in real life) in 2017 and the stories you shared about the impact of an article I wrote, a strategy you tried that I had suggested, or just telling me you shared something from my newsletter with a colleague means the world to me.

The exciting news is, I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface yet on what I have to give! I want to help you more in 2018. At the same time, it’s hard for me to do that without your feedback…a podcast, video from a workshop I lead, posting a talk or keynote I give…these are a few suggestions I’ve already received but you tell me what you want.

Click this link and send me a quick email right now. I’d love to hear your comment or suggestion (positive or negative).


It Doesn’t Always Make SenseTuesday, November 21st, 2017

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

Most of us use logic when we make decisions.

I think I’m a pretty rational guy, except when it comes to my inexplicable love for Starbucks coffee. It’s my drink of choice when I’m on the road working with clients or leading an admissions training workshop. It makes no logical sense for me to drive completely out of the way to pay $2.95 for an Americano or $4.35 for a mocha or a latte…but I do it all the time.

Instead of just drinking the coffee that’s available with the hotel breakfast or finding a local gas station or cheaper competitor, I order my Starbucks drink via the mobile app or sometimes stand in line and fork over my $2.95 or $4.35, fully knowing that I just made a completely illogical, irrational, totally emotional buying decision.

And so do you.

And so do prospective students.

Here’s the important point I’m trying to make: Whatever your recruiting message is, if it’s always focused entirely on the logical argument that your college and/or your academic program are the best choice, you may be making a huge mistake. Not because your prospect doesn’t need that. They do. It just might not be the right time for you to use that approach.

Why? Because, like all of us, this current group of students considering your school trusts their feelings as they make decisions on how to proceed in the college search process.

So, before deciding that you’re going to lay out a logical course of action for your prospect, you should consider whether a logical argument is what’s needed right now.

  • Dan (Tudor) and I have found that a lot of prospects have an irrational love of the status quo. They’ve become comfortable, and they don’t like or want change. They don’t want to leave home, and they don’t want to be faced with making a lot of changes, despite what your school can offer them.
  • Many of your prospects are emotionally connected to the symbol of a particular college name. It happens a lot. And prospects don’t talk about it with you because they know it’s illogical and doesn’t make sense, but it’s really hard for them to break away from those feelings (it’s hard for mom and/or dad too).
  • Our ongoing research on campuses across the country continues to show that fear is driving most of the decisions that prospects make during their college search. How are your recruiting messages helping to alleviate that fear?

Despite being armed with knowledge like this, I continue to see admissions and marketing professionals approach a logical process in very logical ways.

And I would argue that’s not very logical.

Instead, let me suggest that there will be times with most prospective students when you need to make a completely illogical argument as to why they belong at your school. As I said earlier, breaking out of the status quo is hard for this generation. They’re scared of leaving home, scared of what those around them will think if they choose a “lesser-known” college, or scared of picking a school that costs a little more.

I want you to consider making a passionate, mostly emotional case as to why going away to college, not choosing one of the popular or more well-known schools, or possibly paying a little more out of pocket is not only the smart thing to do, but the choice that is going to make them feel good about themselves and benefit them the most in the long run.

If you don’t do it then who’s going to?

Just because it doesn’t make logical sense in your mind doesn’t mean it’s the wrong strategy. You’re not recruiting you you’re recruiting them. And, over the past couple of years I’ve seen more examples of irrational, emotional decisions than ever before in our ongoing work with college admission departments.

Again, understand that at certain points in the college search process (especially early on) you need to feed their emotions and make a personal connection rather than a logical case. What you’ll find when you do that is they’ll listen more intently to your logical case whenever you do choose to make it.

Have a happy Thanksgiving holiday with your family and friends!

BY THE WAY, if you find yourself with an extra 10-15 minutes during the break and you’re interested in sharpening your skills as a recruiter or as a leader, click here for access to over 160 FREE articles I’ve written. The articles are broken down into categories on the right hand side.

Are You Helping Them Make the Connection?Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

Storytelling is one of the first topics I discuss when I lead a training workshop for an admissions staff or a group of tour guides.

Everyone has a story, and everything can be a story.

Stories persuade people and they can also help you achieve emotional engagement, which is a critical component in any decision-making process.

Young people in particular are more receptive to stories than they are to data or hard facts. It’s why just rattling off a bunch of numbers and the history of your college rarely makes an impact during a high school visit, college fair, or college information session. Those things don’t allow your prospects to empathize and visualize. Stories do.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had multiple conversations via email and on social media with admissions counselors about how to use storytelling to create stronger connections with prospective students.

Anytime you’re talking about your college and telling a story, the first thing I want you to ask yourself is who is my audience and why will they care about the story I’m telling?

Too often admissions counselors and tour guides take the blanket approach (same stories told the same way to everyone). Put simply, you have to figure out how to make it personal.

When you speak in general terms, it makes it a lot harder for your listeners to make the connection and say, “That’s someone like me who went through the same stuff I’m going through and they’re having fun and doing well…so you know what, that college could be the right fit for me too.”

This generation of students continues to make it clear that when a college representative can help them make that connection via concrete examples of recent graduates from their high school or community college, it’s extremely beneficial.

A senior assistant director whom I emailed with last week had a great example of how this strategy can work. As she was finishing up a high school visit with a group of juniors she could tell there were some students who were interested but didn’t want to be the only ones showing interest.  She proceeded to ask the class how many of them knew a certain former student from their school. After half the class raised their hands, she told them how she recruited that student to her college and how great a time he was having. The end result was half the class wanting to fill out inquiry cards. The driver of their action was that connection the counselor was able to help make.

And if you happen to be speaking with a student from a school that hasn’t had someone matriculate to your college before, look for a different kind of connection. You could use someone from the same town or area that went to a neighboring school. Or if they’re a first generation student then use a current student with a similar background when you tell your story.

Again, make it your goal to give your listener a story that’s relatable, authentic, and easy to understand. When you do that, it will create an emotional connection that makes it easier for them to take that next step…whatever it may be.

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.

Starbucks and the Bias Your Prospect Has Against YouTuesday, February 14th, 2017

starbuckslineBy Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Do you like Starbucks? If you’re a frequent reader of my newsletter you know I’m really fond of the coffeehouse chain…in fact, it just so happens that I’m writing this article from my local Starbucks store.

I started drinking their coffee in my early 20’s and it quickly became my “go to.” One day I’ll get a latte, the next it’s a mocha, and lately I’ve been on an Americano kick. It doesn’t matter if the location is a standalone store or it’s inside a local supermarket, my coffee is always made the way I want it with my name on it. Throw in comfy couches, free Wi-Fi, and a mobile order and pay option so you don’t have to wait in that long line and I’m all in!

In other words, the hundreds of thousands of dollars of advertising and branding that Dunkin’ Donuts, McCafe (McDonalds) and the rest of the competition have invested in hasn’t convinced me to switch allegiances. I have an emotional bias towards Starbucks, and as you can see in the picture above, I’m not alone.

Why is that? I think it’s because the competition hasn’t made the emotional case for why I should switch. And since I already think I know everything there is to know about coffee that’s “right” for me, I tune out their advertising messages.

Which brings me to you and your school’s recruitment of students. The exact same reason I don’t seriously consider switching coffee brands may be the reason many of your prospective students don’t seriously consider you and your institution. It’s a principle called confirmation bias, and it’s an increasing area of study for our team here at Tudor Collegiate Strategies as we map out recruitment strategies and communication plans for our clients.

Confirmation bias happens when we only pay attention to the information or data that affirms our decisions or beliefs. Once we’ve formed a view, we embrace information that confirms that view while ignoring or rejecting information that casts doubt on it. Even though evidence may overwhelmingly contradict our position, we hold tenaciously to our preferred belief. In my case, it may be irrational love for Starbucks coffee.  For you, it could be affecting your prospect’s ability to look logically at the opportunity your school offers them.

Our research shows more and more prospective students are coming into a recruiting conversation with an existing bias either for your school or against it. And whether you like it or not, a lot of it is irrational:

  • They don’t want to consider you as a private college because they’ve seen the price tag, and every time others around them tell them that there’s just no way it can be made affordable, it confirms that notion.
  • Your prospect doesn’t want to visit campus because they think your school is located in a small town in the middle of nowhere, so of course they’d be unhappy going to school in your town because they’re convinced that a small town translates to nothing to do.
  • Your prospect has grown up close to campus, so they think they know everything about your school. They want college to be a unique, exciting experience for them, and they’ve decided that won’t be possible if they stay close to home.

Any of those sound familiar? Right now, confirmation bias – and the negative effects it carries – is creating more hurdles for you in the recruitment process.  It’s a powerful psychological aspect of our decision making, albeit illogical.

So, what are you and your admissions colleagues doing to combat that? And, what’s the best way to compete against this line of thinking on the part of your prospects and their increasingly influential parents?

First, I need you to understand that it’s going to take some time to successfully attack a bias. If you think it can be done in one email or one letter, you’re mistaken. It has to be an ongoing process because you’re essentially going to show and prove to your prospect, and their parents, why their way of thinking is in fact wrong.

Understand that your prospect has probably already made up his or her mind. That might be a good thing for you, or it could be the reason that they haven’t replied to any of your emails or answered any of your phone calls.  Once you agree that most of your prospects come into a conversation with preconceived biases and ideas, I believe it changes the way you construct a recruiting message. The student comes in thinking they know what they want. You then need to approach this situation patiently and also say to them, “I know you feel this way, but I think you might want to take a look at this over here and here’s why.” Again, understand you’re going to be suggesting that they’re wrong. That’s okay. You’re just going to have to tell them what they need to do differently and how they’re going to have to think differently.

They aren’t looking for logic right away.  They’re looking for an emotional reason to have a conversation with you.  Have you ever asked yourself why a prospect doesn’t respond to you when you send out a logical, factual outline of what your school offers, the successful history of recent graduates, and the outstanding community that your students enjoy?  The answer is because they’ve already decided that their original choice is the smartest one for them.  I’ve decided that Starbucks is the right coffee for me based on nothing more than the fact that I’ve drunk it for years and I like the personalized service and look/feel of their stores. Similarly, your prospect is basing their decision on whether to communicate with you or not on simplistic, illogical reasons.  So don’t try to sell them on the logic behind choosing you right away. Instead, work on creating an emotional connection with them.

Discover what makes them happy.  Why have they decided that a bigger/smaller college or another location is right for them?  What are they assuming that makes them feel this way? You need to make the emotional case that (using a previous example for the sake of argument) a private college is worth the extra investment. Only after that basic idea is accepted as a possibility can you then move on to the logical argument that you’re the best option for them.

Last, but not least, be consistent.  This strategy doesn’t take place over one or two emails or in one long phone conversation. It may take weeks to create that emotional connection.  Consistent, long term communication with your prospect using the rule that I talk about in many of the On-Campus Workshops I’ve led is key. That research-based rule says that most students want a message that tells them “here’s why you should pick our college and join our student body” sent every six to nine days throughout the recruitment process.  They need the consistency, and they need it talked about in a personalized way…doing that will make it easier for them to reply back to you and start a conversation.

Many admissions professionals won’t attack biases for the simple fact that success isn’t instantaneous.

Understanding this important psychological component of your prospect’s mental make-up is key in developing a comprehensive, effective recruiting message.  Without it, they’re probably going to come up with enough illogical reasons on their own to not talk to you or seriously look at what your school can offer them.

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