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NACAC and Why This One Thing Matters So Much!Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

 

If you read my newsletter frequently, then you know I’m always on the lookout for real life examples with practical applications that I can turn into articles. I even have a friend who’s an Executive Director of Admissions who asks me each time I see him if he’s going to end up in an article one day. Not today, but I was ironically with him at last week’s NACAC National Conference, more specifically the counselors’ college fair, when today’s article came to me.

Body language matters! I’ll explain why in just a minute.

If you want to become a better admissions counselor or leader, every aspect of communication (even the nonverbal kind) is important as you try and connect with a prospective student or parent, or when you try and lead your staff. We all give and receive signals every single day…things like how fast or loud we talk, how close we stand, how much eye contact we make, and the gestures we make. Even when we stand and don’t say a word, we’re still communicating non-verbally.

Throughout last week’s conference in Salt Lake City, I saw numerous examples of good and bad body language. I saw vendors who were overbearing, moving around too much, looking around while talking to people, and standing in a manner that was standoffish. And I saw admissions counselors at the counselors’ college fair having relaxed, easy going conversations with each other…smiling, laughing, hugging, and eyes totally locked in. There’s more, but I’m sure you get the point I’m making.

Why is this important? Because body language can totally change how you, me, your colleagues, and your prospective students interpret messages. Did you know that some studies have shown as much as 70% of our communication is done non-verbally? Crazy, right!

Knowing all of this, the first piece of advice I want to give you is if your prospect’s words don’t match his or her body language, you’d be smart to rely on body language as a more accurate reflection of their true feelings. This goes for things like college fairs and high school visits.

Here’s another important reason that body language needs to be something you think about. Research shows that we decide in the first few moments of meeting someone whether or not we like them, and in some cases, feel like we can trust them. You can create a favorable first impression and build rapport quickly by using “open” body language. In addition to smiling and making eye contact, show the palms of your hands, talk slowly and normally, and keep your arms unfolded and your legs uncrossed.

When you’re at college fairs, doing high school visits, or leading an information session during a campus visit event, are you looking at your audience or are you staring at your PowerPoint or the marketing materials that you brought along? How’s your energy level?

Does your body language mirror that of the person you’re talking to? Mirroring indicates interest and approval.

All of this matters…a lot! You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

One final point – It’s hard to fake nonverbal communication. Some people can sit a certain way or shake hands in a way that makes them appear confident. The truth is that likely won’t work unless you truly feel confident and in control. This is something that I talk about a lot with young, new admissions counselors. You can’t control all of the signals you’re constantly sending off about what you’re really thinking and feeling.

Body language is a great way to gauge how your prospect, or anyone for that matter, is responding to what you’re telling them, but you have to be very aware of what to look for and what you’re communicating to them.

I hope this was helpful. Reply back and let me know. And if you have questions about anything I’ve said, I’m all ears, so let’s start a conversation.

See you back here next Tuesday!

They’re Looking At You As One Or the OtherTuesday, July 3rd, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

 

Prior to leading any training workshop, I always conduct a recruiting survey with that college’s incoming or current freshman class (depends on the time of the year). The questions we ask get to the heart of what students liked and didn’t like about the way colleges communicated with them during their college search process. It’s a lot of great context for us and for the schools we work with.

One of the survey questions asks students to give the admissions counselors at their school advice on what they need to understand about the way this generation of students wants to be recruited.

“We​ ​want​ ​to​ ​feel​ ​that​ ​you​ ​genuinely​ ​care​ ​about​ ​us​ ​as​ ​an​ ​individual.​ ​Not​ ​that​ ​we​ ​are​ ​just​ ​another person​ ​paying​ ​tuition.” That student quote appeared in a recent survey, and comments like it continue to show up multiple times in just about every survey we do.

Like it or not, prospective students (and their parents) see you as either a salesperson (bad) or as a resource (good).

A big key to increasing yield is to consistently be a resource rather than a salesperson. This generation of students wants to feel that you’re genuinely trying to help them navigate what has become a scary and confusing process.

“Just​ ​be​ ​friendly.​ ​<Admissions Counselor name>​ ​was​ ​so​ ​gracious,​ ​kind,​ ​and​ ​caring​ ​throughout​ ​the​ ​process​ ​and​ ​really gave​ ​the​ ​university​ ​a​ ​friendly​ ​face​ ​that​ ​I​ ​could​ ​associate​ ​myself​ ​with.” That student quote was an answer to the same question in the same recent survey, and it’s proof of the positive impact that being a resource can have in the mind of a student.

A lot of admissions counselors believe they have to “sell” their school early in the process and try to move name buys and inquiries as fast as possible towards applying, visiting, and ultimately making a decision. Each of those is important, but as I’ve told you before, we’ve found there’s a more effective approach that you can take. It’s one that will still allow you to do each of those things, and at the same time, do each in a way that consistently makes students feel like you’re actually making the process all about them.

If you constantly inundate students with information and bullet points about every single aspect of your school, and you never give them a chance to get a word in or ask questions, they’re going to view you as a salesperson. Conversely, if you ask them questions about their wants, needs, fears, and timeline, and you communicate consistently with their parents, and you help them solve their on-going problems, they’re going to see you as a resource. Plus, in the process of taking that approach, what you’ll find is you still have all kinds of opportunities to discuss key things that make your school unique and a good fit for that student.

There are a lot of other benefits that come from being a resource. For starters, it’s much easier to connect with a student/family and build trust. When you develop a reputation as someone who is trustworthy, you’ll quickly become the “go-to” counselor for help and advice. And, as I just touched on, when you’re a resource, students will tell you what you need to tell them to sell them. Here’s what I mean. Accurate and timely information is important. One of the biggest mistakes I continue to see admissions counselors make is they give information before they get information…they talk too much. The end result is A) Overloading the other person with too much information; and/or B) Giving the wrong information based on the student’s wants and needs. Asking the right kinds of questions at the right time will lead to students telling you what they want to know about next and what they feel needs to happen first before they take the next step in the process.

So, does that mean if you’re a salesperson you won’t be able to connect with and gain a student’s trust? No, but I promise you it will be a lot harder, and a lot more time consuming.

Here are a few additional things you can do to become a resource for your prospects:

  • Respond quickly to emails, texts, and phone calls
  • Deliver information in an easy to understand, conversational, and engaging format
  • Stay current on trends and pop culture
  • Continually polish your problem solving skills
  • Consistently network and exchange ideas with other admissions professionals
  • Cross train/collaborate with other departments on your campus (specifically financial aid and athletics)
  • Admit when you don’t know something and ask for help

Over the July 4th holiday break I encourage you to look back at some of your recruiting emails and letters from this past cycle. Do they come across as friendly and helpful or salesy? It’s one or the other.

And as you talk more about fall travel in your office or changes that you’re going to make next recruiting cycle, specifically in the way that you communicate with students, let me know how I can help. I’d love to start a conversation about helping you grow.

Stay cool, enjoy the 4th, and I’ll leave you with a couple of pictures from the neighborhood fireworks show that myself and a few others put together last weekend for our community. This is such a fun time of the year!

What’s Your Answer to This Important Question?Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

 

Delivering better, more consistent customer service continues to be one of the biggest concerns that college admission and enrollment management leaders voice to me.

Ten years ago if a prospective student had a really bad campus visit, or if a parent received the runaround from someone at your school, they’d vent to a few family members or friends and that was that.

Social Media has completely flipped the script, and with it, word of mouth has exploded like never before. Its impact can be extremely beneficial for both you and your school, or it can be devastatingly negative.

Three years ago I wrote an article where I referenced a conversation I had with a guy named Bill. That article, parts of which I’m going to share with you today, has become one of the most read and most referenced articles I’ve ever written. The conversation Bill and I had generated a very important question that I’m going to pose to you today. Your answer is even more important given the current recruiting landscape of 2018.

Let me start by telling you who Bill is. He runs a decorative/stamped concrete business in the Indianapolis area, which as you may or may not already know, is where I live. Bill is one of the most genuine and down to earth people I’ve ever met. When we built our house, his team created our stamped concrete patio.

A year or so after our patio went in, Bill happened to be in the area and chose to knock on my door and thank me. I’ll get to why in a minute. Bill had just come from our new neighbors’ house across the street. After seeing our patio when they moved in, my neighbors told me that they wanted to do something similar in their backyard. Without hesitation I whipped out my cell phone, told them they needed to call or text Bill, and I gave them his cell number. I had done the same thing for a half dozen other neighbors before, and I’ve done the same thing multiple times since.

Bill’s knock on my door that day was to thank me for all the word-of-mouth recommendations. To date, his company has created and installed 19 different patios in my subdivision.

Why did I offer up Bill’s information so quickly then, and why do I keep doing the same thing now when people ask about our patio? The answer is easy. It’s not because Bill asked me to, and it’s not because he offered me a referral reward of some kind. It’s because so many people in 2018 don’t act like Bill. Too many people, especially those in customer service industries, only care about getting “the sale.” You never hear from them again after that point unless they need something from you of course.

So, here’s my question for you: How many people that barely know you and have had only minimal contact with you (like I had with Bill) would, without hesitation, recommend your school to a prospective student (or their parents) if asked about different colleges?

I’ll even take it one step further. How many of those same people would recommend you to a friend who needed help with something in your area of expertise? If you’ve never thought about either of those things, I strongly encourage you to do so.

Word-of-mouth is the most powerful selling tool you have available. It stems naturally from an unmatched customer experience or interaction. Prospective students, just like my neighbors, are relying on others to help them make decisions.

Our ongoing research with incoming and current freshmen shows that they’ll often go against what their own gut is telling them and side with other influential outside decision makers. It doesn’t make sense, but that’s what’s happening. It’s actually happening all across society. Just look at Yelp, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, etc.

So, I’ll ask the same question again in a different way. “Who’s recruiting for you when you’re not recruiting?”

How many different people do you come in contact with or pass in the halls during a school visit, college fair, or professional development conference? How about the hotel that you stay at or the restaurant on the road where you eat? Think long and hard about that for a minute. If you don’t think investing in relationships will pay a lifetime of dividends, I’m here to tell you it does. I believe in that statement so much that it was the focus of my keynote speech at this week’s NJACAC conference.

Your goal should be to generate positive interactions that get passed along from one person to the next, just like Bill did with me. You control the narrative that is written and communicated about you. That means more smiling, listening, and talking with passion when you discuss your school and what you do.

Start spending a couple of extra minutes and really concentrate on creating a positive relationship with this next class of prospects, their parents, and others around them. The same thing goes for other industry and business professionals that you come in contact with.

The personal and professional R.O.I. when you invest in relationships is astronomical, both short term and long term. I used the word “invest” for a reason because great relationships take time.  There is no shortcut!

Got a question about student recruitment, leadership, or professional/personal development? I’m here to help if you’re willing to reach out and ask.

Have a great week!

Are You Giving Them Enough Context?Tuesday, May 15th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

 

I’m asking because context plays an important role in the student recruitment process. And, too often admissions professionals, namely counselors, don’t give prospective students enough of it when telling their school’s story.

Here’s what I mean:

You start a conversation with a prospect, and you say something like, “We have professors that care and a welcoming community that will quickly feel like home.” You also talk about class sizes and the fact that a high percentage of your recent graduates are employed or continuing their education within six months or a year of graduating. On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with any of that.

But if you dig deeper, context is missing. Without it, you’re going to sound a lot like every other school that you’re competing against.

When I lead a staff training workshop I explain that prospective students often need the WHY behind what a counselor, coach, faculty, or another staff member is telling them or asking them to do. When you provide the “why,” you educate, motivate, and empower. And when the student feels like an active participant in something that involves them, and they understand the value and benefit, they’re more likely to take action.

I would also add that sometimes you will need to tell your prospect what they should think about a certain topic, fact, or something you might show them during their visit to campus. If you don’t supply that context you’re opening the door for someone else to define parts of your school’s story…will it be accurate?

Context also does the following:

  • It gives them a reason to listen to you.
  • It accelerates their understanding of your school and why it might be a good fit for them.
  • If done regularly, it helps to personalize the recruitment process.

So, as you create your story for this next class of students, consider implementing these three strategies that have worked well for our clients:

Start any big conversation with an explanation. For example, “Here’s why I want to talk to you now about financial aid and paying for college…” Doing so sets up a reason that they should listen to what you’re about to say. And when you give them that explanation, make it about them as much as possible.

Or, end a big conversation with definition. After you show your prospect something, or talk to them (or their parents) about a topic that’s important, define it for them by saying something simple like, “Here’s why all of this should matter to you…” Tell them why what you just talked about is important, and how they should define what they just heard you say, or what you’ve just shown them.

Anticipate and address potential negatives from your competitors. If you know that other colleges consistently point out a negative about some aspect of your school (ex. location, size, outdated buildings), warn your prospect ahead of time. Give them context about what they’re likely to hear, and do it in a way that combats and eliminates their intentions. For example, if you know that a direct competitor is likely to mention your school’s outdated buildings and facilities, give your prospect context. Not about the buildings and facilities, but about your competitor’s intentions. You could say something like, “So now that you’ve seen campus, let me warn you about something that might happen. There are some schools out there who are going to tell you that our buildings and facilities won’t allow you to excel here as a student. That’s just not true, and here’s why that should be a huge red flag for you…”

Remember, it’s up to you to define what your prospects should think about something and why that something should be important to them. And in some cases, you’ll also need to explain how that something is different at your school.

Context is one of the hidden secrets of effective recruiting. Do it correctly, and you’ll not only notice an immediate difference in the conversations you have, but it will also allow you to move a student/family through the recruitment process more efficiently.

Have a great day!

P.S. I’ll be speaking at NJACAC in Atlantic City, NJ next Monday and Tuesday. If you’re going to be there, be sure and say hello.

P.P.S. And next Thursday and Friday I’ll be in Spokane, WA speaking at PNACAC. My session which is titled, “The value of phone calls in student recruitment” will be presented on Thursday at 2:15pm in Room 201.

If They Choose Another School You ShouldTuesday, April 24th, 2018

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

 

Sometimes even your best isn’t going to be enough to convince an admitted student that your school is the “best fit” for them. The reasons will vary. Some will be legitimate, and some will make absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Anytime you lose a student it’s important to self-evaluate and figure out the why behind that student’s decision…especially if it’s someone that you had penciled in as a “yes.” That’s what I’m going to help you with today.

In some cases the why will be something that’s out of your control. But more often than you might think, the answer has to do with changing your approach, improving a certain skill set, or correcting a bad habit. Figuring out the why and coming up with an effective strategy for the next time around is something that will help admissions professionals who are looking to climb the ladder.

Let me start by giving you three basic tips to help you deal with rejection:

1) Don’t overreact and become argumentative with the student (or parent).

2) Congratulate the student on their decision. Professionalism always matters. Word of mouth (i.e. a positive experience even though the student didn’t pick your school) is king and it can help lead to future deposits.

3) Never let rejection get you down. I see this happen a lot with admissions counselors during their first cycle, to the point where some develop a negative attitude and begin dreading future conversations. Always keep in mind they’re not rejecting you personally.

Now, let’s talk more about how to determine the why behind a student’s decision. I’ve talked a lot in this newsletter about what kind of questions to ask at different stages of the recruitment process. If you missed last week’s article about questions to ask undecided students, click here.

Determining the why behind a “no thanks” can easily be done if you ask the right kinds of questions. Often times the answers to those questions can be even more insightful than the ones you ask a prospective student before they’ve made their final decision.

So, here are seven questions you can ask a student right after they tell you they’ve chosen another school. I want you to ask them exactly like you see them below.

  • What was the number one reason behind you choosing that school?
  • Tell me about the feel of their campus and how it compared to when you visited our school.
  • Was there anything that almost made you pick our school?
  • When did you actually know that our school wasn’t the right fit for you?
  • What did your parents say about our school and your decision?
  • Did our school communicate with you too much, not enough, or just the right amount during your college search?
  • Can you tell me one thing that I could have done better to make your college search process less stressful?

Analyzing a recruitment process that ends unsuccessfully can provide incredibly valuable information that will be useful during future cycles. I encourage you to make time for this important step.

If your recruiting results this year aren’t what you expected, and you’d like help figuring out WHY, I’m happy to assist and get you some cut and dry answers. It won’t cost you anything but your time (no, me offering free help is not a misprint). Reply back to this email, and we will set up a time to connect.

Thanks again for spending a couple of minutes with me today!

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) this year 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! 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).


The Incredible Value of THISTuesday, October 24th, 2017

By Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

According to the Associated Press, attention spans have shrunk by 50% over the past decade.

Depending on which publication you read, the average attention span is now between 7 and 9 seconds long.

That means prospective students will forget a lot of what they read from colleges, and they’ll retain only a small percentage of what they hear and see during a campus visit. In short, you’re going to need to repeat something multiple times if you want to maximize the chances of it setting in and making an impact.

There is all kinds of psychology to back up this strategy. Take my 8-year old daughter for example. How is it that she knows the Arby’s slogan or can sing Taylor Swift’s latest hit “Look what you made me do” verbatim when it comes on in the car?

Advertisers have done studies about the value of using repetition. Mark Young, the Chairman of Jekyll & Hyde Advertising, a firm that creates and places national advertising, said this about repetition and advertising, “We know that we need 3.7 impressions before a viewer will really “get” the message. We also know that you can deliver up to 15 impressions with continuing good results.”

The moral of the story is pretty simple: Repetition works.

Now, let’s tie this in to your recruiting messages. The trend I see most often when starting work with a new client, or when I’m asked to review a college’s current communication plan, involves cramming as much information as possible about their school or a specific topic into an email or letter. That’s the wrong way to do it – and deep down, most admissions counselors and leaders know it…many have said as much to me.  It’s just always been done that way, and fear of how big an undertaking it will be to overhaul a communication plan often prevents any significant change for occurring.

Today I’m going to help you with that.

There are several rules we follow when we create an interesting and engaging set of recruiting messages for a client. I encourage you to use these to develop your own brand of repetition and consistent messaging with this next recruiting class:

  • Make sure you’re communicating foundational, logical facts to your prospect every 6 to 9 days.  According to our ongoing research with students, that’s how often they want some type of communication from a college. If you don’t apply this first bullet point, you risk inconsistent recruiting results. 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 is more interested in them and values them.  Those feelings are some of what they use when making their final college decision.
  • Address negatives or big objections about your college early and often. Don’t run from them, and don’t wait for a prospect or parent to bring something negative up (or sit back and hope they never bring it up in conversation). Consistent, early discussion about a perceived negative (ex. private colleges aren’t affordable, or being located in a small town means there’s nothing to do) gives you the chance to redefine that objection and reframe the conversation before someone else does. And, it gives you a greater chance to turn their opinion around.
  • Short, logical, fact-based, repetitive messages.  That’s what your prospect needs in order to truly understand why they should choose your school over your competitors. Instead of cramming all that information about campus life, community, or academics into one message, address each from many different angles.  Determine what the big discussion points are within a topic, and then spread those messages out over multiple weeks.
  • Repeat a student or parent’s name and the name of your college often. Advertisers have followed this psychological principle for decades. Repetition of who you are and associating that with positive connotations for the other person produces results. For example, during a campus visit use a prospect’s name multiple times during a conversation. And in your messaging when you ask them to envision themselves living in your dorms or eating in your dining facility, use both their name and your school’s name. This is something small that we’ve seen make a big difference.
  • Mix it up.  Your recruiting communications plan needs to feature a variety of content tools (mail, email, phone, in-person contact, text messaging and social media) and a regular flow. This generation reacts to a good combination of all of these facets of recruiting.  If you focus only on one or two communication methods, you’re leaving the door open for a competitor that will utilize all of their communication resources.  But most of all, our research shows that this generation of students wants a variety of communication types.
  • Social media is personal. Be careful how you repeatedly use it.  Social media is ripe with possibilities, and pitfalls.  Communicating with prospects the right way on a consistent basis via social is one of the best ways to cement a connection with your school. On the other hand, a college who feeds a steady stream of press releases and application and campus visit reminders will lose the attention of a prospect quickly.  Show the personal, behind-the-scenes personality of your campus and your current students and staff…day in the life stuff. That’s what this generation continues to tell us they’re looking for on social.

Repetition is one of the least used and most effective strategies that a college, or you, can utilize in your recruiting communications plan.

If you’d like to learn more about the communications work we do for admissions clients, click here, or simply email me here and we will start a conversation.

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.

An Intangible Thing in Student RecruitmentTuesday, April 4th, 2017

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services 

     

Over the weekend I came across a newspaper article in which college admission counselors and EM leaders shared recommendations and what they wish students knew about the college search process. I always find these pieces interesting, and this one was no different.

The biggest themes that stuck out in the article were the value of visiting campus, taking advantage of the personal attention that colleges offer, and communicating more with admissions counselors (asking the right questions) at schools they’re serious about.

I want to focus on number two and three, and here’s why. On the surface, both of those points don’t seem to be asking for too much from this generation of students. Or do they?

We all acknowledge that anxiety and stress accompany the college search process. If you need more proof, go to social media and start searching terms like “college decision”.

And yet each week I continue to get frustrated calls, texts, emails, and social media messages from college admission professionals who want to know what they need to do to get more students to “take the initiative,” “talk,” and “tell me what they’re thinking” so I can provide them with the relevant information.

I think before you can realistically expect any of those things to occur you need to understand just how real your prospect’s fear is, and you need to find a way to start alleviating it.

When your prospects are reading your brochures, letters, emails, social media posts, and text messages, as well as when they visit your campus, they’re trying to figure out if they TRUST you enough to not only listen but also engage with you.

The greater the level of trust not only with you, but also with your colleagues and current students, the higher the probability that student will enroll at your school. Remember, college is a purchasing decision where trust is essential.

How can you emphasize trust to your prospect and have them actually come away feeling more connected with you and believing that your institution could be the “right fit?”

Here are some suggestions that continue to get results for our clients:

  • Be easy to talk to. It’s such a simple concept, yet it’s something that many admission professionals just don’t pay attention to. The text and sentence structure that you use in your letters, emails, social media campaigns and text messages matters. You need to make it easy for your prospect, most of who are already scared to have a conversation with you in the first place, to actually reply to you.
  • Demonstrate empathy. If you don’t empathize with your prospects and their parents how can you expect to really understand their problems and objections? Make getting to know them the priority, not your selling your school.
  • Do your homework ahead of time. Before you make that first phone call to this next class of prospective students, or before their scheduled campus visit, gather some basic facts and information about the student and their family. I continue to be amazed at the number of counselors who tell me that they enter that initial conversation without any talking points unrelated to their school. We live in the social/digital age, so there really isn’t any excuse. You only get one chance to make a good first impression. Having those “connectors” as I call them is an easy way to build trust quickly. Show your prospect that they’re not just another name on your list.
  • Be honest, even if the truth hurts. It would be great if your school were the “right fit” for everyone. It’s not, and that’s okay. Honesty is one of the key traits that allow others to rely on you. When you’re willing to admit that your school needs to improve on (fill in the blank), or that one of your competitors has a better (fill in the blank) than you do, it’s actually a good thing.
  • Be a good listener. For a lot of people, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. The quickest way to destroy trust is to dominate the conversation. When you do most of the talking you make it impossible to discover what’s really motivating the student to consider your school. When you want to cultivate your recruiting relationship, make it your goal to let the student (or parent) do most of the talking.
  • Don’t overpromise. The last thing you want to do when trying to build trust is sound ridiculous. Never promise something that you can’t deliver because you think doing so will put you closer to (getting them to apply, getting them to commit to a campus visit, getting them to commit/deposit).
  • Exude a quiet confidence. Your prospect is looking for a reason to trust you. A counselor who isn’t confident or can’t explain to them why they’d be a great fit at their school is going to have trouble gaining that prospect’s real trust.
  • Be a resource, not a salesperson. You’re either one or the other in their minds. Both Dan (Tudor) and I tell our clients all the time that the key to achieving successful and consistent recruiting results is to be a resource rather than a salesperson. When your prospects see you as a resource you’ll find that they’ll initiate contact with you more often, and some of them will even reach out for advice on how to handle situations with other schools that they’re considering.
  • Be authentic. It’s okay to show real emotion from time to time. And by the way, it’s really hard to fake authenticity. You either are or you aren’t.
  • Use a phrase such as, “You can trust me to help make this process less stressful for you and your family.” Let me be clear that a phrase like this shouldn’t be used unless you plan to back it up 100% of the time. That means you respond to emails and text messages, and you return phone calls promptly. That means you help them find solutions to their problems on their time, not just when it’s convenient for you. And that means you do your very best to put a checkmark next to each of the nine bullet points prior to this one.

Let me leave you with this question. Right now if someone asked your undecided students or your next class of prospective students (and their parents) how much they feel they can trust you, what would their answers be?

Was this article helpful? I’m always interested in hearing what you think. And if you have a question about trust or any other aspect of student recruitment, let’s start a conversation (or at least get one scheduled on the calendar).

 

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