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Prospects and Parents Will Open More Of Your Emails If…Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

nacac16jtby Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

…You use the right subject line.

Think about it. Every time you go to your Inbox, what is it, other than who it’s from that ultimately leads you to open, scroll past or delete (without reading) each email? It’s the subject line.

As a quick example, over the weekend I was going through my Inbox…I had emails from people trying to sell me stuff; others with boring subject lines, some in ALL CAPS (don’t do that), and even one that had the subject line spelled incorrectly. The first email I chose to open had the subject line, “Need Your Advice”. That’s what got my attention. (It was an admissions counselor reaching out for advice/feedback on an email he’s writing for after his school’s Preview Day event)

That same type of decision-making takes place every time one of your inquiries, prospects, admits, commits and parents go to their Inbox and find messages waiting.  Which ones do they read?  Which ones do they not pay attention to?

Just like me, and probably just like you it often comes down to the subject line.

Still not convinced that you need to pay close attention to your subject line? Consider this – 205 billion email messages are sent every day. That means it’s becoming harder and harder for any of us to get (and keep) the attention of our readers.

So, if you want to get more of your emails opened, here are some ideas that we’ve seen work as well as a couple of extra tips:

  • Personalize it. I’ve reiterated numerous times in previous articles how important it is to use personalization (and use it correctly) throughout the recruitment process. We all love the sound of our own name, and when you include the recipient’s name in the subject line, it adds a feeling of rapport. Plus, according to the Science of Email Marketing, emails that included the first name of the recipient in their subject line had higher clickthrough rates than emails that did not.
  • Tell them you’re about to help them with something. Be really specific. Examples could include, “5 tips for filling out the FAFSA easier”, or “This will help you understand your financial aid package”.
  • When every email from you is urgent, none is. At least that’s what many of your prospects tell us.  Use urgency when it’s actually useful, like when there’s a real deadline or compelling reason to contact you immediately. If you use urgency too often, you’re going to find it a lot harder to cultivate your recruiting relationship.
  • Ask a question. Make it short, make it compelling, and create curiosity.  If you’re asking a question in your subject line that you know is relevant and matters to your prospect it will draw them in.
  • Chop-off half the sentence (like I did today).  Doing that tends to prompt the recipient to wonder what the other half says, especially when the subject line clearly offers value for him/her.
  • Make it really, really short. Short words or phrases get attention. For example, “Deadline” or “Scholarship”.
  • Use a call to action. Calls to action in the subject line have proven effective for our clients when we recommend them for a specific email that’s a part of the monthly recruiting communication plan we create. Even a simple “Check this out!” or “I need your feedback” can serve as a motivating call to action and indicator that a response is or is not being requested.
  • Be different every single time.  There are very few subject lines so amazing that they should be used over and over again.  Take a few minutes to be creative.

What you put in your subject line is arguably the most important factor in getting your emails opened and read. If you’re not consistently taking that part of your emails seriously, I implore you to make a change immediately.

Now on to the fun part! As a way for me to thank you for being a loyal reader of this newsletter, I want to give you the opportunity to win something. It’s 30 seconds of your time for 30 minutes of mine.

All you have to do is click on this link and send me an email before 11:59 PM PST today (Tuesday, January 24, 2017) with your best or most creative email subject line. In the body of your email just put the words newsletter contest. I’ll pick my 3 favorite email subject lines and each winner will receive an email from me tomorrow (Wednesday, January 25) about how to claim their prize.

One last thing – Please review and considering changing your current “out of office” auto-reply email(s).  This is another opportunity for you to be creative and show off some of your personality!  Most admissions counselors don’t take the time to have some fun with that email that goes out to peers, parents, and most importantly your prospects.  This is another little thing that can make a big difference for you.

Follow Jeremy Tiers and TCS Admissions on Social Media:

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Truly Standing Out Takes GutsTuesday, December 6th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

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

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

If you’re a client of ours or you and I have ever had a conversation before, then you know how much I constantly stress the importance of being unique, original and even surprising when it comes to how you approach and handle student recruitment.

One thing we continue to hear from students in the ongoing research we conduct is they struggle to understand, aside from the actual dollar amount, what makes school A different and better than school B and C when it comes to fulfilling their wants and their needs. They crave a reason to choose a college based on the unique selling proposition it offers them.

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

Once you’ve accepted the fact that it’s okay to be different, I encourage you to also remember that not every prospective student and family are one in the same. This means that sometimes a great recruiting idea that generates results with one student or segment of students might not be effective for another. And always be mindful of the fact that the execution of an idea doesn’t always happen seamlessly the first time around. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea that won’t produce the results you want.

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

  • Brochures, letters, emails and other communications. Study after study says that this generation of students no longer reads things from cover to cover. Why then do so many colleges still take the long-winded, cram every fact and statistic about their school in small font approach in their efforts to reach students and families? If you know that your prospects scan the materials that colleges send, then go ahead and make your communications shorter in length and have them focus clearly on just one idea. Then have that communication set up your next message and so on and so forth. As far as the language you use, if you want to create a reaction and get engagement from your reader (so you can find out what they actually think about what you just shared with them), you need to forget the writing rules. Take a less formal and more conversational approach. That approach does not, I repeat DOES NOT, make you or your school sound unprofessional. It actually makes you relatable which makes establishing a relationship with a prospect or parent much easier.
  • Campus visits. More and more I’m hearing stories of students feeling overwhelmed by all that they see and hear in the short amount of time that is a campus visit. That’s not the feeling you want them to have considering how important the campus visit is in a student’s final decision. Let’s start with your information/welcome session. Most colleges offer a quick overview of their campus along with information on academics, financial aid and scholarships, as well as the application process. Be honest. Do you find your current presentation riveting? Start by offering separate sessions for both students and parents. Each group values different things, so come up with topics accordingly. For students, how about a current freshman or sophomore talking about “living with a roommate” or “how I not only survived freshman year, but thrived”. You want it to be something that grabs and keeps their attention, offers value, and is memorable. Speaking of separating students and parents, would it surprise you to know that more and more students tell us they think the campus visit would be more impactful if students and parents were given the same tour but in different groups. And then there are your tour guides. Do you treat them as part of your admissions team, and do they understand the important role they play in the student recruitment process? When they give tours are they just pointing out and discussing the history of various building on your campus, or do they understand the importance of storytelling and how to effectively do that throughout a tour?
  • Social media. I don’t have to remind you how powerful social media is with this generation. Unfortunately, students continue to tell us that most colleges, in their opinion, don’t know how to use SM effectively. The argument I hear from the admissions office is that creating great content on social media is extremely difficult and time consuming. I disagree, and here’s why. You’re over thinking it. For example, stop spending hours and hours trying to create fancy videos that look like a movie and are narrated by someone your prospects don’t know and can’t relate to. Whether you like it or not, it almost always comes across as forced and fake. If you really want to showcase your school’s personality, then go document. Have real students and real people (faculty, admissions staff, food service people, RA’s, etc) document what a normal day on campus looks like through their eyes as it happens. It’s okay if the hair isn’t perfect and there isn’t music playing in the background, because that’s real and raw. And instead of posting picture after picture of the exterior of buildings on your campus, why not showcase what happens inside those walls. There are so many great stories just waiting to be told if you’re willing to do so, but don’t forget to explain why what you’re documenting matters. How about looking into using a brand ambassador to engage on Snapchat or using Facebook Live as an introduction to your campus or a way to show unique events that happen throughout the year? The possibilities are seriously endless. Just remember, real and raw wins over forced and fake a hundred times out of a hundred on social media. Here’s one more that I just heard about the other day. In addition to traditional acceptance letters, some colleges have begun sending students a congratulatory acceptance “snap” that goes straight to their Smartphone.
  • How you recruit others around your prospect (primarily the parents). Have you ever stopped and asked yourself who’s recruiting your prospects for you when you’re not? It’s an important question. Our ongoing research continues to show that parents are the most important outside influence for your recruit throughout the process…but they’re not always the only one. When it comes to the parents and cultivating a strong relationship with one or both of them, why not create a separate comm. flow for them? We do it for our clients, and it continues to pay dividends in a BIG way! Now, let’s discuss everybody else that matters in your prospect’s life. This may include their siblings, best friend, girlfriend/boyfriend, high school counselor or possibly another mentor, coach, or teacher at school or in the community. If you want to be different, it’s time you started connecting on various levels with each of these influencers, so they too understand the value of your school and why it’s the best option for that student.
  • Talking about fear. This is one of the biggest points I’ve being trying to hammer home in 2016. Every single one of your prospects is scared of something when it comes to the college search process and the transition from high school to college. What are you doing to alleviate that fear? Last week during a workshop discussion in Tennessee, I asked the group of tour guides (11 freshmen and 2 sophomores) to raise their hand if as a high school senior they remembered being scared of something at one or more points during the college search process. All 13 hands went up. Then I asked how many admissions counselors at any college they spoke with or visited ever asked about their fear(s). Not a single hand was raised.
  • Re-package your negatives. Instead of avoiding them, tell a different story about the same negative aspects that you can’t control. Your buildings and dorm rooms aren’t as new as some of your direct competitors? Don’t talk about that. Talk about what makes your campus community unique and how they welcome new students. Then talk about how they’ll receive a personalized education from professors who truly care. And then mention that choosing a college based on the newest buildings and facilities is the wrong way to choose where you get an education. Is your college the most expensive option for that student? Explain to them why the cost difference between you and College B is worth it in the long run, and offer a detailed explanation of why. Whatever the story say it confidently, and repeat it over a long period of time.

Here’s the great news – I believe that anyone, if they work hard enough, can come up with a truly amazing idea that can help you and/or your institution stand out from the crowd. I just gave you a handful of ideas that have helped many of our clients create a unique recruitment experience for their students and families.

The next step once you have an amazing idea is arguably the hardest for a lot of people. Go and execute it, or go and present your case on why you believe you and your colleagues need to do it. That takes guts, but an amazing idea executed well can be a game changer.

How Transparent Are You With Prospects and Parents?Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

I’m really excited about this week’s admissions newsletter! In addition to my article on transparency during the student recruitment process, I’ve also included links to terrific pieces written by my good friends Amber Rich and John Brubaker. You’ll find those right below this article, so check them out after you’re done reading my latest offering…here we go.

I’ve had enough of the election commercials. Seriously, thank goodness they’re just about over. My biggest gripe might be the same as yours. I feel like from the Presidential election down to my local races, instead of answering a question about policy or a mistake they may have made, the candidates just resort back to criticizing the other candidates(s). Everybody has done a bad job of being transparent. One CNN senior reporter has even called this national election, “the no-transparency election”.

We respect transparency. It matters in the political arena, and for you, it’s extremely important throughout the student recruitment process. The more colleges I visit, and the more students and parents I talk to, the more I see how crucial it is for all college admissions team members to be 100% genuine and honest in the way he or she approaches a prospect…not 85%, or 95%, or even 98%, it needs to be 100%. That applies for the leadership all the way down to the student tour guides and workers.

Here’s another example. Think about the last time you booked a plane ticket or bought concert tickets online. Was it annoying to arrive at the last page and then discover the extra taxes and fees that were added on to your final price? Been there, done that.

Too many schools speak vaguely, or worse they complicate, exaggerate, and yes believe it or not some even lie when they discuss things like cost and the overall “student experience” on their campus. That’s not me telling you that. Improved transparency is one of the big things your students continue to tell us that they feel you need to improve on as you communicate with this next class of students. In fact, here are a handful of recent student quotes from our focus group research that touch on common complaints:

“Please give detailed, well-explained information. If I didn’t have a sibling who attended <XYZ College>, we would have had no idea about anything like financial aid.”

“Constant communication with parent and student is a must.”

“Contact more, and do more explaining so the incoming class has a better idea on what to expect.”

“Admissions counselors should continue to provide honest information to students and their parents.”

“If you don’t know the answer to something just be honest and say that.”

“Faster responses, more communication with the financial aid, and transparency between the department and the prospective student.”

“Although it may sound counter-intuitive, it is helpful to hear the issues that the school is working to improve. It shows a humble honesty, as well as shows that the school is interested in continuously improving itself.”

So, instead of being scared by transparency, be willing to embrace it as a way to improve customer service and increase customer loyalty. If you’re on board with that line of thinking, here are some ideas you might consider:

  • At every turn encourage students and parents to provide you with feedback. If you’re truly trying to help your prospects find the school that’s the “right fit” for them, you should always want and encourage them to provide you with feedback. Even if it’s something negative about your school or something that they wish they could change after they’ve visited your campus, tell them early in the process that you’re okay with that, and explain your reason why. Remind them that you know the college search process is about them, and you’re here to help in any way.
  • Explain the WHY. A lot of people ask somebody to do something for them without offering an explanation or a “because”. Why should they visit your campus and not the competition across town? Why is it in their best interest to fill out the new FAFSA right now instead of waiting until January or February? Why should they set up a time to meet with their high school guidance counselor and ask about outside scholarships that might be available to them? Take the time to clearly explain why you’re asking them to do whatever it is you’re asking them to do. (Hint: Your WHY should explain how it will benefit them)
  • Give them inside access. Here’s a strategy that I recommended to a client last year as a way to help develop trust early on while also demonstrating transparency. Give them inside access to something or some process that you know they’re wondering about that very few schools discuss. For example, during the campus tour or high school visit, replace your information session for students or your usual speech with an inside look at how your campus helps freshmen make the transition from high school to college smoothly. Be specific about the programs in place and the activities that occur on your campus.
  • Hand over your social media accounts to your students. Too many colleges and universities continue to offer “forced and fake” instead of “real and raw” when it comes to social media. Prospective students can tell 10 times out of 10 when an admissions staff member posts something on your Snapchat, Facebook, or Instagram account. Your students tell us that they want to see what’s happening on your campus from the student vantage point and not just what the admissions office wants them to see. Create and encourage student-generated content, especially around school traditions. Those genuine interactions and images are powerful and can help create an emotional connection.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk about your negatives. When there’s a big negative about your school that you’re consistently running into, you have two choices: You can avoid talking about it and hope that your prospect doesn’t see or hear about it from somewhere else. Or, you can own it. And, you can define it for them. I strongly encourage you to talk about your negatives with prospects and parents. Say, for example, that your college is located in a small town with little to do. Don’t hide from that fact, own it…and then explain why your students love their college experience and actually view your size as a positive. Also, show confidence in the way you explain it to them so that they see you aren’t worried about it.
  • Stop using admissions/EM jargon. You cannot expect teenagers and parents who have not gone through the admissions process before to be aware of the technical terms in your industry. What do “highly selective” and “holistic” really mean? How about terms like articulation, early action/decision, grant aid and need-blind? Furthermore, acronyms like FAFSA, EFC and COA also shouldn’t be used without a full explanation in order to make sure that you are on the same page with your prospects and their parents.
  • Listen to them. Many customer complaints boil down to the fact that no one listens to them. Your goal should be to get and keep two-way communication throughout the recruitment process. You don’t need to “sell” at every turn. When you listen, it lets your prospects and their parents know that someone is trying to make their experience better.

If your prospects and their parents come to trust you and your institution through transparency, they’ll be far more forgiving if and when you make a mistake.

I would also add that even though this article focused on recruitment strategies, don’t forget that transparency can significantly improve the culture within your office. The more informed colleagues and staff members are, the more invested they will be.

As always, thanks for your attention! And if you’ve got a question about transparency or another aspect of student recruitment, let’s talk. Email me directly at: jeremy@dantudor.com

Are You Making These Recruiting Mistakes? (Ask Yourself Today)Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

She took a big step. Scratch that, I think she took an enormous step, and I was excited to be a small part of it! Let me explain what I’m talking about.

Earlier this year we partnered with this particular admissions counselor and the rest of her admissions team. During my individual meeting with her as a part of our on-campus workshop this summer she admitted to me that she was an introvert. I asked her then if she felt like her personality impacted the way she recruits. She didn’t have an answer and she said it wasn’t a big deal. I encouraged her to think more about it, and then I did what I always do…which is the same thing I do for you every Tuesday at the bottom of this newsletter – I gave out my cell number and told her to feel free to connect with me at any time.

Fast forward to this past week when I received an unscheduled and unexpected call from that counselor, who by the way I hadn’t spoken with since my visit to campus. Her first words to me were, “Jeremy, I’ve finally got an answer for you and yes it’s a problem”.

She proceeded to tell me that this fall she’s really had a hard time getting any sort of engagement during her high school visits and college fairs. One night in her hotel room she was catching up on email and just happened to come across my most recent admissions newsletter. She told me it triggered a memory from our conversation during the summer, and that was enough to push her to schedule some time to talk about things with her Director when she returned to campus. What ensued was an important discussion between the two of them about self-awareness.

Being able to accept that you struggle at or with something is hard for many of us to admit. So is breaking a bad habit or admitting that there might be a better strategy or solution than the one you’re currently using.

Building on that, today I thought it would be beneficial for you if I shared some common recruiting mistakes that I see a lot of admissions professionals continuing to make right now. And while not being self-aware isn’t on this list, it’s definitely something that I want you to think about.

Here are seven other things on my list:

  1. Interrupting. Stop interrupting prospects, parents, high school counselors and other people you come in contact with every day. Even if you think you know what the other person is going to tell you, have the courtesy to hear them out and let them express their point of view. Listen first; talk second when someone else engages with you.
  2. Selling too fast. Too many of you are in a rush to skip steps and just try to push the student to the next stage of the process. Slow down. You’re moving faster than your prospect most of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for meeting department goals, but would you believe me if I told you that I’m confident you’ll get more applications and campus visits when you slow down the sales process? Build the relationship first; sell your school later, especially in the early stages with a new prospect or inquiry. Take the time to ask probing questions like where the student and family are at in the college search process, and who else is going to be involved in the decision. When you slow down the conversation you’ll have more time to demonstrate why your school is the best fit for their needs.
  3. Not recruiting the whole family. For the past six months or so I’ve been mentioning in article after article why you need to start the conversation with family members, namely parents, earlier. Stop waiting until the financial aid discussion to connect with them and create dialogue. It’s a big reason why you’re not converting as many admits as you’d like. Create a long-term plan to develop a relationship with, and recruit, a prospect’s family. In addition to parents, that can also extend to siblings and grandparents.
  4. Giving up too easily on prospects that don’t reply right away.  Just because a new prospect or inquiry doesn’t respond to your early letters and emails doesn’t mean your messages aren’t making an impact. Some experts contend that a consumer won’t take action on something until he or she has been a part of your campaign 7 times. Others say that 20 is the magic number. Sure, there’s always a time to move on, but too many counselors give up too easily on students before exploring all of the different communication avenues.
  5. Making phone calls that don’t have a purpose.  You need to have a game plan for your recruiting phone calls.  Dan (Tudor) and I talk in detail about that during our on-campus workshops. Getting through your list is great…but how many of those conversations are actually helping you move the needle in your favor? Successful phone calls have a plan of attack. Key pieces of that plan need to be asking really good questions, gaining usable information for future calls and messages, and setting up the next phone call or communication.
  6. Making excuses. Particularly when it comes to responding to emails in a timely fashion or inputting your notes into your CRM so that if you’re out of the office and a colleague has to deal with one of your students, he or she can quickly and easily get up to speed. Stop trying to find reasons why you can’t get these and other critical things done, and instead focus on finding a solution or figuring out a way to manage your time more effectively.
  7. Not understanding how to “close the deal”.  You have to keep asking the right questions.  You have to keep gauging the prospect’s interest.  You have to seek out and effectively handle objections. You have to get those “little yeses” I’ve talked about before. No matter how good of a position you think you’re in with a student you should never just sit back, wait, and hope they choose you.  The really good admissions counselors continue to develop their relationship with their recruit, and do so in such a way that furthers their connection with you and your institution.

Are you making any of these common mistakes? Are there one or two other areas in your approach that need some tweaking and adjusting?  E-mail me at jeremy@dantudor.com and let’s discuss what we can do together to fix the mistakes that might be hurting you in your recruiting efforts.

How to Begin Telling Your School’s “Story”Tuesday, August 30th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Whenever we go to lead one of our On-Campus Workshops for a college admissions department, a big part of our job is helping them to develop their “story”.

I think stories are vital to the student recruitment process. And just to be clear, when I say “story” I’m not talking about your marketing materials. Much of that information is dull and uninspiring…your students continue to tell us those exact words.

The stories I’m referring to are a crucial ingredient in your recruiting communication flow. They talk about things like the people on your campus (students, faculty) and your community. They create emotion for your prospects, and they help them visualize themselves on your campus and in your classroom.

So, what’s your “story” that you want this next class to buy into? Have you sat back and considered what kind of picture you’re painting for your prospect in their head through your recruiting materials, phone calls and even on-campus visits?

If you’ve never seriously thought about your “story” before, and need help in creating it so that you can be a more effective recruiter, today I’m going to pass along some critical questions that your admissions team should ask each other. The answers will help you find out what’s unique about your institution and how to present it as a compelling story that any prospective student will want to hear more of:

  1. What are your prospects demanding?  Here’s a hint: It’s not always about the money, so don’t make that the focus.  If you’re a frequent reader of this newsletter, or you’ve had me on campus to lead a workshop, you know students continue to tell us that personal relationships with you and other students on your campus impact how they will make their final college decision much more than being affordable. They demand attention, and they demand benefits that revolve around them.  What can you do to “meet their demand”?
  2. What do your prospects need?  A really good financial aid package?  Yes.  A degree?  Of course.  To see themselves “fitting in” on your campus?  All the time.  Ask yourself what your prospects need, and you will go a long way towards reaching them with a message – a story – that they will identify with.  Remember: “Needs” are different than “demands”.  Their needs revolve around the realities that they are facing and are necessary for them to overcome those hurdles.  And in most cases different prospects have different needs. Figure out a way to meet their needs (that’s what they care about, anyway…their needs, not yours).
  3. What are they willing to pay for?  This is a challenging and in-depth question. What is it that your prospects view as being a “premium” feature of your school that if they had to pay for it, they would be happy to do so? For example, it might be the brand new dorms or the ability to be a part of the sports culture or the Greek system on your campus (if you have it). Each of those things is a tangible “premium” item that your prospects might be willing to pay for if they had to.  Understanding what the most valuable parts that your college offers them in their eyes is a big key in developing a great recruiting story.
  4. What niche(s) can your school offer that others don’t?  Earlier this month I worked with a university that is developing a specialized niche in the way they prepare their freshmen students to successfully transition to college life. Take a look at what kind of “specialty” niche you can put together for your prospects. What can you offer them on your campus that most of your competitors don’t?  Find an area that other colleges are failing to focus on, and build out that unique brand for your prospect.
  5. Who are the people behind your institution?  I don’t mean just your school’s President. I mean who else on your campus can your prospects connect with on a personal level? A big key as you tell those people’s “story” is to be genuine. Don’t embellish so much that down the line it becomes clear to your prospects or their parents that this person isn’t really who you’ve painted them as. And also don’t forget your audience either because you don’t want to necessarily tell the same “story” to everyone. The goal is for your “story” to be personal and have emotion built into it.

Asking these five questions can help your admissions team develop the beginnings of a great recruiting strategy.

If you want to achieve emotional engagement, which is a critical part in today’s student decision-making process, effective storytelling is a must.

Ready to take the next step?  Become a client of Tudor Collegiate Strategies. Let us help you develop and execute your story saving you time and increasing your yield results. Click here for more details. Our system works, and we’d love to tell you why.

Do You Really Know What Your Prospects Are Thinking?Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Prospective students think differently than you do. But you know this…or do you?

I ask because a surprising number of admissions counselors that I talk to don’t realize it, and it’s preventing them from becoming dominant recruiters.

Many of you are concerned with your school’s history, your school’s location, and other “stuff” as you build-out your recruiting story for your prospects. Oh, and you need to be able to offer a better financial aid package every time too, right?  Otherwise there’s just no way that you can get more prospects to visit your campus or increase your enrollment.

In the majority of cases, that kind of thinking is flat-out wrong.

I can tell you that with confidence because we’ve had the chance to personally interview hundreds and hundreds of your students over the years.  They’ve told us how they make their final decision, and what matters most to them.  In the end, if you look at the data it’s obvious that your prospects value things differently than you do.

Let me give you some common examples:

  • They think how you treat them and communicate with them is more important than what your dorm rooms looks like. Personal relationships rank higher than your on-campus student housing, no matter how new the dorms may be, time after time.
  • They think the way your students treat them during their campus visit will tell them if your campus makes them feel wanted and if they can fit in. If other students (not just the tour guides) aren’t friendly and welcoming when your prospect is touring campus, the chances that prospect will end up enrolling at your school take a significant hit.
  • They think their parents are very important to the decision making process. In many cases this generation of students rely on their parents to help them make any major decision. If you aren’t recruiting the parents at the same time you recruit their child, you are making recruiting harder than it needs to be.
  • They think that you talk too much during your phone calls. Don’t take it personally, but if you’re doing most of the talking during any phone call you have with a prospective student, you’re hurting your school’s chances. If doesn’t matter how important you think the information you’re giving them is, more time talking does not equal more interest from your prospect.
  • They think your emails and letters are too long and look and sound the same as every other college that’s sending them stuff. Your prospects tell us that they scan those email and letters versus reading them from start to finish.  They also tell us that most of the information is boring and not personalized enough.
  • They think it’s great when you ask questions about their wants and their needs versus just selling your school. Make sure you’re making it more about getting to know them rather than selling your school or your academic program right away.
  • They love it when you write them personal, hand-written letters and post cards.
    They’ll read every word of a hand-written note you send to them. They tell us as much, because they understand that hand-written notes take more of your time. In their minds they think that means you put a higher value on them than other prospects. And would you be surprised to also learn that your prospects tell us they wonder what you thought of them after that first phone call or visit to campus. Yet another great opportunity to send them a personal note.
  • Social media matters to them and they think you don’t do a good enough job of using it to your advantage. This is one of the biggest pieces of advice that your students offer up when we ask them what your admissions department needs to do better in terms of how you communicate with this next class you’re now recruiting. One student summed it up best when she said, “Be more where we are”.

Are there exceptions to these rules?  Of course. But I’ll guarantee you that the majority of the prospects you just started recruiting think this way.

If you’re on board and now wondering what you can do to change the way that you communicate and recruit this next class, here are some quick tips:

  • Simplify your communication with them.  Be more direct and to the point.  That’s what they want.
  • Communicate through multiple channels consistently and effectively. Develop messages that allow you to get, and keep, back-and-forth conversations going.
  • Ask them questions that other admissions counselors avoid or don’t believe need to be discussed. Topics such as fear and their timeline.

Now is the time to start matching your communication with what your prospects are thinking.  Once you do, recruiting will get a lot easier.

Want more engagement from prospective students? It starts here!

Critical Recruiting Strategy Questions For Your Admissions StaffTuesday, August 2nd, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

If you’re a regular reader of this newsletter then you know I’m always looking for ways to help you with your professional development. If you’re a new reader, welcome, and now you know too.

Over the past few months I’ve told you why you should be a resource and not a salesperson, how you can be more interesting to prospects, and I’ve given you reasons why your recruitment efforts might be falling short.

Today I want to ask you some critical recruiting strategy questions. They aren’t optional – you have to answer them.

Why? Because I want you to be successful and dominate what has become an increasingly challenging recruiting landscape.

The four questions I’m about to ask you are going to require some thought and should be answered in some detail.

Each of these questions pertains to your central approach to your recruiting message. Many college admissions staffs haven’t truly answered them before, which will give you an automatic advantage if you take a few minutes to answer them for your institution. Doing so will also allow you and your admissions team to recruit more logically and effectively.

Here are the questions that I want to see you develop answers for as you head into another busy and eventful recruitment season:

  1. Who are the prospective students you’re trying to connect with? I’m not looking for actual names. I’m looking for traits.  Things such as demographics, geographical information, and personality type.  Once you define the characteristics of the prospects you’re going after, you’ll be surprised at how well you focus on those recruits.  That’s a major problem we find with many admissions counselors – No definition of what their school is all about.  If you try to sell your school to everyone, you’ll end up selling it effectively to no one.  So let me ask you, “How do you answer that question right now”?
  2. Why are they going to choose your institution?  For many of you reading this, you aren’t coming off a year where you significantly increased your enrollment. In fact, many of you may have experienced a drop. Chances are there’s a direct competitor of yours that has better campus dining, newer dorms/buildings, offers more merit aid, and maybe a better location.  So the big question is also a simple one: How are you going to change their (your prospects and their parents) perspective?  How do you change your story?  And once you change their minds, what then?  You need to know what your end game is before you enter a serious recruitment battle for a high achieving student. So let me ask you, “How do you answer that question right now”?
  3. What tools are you lacking?  Most admissions leaders can easily define what their team is good at doing when it comes to recruiting.  Conversely, many aren’t aware of the skill set(s) their team lacks. So, if you’re being honest with yourself and the counselors on your staff, what three things do you need to get better at right away?  What are the things you do poorly, or wrong, as a leader? Honest, ongoing self-evaluation is important if you want to achieve long-term success in the college recruitment world.  Many schools are tasked to “get more done with less”. Are you using that as your excuse when you don’t reach your goals, or are you digging deeper to find an alternative solution? So let me ask you, “How do you answer that question right now”?
  4. What do you need to make successful recruiting happen more often?  Think about the time(s) when everything fell into place and you reached, or even exceeded, your enrollment goals.  What went right?  What happened that time that didn’t happen all the other times?  I recommend you develop a prototype of the ideal recruiting process, the ideal campus visit, and the ideal sales message. If you need help with one or all of these things I encourage you to reach out and connect with me. It’s what we do. You should also be asking yourself what some of the common mistakes in your ongoing recruiting efforts are (again, be honest!).  What do you need to do in order to duplicate the big successes in the past?  So let me ask you, “How do you answer that question right now”?

More than ever before, you and your institution need to define what you’re all about. Tell a great story (it’s one of the things that separates an average recruiter from a superstar recruiter).

Coming up with answers to those four questions will go a long away towards helping you build a firm foundation that you can recruit effectively and efficiently from.

We’re starting work with multiple new clients this month. Each school understands they need a different approach to student recruitment, and we understand that each school is different and unique. Find out how our research-based approach can work for you and your team. All you have to do is email me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com

Developing Your Recruiting RelationshipTuesday, July 26th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

At a time when colleges and universities are looking especially hard at the bottom line, admissions professionals must be able to consistently market and sell their school to prospective students and their parents. That’s the bottom line.

One of the biggest challenges we’re often asked to address during our On-Campus Training Workshops is how to get and keep the attention of today’s prospects. It’s an on-going battle that’s for sure. If the teenager or twenty something on the other end wants to ignore your recruiting message, you can’t stop him or her. What you can do however is provide them with compelling reasons to choose your school over the competition.

Here’s even better news! You don’t need to have a big time budget to successfully communicate your message and cultivate a positive relationship. You just need a few easy strategies that savvy business professionals use on a daily basis.

Think about how you develop relationships in your personal life. Any good relationship is built on trust. When there’s trust, there’s loyalty. When a relationship has those two characteristics that means there’s a genuine concern for each others’ well being.

Your recruiting relationships should be developed the same way. You cannot expect your recruit and his or her parents to commit to your institution if they don’t trust you. When you build trust, loyalty will follow. Your recruits will want to continue to interact with you rather than your competitors.

It’s important to start establishing those real, caring, long-term relationships with your prospects early in the recruitment process. If you do, you’ll have an easy time proving to your recruits (and their parents and others around them) that you’re concerned about them, and want to help solve their problems. You’re not just there trying to sell a college. You’re there to help.

If you want to differentiate yourself from admissions counselors who will read this and then forget about it later today, try these four proven strategies for establishing those all-important prospect relationships:

  1. Be specific when telling your recruiting story. Are you currently developing a story that tells your prospects something very specific or very memorable about your institution? Sometimes a specific focus can help you tell your school’s story in a much more compelling way, and give recruits a reason to listen to what you’re saying.
  2. Understand that different recruits have different problems. If you’re an avid reader of this newsletter, you know that your recruits all have worries, fears and hopes. Here’s the thing. Those of a traditional student (teenager) are going to be very different from those of a non-traditional student (single parent, mid-career professional). If you don’t believe that then you’ll rarely connect with prospects the way you need to if they’re going to enroll at your school. It’s your job to try and put yourself in each recruit’s shoes and develop separate messaging that will truly help them. When you do that you’re sending a strong message that you care.
  3. Make your recruiting messages personal. When you effectively use personalization during the recruitment process you stand out from the crowd. To build a close relationship with your prospect and his or her family you must communicate on a personal level no matter the type of contact. That includes mail, email, phone calls, social media and face-to-face contact. I understand doing this will take up more time and involve some creative thinking. The end result will be a feeling of being wanted. That’s something that every single prospective student is looking for.
  4. Commit to utilizing social media. Let me be clear. I’m not talking about your admissions Facebook page (although that’s not a bad idea either). I want you to invest more in your personal SM accounts. If you don’t you’re missing out on a prime opportunity to reveal the “real you,” as well as offer a behind the scenes look at what makes life at your school so great. As always, no matter what type of communication you use, you must be consistent if you expect favorable results.

A quick word of caution. Don’t ever pretend to be someone you’re not. Your sincerity, or lack thereof, will always shine through.  Teenagers today are smart.  They know when you’re telling them the truth and when you’ve embellished a little too much.

These four strategies will help you quickly establish real rapport with your prospects, and in the end increase your school’s chances of enrolling them.

We help colleges and universities improve their recruiting relationships year-round. If you have a specific question or want help developing a winning strategy call me at 612-386-0854…or just send me an email.

 

Establishing Trust With Prospects and ParentsTuesday, June 21st, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

Why is it that many of us don’t hesitate to sponsor or donate money to one of the neighborhood kids when they ring the doorbell with that Jump Rope for Heart form? What’s our primary reason for buying Girl Scout cookies other than the fact that they taste really good?

Conversely, why do we try and get off the phone as fast possible when a telemarketer calls?

It boils down to trust. The organization sponsoring the child from our neighborhood or those girls selling cookies has spent years building trust, and we have faith that our donation is going to a worthwhile cause. The reason we don’t trust the telemarketer that calls is because we don’t know him or her, and something just doesn’t feel right about a complete stranger calling us at home to sell us something.

The gut reaction we have to each of those scenarios has big implications for college admissions professionals.

Most of us don’t like interacting with people we don’t feel like we can trust. Prospective students and parents are no different. Establishing trust with them early on is an important element of the college search process that often times we see admissions undervalue. Without trust, how can the student believe that your school will deliver on those statements or assurances that get made during the recruiting cycle?

Lately I’ve been talking to a number of admissions directors who are reassessing how their institution interacts with prospects and parents. If you’re doing the same or plan to have discussions about your communications during an upcoming retreat, I encourage you to remember that the same factors you use to judge the trustworthiness of people and organizations are being used by this generation of prospects, and their parents, to judge your trustworthiness.  Many of those prospects and parents tell us that early in the process they’re figuring out whether or not to have a serious interaction with your school based on whether they feel like they can trust you or not.

The decision to interact happens before your prospect actually listens to what you have to say. How you construct your letters, what you say in your emails, the layout of your website, and how you interact with them on social media will determine whether or not you get to communicate with that prospect.

I’ll bet you might be surprised at how many different types of interactions factor into whether or not a new prospect chooses to trust you enough to communicate with you or a member of your admissions team.  Here are a few of the most important:

What your website and email templates look like: When they look at those properties, which studies say they do, what’s the brand image that comes to their mind?  If you’re a smaller school, do you look like the bigger brand institutions?  If you’re a well-known college or university, how are you separating yourself from your other big-name competitors?  These are serious questions that you need to consistently ask.

Your first letter or email between you and your prospect: Does it look and sound like everybody else’s, because I can guarantee you that when you reach out and communicate with a prospective student for the first time the way your message is worded is going to determine whether or not they feel you’re worth interacting with. When you’re writing your message, does it sound like you would if you were talking face to face with your prospect?  Or, does it sound so formal that your prospect is going to know it’s the typical, mass mail, semi-personalized message they’ve become used to seeing from your competition?

What they’ve heard about you:  If your prospect has heard good things about your school from people he or she knows, the entire relationship changes. You automatically get the benefit of the doubt. That begs the question: What are you doing to make sure that your current students, as well as the students (and their parents) who chose another college instead of yours, experience superior customer service? Remember, you can actually control what they’re saying.

Their fear:  As we talk about extensively in our On-Campus Workshop that we conduct for college admissions departments, your recruit’s fear is present throughout the recruiting experience.  What are you doing to answer that fear?  How are you doing that early on as well as late in the process? If you don’t think their fear matters, you’d be wrong, and I’d strongly encourage you to read my article in last week’s newsletter.

What you’re asking them to do early on: If you’re asking a prospect to reply to your email early in the recruiting process, there’s a decent chance that’s going to happen.  On the contrary, counselors and schools who want to jump into an early conversation about a campus visit or filling out the application immediately might be going too fast, too soon.  Urgency like that rarely leads to increased trust from your prospect. Be mindful of what you’re asking them to do and whether or not you’ve given then ample reasons as to why they should.

What they see about you social media:  How well you post on Facebook, Instagram and the other social media platforms matters to this generation of prospects.  In fact, it matters a lot!  Your online presence is one of the most immediate impressions that gets formed by your recruit.  And in most cases it helps to determine how much interaction they wish to have with you and whether or not they’re excited to learn more about your school.

You understand it’s about them:  How are you proving that you understand the college search process is about their wants and needs and not why you think they’d be crazy not to pick your school?  More importantly, how are you communicating that?

Your honesty:  This generation of prospects and their parents are actively searching for people who prove they’re honest.  It’s vital that you demonstrate that honesty and showcase it to them through your recruiting emails and letters.  Don’t be the counselor who, in trying to build trust, over promises and under delivers. You need to repeatedly demonstrate that you are the counselor they can trust.  That means from time to time it’s okay to admit when you’re wrong or your school isn’t better than a competitor in a particular area. The counselors who are trusted always end up with a decisive advantage.

How consistent you are in your recruitment efforts: How much did you communicate with this next class of prospects when they were juniors? Do you have consistent messaging for transfer students? These are important questions in the minds of your prospects.  When we work with new clients and take their admissions team through a series of focus group questions to determine how best to help formulate their recruiting strategy, one of the most common themes that stands out as being vitally important to prospects is how consistent a counselor or school is in the way they communicate.  If your school sends a couple of messages at the start, and then is hit-and-miss during the rest of the recruiting process, you’re probably going to get labeled as inconsistent.  If this sounds like you, then make a change now because our research shows that’s going to hurt you when your prospect reaches their final decision.

Since you’re going to be judged by this generation of prospects, doesn’t it make sense to make sure you’re taking an intelligent, thorough approach to establishing trust?

Good luck!

Jeremy Tiers and the team of recruiting experts at Tudor Collegiate Strategies answer questions and work with admissions professionals of all levels every day.  If you have a question, just email Jeremy at jeremy@dantudor.com

If Your Prospect Picks Another School, Here’s What You Should DoTuesday, April 26th, 2016

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

It’s happening right now to admissions counselors across the country: admitted students are saying thanks but no thanks to a school’s offer of admission. What’s even worse is some of those “no’s” are coming from recruits that many of you probably had penciled in as “yeses.”

The reasons will vary. Some will be legitimate, and some will make absolutely no sense whatsoever.

For most of you losing a recruit to another school should not signal gloom. I phrase it that way because if your no’s start to equal or out-number your yeses, I strongly encourage you to self-evaluate and discover why your recruiting efforts are failing. If you need help correcting bad habits or mastering closing techniques, feel free to reach out to me via email.

Today I want to focus on what to do next when your undecided admits pick another school. Handling this situation effectively is something that separates an average recruiter from a great recruiter.

Here are four simple tips to help you deal with rejection from your prospect:

  1. Don’t overreact. Sounds easy enough, right? If only that were the case. You just spent months, or in some cases even longer, cultivating a relationship with the recruit and their parents, and in an instant, all your hard work goes out the window. Combine that with fatigue and stress about yield, and it’s easy to see how a negative response from a prospect could become the tipping point for some counselors. Take a deep breath and exhale before responding to their email. If you get the bad news during a phone call, try hard not to change your tone and become bitter and combative with the already nervous teenager on the other end of the line.
  2. Respond gracefully (because doing so can lead to future “yeses”). When a prospect chooses another school send them a personal note wishing them well. Why, you ask? For starters very few counselors actually do this, so it will leave a lasting impression. “But Jeremy they picked a different school so that doesn’t matter at this point.” Oh, but it does! That kind of professionalism will pay dividends down the road when others around that prospect or their parents ask about your institution and the overall experience that they received from you. This goes back to one of my personal pillars of successful recruiting – Who’s recruiting for you, when you’re not recruiting. Think about that for a minute.
  3. Ask them WHY. Successful people in any line of work learn from their mistakes. Instead of trying to end the conversation abruptly when a recruit tells you they chose a different place to spend the next four years, use this as a learning opportunity. Ask them why they chose a different school, listen carefully to their answer, and thank them for their honesty. Your goal is not to try and change their mind (although we’ve seen it happen before) but simply to learn. What most counselors tell us they find is there was an objection left unanswered, or the school the student chose did a better job of consistently communicating with them during the process. Once you learn to overcome objections in particular you’ll find that recruiting gets a whole lot easier and more enjoyable. If you’re hearing the same objection or complaint from several prospects, it’s time to make some changes and come up with a new strategy. By doing so, I’m confident you’ll find that you get fewer “no’s” and more “yeses.”
  4. Never let rejection get you down.  Counselors, specifically less experienced ones, tend to get down on themselves when a prospect rejects their school’s offer.  Many develop a negative attitude and begin dreading the recruiting process.  Remember, they’re not rejecting you personally, they’re rejecting your school’s offer.  There’s a difference.  Don’t beat yourself up, and don’t lose your optimism.  Maintaining your confidence and belief in your ability in the face of rejection is key to future success.

It’s getting late in the recruiting year.  Are the results what you expected?  More importantly, are the results what you want and need?  If the answer is “no”, then let us explain what our Admissions Recruiting Advantage program is all about.  Here’s what to do…email me at jeremy@dantudor.com so we can arrange a time to show you what other admissions departments have already discovered.

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