Dan Tudor

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Why Smart Recruiters Should Stop Combining Their Restaurant FoodMonday, July 2nd, 2018

I like Mexican food.

I also like Italian food.

So why is it, when I see a sign like this one, do I automatically discount it as something ‘less than special’?

Or, maybe it’s just me. Maybe you like businesses that combine two completely separate categories into one convenient location. Perhaps the chef, showing off his or her versatility in the culinary arts, would be a draw. After all, going to eat a Mexican-Italian restaurant would mean an almost endless variety of food options. You could dine there every night for a year, and you may never repeat the same combination twice.

So what’s my problem?

It’s this: We are a culture that is geared towards specialties. Precise definition.

Online dating sites, like eHarmony? Not precise enough. We needed FarmersOnly.com and ChristianMingle.com. Want to buy a mattress? You don’t go to a department store, you go to Casper.com or get a Sleep Number bed (because we need our own personalized “sleep number”, of course).

So, when we run into businesses that have weird combinations, we pump our brakes a little, right?

It works the same way with recruiting. Your recruiting message, specifically. When you, or your college, tries to present itself as all things to all people, it increasingly fails as a marketing strategy. Coaches that send out information to their recruits which presents everything at once, or makes the case that their college is perfect for every student-athlete, are finding that it’s a message which struggles to gain traction.

What I’m suggesting is simple:

Define yourself as specifically as possible.

In fact, define you, your program, and your college so well that you actually are able to verbalize who isn’t right for you. That’s right, explain to your prospect who isn’t a good fit.

If you do this, at the same time you define yourself out of one prospect’s picture of their ‘perfect school’, you define yourself into another prospect’s picture of their perfect school. In contrast, when you try to describe yourself as perfect for every potential student-athlete, you sound like everyone else. You look like everyone else. And, you are compared to everyone else.

When that happens, how is your recruit left to decide between multiple schools that all sound, look and feel like all their other choices? They’ll gravitate towards the least expensive. Or, the closet to home. Or, the farthest from home. Or, the school at the highest division level.

(Note: This concept also applies to your actual messaging that you’re sending to recruits. Coincidentally, in an earlier article, we used a restaurant comparison to make our point, too!)

They’ll break their own tie, somehow, and experience tells me it doesn’t work out well for most schools.

Unfortunately, that’s where my advice stops. It’s impossible to determine what approach, story or definition is the “right” one for you (shameless plug: we can do that if you’re a client). But you can do it on your own, by answering these four key questions – and then using those answers to craft the core part of your story.

  1. What is our one sentence definition for the perfect student-athlete for our program?
  2. How would I describe a student-athlete who would be completely wrong for me, as their coach, and our program?
  3. What are the three biggest distinctions about our college, location, campus or program that is completely different than most of their other choices?
  4. How can we describe these three distinctions in a way that sounds confident, inspiring and positive?

If you choose to continue to present a bland message which sounds like everyone else they’re hearing from, it’s going to become harder and harder to get their attention. Simple as that. This generation needs a reason to reply to you and take you seriously; the mere fact that you offer degrees and have a sports program isn’t enough any longer.

Begin to find ways to separate yourself from your competition way, way before you get your prospect on campus. You’ll notice much more interest sooner, with better yield results in the end.

We focus on unique ways to tell your program’s story every year at the popular National Collegiate Recruiting Conference. The next conference is happening this summer, so if you’re looking for fresh ideas presented by fellow coaches, make sure you attend! All the details are right here.

Sister Jean Isn’t a Good Luck Charm, She’s a StoryMonday, March 26th, 2018

Sister Jean isn’t a good luck charm.

The nun who prays and cheers at every Loyola University-Chicago men’s basketball game didn’t become the focus of the 2018 NCAA Tournament because of ‘luck’. She doesn’t think so, and I don’t think so.

She became the focus of the tournament because someone told us about her in the form of a story. (And a best-selling bobblehead didn’t hurt, either)

That’s normal, by the way. The media covering any event is always looking for interesting, compelling or inspiring stories associated with the sporting event itself, because they want to make it more than just about the game. It makes for entertaining television. The 2018 tournament has become all about the story that nobody wants to stop talking about: Sister Jean.

The thing is, how this whole story unfolded (and stuck) offers some pertinent lessons for college coaches. For years, we’ve preached that telling your recruit a story is one of the key aspects to getting them to seriously consider you as one of their options. When I make the case that Sister Jean isn’t a good luck charm, that wasn’t a knock against her as a person, and the inspiration she provides her university’s team. I’m pointing out that she has been made a central part of an inspirational story we’ve told ourselves about the team, their amazing run, and the role she plays in the story that has evolved around the team’s play in the NCAA Tournament.

So if I were going to give you a roadmap of how you should tell that story, there’s no more perfect example than the story of Sister Jean.

You have to decide to tell your story. It starts there. The reason most recruiting plans don’t work? Nobody tells your story. Coaches most often revert to a list of statistics, facts and data that they relay to their recruit. Worse yet, most coaches stop telling their story way too early in the process, thinking (mistakenly) that once they actually begin speaking one-on-one with their recruit, they don’t need to continue telling their story. That’s an incorrect assumption that has cost coaches more than they know. Make a decision to tell your program’s story, tell it beginning sooner rather than later, and keep going.

There’s always more to tell. Like I mentioned, Sister Jean now has a popular selling bobblehead. Word is, she’s been a ‘thing’ all around the Loyola-Chicago campus for years. She regularly prays with students, and her pre-game blessing on the team her college is about to play includes her exclusive who-to-watch list for the other team.

My point is this: You can’t just tell one aspect of your program’s story. Just like Sister Jean’s story, your program has a lot of layers to it. In one exercise we regularly take athletic department coaching staffs through during our On-Campus Recruiting Workshop, we have coaches take one of their top objections they face in recruiting, and turn it into part of their positive story. Each campus is different, of course, but most staffs come up with eight or more topics, or answers, to the objection that they were convinced was going to stop them from getting the athletes they want – usually in a matter of two or three minutes. Don’t tell just one story, and don’t think for a second that I’d accept an excuse that ‘our program just doesn’t have that much going on.’ You do.

Look for the emotional connection. Just like Sister Jean at Loyola-Chicago, your program’s ’emotional connection’ might just be something simple that you experience every day on campus. That connection could be right under your nose. When you’re telling your story, ask yourself what the emotional connection is when you are about to write your message to your prospects. I’m not saying you need one every time (Loyola-Chicago does actually play basketball games, and they have to outmatch their opponents, and win the game…that’s factual and practical, not emotional) but it does require you focus on a central theme that ties into your recruit’s emotional motivation for putting you on their list and, ultimately, choosing you.

We look for emotion in today’s culture as a way to assign value to what we want to align ourselves with. Whether its a political cause, what brand of coffee you drink, or whether your favorite team has a 98-year old nun cheering and praying for your team. Emotion draws us towards something. The lack of emotion causes us to lose interest.

That’s bad for television ratings, and it’s bad for recruiting.

Sister Jean isn’t good luck. She’s a great person, with a big heart, and a great story.

Looking for creative ways to weave your unique story into your outgoing message to recruits? Make plans on attending this summer’s National Collegiate Recruiting Conference. You will be treated to some of the most creative ideas available, and come away with a new sense of mission and purpose when it comes to telling your story the right way to your next class of recruits. Click here to get all the information, and to register!

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