Dan Tudor

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Why Recruiting Rep #10 is ALWAYS the Most ImportantSunday, March 16th, 2014

Rep #10 of any workout is the toughest rep.

Those are my pasty, skinny legs on repetition number ten at the gym this past week.  If my legs were the definition of college recruiting, I’d be out of a job.  I’m in the process of trying to undo years of sitting in front of a computer screen, flying across the country, as well as marginal eating habits.

Especially when you’re not on your game, rep #10 is the most challenging.

Many college coaches find themselves facing rep #10 as they read this today:  Their recruiting list is in shambles…they’re out of ideas on what to say to their prospect next…they don’t know what questions to ask…and, more for than a few, their jobs are on the line because of years of lackluster recruiting results.

Recruiting quality prospects is the most difficult part of your job as a college coach.  Period.  It’s not the X’s and O’s, it’s selling your program to teenage recruits and their parents.

And the toughest part of that process is “Rep #10″…what you do at the end of the recruiting process.  That, and that alone, usually determines how strong (i.e., not skinny, not pasty) your results are.  I once heard a great definition of the important of the last few reps of any workout, which said it was a lot like pumping up a bicycle tire: The first twenty pumps don’t make the bike ready to ride, the last three pumps do.  At the end of the process, college coaches need to focus on those final pumps.  Or, rep #10.

With that in mind, let me give you a quick checklist of three tough-to-do, but high impact, “rep #10″ type duties that coaches can focus on at the end of the recruiting process:

Have the parents of your prospects define where you stand in their eyes.  It’s a hard “rep” because many coaches still don’t put a heavy emphasis on developing an ongoing conversation with parents.  If that’ you, put on the heavy weights and pound out this really important recruiting “rep”.  Often, you’ll get different answers – and more honest answers – than you will from your recruit.  And, honesty is really important at this stage of the game…you should want to know exactly where you stand as a recruiter.

Don’t assume that your recruit knows everything they need to know about your campus and your program.  Your prospect has been to campus, you’ve watched them compete in person a few times, you’ve talked with their coach, and you sent them the big, long letter packed full of information right at the beginning of the process.  What more could they want?  Most of the time, plenty.  As they go through the process, our research shows that they absorb very few actual details about your program if you aren’t consistently, creatively telling them a compelling story about why they should commit to you.  So, as you sit back and wonder what in the world you can tell your recruit that they don’t already know, try emphasizing the basics.  And, tie it back to why they should view your essentials as a smart reason to pick your program.  Most coaches won’t follow through with this recommendation, so it’s an easy way to gain some extra recruiting muscle in the later parts of the cycle.

Tell them you want them, and ask them if they want to commit.  Don’t think they need to hear it again?  Wrong.  They do…now more than ever, actually.  Haven’t verbalized those words yet?  Do it now.  I’m listing this as an official Rep #10 task because it’s hard to do, and some coaches find it awkward to do.  That’ why it often goes unsaid, and coaches just “assume” that their recruit know a coach wants them, and that they can commit anytime they want.  Unfortunately, that’s not the case.  For many other coaches, it’s just too scary: They view it as pressuring their prospect, or sounding too “desperate”.  Slap on the extra weights, and max out with this vital Rep #10 recruiting task.  Ask for the sale, Coach!

A word of warning:

Make sure you aren’t this guy when it comes to recruiting.  He’s got all the big brand clothes on, and he’s actually made it to the gym.  But every day, we see him sitting and texting while he does an off-and-on workout on the bike.  He’s not breaking much of a sweat, and it’s safe to say he’s not going to be at risk of pulling a muscle.

Recruiting at a high level is tough work.  It’s demanding.  It requires consistency, and a high degree of “pain tolerance”…unreturned phone calls, deceitful parents, uninterested teens, less than desirable facilities to show them when they come for their visit…contrary to what you might think, it’s not easy anywhere.  We work with more than a few extremely successful programs in many different sports and a lot of different levels, and I can tell you that when the office doors close, they have the same struggles and concerns that most mediocre teams’ coaches have when they assess their recruiting needs.

What separates a successful recruiter and coach from someone who ultimately fails at this important part of their job as a college coach is effort on rep #10.  Look for ways you can creatively and aggressively maximize your connection with a recruit and his or her family during the crucial final weeks of the recruiting process.

Want a great weekend of creative techniques, late-breaking research, and amazing speakers who reveal their secrets of successful recruiting?  Join us this June at the upcoming National Collegiate Recruiting Conference!  It’s a one-of-kind gathering of recruiting minds and coaches from around the country.  Don’t miss it, Coach…click here for all the details.

Six Strategies for Constructing Winning Recruiting MessagesMonday, October 21st, 2013

I’ve made the case for years that coaches are actually professional sales people – who also happen to get to coach.

I’m going to add another job responsibility to your title:  Expert recruiting message writer.

It’s not an option any longer.  If you don’t create great messages, you risk not only losing the attention of your recruit…you risk not having the opportunity to start a relationship with them at all.

To help with that, I wanted to outline a couple of the strategies that we use when we’re helping our clients create their campaigns.  Here are six winning message construction strategies that you and your staff can (and should) try the next time you’re struggling to come up with a great recruiting message.  They work for us, and I’m confident they’ll work for you:

 

STRATEGY #1:  Compartmentalization

Writing a fantastic recruiting letter, email – or even a social media message – is a process that consists of many steps, hundreds of actions, and thousands of tiny decisions:

Thinking about who your prospect is and why he needs your product…

Coming up with your attention-getting strategy – your theme, headline, and lead idea…

Researching what your school offers, what your competitors’ strengths are, and their recruiting strategies…

Organizing your attack – determining the order in which you’ll guide your prospect through your reasons why he or she should commit to your program…

Pouring the appropriate research, notes, and ideas into each section of your recruiting plan outline…

Writing your first draft…

Buffing and meticulously detailing each succeeding draft until you know that you couldn’t improve it even if someone held a gun to your head – and that any change you consider at this point will actually weaken the copy…

And, finally, sticking a fork in it, because it’s done.

Now, if you have any shred of common sense, you’re going to feel overwhelmed when you contemplate all the steps you have to complete in order to perfect the project at hand. And that’s okay. It just means you’re in touch with reality.

But you’re going to have to get past “overwhelmed” and on to work. And the only way I know to do that is to mentally chop the job into little, tiny, manageable pieces. So you tell yourself something like this: “I do NOT have to write a recruiting campaign today. All I have to do is the research. Or part of the research.”

Thinking about the work this way does more than just relieve your anxiety about producing recruiting letters and emails. It blows all that procrastination you’re usually guilty of at the beginning of a recruiting project right out of the water, and gets you moving forward towards creating a good recruiting message.

STRATEGY #2:  Getting into a good flow

Ever have a day when you sit down to work and the next thing you know it’s time for dinner… you have to force yourself to stop… and when you reflect on your day as a college coach, you’re amazed by the quantity – and, more important, the quality – of what you accomplished?

That is the “good flow” that I’m talking about.

The fact is, good flow equals better recruits. Because the more flow you experience during planning and writing your recruiting campaign, the faster the project goes and the better your end product is.

But good flow doesn’t “just happen.” Flow is kind of like hummingbirds: They show up naturally if you just create an environment that attracts them. For me, that means a quiet work area and a good night’s sleep. The right background music. No interruptions. No distractions. A trenta Starbucks unsweetened iced tea.  And every tool I need to do that day’s job readily at hand.

That’s just me. You’ll have to figure out what works for you.

STRATEGY #3: Constantly visualizing success

Yes, I know. What could possibly be more cheesy than dusting off the decades-old concept of “positive thinking”?

Thing is, like all laws that survive the test of time, positive thinking works.  Good coaches know this, deep down.

What personally drives me is the phone call I’ll get from a wowed coach client when he sees our recruiting plan we’ve created for them for the first time… the call telling us he had too many recruits reply back to their recruiting email campaign…and, of course, the high fives we do here at Tudor Collegiate Strategies when a coach gets the athlete they really, really want.

Whatever your motivation, try keeping it in mind as you write.  Make that the thing that drives you and commits you to doing your best.

STRATEGY #4:  ”Know thyself”

Feelings are more intense than thoughts.

So, they can have a way of blanking your mind and freezing you like a biker who just spotted a grizzly in his headlights. That’s why you have to understand how negative emotions affect your work as a college recruiter.

For example, you may feel overwhelmed at the beginning of a project to come up with new recruiting messages. Discouraged when a solution doesn’t come fast enough. And then your inferiority complex kicks into overdrive when you see how you think your competition is doing it a lot better than you and your coaching staff is.

It helped me when I realized that 99.9 percent of all negative emotions are probably not caused by objective truth. And, therefore, the vast majority of all bad feelings don’t deserve my attention.

So when I experience a negative emotion while I’m working, I pause for a moment and ask myself, “What thought zipped through my mind just before I got bummed out?” After recognizing how ridiculously wrong that thought was, I can almost instantly dismiss the negative emotion and dive back into the work.

Try it. It works, Coach.

STRATEGY #5:  Forget about the rules!

Not the NCAA’s rules.  Writing rules.

You’ve learned too many letter-writing rules. And, frankly, they’re getting in the way. If you’ve had us to your college for one of our On-Campus Workshops, you know what I think of many of the letters that go out to your recruits (they need major re-working, in many cases).

So instead of worrying about the rules you learned in high school and college, focus on your prospect and be a sales professional in print. Think, “If I were in a room with my best prospect and needed to get his attention, engage him, present the reasons why he should come to play for me and my program – what would I say to him?” Then let the conversation flow naturally out of your fingers to the keyboard and into your document, as if you were talking to them one-on-one.  Less formal, more conversational.  That’s the key.

There’ll be plenty of time in later drafts to think about which rules you broke or didn’t follow. The first draft is about speed.

STRATEGY #6:  Do some bedtime reading

Let your last action each day at the office – or even literally before you fall asleep – be to read what you wrote to a recruit that day. File it away in your subconscious mind. And go to work the minute you wake up in the morning so the connections your brain made overnight find their way onto the page.  Try it once…you’ll see how well it works.

One, or all, of these strategies will help you spark a creative approach.  It’s absolutely necessary with this generation of prospects…and for the success of your next recruiting campaign.

4 Vital Recruiting Strategy Questions for Your Coaching StaffMonday, September 23rd, 2013

They aren’t optional – you have to answer them.

And, they aren’t multiple choice (not if you want to be successful in an increasingly challenging recruiting environment).

These four questions I’m going to ask you are going to need to be answered in detail, and specifically for your program.  Your answers aren’t going to be the same as the college down the street.

They are questions that revolve around your central approach to your recruiting message.  Most college staffs haven’t answered them before, which gives you an automatic advantage if you take a few minutes to answer them for your program.  Why? Because it’s hard to recruit coherently and effectively without any kind of philosophical guidelines you’ve established – no matter if you’re a major college staff, or a one-man show.

That’s what we’re aiming to fix today.  Here are the questions that I’d love to see you develop answers for as you head into the meat of your recruiting season:

  1. Who are the recruits you are trying to connect with? I’m not looking for names, I’m looking for traits.  Not athletically, but demographically…geographically…personality type.  Once you define those types of characteristics of the recruits 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 coaches: No definition of what they’re all about.  Are you trying to sell your program to everyone?  You’ll end up selling it to no one.  So, how do you answer that question, Coach?
  2. Why are they going to choose you?  For most of you reading this, you aren’t coming off a conference championship – much less a national championship.  Heck, forget titles.  Chances are there’s a program you compete against that has better locker rooms, newer dorms, more scholarship money, or a better location.  So the big question is also a simple one: How are you going to change their 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 recruiting battle for a recruit you really need.  So, how do you answer that question, Coach?
  3. What tools are you lacking?  Most coaches can easily define what they are good at doing when it comes to recruiting.  On the flip side, many aren’t aware of what skill sets they lack (a more popular expression of this concept would be “they don’t know what they don’t know).  So, if you’re being honest with yourself and the coaches on your staff, what three things do you need to get better at right away?  What are the things you do wrong?  An honest self-evaluation is in order if you want to be a long term success in college recruiting.  So, how do you answer that question, Coach?
  4. What do you need to make successful recruiting happen more often?  Think about the times everything has fallen into place, and you land the next level prospect.  What went so 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.  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, how do you answer that question, Coach?

More than ever before, you and your program need to define what you’re all about.  Stand for something.  Tell a GREAT story (in case you haven’t noticed, mediocre stories don’t cut it anymore).

Defining the answers to those questions will go a long away towards helping you build a firm foundation that you can recruit from – and be much more successful with it in the process!

Dan Tudor and his staff at Tudor Collegiate Strategies can help develop the answers to those important questions.  We help programs around the country, at all different levels, year around.  Click here to learn more about what we do, and why it works, or email Dan directly at dan@dantudor.com.

A Gathering Storm for College RecruitersMonday, April 29th, 2013

For all the challenges college coaches face when it comes to recruiting – overcoming parents’ cries of how far from home your campus is, or why that losing season was just a fluke, or the fact that your dorms don’t include 42-inch flatscreen televisions like the other college they just visited – there is another gathering storm on the horizon.

And mark my words, it’s going to become a challenge for a lot of college recruiters.

I’m talking about an idea that is now becoming a mainstream discussion among parents, students and the media:  Is a traditional four-year college worth it?

If you look at many of the recent news articles on the state of college graduate unemployment, it’s causing the discussion among parents as to the merit of the expense and sacrifice involved with a college education.

Don’t want to go to campus, or spend four years learning the skills for a high paying job?  No problem.  Get involved in a MOOC.  (Don’t know what a MOOC is, Coach? Don’t worry, you will.)

Online colleges?  They’re cheaper and more popular than ever before.  In fact, right now your traditional four-year college is scrambling to figure out a way to host more online classes in that expanding market at the possible expense of your campus population.

What if an athlete just wanted to skip college altogether?  Not too long ago, that young student would be relegating themselves to a life of minimum wage jobs and a limited employment market.  Today, that’s not necessarily the case.  Not going to college is now an option that is becoming widely accepted as a perfectly fine life option.

And you thought that losing season was a tough sell!

Now, to be fair, it’s not time to panic.  And I’m not suggesting that these challenges are about to replace the traditional arguments that you face now as a college coach.  However, you are seeing the beginning stages of these arguments against certain college choices already – for students and student-athletes alike:

  • “Unless you can cover the full cost of college, my son just can’t play for you” (That was raised as an objection to one of our clients just a few weeks ago).
  • “He can get his two year degree at the local junior college, and if he doesn’t get drafted to play baseball after two years, we’ve just decided he’ll start working right after that.”
  • “He may just opt to study electronics in the navy instead of college if he doesn’t get a full ride somewhere.”

Sound familiar?

Unless you’re well entrenched at a Division I program that offers full-ride offers, these are conversations and objections you’re going to start facing, if you haven’t already.  So if you’re that coach that is starting to get more and more questions about money, paying for college, or easily forgoing the opportunity to compete for you for something less than a full-ride offer of some kind, here are some important questions to start considering:

  1. Why is your college better than what they could get somewhere else? When I say “somewhere else”, that means everything from a competing institution to an alternate life course.  Can you make the case that what you offer at your college is far and away superior to those other options?  Be ready with those answers.  They’re important now, and they’re going to become even more important in the not too distant future.
  2. How are connecting what you’re going to give them at your school, or in your program, with them personally? It shocks me to see how frequently coaches fail to emphasize how each aspect of their program – academics, athletics, campus life, post-college opportunities – relate specifically to that individual prospect.  Moving forward, proving that you are a preferred option is going to come down to how they see themselves connected with your campus, your program, your players and you as their coach.
  3. Can you sell the idea that you are $3,000 more expensive than the competition – and that it’s a good thing? Left on it’s own, the argument that the cheapest college should be the obvious choice is going to win.  It’s the default answer for parents across the country, and will continue to be so in the future as other options present themselves.  Being able to sell the idea that your net cost – whether it’s $3,000, or $6,000 or $15,000 – is higher than a competitor and that it’s worth the investment to be at your school because it’s a higher cost (and why) is going to be a recruiting skill that will separate great recruiters from mediocre recruiters.
  4. Are you starting early and telling a compelling story? An effective, long term approach to recruits is the most effective way to sway recruiting results.  Recruiting strategy, and the different methods of communication available to coaches, is going to have to be a part of an effective overall story-telling campaign.  You, coach, are telling stories that connect with recruits.  You’re either doing it very well, or very poorly, but make not mistake: You are telling your prospects stories.

The four questions we’ve listed aren’t exhaustive, of course.  You may have other issues specific to your school or your program that you’ll find yourself dealing with soon (or already are).  Taking time to start thinking about how you will approach some of these big picture issues is only going to help you and your recruiting efforts in the not too distant future.

Need specific ideas for your athletic department?  We’d love to conduct an On-Campus Workshop at your school.  We conduct specific focus group research on campus, present a dynamic interactive discussion of effective recruiting strategies, and answer specific questions from your coaches on how to address the upcoming challenges faced by college coaches.  Click here for more information, and to download our overview.

 

15 Effective Ways to Recruit the Coaches of Your ProspectsMonday, February 18th, 2013

It’s no secret that the current high school and club coaches are holding more and more power over the recruiting process, especially since so many college coaches are being forced to keep up with their competition by going through those prep and club coaches to arrange conversations with younger and younger athletes.

The result?  Saavy college coaches are realizing they need to systematically recruit the coaches of their prospects.

Of course, that’s a much more difficult challenge: Recruiting a prospect and his or her parents has a pay-off for them, in that they will receive scholarship money or at least the opportunity to have sports be a part of their college experience.  Their coaches, on the other hand, are (at their best) feeling a sense of needing to protect and shield their young athletes from college recruiters, or (at their worst) bent on guiding their young athletes towards the program that will bring the most notoriety and prestige to the high school or club program that they play for currently.

No matter their motives, they are now a major player in the battle for the best recruits.  And, how you “sell” them on your program is going to be an increasingly important piece in the overall recruiting puzzle – and how successful you are at it.

With that in mind, we compiled data from our On-Campus Workshop focus groups and our other research and came up with a list of the most successful ways to effectively recruit the coaches of your current high school and club prospects.  I don’t see it as being critical that you are doing each one of these things as a normal part of your recruiting process, necessarily, but a mixture of several of these proven strategies would be recommended as you approach coaches moving forward.  (Note: If you are a client, make sure to contact us for specific strategies based on your program’s specific focus group research before you contact high school or club coaches)

  1. According to our polling, 65% of club coaches have a negative view of college coaches during the recruiting process.  Why?  Primarily because the college coaches are only in contact with them while recruiting their athletes.  Develop an ongoing plan for contact with those coaches, even if you aren’t seriously recruiting those athletes.
  2. Just as it is important to prospects and parents, consistent contact (once every few weeks) that takes time to sell them on your program and college is key.  They want to be convinced why you are the best option for their athletes, and will respect you for putting forth the effort.  Few college coaches do it.
  3. They want to be treated as peers in the sport that you and they coach.  How are you proving to them that you respect them and view them as a coaching equal?
  4. I know you’re asking them for where you and your program stand with a recruit in their program, but how much are you asking them what kind of program they as their coach feel is the right fit?  If you can get an answer to that second question, you’ll probably also get your answer to the first question.
  5. Do you ask them for their coaching advice?  You should.  Do you ask them about practice or training ideas?  You should.  Those let them know that you see them as equals.  (Plus you will probably come away with some great new ideas!)
  6. I hear college coaches complain a lot about high school and club coaches that will offer up prospects from their team who are not quite the caliber of athlete you need to be successful at your level.  They would love it if you gave them a detailed list of exactly what you look for and the athletic standards by position that you have established, along with an explanation of why.  If you don’t, they will default to evaluating their talent for you based on their pre-defined view of your division level or college.
  7. Send them holiday cards throughout the year.  Obvious?  Yes.  Do you do it?
  8. Ask them for their evaluation of the prospect, and what specifically they would recommend doing once they got to your campus.  Make them a partner in this transition from high school to college.
  9. Ask them about the next two classes below the one that you are recruiting.  With the increased contact periods now allowed by the NCAA, you need to start earlier than ever before if you want to keep up with your competition.
  10. High school and club coaches value your presence.  I wish it wasn’t so, but you need to be at their facility viewing their talent on a regular basis (your prospects want that also, by the way)
  11. High school and club coaches want to be updated on where you are at in the recruiting process in the same way you want an update on where your prospect is at in the recruiting process.  That can be part of your regular communication with them.  According to them, it show professionalism and honesty on your part.
  12. Compliment those coaches in front of your prospects and (especially) their parents.
  13. Invite the high school or club coach to visit campus with the prospect when they come.  They’ll probably decline, but it will win points.
  14. Offer to speak with their team or give a short talk about playing in college while you are there watching them.  Make sure you link your talk and the reason you are there scouting with the fact that they have a great coach who you have a lot of respect for.
  15. If distance isn’t a factor, invite the team to watch you compete.  If possible, take them behind the scenes into your program and make it a truly personal game day experience for not only the specific kids you are recruiting, but the entire group and the coach.  Again, tie the invitation to the fact that they have a great coach.

It’s hardly rocket science, but these fifteen specific actions are what we have seen to be the best at creating powerful connections with a growing influential group of gate-keepers in the recruiting process.  Failing to actively and strategically approach them in the right manner will make the already difficult task of recruiting even more challenging.

Two great ways to gain more creative ideas for your next recruiting campaign:  Make sure you send someone from your staff to the National Collegiate Recruiting Conference this June (click here) or subscribe as a Premium Member for special training and additional tips on a weekly basis (click here).  Each is affordable and effective, and ensures that you keep on the cutting edge of the latest recruiting research and methodologies!

5 Things Your Prospect’s Silence Could Be SignalingMonday, January 28th, 2013

Sure, it may be a virtue, but patience is still tough to come by if you’re a college coach who isn’t getting the kind of response he or she expects from their prospect.

Especially this time of year.

Early winter is one of the roughest times of year to maintain, or continue, good communication with recruits you have been in contact with.  I could be describing some of your Seniors who have an offer, but haven’t come to their final decisions yet.  Or, I might be talking about your underclass prospects, who are done with the initial excitement of first hearing from you and are now feeling ill-equipped to continue the conversation with so much time left to go before they are close to reaching a final decision.

In either scenario, or a cavalcade of others that you and your fellow college coaches could easily add to that list, the immediate reaction is a combination of frustration and urgency.  And when a college recruiter is frustrated and feeling pressured when engaged in ongoing communication with their recruits, bad things often follow.

Those are the coaches who set unfair deadlines late in the game…stop communicating all-together…ask end-of-the-process questions way too soon in an effort to get a decision (or the hint of one).

All of these actions could be devastating, not only in your efforts to continue effective communication with your prospects, but also in your efforts to eventually win over that prospect as their final choice.

But rather than give you a list of things you should be asking or doing with your recruits at this point in the process (check our blog archives for lots of information on that topic), I wanted to take you inside your prospect’s head and give you an idea of what they might be thinking or feeling.  There’s a reason for the silence, and it’s important that you understand some of those motivations that will lead them to stop communication with you.  That understanding will give you the roadmap you’ll need to continue – or reignite – effective communication with your recruit.

Are are five of the most common factors behind your prospect’s silence:

  1. They aren’t interested any longer, and they just don’t want to tell you. This is one of the most common reasons for non-communication, which you probably already know as a college recruiter.  Why don’t they just tell you that they’ve lost interest?  Our research tells the story: They are afraid you’ll get mad at them, first and foremost.  Secondly, they don’t want you to criticize their lack of interest.  That fear manifests itself through silence.  By being silent, they hope you just sort of fade away so that they don’t have to have that uncomfortable conversation with you.  If you don’t confront it and address it, you might find yourself months down the road still hoping for a revival in good communication with your recruit.  (If you’re a Premium Member or TRS Client, look for video instruction from Dan Tudor in this Thursday’s Client Insider email on how to effectively reignite conversation with your recruits when this is the issue at play)
  2. They don’t know if you’re serious about them, so they aren’t sure they want to invest time into you. How could they get the impression that you aren’t serious about them, when you clearly are?  The most common answer we hear when we conduct focus groups on the topic is simple: Inconsistency in the story that is told, primarily through letters and emails.  Coaches who send a few things at the start of the recruiting process, and then slowly trail off into inconsistent messaging, almost guarantee this result.  How can you expect your recruits to have a reason to keep communicating with you when you haven’t done the same with them?
  3. They’re interested, but don’t know what to do or say next. This usually results from coaches who make their conversations and messages all about giving information about their school and program, sprinkled in with “how-you-doing?” phone calls that don’t progress the conversation to the next step.  And that’s what they’re looking for: “The next step”.  They might like you, they might like your school…but what are you talking about that actually focuses on the topic of what the next step in the process is?  Is it talking with the prospect’s parents?  A visit to campus?  There has to be a logical next step that you guide them towards.  If you are noticing increasing silence, it could be because they’re stuck and don’t know what to do or say next.  Lead the way, Coach.
  4. They don’t like talking on the phone. Seriously, Coach…it could be as simple as that.  If you’ve moved through the communication process and are at the point where you think talking on the phone is the most personal, most effective method of communication, make sure your prospect feels the same way.  Most recruits don’t like speaking on the phone, but just won’t tell you (again, because they don’t want to offend you).  Better make sure you’re on the same page with them, and if you find that phone calls just aren’t working then revert back to email or text communication in an effort to get some kind of conversation going again.
  5. They’re busy and overwhelmed. When we look at our research data, the two most common reasons recruited high school student-athletes give as reasons for not being prompt in returning a coach’s call is that they’re busy with high school life, as well as being overwhelmed with the number of different coaches they have to talk to.  There is a real inability to devote time to all of those coaches, as well know what to talk about with all of them.  I’m not suggesting that you utter a few magical words to fix this situation – nor am I suggesting there are any.  However, I want you to know that your prospect might be very interested in what you’re offering them. They just might be a little overwhelmed at this point and feel like they don’t know what to say next (or if they’ll have time to say it).

Silence from your recruits later in the recruiting process is a common problem, and I would advise you to expect it from the vast majority of your recruits. What results from that silence on their part is the crucial aspect of all this.  That part is up to you, Coach.  Make sure you know why they’re being silent, and then effectively address those concerns.

Cutting edge research and techniques are just a few of the reasons to be at this June’s annual recruiters weekend, the National Collegiate Recruiting Conference.  You need to be there, Coach…it’s going to be an incredible weekend of learning and networking from some of the best recruiting experts in the country!

Click here for all the information on this popular event for college coaches from around the country.

Evaluating the Impact of Your Recruiting StrategyTuesday, December 18th, 2012

 

At some point each year, coaching staffs sit down and evaluate the effectiveness of their recruiting campaigns that they are either in the midst of, or have just completed.

At the core of the questions most staffs ending up asking themselves is this: “How can our recruiting campaigns be more effective?”

The Fortune 500 business world asks the very same question when evaluating the effectiveness of their marketing campaigns, and gauging what they should do next to grow their respective businesses.

One of the ways to evaluate the way you and your college coaching staff manage the process of recruiting a class of prospects – and the overall “impact” of your message and approach to your prospects – is to use the seven point evaluation method in the graphic to the left, a process outlined by marketing expert Seth Godin.  In short, he makes the claim that your “project” (i.e., your recruiting campaign) is not going to be at full effectiveness unless each of these seven points intersect.

So, Coach…are you feeling like your recruiting campaign isn’t quite hitting on all cylinders?  Let me take you through these same seven points that we look for when we’re developing a recruiting strategy for our clients.  See if any of these points raise a red flag for your program’s recruiting process:

Strategy: Is your strategy outlined in a way that is achievable, and (more importantly) measurable.  By “measurable”, I mean it should be able to tell you whether or not you are on track to succeed and meet your recruiting goals.  A strategy is more than a list of recruits and a schedule of what games you and your staff are going to go scout.  It should be a series of planned steps that allows you (and not your athlete or their parents) to control the recruiting process from start to finish.  Can you outline your program’s specific recruiting strategy, and measure the results you are getting?

Persistence: As I see it, this is a two-fold point.  First, I believe it means that a recruiting staff doesn’t give-up, and doesn’t waver in their focus and attention to recruiting.  Secondly, persistence is reflected in your ongoing messaging with recruits.  Far too many staffs are content with a few long-winded letters, weak emails, and randomly planned recruiting visits to secure their recruiting classes.  Persistence (and consistency) are essential for attracting the next level recruits that every coach craves.  Do they commit to your program by accident?  Rarely, Coach.  It takes persistence.  How does your program do when it comes to persistence in recruiting?

Fear: Coaches don’t talk about this one much.  Coaches “afraid” of something?  Ridiculous, right?  Not at all.  Coaches fear changing the way of doing things differently than the way they were recruited as an athlete.  There is a fear of deviating from the “normal” way of doing things, even though most coaches also describe a gnawing feeling that the approach they are taking with this generation of athletes just isn’t getting it done.  Fear can also manifest itself in the way a staff deals with specific recruits: “We can’t set a deadline because what if we lose her?  Not getting her to commit will ruin our recruiting class for this year.”  And so, the coach in that situation – fearful of making a mistake or insulting their recruit – does nothing.  They take the “middle road” (where things get run over, unfortunately) and pray that they get lucky and land the recruit they need.  Fear?  We see it in a lot of staffs.  Does it manifest itself in your recruiting efforts?

Tactics: This is feet-on-the-street, get-it-done stuff.  A prospect throws a coach an objection about the lack of diversity on their campus, and the coach is ready with an answer that not only deflects the question, but turns the answer into a selling point as to why the make-up of their campus’ student body is exactly what that recruit needs to be successful in life.  Tactics are not inherited, they are learned.  They take practice, and are never something that are perfected in the heat of battle.  Are “tactics” something that you and your staff discuss on a regular basis?  Moreover, are they something that are talked about in relation to specific top level athletes that are on your list?  Those are important questions.  Persistence without smart tactics is just a huge waste of time.

Execution: Similar to tactics, but this is where planning and movement end, and results begin.  Execution is the end result of a plan.  Planning an approach to calling your list of prospects and coming up with some questions you want to ask is a good start.  That’s what I would define as your tactical approach to making those calls.  ”Execution” is the act of actually making the phone call and achieving the results you want as a byproduct of how you made those recruiting phone calls.  Like tactics, expert execution is not inherited magically once you put on your school’s polo shirt and get your business cards printed.  It’s an art form that is perfected over time, with lots of practice and evaluation along the way.  Execution is the end result of all of your philosophies and training, and it’s the aspect of your recruiting that can most accurately be measured and evaluated on an ongoing basis.  So, on a scale of 1 to 10, what do you rate your recruiting execution?

Reputation: A lot of coaches will use this aspect of their recruiting strategy as a crutch, and will point to it as the reason why they can’t possibly recruit those next level athletes they need to be successful:

  • “Our facilities (reputation) are horrible…who would want to play here?”
  • “We haven’t won here in years (reputation)…how am I going to overcome that?”
  • “All of our competition always slams us on our location (reputation)…it’s a big reason we can’t the really good athletes to come here.”

There are things that are out of your control like your facility, your location, and the program you inherited when you became the coach.  You own those things, Coach.  However, you also own the ability to define (or re-define) your reputation.  Most of the time, your prospects and their parents are simply looking for some definition about how to think about your program.  So, how well are you managing that power that you have, Coach?  Are you taking the initiative in radically defining what your program’s vision is, and how you are making sure that vision becomes a reality?  Or, if you are the coach of a program that has a long history of success, how well are you defining yourself for your prospects?  Your reputation is everything.  Use it, Coach (and if it’s not something you’d brag about at this point, start re-telling your recruiting story in a way that makes it something you would be excited to tell)

Desire: Do you really want to recruit?  Do you really want to be the best possible recruiter you can be?  Do you really want to beat your competition when it comes to recruiting?  I hope the answer is yes.  Desire comes down to an attitude that accepts nothing less than excellence.  Not only on the court, or on the field, or in the pool, but on the recruiting trail.  Do you desire to make sure your recruiting strategy more amazing than everyone else’s?  That’s the standard you need to meet…amazing.  Did I just describe you?  (If I didn’t, that should make you think).

All of these factors are vital when it comes to achieving a successful recruiting strategy.  It’s not magic, it’s planning.

What you do next is up to you.

Need help in developing your recruiting strategy – as well as flawless execution – as you head into this next recruiting year?  Our staff of experts have proven, research-based strategies that can be applied to any program’s individual needs.  We’d love to talk to you about how we work with some of your competitors, and what we’re doing to improve their recruiting results year in and year out.  We’ll be happy to send you a complete overview of what we do, and how we do it…just email Dan Tudor at dan@dantudor.com.  Or, visit www.dantudor.com for all the details.

Are You Understanding What Your Prospects Are Thinking?Friday, August 31st, 2012

Let me start with telling you something you probably (hopefully) already know:

Your prospects think differently than you do. I point this out because a surprising number of coaches that I talk to don’t realize it, and it’s killing their chances at being effective recruiters.

As a college coach, you get really concerned with your facility, your field, your court, and other “stuff” as you build-out your recruiting story for your prospects.  It needs to be bigger, better, and more modern to get the best athletes, right?  And, you need more money, too.  Otherwise, you can’t get the best recruits to come to your campus.

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

I can tell you that with 100% certainty because we’ve had the chance to personally interview hundreds and hundreds of your student-athletes over the years.  They’ve told us how they make their final decision, and what matters most to them.  And in the end, if you look at the data, it’s obvious that your prospects have different priorities than you do.  They value things differently than you do.  They think differently than you do.

Here are some of the most common examples:

  • They think how you treat them and communicate with them is more important than what your weight room looks like. Personal relationships rank higher than the stuff you have on your campus, time after time.
  • They think the way your team treats them during their campus visit will tell them if your campus makes them feel wanted. If your team doesn’t make them feel welcome, the prospect will almost NEVER sign with your school.  You can take that to the bank, Coach.
  • They think their parents are very important to the decision making process. This generation have given their parents the power to act as manager and agent.  If you aren’t recruiting the parents at the same time you recruit the athlete, you are making it harder on yourself than you may realize.
  • They think that you talk too much during your phone calls. Nothing personal, Coach, but if you’re doing most of the talking during a half-hour phone call with a prospect, you aren’t doing anything to help you in signing that prospect.  More time talking does not equal more interest from the prospect.
  • They think your letters and emails that promote your school are too bland, and too much about you. Most coaches start selling their school and their program (and themselves) way too soon in the process, without establishing a relationship first.
  • They think it’s great when you talk to them consistently. Don’t spill everything out at once.  Use a slow drip method to communicate.  A little bit at a time, time after time after time.  And like I just mentioned, make it more about getting to know them rather than selling yourself right away.
  • They think its GREAT 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 understand that hand-written notes take more of your time, which they think means you put a higher value on them than other recruits.
  • They think you give them too much to do during a campus visit. Cut out some of the meetings with department heads (if you were 17, would you really want to meet a department head?).  Cut out the non-stop meetings that rush them from place to place.  They think it would be great if you would slow down the pace of the visit and let them spend more time getting to know you and your team in a relaxed setting.

Are there exceptions to these rules?  Sure.  But I’ll guarantee you that more of the majority of the prospects you are recruiting, this is what they are thinking.

So now that you know what they’re thinking, let me throw out the big question: How does it change the way you will communicate with them and recruit them?

Here are some quick tips:

  • Simplify your communication with them.  Be more direct and to the point.  That’s what they want.
  • Along with simplifying your communication, develop a plan to communicate consistently and effectively.
  • Make it personal and focused on them.  Make it less about you and your school, especially as you begin to communicate with them.
  • Overhaul your campus visit.  Make it shorter and more relaxed.  Give them more time with your team, less time with Professor Schnizlehoeffer in the English department or the grumpy lady in admissions with the 45-minute PowerPoint presentation.

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


 

Strategies for Going Up Against Big-Name CompetitorsMonday, July 30th, 2012

In a society that looks to brands like Apple, Starbucks, or Lexus to give us meaning in life, we shouldn’t really be surprised that this generation of prospects are looking for the same feeling in the college that they end up choosing.  To put it simply, big name colleges find it easier to get the attention of a recruit at the start of the recruiting process.

There are a handful of big name colleges that instantly command the attention of a recruit.  If your college isn’t one of those big name schools, this article is for you.

As a college coach and serious recruiter, you probably already know the benefits (or challenges, depending on the college you coach for) of the name of the school on your business card.  And sometimes, it’s hard to get the attention of a recruit that’s sought after by some schools with big names.  So, a coach has two practical choices:  Give up, or compete.

And if you’re someone who wants to compete, we’re going to give you a few key points of emphasis as you develop a strategy for going after those recruits that aren’t excited about you or your college – and most certainly not excited about the name of the school you recruit for.  In fact, there are three primary points that we would recommend coaches need to pay attention to in battling for recruits being tempted by bigger name college programs.

Here’s what the “no-names” need to do, based on the research and recruiting conversations that we’ve been tracking for the past several years:

  1. First and foremost, you’d better be consistent. I realize that for some of you who are clients or have had us on-campus for a workshop, this advice is something you’ve heard before.  But let me underscore the importance of a consistent message when you are competing with a big name rival:  We find in tracking the interest levels of recruits being contacted by a variety of programs – large and small, big-name and no-name – if a smaller, lesser known program is more consistent than their bigger rivals, that program has an excellent chance of competing for, and winning, that recruit.  Consistency proves that you are serious about them in the most tangible way possible, through regular emails and written letters (really, really important in proving that you’re interested in them).  Even if they don’t read your materials right from the start, they’re noticing that you are contacting them regularly.  And over time, that will make a difference in how they view you.
  2. Act like a big dog. This one is tough for a lot of coaches at smaller or lesser-known schools, mainly because it involves a little big of acting.  One of the things that most prospects are looking for from a smaller, lesser-known college program is confidence.  If you as their potential coach aren’t confident on the question of why they should take you as seriously as a big name school they’re looking at, we find that this generation of recruits will sense that weakness and almost immediately relegate you to second tier status.  However, if you jump in and confidently and somewhat aggressively lay out the reasons they should pay attention to you, and develop a plan of action for them to follow as the recruiting process starts, you should be pleasantly surprised at the results.
  3. Explain why being the smaller name is the smarter choice. One of the critical elements that you will need to address as a college recruiter is explaining to your recruit why you, as the smaller, lesser-known college or program, is going to be the smarter choice for them.  That line of reasoning could be based on anything that would make sense to build a case around at your college: The academic reputation at your school, the more personalized coaching they’ll receive from you…whatever makes the most sense for you to stress to your recruit.  The point is, it needs to be something.  Your prospect, who is considering a bigger name school and has probably already assigned their “story” to that competing program, needs a logical reason about why they should keep you in the game.  Fail to give that to them, and watch how hard it is to get their attention later in the process.

One more thing I’ll add to the to-do list we’re putting together: Start early.  As early as possible.  Smaller, lesser-known colleges should make a point of targeting prospects as early as possible for two reasons.  First, recruiting at higher levels is happening earlier and earlier, so you don’t want to be late to the game.  And second, you’ll get the chance to define yourself before some of your larger competitors begin the process.  In both instances, we’ve seen that approach work for the coach clients that we serve.

Being a coach at a smaller, lesser-known “name” school isn’t an automatic loss.  Far from it.  These three principles, executed with passion and creativity, can bring great prospects to your roster.  We’ve seen it happen over and over, and have watched these strategies work for the coaches that have implemented them.

If you are finding yourself going head-to-head with some bigger name schools, this game plan can help.

Want to bring our team of experts alongside you and your program to help you achieve the recruiting results that you need this year?  Email Dan personally at dan@dantudor.com and ask him to explain the Total Recruiting Solution plan, and how it can work for your program.  It might be the difference maker as you prepare to win this next class of recruits!

3 Ways to Get Your Recruits to “Buy” You SubconsciouslyMonday, June 4th, 2012

I  often find that the primary thinking of most college coaches when it  comes to getting prospects interested in their program could be  described as a simple three-step process:

• Throw everything we can at them as soon as possible.
• They focus on one or two big selling points for our school or program.
• Those big selling points compel the prospect to want to come to our program.

Oh, if it were only that simple…

In  reality, we’re finding that today’s teenage recruit takes a much more  sophisticated approach to identifying with a school and, ultimately,  choosing a program.  While they have trouble explaining the process, our  research as a part of our On-Campus Workshops around the country and continuing work with our clients shows that their decision making process mirrors that of grown adults.

The best example of this is found in a recent fascinating study just published in the Journal of Neuroscience.   Researchers have shown that we make buying decisions even when we  aren’t paying attention to the products, and that electronic observation  of brain activity can predict these decisions. Here are the details  from the study:

Imagine you are standing at a  street with heavy traffic watching someone on the other side of the  road. Do you think your brain is implicitly registering your willingness  to buy any of the cars passing by outside your focus of attention? To  address this question, we measured brain responses to consumer products  (cars) in two experimental groups using functional magnetic resonance  imaging.

Participants in the first group (high  attention) were instructed to closely attend to the products and to rate  their attractiveness. Participants in the second group (low attention)  were distracted from products and their attention was directed  elsewhere.

After scanning, participants were asked to  state their willingness to buy each product. During the acquisition of  neural data, participants were not aware that consumer choices regarding  these cars would subsequently be required. Multivariate decoding was  then applied to assess the choice-related predictive information encoded  in the brain during product exposure in both conditions. Distributed  activation patterns in the insula and the medial prefrontal cortex were  found to reliably encode subsequent choices in both the high and the low  attention group.

Importantly, consumer choices could be  predicted equally well in the low attention as in the high attention  group. This suggests that neural evaluation of products and associated  choice-related processing does not necessarily depend on our processing  of available items. Overall, the present findings emphasize the  potential of implicit, automatic processes in guiding even important and  complex decisions.

So, let’s circle this back to recruiting:

If  subtle messages do indeed play a key role in your prospects’ view of  you and your program as psychology suggests, what are the most effective  ways to reinforce your story to your recruits?

Here are three foundational ideas that we think work for practically any coach, at any college level:

Consistency. No matter what college staff we happen to be working with,  the one consistent measure that we find important to today’s prospect  is consistency.  Your message to them has to be consistent, both in  timing and in content.  From a timing perspective, we find it is  critical that your prospect has some kind of contact from you – either  through letters, social media, email, phone call, a visit to your blog, seeing you in  person – on a weekly basis.

From a content perspective, consistency is  important in your message: You need to make sure you are telling a story  that takes them through the recruiting process step-by-step, building  on your message and leading them to a decision.  If you’re a coach who  has had trouble mastering this aspect of your recruiting approach, as  many do, make it a priority to build out a plan for accomplishing this  before the next recruiting class is ready to make their decisions.

Keep it short. What we find works the best in terms of message retention is a shorter,  more straight-forward message.  Your prospects have told us that most  of the recruiting letters and emails that they open and read are way too  long, and centered on all the wrong things (mainly, you, your college,  your facilities, your facts and statistics, etc.).  Your messages need  to be re-worked so that they are shorter and more easily understood by  your prospects.  That enables them to pick-up on those little details  that will stick in their mind…and stand out from the rest of the crowd.

Head towards the edge. It’s safe and comfortable to look and sound like everyone else.  For  example, your admissions department’s brochures do a great job of  looking exactly like every other college in the country in terms of the  photography showing the smiling photos, highlighting your school’s  impressive statistics, and bragging about the education that they can  deliver. The problem with that?  Every single other admissions  department presents the same message.  And, that trickles down to the  marketing philosophy of most college coaches.  You head towards the  middle, and play it safe.  For 1% of you reading this, you can get away  with this because of how your program is performing at the moment.  But  for the other 99% of you mere mortals, if you want to get the attention  of today’s marketing savvy teenager you’d better say things differently  than your competitors.  So, when I advise you to “head towards the edge”  I mean that you need to come up with a compelling story, told in a  different way, and not be afraid to define yourself so precisely that  you will let a few of your prospects know instantly that you aren’t for  them.  While you’ll lose a handful of recruits that would have said no  eventually anyway, you’ll attract three times more who will gravitate  towards your philosophy of being unique and different from everyone else  that’s recruiting them.  I’ve seen it work numerous times, for coaches  willing to take a leap and tweak their approach to their prospects.

The  science backs me up on this way of approaching your prospects.  And,  that same science could just hold the key for you and your program making this year’s upcoming recruiting class the best ever.

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