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.