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September 15th, 2015

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How to Use This Winning Strategy in Your Recruiting Messages

by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services

During a recent discussion about our letter and email creation work that we do with clients, an admissions counselor said the following – “Why do I need to send recruits that many letters and emails after they visit campus? Once they’ve been here they already know pretty much everything they need to know.” (Insert Family Feud “X” sound effect)

My response to that counselor was the same thing that I’ve told other admissions professionals who feel they don’t need to communicate as consistently with a prospect after the campus visit. Your prospects tend to forget a lot of what they’ve heard before (if you have a teenager you know what I mean), and they retain only a small percentage of what they hear and see on a visit to your school. You need to repeat things over and over if you want your prospect to retain it.

How is it that my 6-year old daughter can recite the GEICO slogan or tell you that Lily is the name of the AT&T store manager in their television ads? There’s psychology behind it. Advertisers have done studies about the use of repetition. Mark Young, the Chairman of Jekyll & Hyde Advertising, a firm that creates and places much national advertising said this about repetition and advertising, “We know that we need 3.7 impressions before a viewer will really “get” the message. We also know that you can deliver up to 15 impressions with continuing good results.”

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

Now let’s get back to you and your recruiting message. The trend we see most often when it comes to how college admissions tends to communicate with their prospects involves cramming as much information as possible about their school into one email or letter. That’s the wrong way to do it – and deep down, most counselors, directors and VP’s know it.  It’s just always been done that way, or they’re worried modifying their approach will be a massive undertaking.

Today I’m going to change that.

There are several rules we follow when we work with an admissions department one-on-one as clients in helping them create a consistent, interesting recruiting campaign for their prospects. I encourage you to use them to develop your own brand of repetition and consistent messaging with this next recruiting class:

  • Make sure you are communicating foundational, logical facts to your prospect every six to nine days.  Without this first point in place you risk inconsistent recruiting results.  Our research solidly indicates that when a prospect sees ongoing, regular contact from you, not only do they engage with the messaging on a more regular basis, but they also make the judgment that your school is interested in them and values them.  Those feelings are what you should want your recruits to feel.
  • If you have negatives associated with your school or big objections that many prospects bring up in the recruiting process, address it early and often.  Don’t run from it, and don’t wait for them to bring it up (or sit back and hope they don’t bring it up).  Consistent, early discussion about a perceived negative gives you the chance to redefine that objection. “So Jeremy, you want me to address our school being expensive or in a small town even if the student doesn’t bring it up?” You got it! Doing so early on will give you a greater chance to change their mindset and also demonstrate that you understand it’s a concern they may have.
  • Short, logical, fact-based, repetitive messages.  That’s what your prospect needs in order to get to the point of being able to choose you over your competitors.  Instead of cramming all that information about campus life and housing into one message, address each from many different angles.  Spend a few weeks talking about just one topic, and take your time in repetitively making your point to your recruit.
  • Repeat your recruit’s name and the name of your institution often. This is a small tip that we’ve seen make a big difference. It’s part of “branding.” Advertisers have followed this psychological principle for decades. Why? Repetition of who you are and associating that with positive connotations produces results. For example, during a campus visit use the recruit’s name a lot during conversation. In your messaging when you ask them to envision themselves living in your dorms or eating in your cafeteria, use both their name and your school’s name.
  • Mix it up.  Your recruiting campaign needs to feature a regular flow of mail, email, phone, in-person contact and social media.  This generation reacts to a good combination of all of these facets of recruiting.  If you focus only on one or two communication methods with your recruits, you’re leaving the door open for a competitor that will utilize all of their communication resources.  Our studies show that this generation of students wants, and needs, a variety of communication types.

Repetition is one of the least used and most effective strategies that you can utilize in your recruiting message.

The counselors who produce and execute a consistent, ongoing message before, during, and after the all-important campus visit will get more consistent high level recruiting results.

Jeremy and the team of experts at Tudor Collegiate Strategies can help you develop a consistent, research-based message for your recruits. It’s not too late to see results during this recruiting cycle. Contact me directly at jeremy@dantudor.com for more information.

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