Dan Tudor

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July 30th, 2012

Strategies for Going Up Against Big-Name Competitors

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!

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