Ed is a college baseball coach who was beginning to think he couldn’t write an effective recruiting letter if his job depended on it.
Actually, his job did depend on it. He had struggled for the past two years to sign higher caliber kids that would equate to winning seasons, and I found out later in my conversations with him that his athletic director had started to put the pressure on to sign better recruits, and win more games.
But when it came to writing recruiting letters, he struggled for the right words. He didn’t know which highlights he should focus on in his letters. He didn’t know how to end his letters in such a way that prompted action from the prospect he was writing to.
So when he became a Premium Member of Selling for Coaches, the first question he asked me was not surprising at all: "Dan, what should I do to learn how to write better letters to my recruits?"
My answer to him was simpler than he was expecting: Use some simple techniques to make your recruiting letters more interesting to the kids that are reading it.
That’s it? Yup. That’s it.
The letters that I see being written by college coaches aren’t bad in terms of content. There are some really interesting facts and information that are buried in them, much of which can be helpful for an athlete as he or she decides which college program to choose.
The problem I see is with how the information is presented. I hate to say it, coach, but a lot of it is just plain boring to read. Deep down, you know its true. The letters going out are accurate, and full of information, but they aren’t going to jump out and grab your attention if you’re a kid who’s getting letters from every school in the state.
So, I wanted to pass along three "secrets" that professional copywriters have used effectively for years to generate millions of dollars in sales through direct mail. The same principles can be used (and are starting to be used) by college coaches who want to break through the clutter and grab their prospect’s attention through the mail.
Use athlete testimonials. Your prospects really want to hear about other athletes’ experiences at your school. They want to get to know them as potential teammates, and find out that they may have had the same fears or questions about your program that they now have as your new prospective student-athlete.
Highlight your players’ background and "story" of how they found their way to your program. It’s one of the best ways to quickly reach your prospects through the mail. And, keep them interested by promising more athlete profiles in future letters. Getting to know their potential future teammates is a great tool for getting your prospect letters read consistently.
Historical biographies of important athletes and coaches from your program. Told in story form, these can really drive home the history and the interesting people that have made your program what it is today. Stressing the history and tradition of a program is something college coaches love to do, but sometimes it comes across as plain ol’ bragging. Instead, tell a story…about the founding coach, the early struggles, the rise to glory, or an inspirational player. Bring out the history of your program by talking about it as a story. Tell it like you would read about it in a facinating history book. Done right, you can connect with your athlete very effectively.
Use news stories about your program as the lead for the letter. You might even include an actual copy of the headline across the top of the letter. Then, give them a taste of the article that’s positive about your program: A big win, a great player, your recent Coach of the Year honor…whatever! Actual newspaper articles that are the lead in a recruiting letter are a great way to have someone else say great things about you. Plus, here’s an added bonus: Your prospect gets to see that your teams gets media coverage in your area.
One final point about effective letter writing: The lead is vital. If you don’t grab their attention in the first paragraph, they probably won’t read the rest of the letter. Take a look at the letters you’re writing, and ask yourself, "What is exciting or interesting about what I’m telling this teenager in my letter?" If you can’t answer that, it’s time to revamp your recruiting letter writing strategy.