Dan Tudor

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July 2nd, 2018

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Why Smart Recruiters Should Stop Combining Their Restaurant Food

I like Mexican food.

I also like Italian food.

So why is it, when I see a sign like this one, do I automatically discount it as something ‘less than special’?

Or, maybe it’s just me. Maybe you like businesses that combine two completely separate categories into one convenient location. Perhaps the chef, showing off his or her versatility in the culinary arts, would be a draw. After all, going to eat a Mexican-Italian restaurant would mean an almost endless variety of food options. You could dine there every night for a year, and you may never repeat the same combination twice.

So what’s my problem?

It’s this: We are a culture that is geared towards specialties. Precise definition.

Online dating sites, like eHarmony? Not precise enough. We needed FarmersOnly.com and ChristianMingle.com. Want to buy a mattress? You don’t go to a department store, you go to Casper.com or get a Sleep Number bed (because we need our own personalized “sleep number”, of course).

So, when we run into businesses that have weird combinations, we pump our brakes a little, right?

It works the same way with recruiting. Your recruiting message, specifically. When you, or your college, tries to present itself as all things to all people, it increasingly fails as a marketing strategy. Coaches that send out information to their recruits which presents everything at once, or makes the case that their college is perfect for every student-athlete, are finding that it’s a message which struggles to gain traction.

What I’m suggesting is simple:

Define yourself as specifically as possible.

In fact, define you, your program, and your college so well that you actually are able to verbalize who isn’t right for you. That’s right, explain to your prospect who isn’t a good fit.

If you do this, at the same time you define yourself out of one prospect’s picture of their ‘perfect school’, you define yourself into another prospect’s picture of their perfect school. In contrast, when you try to describe yourself as perfect for every potential student-athlete, you sound like everyone else. You look like everyone else. And, you are compared to everyone else.

When that happens, how is your recruit left to decide between multiple schools that all sound, look and feel like all their other choices? They’ll gravitate towards the least expensive. Or, the closet to home. Or, the farthest from home. Or, the school at the highest division level.

(Note: This concept also applies to your actual messaging that you’re sending to recruits. Coincidentally, in an earlier article, we used a restaurant comparison to make our point, too!)

They’ll break their own tie, somehow, and experience tells me it doesn’t work out well for most schools.

Unfortunately, that’s where my advice stops. It’s impossible to determine what approach, story or definition is the “right” one for you (shameless plug: we can do that if you’re a client). But you can do it on your own, by answering these four key questions – and then using those answers to craft the core part of your story.

  1. What is our one sentence definition for the perfect student-athlete for our program?
  2. How would I describe a student-athlete who would be completely wrong for me, as their coach, and our program?
  3. What are the three biggest distinctions about our college, location, campus or program that is completely different than most of their other choices?
  4. How can we describe these three distinctions in a way that sounds confident, inspiring and positive?

If you choose to continue to present a bland message which sounds like everyone else they’re hearing from, it’s going to become harder and harder to get their attention. Simple as that. This generation needs a reason to reply to you and take you seriously; the mere fact that you offer degrees and have a sports program isn’t enough any longer.

Begin to find ways to separate yourself from your competition way, way before you get your prospect on campus. You’ll notice much more interest sooner, with better yield results in the end.

We focus on unique ways to tell your program’s story every year at the popular National Collegiate Recruiting Conference. The next conference is happening this summer, so if you’re looking for fresh ideas presented by fellow coaches, make sure you attend! All the details are right here.

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