by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
A few weeks ago my 5-year old daughter became the official “mail getter” for our family. I know this because she told me so.
This new position of hers came about after she received a recruiting letter, of sorts. She had received mail before from her grandparents, but this time was different. It was a flashy envelope addressed specifically to her from the kids club at our local mall.
As we walked up the driveway my daughter tore open the envelope. Inside was a letter with her name hand-written at the top, listing upcoming events that “members” could experience, as well as other perks that came from joining the club. As she read through each bullet point the level of excitement in her voice increased. I’ll let you guess what we did 15 minutes later.
The “feeling” that came over my daughter is the same “feeling” every admissions professional should strive to manufacture with prospects during recruiting communications.
Direct mail is one form of communication that should always play a big part in your recruiting campaign. Despite advances in technology, there is no substitute for good old-fashioned letters. Want more proof? Our on-campus focus group research at colleges around the nation confirms that receiving letters still matters to this generation of students. Emails can easily be deleted and text messages are sometimes ignored. There’s also a temporary aspect to both. Letters on the other hand are real, written proof that a prospect can hold in their hand and show others, confirming that they are wanted.
Before I discuss some keys to creating impactful recruiting letters, I have a question for each of you. Have you ever asked yourself why you’re sending a recruiting letter? It’s an important question, and one that you need to raise. Yes it’s important for prospective students to learn more about your school. More than anything though, each recruiting letter should be built to generate a response. When you get a response from your prospect it confirms they’re genuinely interested and you now have a basis for future communications. This is particularly valuable during the early stages of the recruitment cycle.
Now let’s go over some of the fundamentals of constructing the right kind of recruiting letters.
- Most counselors start a recruiting letter with what we call a “warm up.” The first paragraph contains facts, figures, and a lot of “fluff.” I’m here to tell you to get rid of the fluff. Studies have shown your target audience doesn’t want this. If you choose to keep it, you risk them losing interest before you even get started.
- Your main objective in those first couple of sentences should be to grab their attention. That means formal and professional, which is what I’m guessing most of your messages currently are, isn’t going to be effective enough. You need to be more direct. Consider starting with a statement that’s short and to the point. It needs to be something that gets their attention and makes them want to read further.
- Visually your letter needs to be easy to read. Think about your reaction when you receive a lengthy email from your boss. You’re in the middle of cleaning out your inbox and want to keep things moving forward. How many times have you closed it and said, “I’ll read it later.” Do you want that same reaction from your prospects?
- When coming up with a list of things you want to highlight to your recruits, don’t forget to ask yourself why they will care about what you’re telling them. It has to matter to them otherwise it won’t work.
- In the middle or “heart” of your letter, it’s crucial that you continue to keep them hooked. This is where we see a lot of counselors struggle. They choose a topic and try to jam everything into one letter. That’s the wrong approach. Instead, your goal should be to give them no more than two or three pieces of information on a single topic at one time. Additional points regarding that same topic should be communicated over several weeks. The reason behind that is simple. Teenagers forget things quickly. Let’s use your school’s location as an example. If you present everything that makes it great all at once, it won’t resonate for very long. Instead I want you to take a long term approach, like we do with our clients when we assist them with message creation. That way when you’re ready to move on to something else it will be clear to your prospect why your school’s location is perfect for them, and why they should be excited about it.
- When you construct the end of your letter, think long and hard about what you want them to take away. Avoid being passive and saying something like, “If you or your parents have questions feel free to contact us.” That’s not the right way to communicate with today’s student. Instead, demand some type of action from them. If you want them to call or email you with specific information, tell them that, very clearly. Tell them when to call or let them know when to expect an email from you. Always set up the next communication. Our research continues to confirm that your prospects want you to do that for them. If you don’t tell them, you may not hear from them.
If your letters aren’t generating a good response, we can help revamp your recruiting letter strategy using proven techniques. It’s another way to give you and your team an Admissions Recruiting Advantage.
Email me today at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about how to get started.