I’m going to add another job responsibility to your title: Expert recruiting message writer.
It’s not an option any longer, actually. Think about it…this generation of student-athlete has grown up using written messages as their primary way of communicating, so if you don’t create great, engaging messages for them, you risk not only losing the attention of your recruit, you also risk not having the opportunity to start a relationship with them at all.
To help with that, I wanted to outline a couple of the strategies that we use when we’re helping our clients create their outbound messaging campaigns for their prospects. Here are six winning message construction strategies that you and your staff can (and should) try the next time you’re struggling to come up with a compelling message that engages with a group of prospects. They work for us, and I’m confident they’ll work for you:
STRATEGY #1: Compartmentalization
Writing a fantastic recruiting letter, email – or even a social media message – is a process that consists of many steps, hundreds of actions, and thousands of tiny decisions:
Thinking about who your prospect is and why he needs what you have to offer them…
Coming up with your attention-getting strategy – your theme, headline, and lead idea…
Researching what your school offers, what your competitors’ strengths are, and their recruiting strategies that they are probably coming in with…
Organizing your attack – determining the order in which you’ll guide your prospect through your reasons why he or she should commit to your program…
Pouring the appropriate research, notes, and ideas into each section of your recruiting plan outline…
Writing your first draft in a way that sounds like you using a conversational tone, similar to the feel and pacing of a text message (remember, they’ve grown up using text messaging as their primary way of communicating!)…
And, finally, sticking a fork in it, because it’s done. We recommend writing as much as you can in 10 minutes, because giving yourself a deadline like that prevents you from making your message too complex and perfect. We want a message going out that has just the right amount of run-on sentences and rambling to ensure it sounds personal to the recruit who is receiving it…
Now, if you have any shred of common sense, you’re going to feel overwhelmed when you contemplate all the steps you have to complete in order to perfect the project at hand. But you’re going to have to get past past that feeling. And the only way I know to do that is to mentally chop the entire job into little, tiny, manageable pieces.
Thinking about the work this way does more than just relieve your anxiety about producing recruiting letters and emails. It blows all that procrastination you’re usually guilty of at the beginning of a recruiting project right out of the gate, and gets you moving forward towards creating a solid recruiting message.
STRATEGY #2: Getting into a good flow
Ever have a day when you sit down to work and the next thing you know it’s time for practice or a compliance meeting? Now, you have to force yourself to stop… and when stuff like that happens, you reflect on your day as a college coach, you’re amazed by the quantity – and, more important, the quality – of what you accomplished?
That is the “good flow” that I’m talking about.
The fact is, establishing a good flow equals better recruits. Because the more flow you experience during planning and writing your recruiting campaign, the faster the project goes and the better your end product is.
But good flow doesn’t “just happen.” Flow is kind of like hummingbirds: They show up naturally if you just create an environment that attracts them. That means a quiet work area doing it during a part of the day when you don’t usually get pulled a hundred different directions. Maybe it’s even the right background music. No interruptions. No distractions. A trenta Starbucks unsweetened iced tea, if you’re me. Those are some examples of the tools you may need to do that day’s job readily at hand.
That’s just me. You’ll have to figure out what works for you.
STRATEGY #3: Constantly visualizing success
Yes, I know. What could possibly be more cheesy than dusting off the decades-old concept of “positive thinking”?
Thing is, like all laws that survive the test of time, positive thinking works. Good coaches know this, deep down.
What personally drives me is the phone call I’ll get from a wowed coach client when he sees our recruiting plan we’ve created for them for the first time… the call telling us he had too many recruits reply back to their recruiting email campaign…and, of course, the high fives we do here at Tudor Collegiate Strategies when a coach gets the athlete they really, really want.
Whatever your motivation, try keeping it in mind as you write. Make that the thing that drives you and commits you to doing your best.
STRATEGY #4: “Know thyself”
Feelings are more intense than thoughts.
So, they can have a way of blanking your mind and freezing you like a biker who just spotted a grizzly in his headlights. That’s why you have to understand how negative emotions affect your work as a college recruiter.
For example, you may feel overwhelmed at the beginning of the process to come up with new recruiting messages. You might feel discouraged when a solution doesn’t come fast enough. And then your inferiority complex kicks into overdrive when you see how you think your competition is doing it a lot better than you and your coaching staff is.
It helped me when I realized that 99.9 percent of all negative emotions are probably not caused by objective truth. And, therefore, the vast majority of all bad feelings don’t deserve my attention – in coaching, and in recruiting.
So when I experience a negative emotion while I’m working, I pause for a moment and ask myself, “What thought zipped through my mind just before I got bummed out?” After recognizing how ridiculously wrong that thought was, I can almost instantly dismiss the negative emotion and dive back into the work.
Try it. It works, Coach.
STRATEGY #5: Forget about the rules!
Not the NCAA’s rules. Writing rules.
You’ve learned too many letter-writing rules. And, frankly, they’re getting in the way. If you’ve had us to your college for one of our On-Campus Workshops, you know what I think of many of the letters that go out to your recruits (they need major re-working, in many cases).
So instead of worrying about the rules you learned in high school and college, focus on your prospect and be a sales professional in print. Think, “If I were in a room with my best prospect and needed to get his attention, engage him, present the reasons why he should come to play for me and my program – what would I say to him?” Then let the conversation flow naturally out of your fingers to the keyboard and into your document, as if you were talking to them one-on-one. Less formal, more conversational. That’s the key.
There’ll be plenty of time in later drafts to think about which rules you broke or didn’t follow. The first draft is about speed.
STRATEGY #6: Connect the dots, and do it consistently for a long period of time
Want to know the secret to what it takes to get recruits to reply more often, and over a longer period of time?
Make one message set up the next one, which continues on to the next one, which then builds off of the next one, and so on. Think of your recruiting messages as back and forth text messages in a long conversation. Don’t write them as one-off messages, let them all tie together in a conversational tone. And, do it over a long period of time. Yes, even after they’ve visited campus, and even after you’re 99.9% sure they’re going to commit to you. Never stop telling your recruiting story.
One, or all, of these strategies will help you spark a creative approach to crafting recruiting messages, Coach. It’s absolutely necessary with this generation of prospects and for the success of your next recruiting campaign.
Need help finally determining what the right message should be for your program and college, and how best to say it? We have two decades of research that will be able to answer that question for you, just like we have for 500+ current coaching staffs who we get to call our clients. How does it all work? Click here, or email Dan Tudor at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a time to discuss it.