They don’t care about you.
Until, that is, they know who you are.
You might have the best facility, you might be the nicest coach, and a degree from your school might send your prospect out into the world as the best prepared college graduate on the planet.
But if they don’t know you, they aren’t going to listen.
Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon and legendary rock band U2 prove my point. They headed out to a subway platform in New York City, in disguise, and started playing. Free concert from U2, hosted by Jimmy Fallon. Here’s what happened.
Notice the before and after?
When they were viewed as just an average group of New York street performers, nobody paid much attention. But did you notice the change in the crowd’s energy level once the disguises came off? Completely different. Once they knew who it was, it was worth their time to stop what they were doing and give the band their full attention.
Let me bring this back to your world as a college recruiter with this core truth:
The reason why many of your prospects aren’t paying attention at the start of the recruiting process is because they don’t know who you are.
That doesn’t mean you have to be famous. It really doesn’t even mean you have to be all that talented. But it does mean that you have to be known.
So if you’re serious about achieving that with this generation of high school student-athlete in your next recruiting campaign, here’s what our research shows as being some of the essential things you need to do to become “known” to your recruits:
First and foremost, be the coach that’s easy to talk to. It’s such a simple concept, and yet it’s something that many coaches just don’t pay attention to. In the way you communicate – the text and sentence structure that you use in your letters, emails, social media campaigns and text messages – you need to make it easy for your prospect to actually reply to your outreach. If you aren’t getting kids to reply to you, it might mean that you aren’t “sounding” like you are easy to talk to. Which means they aren’t going to ever really get to know you.
Have them listen to your team’s stories. In any way you can, get your athletes involved in telling the story of you and your program. Especially you. They need to talk about how you operate as a coach, why they like the school, and why they’d make the same decision all over again. Your team has way more credibility than you do as a coach, because as a coach you are really seen as the salesperson. And that gets viewed with a degree of skepticism by this generation, especially as the process extends beyond the first initial points of contact. Your team, on the other hand, has credibility: They’re closer to the same age as your recruit, and are less likely to be viewed as someone trying to trick them into committing to the program. So, ask yourself, “How are you utilizing the power of my team in telling our story to my recruits?” If you can’t name concrete examples of how that happens, it’s unlikely your recruits are really getting to know you.
Build a reputation. Don’t wait for a reputation to develop, build a reputation. Decide how you want to define your program, and then start telling that story. That’s taking an active, controlled approach to the way others view you and your program. One great example of what I’m talking about is how Jim Harbaugh began to develop an attitude and swagger around his University of Michigan football program…before he even coached his first game at his alma mater. He took a program that was slipping into mediocrity from a reputation standpoint, and turned around that perception overnight. To be known, sometimes you have to decide what your reputation is, and then start selling it to your recruits.
Enlist your famous friends. U2 needed Jimmy Fallon to help make the transition between average street performers in disguise to world-renowned rock superstars. Minus Jimmy, the whole thing may not have worked. Who are the famous friends you have around you on your campus? Another coach on campus? A school president who doesn’t mind having you drop by with your recruits to say hi? Another team on campus that wouldn’t mind coming and saying hi to your recruits and talking positively about the campus? All of those count as your “famous friends”. They’re the people that your prospects will talk about after they leave campus (and believe me, they do!) Enlist those famous friends to help you become known.
Those four recommendations aren’t an exhaustive list, of course. But I hope it gets your mind turning a little bit. This entire topic of how you build a reputation, and what recruits respond to as you reach out to them, is an area that most college coaches never take time to think about.
Be the coach that does, and watch how recruits start to view you differently.
Did you know that our team of experts at Tudor Collegiate Strategies can help you develop your approach with recruits? It’s true. We’ve been working one-on-one with coaches and their programs for over a decade, and we’d love to help you to. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to have a conversation about how we’d do that, or click here for more information on our Total Recruiting Solution program.