I remember back in the early 2000’s when we had to work hard to get college coaches to use email in their recruiting. Not “hey, this is a good idea, you should try it”…I’m talking about “Coach, here’s how to use email”. That was just after the discovery of fire, if memory serves correctly.
Today, college coaches – and most of us in the professional world – use email without even thinking about it. If I send an email to you, there’s not much strategy involved, and certainly not any nervousness on your part in reading it. But when we’re talking about recruiting, and a coach sending a prospect an email, everything changes: There should be a strategy in what you talk about in an email and how you talk about it, and we know that there is a lot of nervousness and emotion on the other end as your recruit takes in your message and tries to interpret it.
If a coach wants an email read, understood and responded to by a teenage prospect in this generation, we find that there are several key strategies that we’ve advised coaches to use which drastically affect a coach’s chances of connecting with a prospect by email. Here are three that you we find to be the most effective, based on the trials we’ve carried out with our clients:
It’s vital you speak in a conversational tone in your email. The reason I’m listing this first is because how your email ‘sounds’ to today’s prospect is incredibly important. What I mean is that when they read your message, they’re trying to associate it with a voice. They’re so used to reading texts and social media messages from friends, whose voice they know, so they’re used to a personalized relationship with the text in a message. That puts an extra layer of responsibility on you, Coach: Resist the urge to be too wordy. Write like you talk. You should want your email to feel like a text message, because that gets a response, and our research is showing that the more conversational your email is, the better chance it has to make it feel easier for your recruit to respond and take in your message.
Focus on one key idea or theme in each email. One issue we find being a major roadblock in a coach’s effort to get a prospect to understand key facts about their campus is pummeling a recruit with too much information on too many different subjects. When a coach does that, it prevents a recruit from actually understanding and remembering what you’ve just told them, as well as making it hard for your recruit to understand how to respond. What works best? Shorter, more to-the-point messages that focus on one key theme consistently generates higher response rates and more information retention from your prospect. The more you bounce around major ideas within a message, the less your prospect understands it – and, in their eyes, it seems like more of a mass mail message that isn’t personalized. And all of those things combined make it less likely they’ll engage with you, which is the point of any recruiting message, isn’t it?
Ask for a reply. It’s important that you invite a recruit to respond to your message. You and I don’t need that reminder as adult professionals, but your teenage prospect – who is intimidated or just plain shy when it comes to the idea of emailing a coach they don’t know – it’s vital that you open that door for them, and tell them it’s o.k. to respond. “Reply back and let me know how all that sounds”, or other conversational phrases that signal you want them to reply with their thoughts on what you’ve just told them, is a key to taking a message you’ve just sent and extending that conversation over two or three back-and-forth replies between you and the prospect.
All three strategies are proven, effective, and easy to implement. You just have to watch your tone, and force yourself to speak more conversationally about one key idea at a time. When you do, you’ll see your response rates improve drastically, and you’ll begin to make a connection with a prospect in ways you haven’t seen before.
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