Got your first message out to your top targets? Check.
Approached them with the right message at the right time to maximize your chances of actually moving them from “mildly interested” to “engaged and communicating with you”?
Uh, maybe not so much.
The thing is, we find that a lot of coaches unwittingly short-circuit their recruiting chances with good recruits early in the process, simply because they make some mistakes that they aren’t aware they’re making. Why? Mainly because recruits they’re trying to talk to never discuss it with them…they don’t go into detail explaining where the wrong approaches occurred, and when, and what they could have done differently. It would be great if they did, but it just doesn’t happen.
Fortunately for coaches, they tend to tell us what coaches should be doing differently in the fascinating focus group studies we do for the athletic departments we conduct recruiting workshops for, or the clients we work with one-on-one with to help their programs recruit for effectively by reformatting their recruiting message going out to prospects.
And while there are always unique situations and circumstances that make each interaction with each recruit different from the other, there are five common – and easily preventable – mistakes that coaches often make early on in the process that can immediately, and drastically, lessen your chances for ever being able to reconnect and move the process forward.
Here they are:
- Asking your prospect to fill out an online questionnaire in your first message to them. On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you enjoy filling out online forms of any kind, Coach? I thought so. With that in mind, triple that lack of excitement for your student-athlete recruit. It’s not a motivating factor for them so early in the process. Plus, if they don’t complete it right away (which most don’t) they reveal that they feel like they can’t talk to you again until they do complete that early task you’ve assigned them. But they don’t want to complete it, so they don’t talk. And so the vicious circle goes, around and around. And all coaches see is another prospect who doesn’t appear to be interested in their program because they didn’t get a response to an online form they emailed a teenager.
- Talking about arranging a campus visit on the first phone call, or in the first text message. You, as a coach, have a process and a very rigid timeline that you need your prospects to comply with as your recruit them. They, on the other hand, tell us that it seems odd to them that returning an email to a coach from a program they don’t know anything about, from a college they’ve never heard of, would naturally mean that they’d be interested in spending time with you and your team on your campus. It’s a huge jump, and when coaches make that one of the first things they discuss with prospects, it doesn’t seem like a normal process. Be patient, and wait until there is a more significant relationship established in the recruiting process.
- Writing a long, formal letter or email as your first contact message. You have your Master’s degree, Coach. We get it. You’re smart, and you’ve worked hard to learn how to communicate like a professional, and as an adult. The problem is, for most recruits, the letters are so formal they a) don’t seem like a real person wrote them, and b) it feels like a mass mail message that went out to hundreds of other recruits. Their rule for communicating: The shorter, and more direct your message, the more ‘real’ it seems, and the more likely they are to reply. It’s an easy mistake to correct for coaches.
- Not making parents part of your first contact strategy. Our research shows that 91% of the time, your prospects is relying upon his or her parents to help them determine which programs and coaches to take seriously, and which ones to politely ignore. Parents who aren’t hearing from a coach – right from the start – often rush unimpeded towards defining your program for you with their son or daughter. Sometimes their opinion of you ends up being positive, and many other times it’s negative. For the brief moment at the start of the process when they are somewhat open to a conversation about your campus, you have the opportunity to help shape their narrative about your program as you and other coaches approach them. Why wouldn’t you make every effort to talk to them immediately?
- Failing to outline your timeline, and when the recruiting process will end for you and your program. Notice I didn’t say “when they need to make a decision” or “when their deadline is”. Those phrases put you in a position against them…it’s an adversarial relationship when coaches phrase it this way. Explain to them when the recruiting process ends for you and your program, and do it from the earliest possible point. When you don’t, you start your recruiting relationship off leaving a hole in the most important part of the story you’re trying to get them to buy into: When the story comes to an end. Of all the mistakes you can make as you start the process, this one inflicts the most long term damage (unless, of course, you’re a coach who enjoys the ‘i just need a little more time’ delay tactics that this generation uses to extend the recruiting process when they view it as open-ended. If you want an extended lesson on this point, listen to our podcast episode on the topic.
Mistakes can usually be easily corrected, but it first takes being aware of what those mistakes are. These are the five most common, according to our research, and the sooner you begin approaching your initial messaging differently, the sooner you’ll be seeing a deeper engagement with your prospects and parents.
Want a more one-on-one approach to developing a smarter, more effective recruiting plan? Consider becoming a client and utilizing our proven Total Recruiting Solution plan. Coaches all over the country are finding new success using these strategies, and we can help your program, as well. Click here for more information.