What is your value statement?
I thought about trying to ease into this conversation with some catchy lead but just like there’s a need for you to grab the attention of your recruits I thought a frontal assault on a short discussion about your program’s relative value in the intercollegiate athletics marketplace might be a better strategy.
Just think for a second about the number of advertisements you see, hear, or read on a daily basis. Everyone of them is a testament of what makes this or that product the best choice for you. This pizza is delivered to your home hot and fresh, while another pizza has a special crust, and yet another pizza offers a satisfaction guarantee. One product with countless story lines about why you should get your pizza from one place rather than another.
And then there’s the strategy you often see in advertising where one company will accuse another of using inferior ingredients. This is akin to what in athletic circles we know as “negative recruiting.” As we move toward the 2020 campaign season, we can sadly expect to see a lot more of those ads as one candidate will accuse another of one thing or another. If you are a consumer of news on polling you know that strategy works about as well in the political marketplace as it does in recruiting. It’s not a good option.
My original question about “what’s your value statement” may be more important going into the current year because much of the advertising we are going to be seeing over the next four months is going to make us think more about the relative value of many decisions we will be making as both consumers as well as citizens.
If you have not taken time to reflect deeply on the value of not just your program but also your institution’s value I encourage you to make that your priority in the near future. This conversation can start by asking yourself some simple questions:
- In comparison to those institutions you are recruiting against what makes you different? Why should a recruit choose you over some other program? What VALUE can you offer that they cannot? Maybe the answer to this question is an economic one in terms of your cost or maybe it’s related to you and the coaching experience and success you have had building confident, character driven athletes who leave your program as winners both on the field of play as well as off. If that’s the case you will need to tell their stories and explain to recruits and their parents the things you did to instill those attributes during their careers paying for you.
- Without getting into negative recruiting what makes you better than some other school your recruit might be considering? Have you considered this in your value statement? If you purport your program as being committed to building instilling personal responsibility in your student athletes can you explain not only how you accomplish that but also WHY personal responsibility is an important virtue. And again, can you provide STORIES about things that have happened where there were teachable moments about personal responsibility and the outcomes of those moments. Talking about the values you believe are important has little value without being able to support those values with specific examples of how you brought them to life with real examples.
- Every program has something that they struggle to overcome (usually far more than just one!) It may be your cost, or it may be your location, your facilities, your admissions standards. It could be anything. It is unlikely these objections are new to you. You know all too well what objections you need to overcome. What things can you say about your value statement that help allow you to overcome that objection? For example, if the obstacle you have to overcome is cost have you built out the opportunities that await graduates of your institution? These opportunities may be related to admission to elite graduate programs, or job placement, internships, networking, international study opportunities, or starting salaries. There is no reason to stumble when confronted by an objection. They can be anticipated and spoken to effectively if you are honest and transparent and committed to your value statement. Your value statement is unique to you but if you are having trouble overcoming an objection talk to your peers. It is ikely they are hearing the same objections and may have a response you have not identified.
- What you say about your program’s value proposition is far less impactful than what others say. With that in mind I would encourage you to be proactive about lining up your supporters. I know this is awkward but it is extremely important. We are always looking for validation and your recruits (more importantly their parents) will be looking for places to validate what you’re saying. You can accomplish this by obtaining comments from former athletes (and their parents), coaching up your current players on what to say to recruits both formally when they’re on campus as well as informally in social media, texts, etc.
These are undoubtedly uncertain times. Many families are looking at their economic circumstances differently now than they were a year ago. Many students are evaluating the cost of college against other alternatives or perhaps delaying enrollment. A well thought out value proposition or statement about the benefits of your school that is supported by real story lines communicated by others (current and former players and their parents, faculty, administrators, etc.) can go a long way toward separating you and your program from others your recruit may be considering.
Greg Carroll is a former college athletic director who now advises coaches and athletic departments for Tudor Collegiate Strategies. Part of what Greg and our team do is go to campuses to lead our popular recruiting training workshops for athletic departments and coaching staffs – and we can do that for you, too. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to coordinate a time to be on your campus in the coming months.