Earlier this month I ran my first half marathon here in Indianapolis along with my dad, my good friend Phil, and about 35,000 other people from around the world.
Among the cool things that runners get to experience at the Indy Mini is taking a lap (on foot of course) around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the Indy 500. You can even stop and kiss the bricks, which is what I’m doing in the picture to the left.
In the midst of cramming down bananas, nutrition bars and water after the race, some very important admissions recruiting lessons popped into my head. And since my previous article from two years ago, “5 Recruiting Lessons for Admissions Courtesy of Johnny Shelton” (he was a contestant on the TV show America’s Got Talent) is now one of the all-time most read admissions articles on our website, I thought it was about time to write another article about a real life experience and what it can teach you about effective recruiting:
- Find your spot and settle in for the race. There are always a handful of runners that jump out to the early lead in any race. The same holds true in student recruitment. Bigger name schools sometimes get earlier visits because of their brand recognition. If that’s you, great. If not, don’t panic. Too many admissions counselors and leaders (especially small college ones) are in a rush to get students to visit campus and start the application process. Taking the “blast” approach doesn’t guarantee success down the stretch. In fact, more and more students are telling us that this approach both frustrates and annoys them, namely because most of the information you’re sending them doesn’t offer anything of value in their mind…so they just tune you out. Taking the time to develop a recruiting relationship with a prospect and their family is the better strategy. If you’re genuine, and you make the process about them and not your school, you’ll be amazed how quickly you can develop rapport and in turn receive that visit or completed app.
- A plan with consistency is going to be a serious contender. My splits in the Indy mini-marathon were as follows – 5K (9:29), 15K (9:23), Finish (9:37). Originally I was concerned with getting some faster splits in early when my energy level was at its highest. That meant I was going to be playing “frogger” right out of the gate. Everybody I talked to prior to the race told me if I wanted to achieve my goal to just be consistent from start to finish. They were right, and as I’ve told you many times before, consistency is so important when it comes to effective recruiting and hitting your number. Make a plan that involves consistent weekly content that is interesting, focused on your prospect, and demands interaction. The longer you do those three things, the more you’ll be given serious consideration by your prospect. The worst thing I continue to see schools do is step back, slow down their communications, and leave the prospect alone to make their final decision. Guide them throughout.
- It’s okay to adjust parts of your strategy during the race. As a runner there are always opportunities to adjust your strategy during the race because of the course landscape and other unforeseen circumstances. As a recruiter you will have those same opportunities depending on your prospect’s wants, needs, fears, communication preferences, objections, etc.
- Not replenishing will cost you later. Staying hydrated via water and Gatorade stations is a must during any race. If you don’t your body will slow down quicker and not be at its best down the stretch. Similarly, not fixing your recruiting messages or choosing not to create messaging specifically for parents is going to come back and cost you later.
- When everybody is aligned the experiences are more memorable. I thought one of the most impressive things about the Indy mini-marathon was how aligned the various staffers and volunteers at each stage were. Without question it made for a more memorable race experience. Is everybody on your campus – namely counselors, campus visit staff, financial aid, marketing/communications, athletics, deans and professors – in sync?
I encourage you to have a discussion about each of these five things as you develop your recruiting plan for this next class of prospects. It’s worth the time!
P.S. I experienced a first this past week that I want to share with you. After delivering the keynote speech at DACAC in Deadwood, SD I was walking between sessions and saw these guys (big horn sheep) hanging out in the parking lot.