by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
I heard it again last week. In the middle of my conversation with a first-year admissions counselor who was reflecting on the past 10 months, he blurted out, “I never really thought of this job as a sales position, but that’s what it basically is.”
At a time when colleges and universities are looking especially hard at the bottom line, admissions professionals must be able to consistently market and sell their school to prospective students and their parents. That’s the bottom line.
One of the biggest challenges we’re often asked to address during our On-Campus Training Workshops is how to get and keep the attention of today’s typical recruit. It’s an on-going battle that’s for sure. If the teenager on the other end wants to ignore your recruiting message, you can’t stop him or her. What you can do however is provide them with compelling reasons to choose your school over the competition.
Here’s even better news! You don’t need to have a big time budget to successfully communicate your message and cultivate a positive relationship. You just need a few easy strategies that savvy business professionals use on a daily basis.
Think about how you develop relationships in your personal life. Any good relationship is built on trust. When there’s trust, there’s loyalty. When a relationship has those two characteristics that means there’s a genuine concern for each other’s well being.
Your recruiting relationships should be developed the same way. You cannot expect your recruit and his or her parents to commit to your institution if they don’t trust you. When you build trust, loyalty will follow. Your recruits will want to continue to interact with you rather than your competitors.
It’s important to start establishing those real, caring, long-term relationships with your prospects early in the recruitment process. If you do, you’ll have an easy time proving to your recruits (and their parents and others around them) that you’re concerned about them, and want to help solve their problems. You’re not just there trying to sell a college. You’re there to help.
If you want to differentiate yourself from counselors who will read this and then forget about it later today, try these four proven strategies for establishing those all-important prospect relationships.
- Be specific when telling your recruiting story. Are you currently developing a story that tells your recruit something very specific or very memorable about your college? Sometimes a specific focus can help you tell your school’s story in a much more compelling way, and give recruits a reason to listen to what you’re saying.
- Understand that different recruits have different problems. Your recruits all have worries, fears and hopes. Here’s the thing. Those of a traditional student (teenager) are going to be very different from those of a non-traditional student (single parent, mid-career professional). If you don’t believe that then you’ll rarely connect with prospects the way you need to if they’re going to enroll at your school. It’s your job to try and put yourself in each recruit’s shoes and develop separate messaging that will truly help them. When you do that you’re sending a strong message that you care.
- Make your recruiting messages personal. When you effectively use personalization during the recruitment process you stand out from the crowd. To build a close relationship with your prospect and his or her family you must communicate on a personal level no matter the type of contact. That includes mail, email, phone calls, social media and face-to-face contact. I understand doing this will take up more time and involve some creative thinking. The end result will be a feeling of being wanted. That’s something that every single recruit is looking for.
- Commit to utilizing social media. Let me be clear. I’m not talking about your admissions Facebook page. I want you to invest more in your personal Twitter and Instagram accounts (both are free). Don’t have one or both? You’re missing out on a prime opportunity (according to a new study, 92% of teens report going online daily) to reveal the “real you,” as well as offer a behind the scenes look at what makes life at your college so great. As always, no matter what type of communication you use, you must be consistent if you expect favorable results.
A quick word of caution. Don’t ever pretend to be someone you’re not. Your sincerity, or lack thereof, will always shine through. Teenagers today are smart. They know when you’re telling them the truth and when you’ve embellished a little too much.
These four strategies will help you quickly establish real rapport with your prospects and increase your school’s chances of enrolling them when a decision is ready to be made.
We help colleges and universities improve their recruiting relationships year-round. If you have a specific question or want help developing a winning strategy call Jeremy directly at 612-386-0854. Or feel free to email him.