by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
It’s the first thing my 6-year old daughter does when she gets off the school bus: She runs over to the mailbox to retrieve our mail.
This started about a year ago after she received a recruiting letter, of sorts. She had received mail before from her grandparents, but this time was different. It was a flashy envelope addressed specifically to her from the kids club at our local mall.
As we walked up the driveway, my daughter tore open the envelope. Inside was a letter with her name hand-written at the top, listing upcoming events that “members” could experience as well as other perks that came from joining the club. As she read me each bullet point the level of excitement in her voice increased! I’ll let you guess what we did 15 minutes later.
The same “feeling” that came over my daughter last spring showed up again earlier this month. Inside our mailbox was the latest edition of National Geographic for kids. Her grandparents had signed her up without telling her. After jumping up and down for a few minutes she ran inside and promptly began reading the magazine (out loud of course). Since that time she asks me every single day when the next magazine will arrive.
It’s that kind of excitement and those kinds of “feelings” that you should strive to create with prospective students when putting together your recruiting communications.
Direct mail is a vital part of any successful recruiting campaign. Despite advances in technology, your recruits continue to tell us that there’s no substitute for good old-fashioned letters:
“Letters in the mail are a really effective way to recruit students.”
“Letters are a lot better because they’re physical, but make them stand out and catch our eye so we don’t throw them away.”
Both of those quotes appeared in a recent focus group research survey we did prior to leading an on-campus admissions workshop. We see similar statements all the time in the surveys we conduct.
The bottom line is letters still matter to this generation of students. Emails can easily be deleted and text messages are sometimes ignored. Letters on the other hand are real, written proof that a prospect can hold in their hand and show others, confirming that they’re wanted.
Before I offer up some secrets to creating effective recruiting letters, I have a question for each of you. Have you ever asked yourself why you’re sending a recruiting letter? It’s an important question, and one that you need to raise. Yes it’s important for prospective students to learn more about your school. More than anything though, each recruiting letter should be built to generate a response. When you get a response from your prospect it confirms they’re genuinely interested, and you now have a basis for future communications. This is particularly valuable during the early stages of the recruitment cycle.
Now, here are 6 pointers that you should follow if you want your recruiting letters to make a big impact.
- Most admissions departments and counselors start a recruiting letter with what we call a “warm up.” The first paragraph contains facts, figures, and a lot of “fluff.” I want you to get rid of the fluff. Studies have shown this generation of students doesn’t want this. If you choose to keep it, you risk them losing interest before you even get started.
- Your main objective in those first couple of sentences should be to grab their attention. That means formal and professional, which is what I’m guessing most of your messages currently are, isn’t going to be effective enough. You need to be more direct. Consider starting with a statement that’s short and to the point. It needs to be something that gets their attention and makes them want to read further.
- Visually your letter needs to be easy to read. Think about your reaction when you receive a lengthy email with all kinds of numbers and links from your boss. You’re in the middle of cleaning out your inbox and want to keep things moving along. How many times have you closed it and said, “I’ll read it later.” Do you want that same reaction from your prospects?
- When coming up with a list of things you want to highlight to your recruits, don’t forget to ask yourself why they will care about what you’re telling them. It has to matter to them; otherwise it won’t work.
- In the middle of your letter, it’s crucial that you continue to keep them hooked. This is where we see a lot of admissions departments struggle. They choose a topic and try to jam everything into one letter. That’s the wrong approach. Instead, your goal should be to give them no more than two or three pieces of information on a single topic at one time. Additional points regarding that same topic should be communicated over several weeks. The reason behind that is simple. Teenagers forget things quickly. Let’s use your school’s location as an example. If you present everything that makes it great all at once, it won’t resonate for very long. Instead I want you to take a long-term approach, like we do with our clients when we assist them with message creation. That way when you’re ready to move on to something else it will be clear to your prospect why your school’s location is perfect for them and why they should be excited about it.
- At the end of your letter think long and hard about what you want them to take away from it. Avoid being passive and saying something like, “If you or your parents have questions feel free to contact us.” That’s not effective. Instead, demand some type of action from them. If you want them to call or email you with specific information, tell them that, very clearly. Tell them when to call or let them know when to expect an email from you. Always set up the next communication. Our research continues to confirm that your prospects want you to do that for them. If you don’t tell them what to do, don’t be surprised when they don’t respond.
If your recruiting letters aren’t generating a good response, we can help revamp them using proven techniques. It will save you time and provide you and your team with an Admissions Recruiting Advantage.
Email me today at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about how to get started.