by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
Building good habits can be difficult. Take for example my golf game. I started playing in my late 20’s. No lessons, I just went out and tried to “hit em’ straight.” As you can imagine I experienced up and down (mostly down) results.
I enjoyed the game so I asked a friend who was a local golf pro for some pointers. In a nutshell he told me fundamentals plus practice would equal better results. The late Jim Rohn – entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker — has said, “Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals.”
If I wanted my golf game to improve, I was going to have to be consistent with my practice and game habits.
As you prepare to begin another recruiting cycle, I want to stress the importance of being consistent when it comes to recruiting communications with your prospects. I know it sounds easy enough, but for many admissions teams this can be one of their greatest challenges.
If your office doesn’t have a clear long-term plan to consistently communicate your school’s story, I strongly encourage you to start developing one. I don’t want you to be the school that panics come wintertime because they haven’t done anything consistently or offered anything of value to their recruits since that initial communication. We’ve seen colleges in that situation try to cram everything together in hopes of catching back up to the competition. I’m here to tell you that method rarely works.
Today I want to provide you with a more effective way to build your next recruiting plan and discuss why consistency works with this generation of students.
Let’s start by reviewing the different types of communication that a solid recruiting campaign needs to consistently feature.
- Written communication. Both mail and email matter to your recruits. According to our research you need to send a logical, foundational message about your school every 6 to 9 days. That’s the right amount of time according to your prospects.
- Phone calls. I know it’s tempting, but don’t try and skip right to verbal communication. Sacrificing letters and emails is not a winning strategy. Your prospects want more. Mix in phone calls, but be sure that your recruit is comfortable with that type of contact first.
- Social media. In the age of smartphones it’s becoming more important how you communicate with prospects through social media. While it’s unlikely to make or break your college, it can determine whether or not you form a solid connection with a recruit, or make the kind of missteps that exclude you from your prospect’s future communication online. Utilize social media to give them an ongoing behind the scenes look at life inside your college at least once a week. If your office has the resources it might even happen every couple of days.
This generation reacts to a good, consistent combination of all of these facets of recruiting. If you focus only on one or two communication methods with your recruits, you are leaving the door open for a competitor that will utilize all of their communication resources.
Now to “the Why” – why consistency works.
- It gives your prospect a predictable flow of information. Seems obvious I know yet many counselors don’t have that long-term game plan. They come out of the gate strong for the first month or two and then run out of things to say before really gaining traction. Here’s the problem with that approach. Most prospects won’t make a decision until later in the process. Instead let me encourage you to take what we call the “drip, drip, drip” method of communication. Communicate small chunks of information about your college and why they should want to come there. When you extend your messaging out over the entire recruiting cycle, and not just when it’s convenient, you’ll win over some recruits simply because other schools fall off.
- Your recruits value consistent communication. It’s a proven fact – today’s recruit appreciates and values you being there from start to finish. When we work with clients and help them develop a messaging campaign using focus group research, we often hear stories like the following one from students. When it came time to make a decision between multiple colleges they felt a little more loyal to one because that school communicated with them the most during the recruitment process. It might not seem like the smartest way to pick a college, but that’s what this generation of recruits says matters to them.
- Consistency prompts a response. Your ultimate objective when you communicate with a prospect should be to get a response. You want to create a back-and-forth conversation. It may take you 7, 8 or even 10 times before you get that response, but remain consistent and stay the course. Believe it or not most prospects are looking for a reason and permission to reach out and contact you once a relationship has been developed, and most will not do it on their own. Start by asking them a question or getting their opinion on email or social media, not with a phone call. Not too many teenagers today are willing to jump right into a 20-minute conversation with you when they know virtually nothing about you or your institution. When you have a call to action it gives them a safe, non-committal way to connect with you.
- It builds trust and loyalty. Building close relationships with your prospects and their families is all about communicating on a personal level. That takes time and is hard to accomplish if you’re inconsistent with your contact. When you try to understand the problems that your prospect (and his or her parents) faces, you’re sending a strong message that you care. Over time your reliability to help problem solve will build trust. It will also build loyalty – so the recruit wants to continue to interact with you rather than your competitors.
Our clients have achieved enrollment success when they provide a consistent message using a variety of communication types. Over time if you’re consistent you become hard to ignore. As other colleges peel off you will move up your prospect’s list.
A small word of caution – schools can be consistent but with a poor message or poor phone etiquette. Trust me we’ve seen it happen. Generating a weak message consistently can be as bad as getting a great message out randomly.
Not sure what the best strategy with your next class of recruits should be? Having a hard time coming up with talking points for your messaging? We can help. It’s what we’re here to do. Contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org