by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
A couple of weeks ago our family added more sports equipment to the bin. The newest additions are a helmet, bat, glove, ball and cleats. Oh and a special bag of course, because how else is my almost 7-year old daughter going to carry all that stuff to softball practice.
Over the past 15 months or so my daughter has tried her hand at gymnastics, soccer, basketball, and now softball. Each time right at the start the same thing has happened. She gets frustrated because she isn’t immediately able to score every goal, make every shot, or hit a pitch that’s not sitting on a tee.
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.”
We all know the importance of building good habits. To get better at something it takes practice on a consistent basis, which is becoming harder and harder for many people to accept because we live in a society full of instant gratification.
As you shift your focus to this next class of prospective students, I can’t stress enough the importance of being consistent from start to finish with all of your recruiting communications. It sounds easy enough, but for many admissions teams this is arguably their greatest challenge.
If your office doesn’t have a clear long-term plan to consistently communicate all the different parts of your school’s story and the things that make you unique, you’re making recruiting harder. And when I say a long-term plan, I’m not referring to just the marketing materials that get sent out at various points during the recruitment process. I’ve seen some really great pieces before, but those alone are not a winning communication strategy…not with this generation of students.
Today I’m going 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 me begin by outlining the different types of communication that a solid recruiting campaign needs to consistently feature. This is what we give our clients each month as a part of their research-based custom recruiting communication plan.
- Written communication. Both mail and email matter to your recruits. One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen admissions departments make in 2015-16 is thinking students don’t care about a personalized letter anymore because email is their preferred method of communication. Our ongoing focus group research on campuses across the country continues to show that students wanted to be contacted by mail every month. That same research also confirms that your students want you to send a logical, foundational message about your school every 6 to 9 days. That’s the right amount of time according to the research.
- Phone calls. I know it’s tempting, but don’t try and skip right to verbal communication. Sacrificing letters and emails, even if you start the recruitment process a little later than usual, is not a winning strategy. A large majority of your prospects just aren’t comfortable with you starting the conversation that way. Mix in phone calls after you’ve sent letters and emails first.
- Social media. In the age of Smartphones it’s becoming more important that you communicate with prospects through social media. While it remains 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 future communication online. Utilize social media to give them an ongoing, behind the scenes look at life inside your college a couple of times a month.
This generation reacts to a good, consistent combination of all of these facets of recruiting. If you only focus on one or two communication methods with your recruits, you’re leaving the door open for a competitor that will utilize all of their communication resources.
You might have noticed that I left out text messages. As it stands today, I want you to resist the temptation to “recruit” via text message. There’s a right way and a wrong way for admissions to use text messaging during the recruitment process. Click this link for that information.
Now let’s move to “the Why” – why consistency works and can be a secret weapon for you:
- It gives your prospect a predictable flow of information. Pretty obvious, right? As obvious as it may be, there are still hundreds of colleges and universities whose recruiting communications are anything but consistent. For example, some schools come out of the gate strong for the first month or two and then run out of things to say before really gaining traction. Others slam students with information at various (key) points in the funnel but provide little in-between. My recommendation for you is to use what we call the “drip, drip, drip” method of communication. From start to finish communicate small chunks of information about your institution that explain why your recruit 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 prospective student appreciates and values you being there from start to finish. When we work with clients and help them develop a messaging campaign for an entire year, 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. All of your communication should focus on building the relationship between you, your prospect, and his or her parents. Everything you send out should prompt a response that creates back and forth conversation. This will lead to them feeling more connected with you. It may take you five, six, or even ten 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. Most won’t do it on their own. Start by asking them a question or getting their opinion about something that’s being discussed in your email. When you have a call to action like this 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 and what you’ll find is the prospect continues to interact with you rather than your competitors.
Our clients achieve and exceed their enrollment goals 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. We see it happen all the time…in fact it’s why one university became a client of ours recently. Generating a weak message consistently can be as bad as getting a great message out randomly.
Do you have a hard time coming up with talking points for your messaging? We can help. It’s what we do. Take the next step and contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org We’ll set up a call to talk strategy.