by Jeremy Tiers, Director of Admissions Services
When we work with an admissions department to adjust their recruiting strategies some of the advice we give goes against what their institution has been doing for years.
I’m used to hearing feedback like, “It doesn’t feel right,“ and “Jeremy, I haven’t heard of other schools doing it this way.”
Change is hard, but I think we can all agree it’s essential for growth and development. If your current recruiting methods aren’t producing the results you know they should be, now is the perfect time (early in the recruiting cycle) to modify your approach.
One of the topics I’m asked to speak on most often when I lead a workshop is communication flow. During those discussions I often pose this important question to the admissions staff – “What do you want a letter or email that you send to a prospective student to do?”
Here are the answers I hear most often:
- “I want to know if the student is interested in us.”
- “I want to tell them why we’re such a great school.”
- “I want to tell them how much we like them.”
Those are all good answers. However, there’s an even better strategy that we’ve found over the years to be very effective. For those admissions staffs that have signed on as clients, they see this strategy being used on a regular basis with great success.
The strategy is simple: When we create a message that will go to a prospective student, we want them to reply to that message, leave some questions unanswered, and to have that communication to set up the next message. Let’s break down each of those strategies and why they’re vital to any effective recruiting campaign through the mail or e-mail:
- Generate a response. The point of any letter or email that you send should not be to sell your school or convince a prospect to choose your school based on what’s written in one letter. The focus of each of your written communications should be to generate a reply from your prospect. Usually that will be in the form of an email or a phone call. Why should getting a reply be your primary goal? That’s easy. You aren’t going to be able to effectively “sell” your college or university until a prospect feels like he or she can be comfortable interacting with you.
- Leave some questions unanswered. If your school is still trying to cram every single fact and statistic about, for example, housing into one letter or email, stop it! Your recruits tell us this is the wrong approach. They don’t want you to try to answer everything in one letter. Instead, leave some details and answers out so that they have a reason to listen to you the next time.
- Set up the next message. One of the biggest findings that resulted from our research study on how today’s prospect makes their final decision was the importance of the prospect knowing what to do next in the process. When you send a prospect a letter or email, make sure that you let them know what’s coming next. In other words, a letter that goes out next week should set up an expectation that another message is following in the coming days. Your recruit should be expecting the next step, not wondering when it will come. The only way to do that is to very clearly spell out the steps that you’re taking in the process.
It’s imperative to establish this system as early in the recruiting process as possible. As many of you begin written contact with this next class of recruits, I encourage you to make sure your letters and emails include these three important elements.
If you include them, and they are structured correctly, you’ll get results and responses that exceed your expectations.
Our team of experts at Tudor Collegiate Strategies can revise your current recruiting messages, develop a new plan and messaging, and assist you with your top prospects on an ongoing basis. If you’d like to learn more, the NEXT STEP is to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org