Interactive Recruiting

College coaches have a unique understanding of the importance of recruiting. After all, it’s the lifeblood of a successful program. It’s also understood that recruiting is different than marketing.

Though both recruiting and marketing employ some of the same concepts, recruiting is an interactive, hands-on, press-the-flesh process. It means finding ways to literally get in the public’s face to tell them your message.

Square One

Because recruiting is likened to the lifeblood of any college athletic program, that lifeblood needs nourishment; in this case, a decent budget.

It’s not good enough, for example, to work with a 10-year-old budget. It’s better to fix the budget as a percentage, rather than at a particular dollar amount.

Choose a dollar amount and watch it remain static year after year, even though costs are rising. Those rising costs should be offset by a pricing structure that keeps up with the pace.

In turn, don’t neglect the recruiting/marketing budget. A percentage system allows this important cog in the wheel to ebb and flow with the budget, regardless of how it rises and falls.

Once established there are quite a few ways to utilize the budget effectively, and following are some that are tried and true…

What is a Trade Show?

Your typical trade show is usually quite focused. You would normally set up a booth at one because you know that people are there to see something specific, like camps.

However, there are also trade-show and trade-show like options that bring possible recruits in droves, yet camps are not the focus of the event.

“We go to these big meetings, like the Texas State Teenage meeting, and every town that plays Texas Teenage baseball is there,” says Bragg Stockton, owner of Skills and Drills School of Baseball in Houston. “Just the other night we went out to one of those district meetings, and there must’ve been about 20 leagues represented there with their board members; we talked to them for about five minutes, had a booth and passed out literature.”

It’s a matter of identifying the opportunities that either square with the focus of your camp — like a baseball camp attending a baseball league meeting — or that bring potential campers through the door.

Perhaps it’s an outdoor sports show, a rodeo, a science fair or a large annual community event. Either way, these related avenues offer the audience you’re looking for and the audience more variety.

Phil Zerofski, director of Sea Camp San Diego, employs what he calls an “outreach program” during slow months where he and his staff will visit local schools and offer marine biology labs.

“Our outreach program is a way to keep staff busy and pay them,” says Zerofski. “We bring animals to a classroom and teach a lab there, or we can have a school group come in for a half-day and do a lab at our facility.”

Multi-Media

Trade-show like environments offer true personal interaction, but you can still interact with potential campers without the personal touch.

Camps are beginning to utilize the technologies that allow for more interactive programming, and most are finding great success.

When the phrase interactive programming, coupled with the word technology comes up, most immediately bring the word Internet to the top of their mind. However, a combination of digital cameras, CDs and the latest presentation software offer multiple points of contact.

Sea Camp San Diego has implemented just such a recruiting program where they take digital photos during the course of a session and use them as part of a PowerPoint presentation they send to teachers.

“The teacher can use it for teaching in the classroom, and it’s marketing to get more kids for the next year to maximize attendance,” says Zerofski. “It’s helping a lot and we have more sessions that are closer to capacity size because of it. The teacher packets that we send out now contain one of those CDs so that they’re not just getting a written description of the program, they’re getting visual aids as well. They can see students snorkeling, our lab facilities and everything else.”

This effectively kills two birds with one stone — packets of this sort offer both personal and technological interactivity. Everyone is agreed that nothing beats the personal touch. As Stockton says, “It still comes down to the telephone and the postal service and word of mouth.”

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