Companies are enamored with local marketing because, done right, it flat out works. But doing it well can be tricky. I am an unabashed sports dork, and with National Signing Day – the day high school football players can officially begin signing with colleges –happening this week, it occurred to me that top College Football Programs are masters of local marketing with respect to recruiting. USC Coach Pete Carroll is one of the game’s best recruiters in large part because he and his staff are among the best at local marketing. When asked if he would consider going back to the NFL, Carroll said essentially “Why would I do that? There I only get one first round draft pick each year. Here I get nine.” That statement summarizes the power of local marketing: do it better than your competition and you will have a advantage in attracting the most profitable customers.
So, what is it that these programs are doing that businesses can learn from?
1. Customer Segmentation: know with whom you need to be speaking. Football Programs constantly reassess how many players they need to sign at each position in each recruiting class. Then they look at the pool of recruits to determine which ones best fit their needs. When you think about it, this isn’t very different from a business defining high demand products/services it can provide and then segmenting the pool of potential customers so it knows which ones to approach and in what order. Moreover, while they may be primarily focused on the current year’s class, they are also working on next year’s class and the class after that.
2. Prioritize segments to focus efforts on those most likely to provide the biggest bottom line impact. Football Programs all have a “board” on which recruits are prioritized from first to last, making sure all recruits receive the appropriate level of attention. As the “board” is updated, the level of attention each recruit receives changes accordingly.
3. Determine what benefits individual segment are looking for and craft messages targeted to each segment. Football Programs define the benefits (history/tradition, projected playing position, early playing time, academics, national championship contention, etc.) that will resonate with individual players, and craft a different message to target each specific player.
4. Define the vehicle that will most effectively get your message to each target customer segment. Football Programs are experts at defining which channels will work best – telephone, in-home meetings, email, visiting the school, text messages, video conferences, unofficial visits, official visits, leveraging influencers (coach, other recruits, the “Mom” factor), etc – for each recruit and then use those channels to communicate their message to the recruit.
5. Deliver the message consistently but flexibly. The Programs that are the best recruiters deliver the proper message to the proper recruit through the proper channels at the proper times, in the most consistent manner, but are able to adapt their message, and timing as circumstances change. This may seem like a contradiction, but in reality, it is the key to successful local marketing. If the message, , or timing is wrong with respect to a recruit and the Program doesn’t adapt, they lose the recruit. Conversely, if the Program’s priorities change and they don’t adapt, recruits receive too much or too little attention, leading to wasted effort and lost recruits. The best recruiters are the ones who best balance a consistent message and the ability to change that message rapidly and efficiently.
6. Don’t quit until they have signed on the dotted line. The best recruiters don’t stop recruitung a player just because he has agreed to attend their program. Nor do they give up on a player they want just because the player has given a verbal commitment to another program. The best recruiters push, prod, cajole, and enphasize their message until the paper is signed and the deal is done. Then, once the player has signed with them, they leverage that player to help recruit future classes.