Photo via Tom Hauck for Student Sports
Every year, athletic departments across North America engage in a competitive rush to recruit new and better players. Those student-athletes will help determine how competitive a school’s sports team is, which will drive an increase in ticket sales and donations. The recruitment process consists of a song and dance routine involving the schools and the potential recruits: campus tours are given, important introductions are made, and invitations to community BBQs are sent out. But sometimes this recruiting process could suffer when information about certain recruits isn’t properly communicated from one point in the process to another.
That’s what happened with the University of Michigan, which lost out on a high-profile recruit with the decommitment of Aubrey Solomon over a missent "thank you" note. As a potential UM prospect, Solomon was invited to the Michigan BBQ at the Big House, but was unable to attend. When he received a thank-you note for attending anyway, Solomon was offended. "A day or two ago, they sent my mom a card thanking us for going to the Michigan BBQ, but we never went," Solomon told 247Sports. "I do not know which recruit they were talking to, but it was not me. It was just a little heartbreaking, for me to supposedly be so high on their list, for them to confuse me with someone else. Plus they spelled both of my names wrong after I told them, but that was not the main issue. I guess they do not have tabs on me."
While this may seem like a specific case, it’s one that’s full of applicable lessons for every division of your athletics department. Solomon was offended that Michigan, which wanted him to feel like he was part of their family, didn’t recognize him as an individual. Maybe his name found its way on to the wrong list, or maybe a thank-you note was set up to be sent to anyone who was scheduled to attend, regardless of whether or not they showed up. Maybe the Wolverines simply weren’t able to track all attendees who came to the BBQ, so they weren’t able to be more targeted in their follow up. Regardless, with the right CRM strategy and set of tools, Solomon wouldn’t have received anything in the mail, and may have still been considering Michigan.
The way that schools interact with their fans is not much different than how they react with prospects. If you organize a gala and invite your alumni in the hopes of securing a donation, and then send them an inapplicable correspondence after the event, how much less interested would they be in donating? People like to be treated like people, not like rows on a spreadsheet.
Automating work means that you need to do less labour, but it can be dangerous if the automation isn’t tied into clean data or using real-time tools. Some tasks can’t be automated, but the ones that can should be prepared in a way that uses the purest and most recent data available. By properly automating the process and tracking your customers as they work their way through your custom-defined journey, you’re able to make the right offer at the right time. But the only way you can do that is through proper tracking, and by having all of the systems you use to do that tracking be fully integrated. That way every system talks to every other system, and nothing falls through the cracks. That’s the easiest way to keep fans, players, and prospects, on your team.
So while this case is specific to the recruiting side of college athletics business, it should serve as a learning experience as you decide on a set of tools and processes to help run the external operation of your programs.