Karate Rush (or Maximizing What’s In Your Control)

by Matt Mattson

I’ve been providing some distance coaching services to a chapter that I met at a recent Dynamic Recruitment Workshop. The chapter has been battling some three-year-old punitive stipulations that disallow the chapter from housing freshmen. In a fraternity community that is housing-oriented, this has created a significant recruitment challenge for the chapter.

We’ve been coaching the chapter to focus first on the issues of the situation which are in their control (for fans of Good Guys, these are the S.P.A.M. concepts). But we’ve also been working with the chapter to help them take a cue from a Japanese martial art.

Not exactly karate (as the goofy title of this post implies), Aikido is a Japanese martial art that teaches people to exploit an opponent’s strength, weight and motion to your advantage. A great description of Aikido can be found here.

In his book Rules for Revolutionaries, Guy Kawasaki¬†writes about the concept of Aikido marketing. He says, “Aikido marketing is using an opponent’s strength against itself instead of meeting brute force with brute force.”

This concept can be easily and successfully applied to a fraternity or sorority that might be in a challenging situation like the one I mentioned we’re working with.

In an effort to get the chapter to turn their perceived weakness (freshmen can’t live in the house) into a strength, we pointed out that on their campus only about 15% of the freshmen were joining fraternities. And because we know that on almost every campus we work with, a common excuse for not joining a fraternity is that many freshmen don’t want to live in a fraternity house (they would prefer a normal freshman residence life experience), we suggested that this chapter change its perspective.

The truth is that 85% of the freshmen on that campus aren’t interested in living in a fraternity house, and while the chapter often hears that the reason their prospective members chose another chapter is because they could live-in freshmen year, that information is coming from ONLY the 15% of freshmen who were looking to live in a fraternity house. That means that 85% of the campus would probably be more interested in their chapter than any of the other chapters!

We coached the chapter to pitch their situation in a different way — using their opponent’s strengths against them. To differentiate the chapter’s unique value, we suggested mentioning something like this when recruiting, “We believe that it is very important for freshmen to have a true freshman year residence life experience. We know you want to meet as many new friends as possible freshman year, so our policy allows freshmen that experience and the promise of a great house to look forward to next year. Plus, it makes your life easier.”

This may not work for all chapters, but consider how you can use the Aikido Marketing principle to differentiate your organization. How can you use your “opponents’” strengths to your advantage. Can you flip your perspective upside down and maximize what you can control?

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