Have you had lots of prospectuses printed this year? Have you got hundreds of them ready to be sent out over the summer or available in reception to be picked up and browsed through?
If you have, do you know how many of your prospectuses are ever read? Do you know how helpful your prospectus is in bringing students and employers to you? At a time when every one in the public sector is being asked to consider whether activities still need doing, or if they can be done in different ways, do you need to ask if your organisation still needs its prospectus?
Who reads it?
Do prospective students, their parents, their employers and other interested parties actually read your prospectus? As far as you're aware, do people look out for your prospectus arriving in the post? Do they go out of their way to call into your building to pick one up? Do you ever see people reading your prospectus avidly?
Most importantly, do people use the information in your prospectus to help them to book onto your programmes? You may not know. However, this information is easy to find, and there's still time to make sure you are able to gather it in September.
If you print different course booking codes on your website from the ones you use in your prospectus, you'll be able to do some analysis of the sources of information people use when they are booking programmes. You'll be able to find out quickly which of your materials people refer to when they make a booking, and hence which of your materials are helpful to your customers.
Who is influenced by it?
Prospective students and employers make their choices about which provider to use in lots of different ways. You need to know if they use your prospectus as part of their decision-making process.
Students often say they chose a provider organisation because a friend had attended, or because an older brother, or sister or even a parent had studied there. It's also very common for students and employers to use the internet to find out what is available in a number of provider organisations. They compare options based on the information they find on websites and then make their choices.
If they are influenced by advertising campaigns, people are most likely to cite radio advertisements and posters as having drawn their attention to a provider organisation's offer. So what's the situation in your organisation?
Do you survey, or can you survey, at least a sample of your students to find out why they chose you? Can you also find out which of your published materials and approaches to advertising influence those choices? It's information worth having. The results will help you to decide how to divide up your advertising spend. They will also help you to be more confident that you know which of your approaches to advertising work.
Do you need it?
Do you need your prospectus? Is having a prospectus adding value to your organisation? What's the cost of your prospectus or your various prospectuses? Do they bring in business? Do they pay for themselves? Do they help you to generate income? What's the return on your investment? If you stopped printing your prospectus, or printed fewer copies, what would be the likely impact on your enrolments and income?
Unlike the people who claim that only half of their advertising works, but they're not sure which half, if you can find answers to even some of these questions, you'll know how well your prospectus works and if you really need it for the future. Margaret Adams is a consultant who helps provider organisations to work more closely with employers. She writes two popular blogs on employer engagement: Attract More Business and Achieving the TQS
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