Eight questions to ask before binning your printed prospectus

Are you thinking about throwing out your printed prospectus and taking everything digital? We’ve got eight questions (and some surprising data) for you to ponder first…

1. Do prospective students prefer printed prospectuses?

According to a study featured in the Guardian in 2013, 62% of 16 to 24-year-olds would rather read a printed book than a digital one. 51% of the 16-24 year olds who prefer printed books said that they like to hold them, while others mentioned liking the smell. The original study was based on a sample of 1,420 young adults. Later, when the newspaper ran their own online poll, the ratio rose to 79% in favour of print over digital for people of all ages.

2. Will a printed prospectus achieve deeper engagement?

A UK-based clothing retailer, Boden, found that their customers spent an average of eight seconds looking at a targeted email. This contrasted with an average of 15 to 20 minutes spent browsing through their catalogue.

3. Will prospective students trust a printed prospectus more than your digital content?

Consumers in a 2013 survey gave print media advertising a trust rating of 63%, while the internet scored only 25%. Anyone can post anything on the internet, so it is hard to judge the authenticity of online sources. Print has a permanence that cannot be altered at the click of a button. This results in a higher perception of trustworthiness.

4. Are prospective students more likely to share a printed prospectus?

We know that parents are key influencers when it comes to making study decisions. Are young people more likely to share print or digital content with them? Twentieth Century Fox recently demonstrated that one-in-five teenagers have blocked parents on Facebook. One-in-ten turns down parents’  ‘friend’ requests. This means that at least 10-20% of young people are actively avoiding engaging with their parents on social media.

5. Can digital-only campaigns cut through the clutter?

The average open rate for emails is about 22% for solicited emails. The average click-through rate is 2-3%. The quantity of emails received by the average person on a daily basis is rapidly contributing to digital overload. However, almost all in-market customers will open and read printed material that lands in their hands or on their doormat at the right time.

6. Do prospective students expect a printed prospectus?

Do prospective students ask for a prospectus at recruitment events? Will those students be turned off by a digital-only approach? Engaging with your customers is vital when you are trying to differentiate your offering from those around you. A printed prospectus can be an effective way of facilitating this.

7. What will you offer prospective students in exchange for their details?

How will you incentivise prospective students to provide accurate contact data, without the promise of printed collateral? A hard copy of your prospectus gives you something of value to offer while you are collecting data for future campaigns.

8. Can a printed prospectus drive online conversions?

Lastly, an American online retailer, Bonobos, found that 20% of their first-time customers visited the website after receiving the printed catalogue. Customers who converted from the print medium went on to spend 1.5 times more than those who had not received a catalogue. There aren’t any studies on the impact of prospectuses on student conversions yet. But evidence from the commercial world suggests there could be a strong link between printed collateral and online activity.


A printed prospectus represents a significant investment of time and money. However, with full inboxes, short attention spans and low conversion rates, it could be worth every penny.

Of course, every institution is different. However, education marketers need to consider the indirect impacts of going digital-only, as well as the cost savings.


So, if you’re thinking about next year’s prospectus, why not invite us in for a chat about implementing some new ideas?

You’ll benefit from insights and suggestions from our Business Director, Gav, and Education Strategist, Sarah. Sarah was previously a Marketing Manager at an FE College for over five years, and won a coveted Heist Award for her innovative prospectus re-design.

Clearhead are a content creation agency specialising in design, video and digital for the education sector.