To print or not to print?
With the rapid rise of online marketing many adult education providers have begun to ask—do we still need to produce a printed brochure? Trends from the US show that print brochures continue to out-perform the alternatives and encourage more frequent online purchasing, but many others believe that print brochures are a thing of the past. Quest speaks to two ACE organisations about the dramatically different approaches they have taken to this issue.
Sticking with print
“The WEA printed Course Guide is still the biggest marketing tool the WEA employs,” says Charlene Darmadi, marketing manager, WEA, Adelaide. “We do a print run of around 490,000 Course Guides five times a year, which totals two and a half million guides annually and takes up around 80% of our total marketing budget.”
Darmadi attributes the success of her brochures to an eye-catching cover (“to ensure that it doesn’t get thrown out with the junk mail”) and comprehensive information listing courses, fees and all other pertinent details.
While the WEA has not yet started using QR codes (something that is starting be seen more commonly in the US,) they have increased their use of learner stories and photos in the guide, both of which particularly appeal to Gen Y learners. “Over the past four years or so the WEA has made a conscious decision to feature the people of the WEA, both tutors and students,” says Darmadi. “We regularly use quotes from students, and on occasion use learner stories. “We always try to fit in more photos as it generally helps the course it is advertising.”
“The online Course Guide has a large but secondary role at the WEA,” says Darmadi. The majority of WEA enrolments are now done online. “While some people will use a direct search online and enrol that way, we know that the printed guide is still the catalyst for these enrolments. So people are picking up their guide and flicking through it as they enrol over the web. Web enrolments always spike at the same time our course guide is distributed. So as long as we can still track this relationship, the printed course guide is likely to stay.”
Moving to digital
“We were leader in brochure design and distribution for a long time,” says Garry Traynor, Principle, Sydney Community College (SCC). “We produced a course guide four times a year with individual photo shoots for each term. It was costing us $250,00 annually.”
Midway last year, SCC took the decision to totally abandon the printed course guide and move to a weekly email newsletter. “The production of the print guide became a juggernaut in itself,” says Traynor, “and it nailed you down to a specific timeframe. Once you’ve printed something with dates, it’s static. You can’t fix it if things change.” Traynor likens it to owning a Supermarket. “Imagine closing the doors for five weeks while you stock the shelves,” says Garry.
At the beginning of the year they printed a small course overview designed to drive people to the website for further details. “Our website delivers 1.5 million page views per year and is totally dynamic. That’s the place where we expect people to be connecting with us,” says Traynor.
The other significant change is that they have moved from a four-term year to a rolling program. “It’s partly about moving to digital media, but it’s also about meeting buyer demand,” explains Traynor. “Our core short course business is being etched away by niche private providers, such as local yoga centres. Part of the reasoning for losing the brochure is to reduce the inflexibility of the programs we’re offering. People don’t like to wait around. They don’t want to be locked into a four-term year.”
A key factor behind these changes has been the dramatic downturn in all enrolments and the overall viability of the College itself. “We couldn’t continue doing business in the same way,” says Traynor. “We didn’t take this on lightly but it was something we were forced to do. A quarter of a million dollars would have bankrupted us easily by now.”
It’s too soon for Traynor to assess the outcome of the new approach. “The results aren’t going to be known straight away. To date we are meeting budget targets, but we are not out of the woods yet,” he says.
Traynor believes that the print brochure will soon become a thing of the past. “
If you want to do a course, where do you start? The answer is usually the internet. That’s where the research process begins. The day of printed material is very limited. My only question has been; did we wait too long?”
Traynor’s bold step has been met with great interest from the broader sector: “because everyone knows how much it costs to produce a brochure.”