By now you’ve heard the buzz surrounding digital viewbooks for graduate enrollment marketing. However, all of us have vivid memories of the undergraduate version of these books that were more of a coffee table piece than a school's marketing tool. The 150-page book that highlighted every possible program and characteristic of a school’s culture was like reading War and Peace rather than a tool to aid in the academic decision-making process. Because of this, viewbooks in the graduate market carried the stigma of being too big, too expensive, and not effective enough. Many institutions avoided viewbooks for this reason.
In the last few years, digital viewbooks came to the rescue!
Graduate schools found that converting their viewbooks into digital formats saved time and printing costs, and made it available to an even broader market. However, the problem is that many of these “digital viewbooks” were simply mini-PDF versions of the print piece, with the ability to turn the pages with your mouse. For today’s students that format is not easy to read and does not speak to them personally. And, while some prospects only read online content, others still prefer a printed version. Contrary to popular belief, direct mail is not dead - when it’s done right. According the the Direct Marketing Association, the age group most likely to respond to a direct mail piece is 22-24 year olds! That means that while a digital viewbook is important, the printed version can still make an impact in graduate student recruiting.
That’s where variable viewbooks, integrated in various formats, come into play.
Variable viewbooks can be produced in both print and digital formats. You can save money using Variable-Data Printing (VDP) by only printing relevant content that is specific to the interests of each prospective student. This produces a much smaller viewbook than the large viewbook of yesteryear. They are also printed “on-demand” so there is no inventory stocked in a mail house or somewhere on campus. Plus, with an integrated digital format that matches the printed version, your prospects get the format most effective to their readership style - printed, online, or mobile-optimized.
The benefits of virtual viewbooks are catching on!
Slowly, more and more graduate schools are looking to variable viewbooks in various formats as an engagement tool to support their enrollment management efforts.
So, too, service providers are looking to supply a variable viewbook solution to schools.
Before embarking on a variable viewbook project with an outside vendor here are 5 tips to keep in mind:
5 Tips for Selecting Viewbooks for Grad Schools:
- Will the digital version fully integrate with the print version?
- How much work will be involved for the admissions staff? (do you have to provide all of the content, or will the vendor supply creative services?)
- Can the vendor work off of a static viewbook that you already have?
- What will it look like on mobile devices (smartphones and tablets!)
- How much tracking information will be available to the admissions team?
It is important to carefully evaluate a potential solution to make sure it meets all of your school’s needs and can deliver within budget and schedule constraints.
No matter what solution you choose, please do NOT settle for those mini-PDF-virtual-page-turner-fake-magazine-things! Let’s be honest with ourselves here: no one really reads those, and frankly, your institution can do better than that.