Turn Your College Catalog into a Marketing Tool

September 23, 2016

Last updated: October 2, 2020

Colleges often view their catalog as a giant, but important, piece of paperwork. It is, after all, something you're required to provide for accreditation and the VA, among other agencies, and it's often a legally binding document with students.

But higher ed catalogs are also frequently one of the first things prospective students look at when checking out your college — and if it's not the first thing they look at, it's pretty much guaranteed that they'll look at it sometime in the enrollment funnel. As such, it presents some great opportunities to boost your marketing and enrollment funnel. Here are a few things you can do.

Spend the Time to Make Your Catalog Look Great

Just assembling the catalog content is a massive undertaking, and it's easy to spend so much time on that part that you don't leave much time for making the catalog look inviting and up to brand standards. Fortunately, whether you're using software like Clean Catalog or manually creating a print PDF, design updates are something that can be done at the same time as the content work.

Something to focus on here is making your catalog as readable and easy-to-navigate as possible — catalogs can be daunting, particularly for first-time college students. Clearly laying out degree and class info and requirements can make a huge difference with prospective students, and having an easy-to-use search function or table of contents can help get people right where they need to be.

Use Your Catalog to Generate Email Leads for Your Email List or CRM

If you're using software like Clean Catalog, your catalog can give a boost to the number of leads you collect for your marketing efforts. You can either link catalog pages to a pre-built landing page, or embed forms directly on catalog pages.

With Clean Catalog, our catalog pages often show up in search results related to your college or university, so having lead forms on catalog pages can add to the total number of leads you collect. For one college we worked with embedding CRM forms on their catalog, the catalog ended up bringing in roughly 20% the number of monthly leads that the entire website did — which ultimately showed up in enrollment numbers.

Make Your Catalog as Mobile Friendly as Possible

It's likely that the target demographic for your audience primarily accesses the internet with a mobile device, so having a catalog that works on phones can keep potential students from turning away at the site of a huge download. According to our data, our mobile-friendly catalog sites typically get more than 50% mobile traffic.

If you're using a PDF catalog,usually the best you can do is optimize the PDF to the smallest file size possible, and then break it into relevant sections instead of a single massive file. If you're using Clean Catalog, mobile-friendliness is built in — pages will look great and load fast on all devices, and content is easy to navigate and broken into easy-to-digest chunks.