We’ve done a number of podcasts on how to put your yearbook together, talking about covers, colors, themes, fonts, and more! However, whether you’re a yearbook advisor or staff member, you’ll understand that all of that creativity and hard work doesn’t really pay off if people don’t buy the book. So, how do you get people interested in your yearbook?
We talked with Heather Malone, a yearbook advisor from Baldwin Park High School, to talk about her struggles and successes in selling her school’s yearbook. Baldwin Park High has been with United Yearbook for nearly three years now, and their yearbook sales have gone up every year they’ve been with us. Now, every school is different, so Heather will be talking about the struggles of selling yearbooks in a campus culture where the yearbook isn’t thought of as being for everyone.
…the culture is still very much that the yearbook is mostly a senior book, but this past year they sold more books than they ever have since she took over as an advisor.
Heather told us about how she struggled selling yearbooks in a campus culture that, historically, holds that the yearbook is only for seniors, since there’s lots of focus on them throughout the schoolyear. As a result, a lot of students would only buy their senior yearbook, not worrying about the other years. Even then, only around half of the seniors would be buying their books. What’s interesting about this is, Heather would talk to parents and they’d say “Oh, I loved my yearbook, I bought a yearbook all four years,” and she’d wonder “Well why aren’t you buying it for your student all four years then?” Heather reports that that was quite frustrating, but that working with United Yearbook has given her more opportunities for yearbook advertising. She thinks that the culture is still very much that the yearbook is mostly a senior book, but this past year they sold more books than they ever have since she took over as an advisor.
…there wasn’t really a go-to method that she and her team had for advertising.
We then asked Heather how she used to market her yearbooks before United Yearbook. Heather reports that her main tactic for selling yearbooks was to show up at junior or senior registration and stand there with a sign. That was pretty much it – she’d see the parents again on back-to-school night, but at that point they were mostly interested in whether or not Heather had books from the previous year that they could buy. She would never really email parents, opting for periodic in-person announcements, posters, and raffles, but Heather states that there wasn’t really a go-to method that she and her team had for advertising.
No yearbook advisor or staffer should have to beg.
How was this working for Heather? Not well at all. Heather told us that nothing worked for her, and that she just had to depend on her students to want to buy the book. This was extremely difficult for her, because she had to make an order for a minimum of 300 books, regardless of how many she was able to sell, and the school couldn’t afford that. So, every year, it was very anxiety-inducing for Heather, since she was having to literally beg people to buy the book. No yearbook advisor or staffer should have to beg.
Despite this rocky start for Heather, for the past two years Baldwin Park High has sold out of their orders completely, even having to order more.
Despite this rocky start for Heather, for the past two years Baldwin Park High has sold out of their orders completely, even having to order more. When Heather partnered with United Yearbook, she got a lot of marketing ideas from Sarah, her United Yearbook representative.
Heather states that she learned lots of important marketing lessons from Sarah, including the power of emailing parents. Heather had never even thought of emailing parents before, so when Sarah asked her for parent emails, she thought “Wait, I can do that?” The usefulness of emailing parents has been especially apparent this past year for Heather. She states that her books selling out last year were mostly due to email marketing for parents, which is a strategy she’s adopted because of how personal it is. She doesn’t want to bombard parents with emails, though, and suggests sending an email maybe once every couple of weeks – this is because parents may not always see the first email that goes out, but are more likely to view the second
It’s important to show parents what you have to offer and to build sales by developing connections. It’s a bit hard to do this with students, since the parents are the ones with the credit card.
Another tactic that Heather learned from Sarah was to go to senior portraits and registration and just spend time talking to parents. It’s important to show parents what you have to offer and to build sales by developing connections. It’s a bit hard to do this with students, since the parents are the ones with the credit card. Heather reports that having online sales was another Aha! moment, because the parents now don’t have to come onto campus or trust their student to buy the yearbook with their credit card or cash. If sales are online, parents know that the book is being bought, because they themselves are the ones buying it.
Creating videos is another great way to advertise your yearbook...This got students and parents alike excited, and in the first couple days the video got around 900 views.
Additionally, Heather says that creating videos is another great way to advertise your yearbook. For example, after the cover reveal party for Heather’s yearbook last year, she took the demo home and made a video showcasing the cover. This got students and parents alike excited, and in the first couple days the video got around 900 views. A lot of the time people like stuff that they don’t have to read, and so videos tend to perform much better than other marketing strategies.
Using the Baldwin Park Community Facebook group as a bulletin board, Heather spread the word about her yearbook, directing traffic to the school’s Instagram page and, in the process, garnering financial support. This one Facebook post had a huge impact on Heather’s campaign.
Heather also states that, although word-of-mouth doesn’t seem like it’d be that effective, it actually is. Using the Baldwin Park Community Facebook group as a bulletin board, Heather spread the word about her yearbook, directing traffic to the school’s Instagram page and, in the process, garnering financial support. This one Facebook post had a huge impact on Heather’s campaign.
Here at United Yearbook, new clients often ask us how they can sell their old yearbooks from previous years. Heather states that back-to-school night is a great event to sell those extra books at, if you have them. She shared that she had an idea to do a “Buy this year’s and get last year’s half off” deal, but then she realized that people would then think that the school would always have leftover books – after all, why buy a full-price book this year when you can just buy it for half the price next year? However, Heather states that there is no crystal ball for yearbooks, no way to predict the success of future sales. She told us that she still has yearbooks from 2018 in her closet, and that sales are hard to predict because students wait until the last minute to do everything. So she felt really bad last year, since they sold out and couldn’t make any more. She’d like to be able to project, but she says that that’s hard because every year is different.
So, what can we learn today about marketing from Heather’s advice and experiences? We can learn four main things: 1) Sell your books online, 2) Email parents, 3) Get to know those parents at in-person events on campus, and 4) Use word-of-mouth and social media to advertise! That’s all we have for today – thanks again to Heather Malone from Baldwin Park High for speaking with us. We hope that this has been helpful. See you next time!
Dr. John Tuttle, Curriculum specialist & lecturer
Dr. Tuttle holds an M.A. in Philosophy of Religion and a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration from Biola University, where for ten years he was Director of Student Communications, and where he has also been adjunct faculty for several years in the “great books” program.