The Secret to Selling Yearbook Ads? Follow These Basics

selling yearbook ads

Selling yearbook ads is a super-popular way to fundraise for your school—not to mention a tremendously effective way to teach students the basics of business—but it’s also one of the most time-intensive.

To cut down on the amount of time you’ll need to pull off a successful yearbook advertising program, you need a process. Without one, your yearbook team will be left to figure out how to sell yearbook ads on its own. That’ll cost you valuable time and, in some cases, even a few sales.

Here, then, is a basic (yet plenty effective) process for selling yearbook ads:

  • Decide what types of ads you’re selling & to whom
  • Establish a goal & set a deadline
  • Promote your offering
  • Follow up relentlessly

Following this process will not only deliver strong yearbook advertising sales, it’ll also help you teach others how to do it. Which, you know, means a bigger team for selling yearbook ads… which means more ads… which means more fundraising dollars. And who can argue with that?

Decide What Types of Ads You’re Selling & To Whom

Before you can even get started, you’ll need to make a decision: What type of yearbook ads are you selling?

There are two choices:

  • Dedication ads. These are purchased by parents to recognize the achievements of their child. Parents love these, so they require less one-on-one sales work and the upfront investment is minimal. You can usually get away with a take-home flyer and some school newsletter mentions, but you’ll likely be answering a lot of questions from parents and chasing them to turn in their already-paid-for ad well past the deadline you provide them.
  • Business ads. These are purchased by local businesses and organizations to raise their profile within your school’s community. You’ll need to invest a lot more time in the early stages and you’ll need people to talk one-on-one with local businesses, but those are great learning experiences for students and you may have some existing partnerships you can use to help here. And, because businesses are more accustomed to meeting deadlines, they’re more likely to deliver their ads by the date you request them.

You may be thinking, “Why not do both?”

If that’s you: Easy there, overzealous yearbook advisor. You’re better off treating this as an “either/or” question. It’s hard enough to create a beautiful yearbook on time and on budget, and it’s hard enough to meet your sales goal for one type of yearbook ad. Why stack the deck against yourself?

The goal with answering this question is twofold: It’ll define your offering and it’ll define your audience, which are hugely important to the next several steps.

Establish a Goal & Set a Deadline

This step has more do to do with planning your yearbook, but—let’s be real here—making sure your yearbook gets printed and delivered on time is the most important thing you can do.

Setting a sales goal is important not for projecting the amount of money you’ll raise (though that’s always nice), but for figuring out how many extra pages you’ll need in your book. Without taking this step, you can end up overselling your ad space.

If that happens, you’ll end up either taking coverage pages out of your yearbook ladder or making an awkward phone call that has you telling advertisers you ran out of space and want to give them their money back.

You also want to set deadlines for how long you’ll be selling yearbook ads and for how long you’ll give people to get you their ads. Do yourself a favor with these deadlines; give yourself a sales deadline that’s further away than you’ll think you need and give your advertisers a deadline that’s sooner than you’ll actually need the work. This will help you avoid a ton of headaches.

Promote Your Offering

When you know what you’re selling, who you’re selling it to, and when you need to do it by, you can work at promoting your offer.

How you do this depends on what type of yearbook ads you’re selling, but a few things apply regardless:

  • Grab attention. As much as presentation matters for grabbing attention, timing can matter even more. For dedication ads, this means a flashy, but easily ignored, email might not work as well as a flyer that goes home with students, so parents can consider it when they’re focused on school-related events. For business ads, this might be calling ahead to find out the best time for talking about your yearbook ads, so that you don’t end up walking in during the busiest hour of the day.
  • Be clear. You probably already knew that telling folks who you are and why you’re reaching out is the best first step you can take. But don’t stop there. Clarity is super important to selling yearbook ads, and you’ll want to be as thorough, yet brief, as possible. Get the most important facts across, make sure they’re easily understood, then move on to the next set of information. Questions like “How big is an ad?”, “How do I send it?”, and “When is it due?” are questions that may be more important to some prospective advertisers than “How much does it cost?” You should have clear, immediate answers to all of those questions. In fact, it’s best to have that information printed out, so you can leave it with the person.
  • Explain the benefit. Most people who advertise in the yearbook will do so for a certain reason. It’s usually 1) they’re supportive of the community and want to help your school, 2) they see it as a good business opportunity (if they’re a business), and/or 3) they’re super proud of their child (if they’re a parent). If you can explain how a yearbook ad can help them in each of those scenarios, you’ll stand a better chance at making the sale. For example, if you’re talking with someone who would advertise because they just want to support the school, be prepared to tell them where the money is going. You’re selling ads, so you likely have a plan for the fundraising dollars you’re raising. Share the details. Because, in this case, your advertiser is more like a charitable donor. They want to know how their money is going to be used.

If you’re getting people’s attention, being clear about the opportunity, and explaining the benefits, you’ll be well on your way to hitting your yearbook advertising goals. Most people, though, won’t say “Yes!” right away. And that’s where the rest of the sales work comes in.

Follow Up Relentlessly

Ah, the follow up. Welcome to the part of selling yearbook ads that nobody likes to do.

We’re not saying you need to love this part, but you do need to do it. Otherwise, you won’t be selling yearbook ads as fast as you’d like and you’ll also end up with less ads actually delivered. And that’s because people procrastinate.

Your goal with following up is really pretty simple: Remind people to do what they said they were going to do and, in some cases, be so relentless about it that they want to get it done so you just stop bugging them. Seriously. That’s it.

This doesn’t just apply to people who said, “Yes, I’d like an ad,” but didn’t pay. It also applies to people who said, “Let me think about it…” or “Ask me again in a few weeks…” or “Maybe…” or, even, “Probably not.” Follow up with all of them. And follow up with this who bought an ad and paid, but haven’t yet delivered. Gently remind those folks of their deadlines.

The basis of selling yearbook ads are pretty simple to follow. And they’re all you really need to run a successful advertising program. Start using them, and you’ll reduce the time you need to spend on the fundraising aspect of your book.

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