March 10, 2014 / Advertising / Marketing / Spring 2014

Best practices for selling yearbook business ads

Written by Elizabeth Braden, CJE

To make money, it’s been said yearbook staffs should sell their products – yearbooks, ads and options – and not candy bars and car washes.

If your yearbook staff has a great annual fundraiser that your school enjoys, stick with it. But if it’s time to venture into or improve your business ad sales, these tips should get your staff organized and increase their confidence.

The best practices listed here are: appoint a marketing manager and how to find one; prepare to sell by creating an advertisers list and a sales packet; and teach your staff to sell by creating sales scripts and practicing.

Appoint a marketing manager

Assign one student to be a marketing manager, freeing editors from overseeing sales and relieving the marketing manager from most or all editorial duties.

As you check with other teachers during staff recruitment time, ask marketing or business teachers in your school, or advisers to DECA or Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) to see if they have students to recommend for the position. Have a job description ready to hand out.

Stephanie Emerson at Wynne High School in Wynne, Ark., has been using marketing managers for years. On her staff they are called Business Manager/Editor, and they have won the Arkansas Scholastic Press Association’s Business Manager of the Year for 14 of the 16 years the award has been given.

Emerson selects the business manager by watching the yearbook staff during the year to see who works well independently, is organized and trustworthy. Students apply for the job, but Emerson does the choosing and the student reports to her. The job is considered a stepping stone to the top editor’s position.

At Wynne, the business manager also designs the ads, and understands the importance of deadlines, the rules of design and the software. Once the ads are all sold, the business manager works alone to create the ads.

“This is a job where one doesn’t have to have social skills to perform – in other words, it is totally autonomous,” Emerson said.

The business manager is selected in the spring and begins working with the current business manager in May right before students start selling ads for next year’s book.

Do some prep work

Determine who to sell to. Start with last year’s list and add and delete. If this is your first year to sell ads, create your list by brainstorming.

  • Think of all the businesses you frequent.
  • Don’t leave any business off the list as some will purchase a small ad to support the school.
  • Ask the Chamber of Commerce for a members list
  • Check online via Google
  • Take a drive and note businesses, stores and restaurants

Survey the student body to find out what businesses, stores and restaurants they visit often. That information may sway a business owner into advertising if they know that students and parents are his customers.

Determine when to sell ads based on your deadline. Consider that ad pages can be created earlier than other pages if the ads get sold in the summer or early in the school year.

At Wynne, staffers pound the pavement on a business ad sales day in June, and then follow up with businesses they missed on a day just after school starts. They are assigned businesses to visit, and they go out in pairs.

Staffers at Salem High School in Salem, N.H., sell from the beginning of the school year through January, although they are told to get ads before the holiday season begins and businesses won’t have time to think about ads. Each student is given a list of businesses to contact, and they usually go out in small groups.

Consider having students call businesses first to introduce themselves and set up appointments. This may make going to the business a little easier for students.

Create a sales packet

Sales are more easily made in person than over the phone. Make sure you send students out with everything they need to answer any questions by creating a sales packet.

Start with a binder that should include:

  • Contracts
  • Blank receipts
  • Sample ads
  • Paper for sketching an ad
  • Envelopes for sketches, business cards, payments and receipts, so all the information to create the ad is in one location (students need to write the name of the business and the contact on each envelope)
  • Results of market study if you did one
  • Rate card
  • Small card (business card) with school information on one side and ad rates on the other

Also make sure they have:

  • A copy of last year’s yearbook to show off the quality of the publication and other advertisers
  • A calculator
  • Pens

Train students to sell

At Wynne and Salem high schools, all staff members sell ads. Whether your entire staff is involved or you have a sales team, they need to be trained. The best way is to have them practice making sales calls. Have the students create ad sales scripts and then practice in pairs until they are comfortable. A script won’t be exact dialogue, but it will be a resource to pull from mentally during sales calls.

Each script should have an opening, the sales pitch, responses to objections, a close, and the transaction.


This would include the introduction.

“Hi, we are Sally Smith and Walt Jones, and we are from the yearbook staff at Center High School. We (are here/have an appointment) to discuss advertising in our yearbook. I hope you have a few minutes now to do that.”

Sales pitch:

This is the way your students will explain advertising in the yearbook – who advertises in the book (other local merchants), show the market survey, explain the different sizes of ads, the costs, the process for creating ads including final approval by the store owner or manager.

Counter objections:

In this part of the script, think of all the objections a business owner or manager may have and come up with reasons to overcome them. Even if an owner comes up with an objection you haven’t thought of, it is possible one of the reasons you already have may apply.


It’s time to close the deal. Ask a question to get a commitment from the customer. Do not ask them, “Do you want an ad?” Ask them in a way that gives them a purchase choice, such as, “Would you like a half-page ad, or would a full-page ad work better for you?”


Make sure students know what information they need to get from the customer and what they need to leave behind. Students need all of the contact information for the customer, all or partial payment depending on your requirements, and a copy of a sketch if doing a new ad or redoing an old ad. The customer needs a receipt and contact information for the sales people and the adviser.

One Response to “Best practices for selling yearbook business ads”

December 08, 2014 at 11:54 am, Rodricka said:

This was very helpful.

Comments are closed.

Elizabeth Braden, CJE

Elizabeth Braden, CJE, is the former editor of Idea File magazine. Before retiring, she was a copywriter for Walsworth Yearbooks for more than 15 years, writing articles for various marketing materials, and proofreading copy for the Yearbook and Commercial divisions. Her career included reporting and editing for United Press International and editing for Knight-Ridder Financial News. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Media News from the University of Tulsa.