Dos and don’ts for selling yearbooks at parent events

Written by Philip Baird

Last summer, I attended five school events where staffs sold yearbooks to parents. These were different schools, but many of the same issues occurred.

You can avoid these issues, and have a successful sales event, by reviewing this list of dos and don’ts. These items could make for happier customers and happier staff.

1. Set up your kiosk early. Of the five events I attended, not a single one was 100% set up by the time parents started arriving. Things are going to happen and surprises will arise (i.e., needing to unblock yearbookforever.co­­­m on the school network). Make sure you arrive at least an hour before the event starts on the first day. It is likely you will need the entire hour.

2. Test the wireless internet and laptops ahead of time. Four of the schools that I worked with set up laptops so the parents could purchase with a credit card online. Issues arose at three of the four schools.

a. Make sure you have a strong wireless signal. Just because the wireless signal is strong in your classroom or in the main office doesn’t mean it will be strong at your kiosk. You need at least three bars of signal for the online sales site to work properly.

b. Make sure you are able to access secured websites (https). You may be able to access yearbookforever.com, but it is important that you can access the page where the parents enter the credit card information. This is a secured web page and, for some reason, some schools block secured pages on their network. Again, just because you can access secured pages from the computers in your classroom does not mean you can access them from your kiosk location. Many times you are using computers that aren’t yours, you’re on a different network than you access from the classroom, or you’re logged into the computer as a different user. If any of these is true, there’s a good chance that this secured credit card payment page is not accessible (and parents get upset if they make it all the way to that page and can’t complete the purchase).

3. Location, location, location Some schools are told where they can set up and there is no way to change this. Other schools were able to move their location a little bit. There are many things to consider when thinking about location:

a. Do you include the yearbook as an option on the “Payment and Fees” form? At some schools this is the only way the parent can purchase the book during a registration event. Therefore, you want parents to stop by your kiosk before they get to the Fees table. This way, you can promote the book and answer any questions they have, so they’re more likely to check “Yes” next to the yearbook option on this form. If your kiosk isn’t set up before the Fees table, make sure you have someone handing out fliers to the parents as they arrive. This way yearbook is on their mind before they have to make the decision to purchase.

b. Where do the parents enter/leave? These are going to be the highest traffic areas. What is the point of setting up a table in the back corner of the furnace room? You’re wasting your time if you’re not in a high traffic area.

c. Again, if you’re not in a high traffic area and there is nothing you can do about it, be sure to have staff members walk around with fliers, or simply encouraging people to stop by the yearbook booth. YOU CAN’T BE SHY AT THESE EVENTS! Make sure someone with an outgoing personality is helping man the booth at all times.

4. Signage – Need I say more?

Olathe North mascot

5. Provide an incentive for parents to buy now. Experience has shown me that a $5 increase in the price of the book isn’t enough to compel a parent to buy right now. However, a $10 increase was enough to make them buy on the spot almost every time. Whether it is a price increase or a free option (like namestamping or itags), make sure that parents have a reason to buy now. Otherwise, more times than not, they will wait until later (if they even remember to buy at all). If you are selling last year’s book and this year’s book at the event, make sure that this year’s book is priced lower. Many parents said, “I’ll just buy next year’s book at next year’s registration.” This was because:

a. There was obviously no threat of selling out because last year’s book was being sold right there in front of them.

b. There was no price incentive to buy now.

6. Promote the event ahead of time. It was awesome to see how many parents arrived at these events with a check already made out for the right amount to the right person. This is because these yearbook staffs generated awareness ahead of time. Make sure you do an email blast, all-call or mailing prior to the event so parents know the yearbook staff is going to be there. Let parents know that if they buy at the event they will receive a $10 discount (or whatever incentive you’re providing). Trust me when I say you will sell more books if you do this!

7. Charge more for the previous year’s books. Many of the schools I worked with were selling past years books for a heavily discounted price (i.e., left over 2001 books for $25 each). When I asked why they were selling them for so cheap, they told me that at this point it was nothing but profit. The problem is, people who were purchasing the 2011 book for $60 noticed that they could wait a few years and purchase the book for half the price. Yearbook staffs should increase the price of the book 10% for each year that has passed. Yearbooks increase in value with age because they are a limited-edition item. Believe me, graduates who don’t have one will pay more for a yearbook from their high school years.

8. Don’t goof around at the booth. If the yearbook staff isn’t taking this seriously, why would anyone else? Be sure to keep texting, chatting with friends, and playing on the computer to a minimum. Parents walk away if they’re not being helped.

9. Don’t hand out a flier at the booth until a parent simply tells you that they won’t buy until later. It was painful to watch parents stand at the booth almost ready to make a purchase, and then a student handed them a flier and said “you can buy later if you would like.” This parent is going to take home all kinds of information from these events. What makes you think that they will remember to buy a yearbook? Try to get them to BUY NOW!

Philip Baird