October 17, 2012 / Advertising / Fall 2012

Increase revenue by selling ads

Written by Evan Blackwell, CJE

Your yearbook program needs revenue. That precious money can come from a variety of places. Sales of the book, obviously, are the most important, and creative fundraisers can supplement the budget, but ad sales are a vital piece of the pie that you might not be maximizing.

Is your yearbook staff making the most of ad sales? Are they using all the proper strategies? Selling ads will absolutely be one of the most important jobs your business or marketing staff takes on all year.

Getting ready to sell

Just like editors use a ladder to plan the editorial content of the yearbook, your sales team needs to be organized and have a carefully thought-out plan for how they want to sell ads for the yearbook. Consider this at the beginning of the year:

  • Create an ad policy that spells out what types of ads you will accept. Will your yearbook include both business ads and personal ads? If you accept personal ads, will they be just from parents and grandparents, or can students submit them? Will personal ads be just for seniors or for any grade level? Determine the ad standards that you will be comfortable with.
  • Set pricing. Figure out what ad sizes you will sell, and then calculate cost. Start by finding the cost per page of the yearbook by dividing the number of pages into the total estimated expenses. Your ads should generate at least two to three times the actual cost of the page.
  • Put your business staff through sales training. Students likely don’t have much, if any, experience making sales calls. They need to be prepared before they begin calling on businesses. Rehearse what a sales call will be like.

Plan a sales campaign

Once you are organized, it’s time to plan an ad sales campaign. The first step is to figure out a monetary goal your yearbook program needs to raise. After that, you can determine individual goals for staff salespeople, and even create a program of incentives and rewards.

Second, map out all the methods you want to use to sell. Since personal and business ads can be sold online, many schools are now using online sales via banner ads on their school website and email.

When selling personal ads to parents, you can send fliers home with students promoting your sale. You can even hold a “Buy your ad” night at school.

With business ads, in-person sales calls by appointment typically work best, so a relationship can be established. However, letters, phone calls and emails all work for business ads as well.

Keeping correct records

Keeping accurate sales records is vital. Usually, this job will fall to the business manager but it could be assigned to any member of the business staff.

Start by compiling a prospect database of potential advertisers – a list of businesses for business ads and parent and/or student names for personal ads. For clarification, consider using separate databases for personal ads and business ads.

Once an ad is sold and a contract is in hand, always keep copies of the contracts on file. In addition, regularly update your spreadsheets – moving the names of completed sales from the prospect database to a current advertisers database. You are going to want that database when the time comes to start next year’s sales.

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  • Katie

    I am in charge of Waynesville High School’s business department this year and we designed window clings/stickers to give to businesses that purchased an ad for them to display in their window and it shows that they are a proud supporter of the WHS Yearbook. They liked displaying school spirit and it showed that they supported the school by more than just an ad in the yearbook.

Evan Blackwell, CJE

Evan Blackwell, CJE, is a Web Content Specialist for walsworthyearbooks.com and yearbookhelp.com, as well as a regular contributor to Idea File magazine. He's been a writer and editor for Walsworth Yearbooks for the past 13 years, and is the author of the Yearbook Suite's "The Art of the Interview" unit. Prior to joining Walsworth, Blackwell spent five years as an award-winning newspaper and magazine journalist. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas.