October 20, 2009 / It's Worth It / Marketing / Noteworthy

Tips for marketing to the middle school

Written by Ritch Parrish and Nora Miller

Marketing the yearbook in a middle school has always been a challenge. Selling in a school made up of two grades, more than 1,600 students and 100+ staff members makes it even harder. Our yearbook program is an after-school activity and building the connection between “the activity” and actually selling the book has been extremely tough. However, there are ways and methods out there.

For the past 13 years, our program has averaged better than 60% with our sales (some years reaching as high as 75%). It comes down to thinking like the kids.

First, don’t underestimate the power of repetition. During our better years, we run announcements every day. We change them up. We have different people read them. We try to keep it fresh and interesting.  The P.A. announcements are only half the battle here. Parent emails are the other key. Mass mailers and inclusion with our email announcements keep parents in the loop. The student announcements get them excited but they are forgetful. It is the parents who generally stay on top of the process.

Our school happens to be set up in teams. We try to make it easy for the kids to remember who to buy from. We have ONE teacher per team responsible for selling books (makes the accounting/reporting process much easier). However, we offer all of the teachers on the team free lunch for the highest percentage of sales per team. The accounting is easier but we need everyone to be a cheerleader though… and who doesn’t love free food?

Coupons, fliers, and a tiered pricing structure also bring about great returns. During our first set of presale dates, we calculate our bare-minimum sales point. We distribute fliers and coupons alluding to this price. We stress over and over that if they don’t take advantage of these offers that prices will increase (and you have to follow through with them). Generally we run one to two increases and most parents get the message: “Buy Your Yearbook NOW!”

There have been other methods as well. We had a sales table available during schedule pickup day. We plan on following that up with a sales kiosk during parent-teacher conferences (along with samples of previous books). Also, our student yearbook staff is armed with shirts and badges, and we have “shirt days” to keep the book visible even during non-sales periods of the year.

Students are far more connected and online savvy than our generation. We are currently working on adding an online sales presence, more online marketing (including an increase in mass mailers), and adding customization options… all in an effort to keep our sales numbers from declining in this tough economy.

It comes down to maintaining your visibility to the students. Don’t let them forget. Drill it over and over. Make it worth their while to buy the book early. Following these methods have brought about great returns for us and hopefully they can help your program as well.

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Ritch Parrish and Nora Miller