Three Last-Minutes Sales Techniques

Three Last-Minutes Sales Techniques

Hooray!! It’s that time of year again when we start to wrap up our yearbook layouts, senior ads and sales. If the students in your school are anything like mine, they love to procrastinate when purchasing their yearbooks or senior ads.

At the beginning of the 2016-17 school year, our Webb City High School Kick Jack yearbook staff marketed an “Early Bird Special” that sold the yearbooks for $25 for a limited time. We marketed the sales through a home mailer, freshman orientation, scheduled pick-up day, open house and social media. The Early Bird Special sold 193 yearbooks from July 31 to August 24. It was a huge hit among the students and parents, especially for those who normally can’t afford to purchase a yearbook, as our school has a high percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced lunches. After the rush of early buyers, our sales slowed considerably.

The lull lasted until December 1, which was the second price break deadline. This deadline increased the price of our yearbooks from $45 to $55. We advertised through our school website, social media, email and over the intercom throughout the week before the deadline. However, this only increased our sales by 89 yearbook purchases. At this point, we had sold 282 yearbooks, and our goal for the year was 528 by January 22. As a goal-driven yearbook adviser, my brain went into panic mode. I needed some marketing strategies, and I needed them quick!

That’s when my editor and I came up with our Three Last-Minute Sales Techniques:

Three Last-Minutes Sales Techniques

Public Display of Layouts

When the students review their new yearbooks for the first time, I hear them say, “Hey, look! There’s me!” They love seeing all of the pages that they have been included on. So, I decided that students like that need to be our target audience with our first marketing strategy.

We printed all of the layouts that we have completed, laminated them, and hung them on a wall in the hallway that every student has to pass when walking in and out of school each day. Every time I walk past it, I see groups of students looking them over and pointing to different things that we have included.


Three Last-Minutes Sales Techniques

Gotcha Cards!

Because students love being included in the yearbook, we incorporated “Gotcha Cards” to personally let them know what pages their pictures appear on. We created a Mail Merge document on Microsoft Word to help us speed up the process of making them, considering we have 1,160 students. To grab the attention of the students, we designed the cards to match the theme of our yearbook, which has a “low poly” look. On the front of the cards, we have the low poly design with “Gotcha!” in the center. On the back of the cards, it has their name and the page numbers on which they are featured. We only hand these out to students who have not purchased a yearbook yet.

Social Media! Social Media! Social Media!

Although I have trouble coming to terms with students spending most of their spare time on social media, it is a wonderful tool to use for marketing yearbooks. Throughout the year, we have posted our complete layouts on social media, and we tag the students who are on the pages. Sometimes, other students will tag their friends in the post, so they can also see it. We also did a senior ad giveaway on Twitter. If the student or parent “favorited” and “retweeted” the post, they were entered into a drawing for a free senior ad for the current year. At another time, we did a free yearbook giveaway with the same rules as the free senior ad. Each winner was chosen by a random number picker.

Another favorite of the students here at Webb City High School is memes. We would create and post memes about yearbook sale deadlines and senior ad sale deadlines on our social media to catch the attention of the students as they swiped through all of their friends’ posts.

After all of our marketing efforts, we conquered 468 yearbook sales and increased our book sales in one year by $1,000. Our goal was 528 books, and that will be the number of yearbooks we have printed, so we still have some marketing efforts to complete to make sure that we sell all extra yearbooks. In years past, we have had students wishing to buy the yearbooks between the last day that they are sold and the day that students receive them. Between now and our yearbook delivery date, we will be using the three marketing concepts from above to completely sell out of our books.

I hope that it gives you some ideas to incorporate into your school’s yearbook marketing! Feel free to leave comments with questions or suggestions.

Requesting Less Stress, Please

requesting less stress

Well, I’ve finally figured it out! I never thought I would, but it happened. After three years flying solo as a yearbook adviser and three years of being the assistant adviser… I figured out how to start making this job less stressful – not more!

I find myself in an interesting, exciting, and exhausting situation … I am now the teacher and adviser for the high school which I attended, and served as editor. So, for the first few years, I found myself slipping back into the daily grind of a staff member – you know, taking pictures, helping write captions, designing spreads, creating ad work-ups, blah, blah, blah. Which, in the beginning, was a necessary evil as the staff was rather small. However, as you know, there was a bunch of other “adviser” stuff piled up on top of that – organizing picture day, selecting senior portraits, keeping a close eye on financials, deadlines, and the like. My stress level was reaching an all time high (in terms of yearbook!)

Then, all of a sudden over the course of the summer my yearbook staff doubled!  I thought I was in for a smooth year …. HA!  First, the book was our 50th anniversary book, which is a big deal.  Just figuring out how to celebrate the milestone in the spreads and stories can be challenging enough – but then you have to figure out how to make it really special. The kids had a ton of ideas – from scratch and sniff pictures so that people could “smell” the school – to the insertion of “artifacts” like an office referral, or tardy slip, or (and I’m not kidding) a lock of hair. This is where I jumped in and gave “a little” guidance. After much discussion, we took on a colossal throwback section in which we included original pictures and captions from the 49 proceeding years. So much for my smooth year!

Then summer rolls around again, and again I find myself with a larger class. However, I get a call while on vacation. It seems that I have a group of students whose schedule won’t let them take yearbook during the normal class period … so they ask if I would mind having them in a different period to work while I was teaching another class …. “Sure WHY NOT??”

We survived first semester – teaching with post-it notes … not exactly how they taught it in college … but for the most part we were successful. But, as Christmas break approached and second semester schedules were being adjusted … a few more kids got wind of this “independent yearbook” thing and of course wanted to join. So over the course of two days….I pick up a few more students … but during two OTHER periods, meaning that I had four periods of yearbook, three of which meet while I was teaching other classes. My sticky note teaching completely collapsed and I had kids going every direction.  My poor editor was so overwhelmed trying to keep track of everything that I just knew one day I would walk in and find her in the corner having a complete meltdown.

I decided it was time to regroup after I found myself spending the better part of my day worrying about who had a spread complete and ready to send to the plant, or who had a camera, or who has been on an assignment and needs graded, or WHERE ON EARTH DID THIS SD CARD COME FROM!

So, I took a three-day weekend to reflect and to figure out how to make this whole process easier. I came up with a fairly simple, but incredibly useful solution … a Credit Request form.   Essentially, it was just a checklist for the students to complete when finishing up a spread or completing a photo assignment. However, it was a place for me to grade the students quickly, the editors to make notes as to any changes that needed to be made and for us to track the status of the spread. It had the added bonus of allowing me to stop feeling like I was simply giving away grades, and put more of the pressure to complete assignments on the students, and created a paper trail for my grading (which the administrators loved!)

I am still amazed that something so simple as two pieces of paper could make my life so much easier. I suppose that I should also mention that at some point along the way, I came to realize that I was more than capable of helping my students create a high quality yearbook without actually doing all of the work myself. It’s their book, so it should be their content. If they don’t get the pictures, they get to figure out how to fill the pages… with meaningful content!  It’s my job to set the standard and hold high expectations, not try to meet them. The more responsibility the students feel they have, the better they do – because the annual yearbook really is A BIG DEAL. 

The Power of eDesign’s Student Coverage Report

The Power of eDesign’s Student Coverage Report

If you’re currently using eDesign, you have a powerful HJ tool at your fingertips — the Student Coverage Report. When you first sign in to My HJ Yearbook, you may have noticed a pie chart underneath your Overall Book Progress. This is the gateway to sales heaven and better student coverage, my fellow yerds. Just make sure you’ve uploaded a master list of students into eBusiness first.

Hovering over the ring or reading the chart next to the ring will show you how many students fall under each coverage category: low, moderate, good or excessive. But wait, there’s more. Clicking on the green See More Detail button will bring you to one of my favorite parts of eDesign, the Coverage Report. My staff and I use this report daily. When we need to find someone for a quick quote, we open up our Coverage Report and pick someone from the red list (low coverage) who has also purchased a book. That way we are ensuring that our students who have already pre-ordered a book are in the book more than one time. In addition, we check the black list for kids who are in the book an excessive number of times. Their names get put on a “dead” list that we post in the yearbook room, and we do not use them again if at all humanly possible. And for those kids who appear on the black list but have not yet purchased a book, get after them! Go tell them how many times they’re actually in the book and sell another copy.

Another use for the red list is to help us find the kids that appear zero times in the book. You know, the kids that missed picture day, re-take day, and/or transferred in to school later in the year? We make sure that every person in our school is mentioned or seen in the book at least once, even if it’s only a little quote in a pop-out on page 86.

One way to boost your student coverage numbers is to name tag as many people in your pictures as you can. After writing the caption for a picture, look at the tool bar on the left side of eDesign. Find and click on the little tag icon at the very bottom of the tools, under the zoom percentage. This opens up the pictures for name tagging. Simply double click the box that appears on each picture, uncheck the box next to the gray area at the top that says Only show tags that are used, and then search for a student who appears in the picture (but was not used in the caption) by first or last name. Check the box next to their name and search for the next person. This will allow eDesign to update the number of times a student is used or shown in the book.

As a staff, it’s our job to make sure that we cover as many kids in our school as we can. Using the tools built right into eDesign is one way to make that mission possible.

Staff-Made Videos Increase Sales

We are still swooning over the yearbook video that Honda created for the Super Bowl. Funny, touching and those were actual yearbook photos of the celebrities, digitally brought to life — nostalgic and entertaining. It was easily our favorite commercial and appropriately so. The video is actually a perfect example of inspiration for your own sales videos — and there’s no better time than Scholastic Journalism Week to have fun with creating some of your very own.  

It could take a bit of extra time and effort, but they’ll totally be worth it. You could post them on your school and staff’s social media accounts, the school website or share them during televised school announcements. The extra exposure, especially if it’s funny or emotional in some way, could increase sales. Consumers like to laugh, cry (happy tears) or reminisce and are even compelled to buy because of that.

So, watch the Honda yearbook commercial again with your staff and some sales videos that we’ve created in-house to gather ideas and inspiration of your own. They can be short and sweet, but we want to see all of the creativity! Post your homemade sales videos to social media using the hashtag #HJSalesVideo and we’ll choose our favorites to include on our website. We can’t wait to see what you come up with — have fun with it!

How I Organize Deadlines

How I Organize Deadlines

To keep deadlines organized, I color code each one. In July, I go to Target, Walmart or Office Depot to find out who has the best variety of $0.10 colored folders. Each year, the selection varies so it helps to check them all out. I then load up on a variety of colored folders. My first deadline is red, then yellow, green, blue, purple, and pink (if I find orange folders I consider myself lucky!) I then create labels for the front of the folders that include signature sign offs for peer edit, first draft, final draft and when the page is published. Inside the folder, I expect students to keep their peer edit, first draft, final draft and any documents that are important to the spread (i.e. interviews with signatures — proving the person said the quote, scoreboards from the coach, etc).

How I Organize Deadlines

I have “in” and “out” bins that are placed on the wall where the students turn then folders in at each deadline. I HATE it when a student puts something on my desk and expects me to grade it right then. My students know that if the folder is in the “in” bin, I will grade it. They don’t ask me if it has been graded or when it will be graded because they know that when I am done with it they will find it in the “out” bin.

To store all of these folders throughout the year, I bought a colored organizer from Michaels (with a coupon.) I used a label maker and the students can find their folders in this organizer at anytime throughout the year.

When the folders are done — meaning we have submitted and published the page — I then put the folders in crates. I do not toss anything until the following year. Why, you may ask? Well, in the event anyone questions anything we have published, I can go back into the student’s folder to find out where they got the information.

I hope you find my color-coded organization system helpful as you plan early for the next staff and school year!

HJ Plus One is Like BOGO Yearbooks

HJ Plus One is Like BOGO Yearbooks

Are you more likely to buy something if it’s a BOGO deal? What if (in a sense) you sold the yearbook in the same manner? You can — by advertising and promoting the Herff Jones Plus One App. When students purchase their copy of the printed yearbook, they’re guaranteed access to an online version of the book once it arrives on campus — or whenever the yearbook staff decides, really. Some staffs have allowed limited access to the yearbook in the HJ Plus One app to really get students excited and in an effort to sell remaining copies. Others decide to wait until books are in hand. Either way, the luxury of having the entire book at your fingertips anytime is one that many buyers can’t resist. Ah, technology.

Create eye-catching posters, social media posts or emails around this concept. I can already think of some headlines that would make me want to purchase a yearbook. The term “BOGO” alone tends to get a lot of attention, and using the term within your school is probably no exception.


You might say, “Well, these headlines are a bit misleading.” However, yearbook is like running a small business, and that means marketing your product in a way that makes prospective customers (the students, parents, faculty, etc.) want to buy it. Just make sure your posters, emails and social posts explain the app and why it’s like owning two yearbooks for the price of one.

If you haven’t thought to entice buyers using HJ Plus one, now’s the perfect time to do so to hopefully sell more books, and keep up that selling momentum.

A Tip to Maintain Coverage Momentum

A Tip to Maintain Coverage Momentum

So it’s already halfway through the school year and there are plenty of students that still need to be covered in the yearbook. What is the solution? As advisers, you probably have plenty of ideas for covering more students, (and I hope you share those tips with us in the comments section,) but if you need an idea fast, then you’ve come to the right place.

Although it’s ideal that a yearbook staff returns from winter break with the motivation and gusto it takes to really get things done, sometimes that progress and drive grows stagnant. Sometimes, your staffers lose motivation to go out out and interview new faces, and instead, ask some of their buddies to answer a survey question for their mod. Sound familiar? Give them the motivation they need to continue getting more students in the yearbook. Making the yearbook as all-inclusive as possible is the idea.

So where to start? Update the index constantly. No excuses. Next, run a coverage report and print a list of all the students who have yet to be covered in the yearbook, by grade level. Cut out those individual names and put them in respective (grade level) buckets. When any staffer needs a student to answer a question or a student to cover for a profile, they can simply draw a name from one of the buckets. They don’t have to search high and low (or take the easy route of choosing a friend) to determine who to interview, and, by taking this approach, one more student is covered! Names drawn get removed from the buckets so that the coverage momentum can continue. And, yes, you’re receiving this tip mid-year, but this can be implemented much earlier, or even at the start of the school year.

Keep in mind, you may find yourself or your staffers having to “redraw” names to fulfill gender, ethnicity or grade level needs — diversity in the yearbook is ideal. It’s everyone’s year (and yearbook!) after all.

Work Toward a Sellout

Work Toward a Sell Out

No matter where you are with your book sales, we always have refreshing ideas to help your staff sell more… and in a perfect world, sell out. A sellout would mean selling all copies and at least breaking even, but only after you’ve accounted for additional copies you’ll reserve for your archives, the library, the alumni office, administration and contests or critiques. You may even hold a few copies back until you are aware of your overrun situation or in case any books arrive damaged.

Before we get started with a few brilliant ideas,

  • Make sure that your sales lists are accurate and up-to-date.
  • Consider sorting the non-buyers by grade to determine how many seniors (or eighth graders for middle school), juniors, etc. have not purchased yearbooks.

A poster* message such as “66 seniors without yearbooks, 27 yearbooks left” could work to sell more books. If you have lots left to sell, you might also check the youngest class’ numbers. You could divide the number of remaining books down so that your senior messages would announce 77 books left for seniors and another set would list 78 books left for freshmen, instead of saying that there were 155 books left.

A sales thermometer* in a very public location showing a rapidly decreasing number of books does a lot to promote your cause. If you create this, you’ll want to make sure to update it at least daily. If the week starts with a thermometer showing 24 books left to sell and there’s no change by Thursday, you’re sending an entirely different message than 24 books left to sell decreasing to 19 by noon, 16 after school and 11 the following morning. It’s up to the yearbook staff to create the sense of urgency to buy.

A targeted postcard* might alert non-buyers that they’ve appeared on certain pages in the book. When students are asked why they haven’t purchased a yearbook, one common answer is that they don’t think they will be included in it. If you run HJ Index Builder on your entire book, you will have easy access to the page numbers on which each student appears. Take advantage of the free merchandising materials from Herff Jones, including the You’re in the Yearbook and We’re in it Together postcards”.*

Good luck! If your staff executes any of these ideas, or has a few great tactics of their own, we would love for you to share your tricks and/or success stories in the comments below.

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New Year, New Items to Check Off the To-Do List

New Year, New Items to Check Off the To-Do List

Happy new year! We’re not even two weeks into 2017, but we hope you are already feeling more motivated and inspired than ever to meet goals including, but not limited to, selling remaining yearbooks, drinking more water, meeting deadlines on time, squeezing in more gym time and beginning to set your sights on spring yearbook coverage. (The holidays just ended… how are we already talking about spring??) Well, this is yearbook and that’s how it goes. Check out a list of goals to focus on as your staff hits the ground running this new year.

  • Finalize winter sports, clubs’ events and academics.
  • Plan a “Last Chance” sales campaign.
  • Review the ladder and complete signatures wherever possible.
  • Begin thinking about how you’ll recruit next year’s staff.
  • Plan spring coverage and give staffers their assignments.
  • Continue to update and check the index.
  • Make sure your plant has received final copy counts and personalization orders.
  • Request new faculty/student list.
  • Make sure deposits have been paid.
  • Has an advertiser not paid for their ad space? Check in and re-invoice them.
  • Look into spring workshops and conventions, like CSPA and JEA/NSPA.

You’ll want to cross your T’s, dot your I’s and cover all bases from here on out to ensure the book is completed on time, is accurate, all-inclusive and is truly a publication to be proud of. Paying attention to this checklist is a great way to restart.

Do you have any new year tips that motivate your staff after the holidays? Please share with us and other advisers in the comments section below.

2016 Trends Can Mark the School Year Significantly

2016 Trends Can Mark the School Year Significantly

2016 was an eventful, unforgettable and (odd?) year. Your staff will probably want to (and should) include some coverage of the year’s events, trends, big news and viral stories. Topics like these will help put a lasting timestamp on the year that will engage memories when the book is opened years later and right now is the perfect time to do a little research on what your coverage might include. Lots of popular websites and magazines have created versions of a “2016 Year in Review.” Take a look at some of those and choose which stories and trends deserve a place in the book and which ones will resonate with your readers most.

For example, the presidential election is a given. Chewbacca mom, the mannequin challenge and Pokemon Go could also be represented in some fashion. Speaking of fashion, think about the popular trends and cover those. Just like bellbottoms and tye dye mark an era for your staffers’ grandparents, perhaps this year’s trends could do the same for them one day.

So how can this be done? Infographics are a great way to present facts and information. For instance, survey students in your school on what song they liked the most and create a pie chart to present the results. You could also play around with lists like, Top 10 Songs, Top 10 Fashion Trends, etc. Don’t forget that using photography from the internet is illegal, so steer clear of that. Instead, consider other ways to present topics. Take photos yourself or create compelling graphics that pair well with the design of your spread.

However, there is a way for staffs to obtain legal rights to high resolution news photos. Simply contact a Tribune Content Agency representative to inquire about annual rates.

Patricia Patino, Manager Inside Sales 312-222-2448

Curtis Trammell, Assistant Sales Manager 312-527-8934

Schools can also reach them via email at or by calling 800-637-4082.

Always credit the photos you use right on the spread. This becomes especially important if your staff submits the yearbook for contests and critiques.

Keep in mind — choose topics that will resonate with your readers. (This could differ in other parts of the country and for our Canadian staffs!) Get your facts from credible news sources like CNN, Times, or the Washington Post, because as crazy as it sounds, you can’t believe everything you read online. And finally, when reporting stories that rounded out 2016, do your best to do so in an unbiased manner. Facts over opinions. Good luck!

Information overload? If this sounds like a job you’d rather leave to our team, ask your rep about including the 2016-2017 Herff Jones World Yearbook or Our World supplement in your school’s yearbook.