The four P’s of marketing

One of the best marketing lessons I ever learned was so very much by accident that I just really must tell you the whole story.

I had just arrived at the hotel in Charlotte, North Carolina after a L-O-N-G bus ride from Florida that began at the crack of dawn. I was in Charlotte with a few yearbook students to tour the Charlotte Herff Jones yearbook plant.

We had about an hour before we were leaving to go to dinner and I was so tired! I thought I would take a little cat nap. When I am in a hotel, I almost always find that the Weather Channel is a great sleep-inducer. That Allman Brothers song that they play as they are showing the weather radar across the country is just very soothing to me. (Weather Channel and Allman Brothers, please do not take offense).

On this particular day, though, I never made it to the Weather Channel. I instead landed on PBS. At the time I had no idea what the name of the show was, but it seemed to be a kid’s show. And it was about marketing! Later I found out that the name of the show is Biz Kid$ (http://bizkids.com/show). I’ve watched many episodes since then, and many, many of the episodes provide valuable information that would benefit a yearbook staff.

This particular episode on marketing focused on the four Ps of marketing: Product, Price, Placement and Promotion.  To be honest, this is about all I really know about marketing. But it is also really about all anyone really NEEDS to know.

Product: Are you creating a yearbook your customers (the students) want to buy? If not, how can you make them want it? My answer to this is almost always coverage.

Price: Is the yearbook priced right? When you offer it on sale, is the difference in price significant enough to make customers act? We offer a coupon at the beginning of the year. These days, people go crazy for coupons. We sell nearly ALL of our books during our coupon sale.

Here's our 2014 coupon, just one part of our yearbook marketing strategy.

Placement: Do your customers know where to go to buy the yearbook? Establish a location and always offer it at that location. Make sure your yearbook is visible throughout the school though. The best “place” for the yearbook to really be is in the minds of everyone, every day.

Promotion: How are you letting your customers know about the yearbook? If you are only hanging signs, that is not enough. If you are only putting it on the morning announcements, that is not enough. Promote your yearbook everywhere you can. Make it visible, not only from the minute somebody walks onto your campus, but also in the community. Even if your staff is not allowed to have a Facebook, staff members can still post, Tweet and create a buzz on all the social media sites.

After the yearbook is finished and we have compiled a complete index, We create a sign with the names of all the students who are in the book three or more time and have yet to purchase it. The sign gets a lot of attention in the hallway.

After the yearbook is finished and we have compiled a complete index, We create a sign with the names of all the students who are in the book three or more time and have yet to purchase it. The sign gets a lot of attention in the hallway.

A yearbook can’t be successful unless people know it exists. It can be full of the most gorgeous images and the most awe-inspiring writing and design. Market it!

We then follow up with a postcard to let students know what pages they're on.

We then follow up with a postcard to let students know what pages they’re on.

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The most important part of the marketing strategy

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We are adding a coverage editor to our leadership group this year. We will be surveying the entire school and calling students in for interviews. We will supervise as a “quote book” gets circulated among students who are tough customers when we try and get a story out of them. We will continue to think outside the box for unique stories.

Do you always have a page in your student life section on cars students drive? What about the ones who don’t drive? Do you have walkers, bicyclers, motorcyclers, bus riders? Find ways to tell their stories. Who has the longest bus ride to school? I bet that student isn’t in very many clubs or sports! His parents aren’t going to drive all that way to pick him up after practice.

How can you incorporate birthdays into your coverage? Who was born on a holiday? What is the most popular birth date on campus?

Are you doing a page on students’ favorite restaurants? This may also limit you to only covering students who are able to drive. What about a page on pizza instead? Almost everybody likes pizza. What’s everyone’s favorite pizza joint? Favorite topping? Weekly pizza intake? Who can’t eat pizza due to gluten or lactose intolerance?

Go out and find these stories and more. Think outside the box when you plan your pages. Ask yourself, “Is this page topic going to leave people out?” If it does, change it!

Coverage is the single most important marketing tool. It is the most important job of the yearbook staff.  If a student is in the book, then he or she will want to buy the book.