Turn Your Yearbook’s Engine On – Rev Up The Purple Cow

I never wanted to go into business. I surely never wanted to run a business. Here I am in charge of a very small business that is just not doing very well – my school’s yearbook.

We have not been able to improve sales, in fact we have lost ground from selling almost 400 books around eight years ago to selling about 250 books last year. At the same time our school added more than 200 students. But the problem may not be our customers or even our marketing, but our concept of who cares about the yearbook.

We have been trying to produce a yearbook for all of the students at the school. All 1,700 of them. This is a mistake. Anyone who knows about marking understands the idea curve.

image curve

In my school, the extremely involved students (about 5 percent) are the innovators when it comes to buying a yearbook. The Early Adopters are the moderately involved kids (maybe another 7 percent). The majority and the laggards rarely if ever buy a yearbook.

We spend about 90 percent of our marketing effort on students who may NEVER buy a yearbook. This is insane and Seth Godin would agree with me. I first ran across him by watching him talk at TED on iTunes. Recently, I started reading his book – the Purple Cow. And I believe that we are focused on the wrong thing. Instead of trying to mass market our yearbook to everyone, we should be remarkable. We should focus on the early adopters. Give kids a reason to buy their yearbook early. We will focus on them.

This year, we are going to give every kid who buys their book in September a survey. The most important part of this survey is to collect their email, myspace page, and as much info about their clubs, sports, etc.

Once we know more about them, we are going to send our photographers out to every event they are involved in. We are going to shower them with photos in the book. We are also going to get the names of their five best friends. (Who’s in your five?) Then we are going to get lots of photos of them too!

This is what our students have said they wanted for years. Pictures of themselves and their friends. So, why not give it to them? It will at least make our customers who want the book happy. Maybe they will help us sell more books in the long run.

Mr. C


  1. How did it work?

  2. The Fab Five Friends worked pretty good. It was a TON of work keeping up with it all. Next year, we are going to have a Fab Five editor just to keep up with the list of people. The real test comes next month to see if their friends will buy extra books because they are in it.

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