The Direct Network

How to Market an On-site Buyback

Posted by Dean Asher on Apr 12, 2016 4:00:00 AM
Topics: Higher Ed, buyback, Marketing to Students

You can't have a good sale without buyers, and the same is true in reverse: You can't have a good buy without sellers. At the end of the term, are you getting enough students in your doors or to your sale?

When you're fighting to be heard over every other marketing message your students are hit with every day, it's hard to know what to do about it. As it becomes increasingly difficult to successfully market your buyback, you have to explore all your options to have the best shot at getting enough used titles to offer your students more savings and help them be successful in the coming terms.

How to market an on-site buyback for your online bookstore

First, the good news

It's not an entirely bleak outlook. The official store is still students' preferred place to sell back their titles. According to the NACS Foundation's Spring 2015 Student Watch Attitudes & Behaviors toward Course Materials report, of all students who sold back at least one book at the end of the fall 2014 term, 63.4% chose their official store as their source for selling.

But that's of students who chose to sell at all. Only 48% of survey respondents said they sold at least one course material, and sources like Amazon, Chegg and other peer-to-peer marketplaces are gaining ground in popularity. This means your marketing has to be sharp, direct and effective to ensure your buybacks are as successful as possible. That's easier said than done for many college stores and schools. Here's why:

You're fighting for your on-campus students' time

Whether you run your own store or it is leased, you know you're not the only person who wants a piece of your students' time during the hectic end of the term. Students are cramming for finals, pulling together research for term papers and making travel arrangements to get back home for break.

Further complicating things is the fact that you can only hold buyback for so many days. Students who leave early or are on very tight exam and travel schedules might not be able to make it into your store in time. 

Buyback is tricky when you're serving distance learners

You send out email after email with the hopes that students are reading them, then anxiously await their books in the mail.

Meanwhile, alternate online retailers are vying for their attention. Even if you can offer a better price, loyalty points or other major incentives, that message risks being lost on your students when they know they can sell their books to a competitor on their own time.

So what can you do to better promote buyback to students?

With limited time, energy and resources to commit to marketing, how do you combat it?

Start by developing a marketing plan, such as how Entrepreneur suggests:

  1. Analyze your current situation: The details will of course vary from school to school, but ultimately you have a buyback that you need to promote to busy students who may or may not live on campus.
  2. Describe your target audience: Are your students traditional on-campus students, or are they older with jobs and families? Are you working with distance learners? These factors can dramatically change the way you market your buy.
  3. List your marketing goals: Your ultimate goal is to get more participation in your buyback. How much? How will you quantify success?
  4. Develop the marketing communications and strategies you'll use: Are you going to market your buyback with an event like a hot cocoa giveaway on campus? Are you going to send multiple emails and mailers? How will you use social media?
  5. Set your marketing budget: Will you need to place ads in local media? Are you going to advertise on Facebook? Will you need to pay for printing materials for on-campus signage? Develop a budget so you know what to expect.

These will all work well for self-operated campus stores if they're done right, but to do so takes a lot of time and energy. Depending on your current situation, however, you may not have the option to try.

If your store is leased or operated by an online bookstore provider and you are still maintaining on-campus buybacks, there's less personal responsibility on your end — but with the wrong partner, you may also have much less control over the process. Your bookstore company may dictate everything on their own, from the messaging to the medium. If you're unhappy with your buyback performance, say so and see if your partner company is willing to work with your school to try new things.

With the right course material fulfillment partner, however, you'll have control from the outset. Make sure you're working with a partner who cooperates with your school on developing and implementing a marketing plan with customizable and professionally-designed resources available to help promote buyback.

You can still host your buy on your campus if you prefer, or you can let your fulfillment solution handle it entirely and accept everything by mail — ideal for both distance learning programs and schools who wish to free up their time to focus on helping students and other academic duties.

Whatever your choice, you can still maintain control of the buyback process, get the most used titles back for your program and in turn help students save money. Marketing your buy may take more work than it used to, but the benefits are as clear as ever!

About Dean Asher

Dean Asher is a former copywriter with MBS. Though he no longer writes for us, he is still proud of having helped this blog continue to evolve as an industry-leading resource of news and original content.

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