Friday, July 29, 2005

Branding with a bang

Branding can be your most effective competitive advantage, but did you know that branding is more than just a logo? True, branding can involve a design or a catchy name, but it's a lot more than that. As one article (Brand Aid: The Basics of Branding, by John Williams, free subscription required) described it, "Your brand is your promise to your customer." It's your statment of who you are and what patrons can expect from you, and it sets the tone for your day-to-day operations. If you want your brand to portray your library as trendy, for example, do all of your interactions with your patrons also put forward that theme? Do your e-mails, voicemail recordings and web pages match up with your brand? If not, you may want to rethink whether your brand identity is a good fit for you. (See the article for more branding how-to's).

The Church of the Customer posted about one new solution to developing a brand called citizen marketing. In the post, they referred to a new marketing venture called Cobrandit, a self-described open source ad agency. They offer $50 to people who produce an authentic, true-to-life video about products they love in particular product categories. The presumption here is that the public knows more about branding than the producers themselves.

Citizen marketing is part of a democratizing trend that shows up in marketing news a lot lately, and it's something for librarians to think about too when they consider branding.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Competition in action

An article about the Encyclopedia Britannica (EB) caught my eye last week, because it brought to light a lot of issues marketers face in a way that resonates with librarians.

According to the Globe, Britannica has reconvened its advisory board in response to the competition posed by search engines like Google and Yahoo! as well as the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. Seems as though Britannica is concerned that researchers are turning away from its encyclopedias in favor of less authoritative sources of information.

Interestingly enough, this new competition isn't the only motive for change. EB is also responding to social and cultural changes by adding new entries concerning minorites and alternative groups and literature.

This is an illustrative example of how all of that business about environmental scans and competitive analysis comes into play in the "real world," even with library resources like EB that have histories dating back to the 18th century! If EB had been doing its homework, maybe it could have anticipated some of these changes before competitors got such a foothold. It's a good reminder to keep your eyes open and be prepared to change no matter how "established" a product or service is.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Is knowing too much a bad thing?

The Chicago Tribune featured an article (How the Uncanny Gets Into Marketing) this week about the use of predictive analytics in marketing that left me feeling, well, torn. It seems that the overabundance of info about people's shopping habits plus some heavy-duty SPSS software allow marketers to predict who is most likely to buy their products. And it's kinda scary! It seems they can do everything from figuring out who's most likely to want to switch cell phone carriers, to determining which power tools are most likely to be stolen, to predicting how many classic titles bookstores should carry on a regular basis. Woah!

Now, you all know I'm a fan of the marketing cocept, which relies on knowing as much about the people you serve as possible. But, in a profession that values privacy as much as ours does, something about this doesn't seem quite right. I've tended to look at the "getting-to-know-your-customer" piece as the result of relationship-building instead of number crunching. Maybe that's not practical on large scale, and predictive analytics does seem to be improving some companies' bottom lines, but I think that relationships are important for every company's long-term strategy--they build customer loyalty and repeat business. While mounds of data may be able to unveil shopping patterns, what about imagining new possibilities to improve people's lives?

In the library world, we are a part of the fabric of our communities, putting us in an excellent position to build that rapport and really get to know our patrons as people rather than numbers. Seems like a better way of doing business to me.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Open source marketing with blogs!

MarketingVOX mentioned an ingenious idea from Public Radio International. RPI is experimenting with blogs as tools for creating captivating programming. A New York Times article this week (Talk Radio Starts the Chat With a Blog) describes how RPI includes views from the blogosphere, but also has its own blog, Open Source, where listeners can make suggestions for program content. Producers chime in and listeners can watch program planning as it evolves, including what works and what doesn't. Plus, the content is also available as a podcast and listeners can continue converstations about a program after it's off the air. RPI is looking at ways it can automatically turn voicemails into mp3's and stick them in as threads on the blog. What an incredible marketing idea!

Just imagine turning some library programming over to patrons in the blogosphere! Patrons could participate in planning and offer up some of their thoughts (and it couldn't hurt if they talked their friends about it!).

Monday, July 25, 2005

Outside the Book - W.O.W.!

The (marketing) Word of the Week for this week is: psychographic analysis - "A technique that investigates how people live, what interests them, and what they like; it is also called life style analysis or AlO because it relies on a number of statements about a person's activities, interests, and opinions."

Knowing as much as possible about patrons' AIOs can help you devise an effective marketing mix and make better marketing segments. For example, what hobbies do your patrons have? Are they interested in community issues? What are their opinions about education?

There are even companies who specialize in gathering this info, like SRIC-BI's VALS service. It's interesting to see the 8 segments where VALS places people. You can also take the VALS survey to see how people in the biz figure out their customers' lifestyles.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Take me out to the ball game...

The scoop on how libaries are joining in on the Join the Major Leagues @ your library program, along with downloadable promotional materials: here.

Services in, services out

As librarians, our "product" is the suite of services we offer our patrons. As good librarian-marketers, we need to make sure that we manage those services carefully.

In the business world, if a product were terrible we'd be losing money on it and we'd probably decide to toss it. What happens in the library world when our services aren't effective? Often, we keep letting those services hang around while trying to add new ones to our offerings. Obviously, this strategy (or lack of one) isn't very practical as it stretches already limited resources too thin and doesn't further our objectives.

This is where strategic planning and service planning come into play. I ran across an article today in Searcher called, "Libraries and their service portfolios: getting the right mix." You have to pay for the article if you don't have a subscription, but it's full of worthwhile pointers. In it, the authors demonstrate the importance of aligning services with objectives and ditching the ones that don't provide value to patrons.

To better align your services with your objectives, it's important to have a strategic plan. If you missed Pat Wagner's free webcast called Fast, Cheap and Decent Strategic Planning, I recommend that you take a look at the archive. It's well worth it! I know I'll be putting it to use.

It's sometimes hard to let go of services that we've worked hard to develop or that have been around a long time, or ones that just seemed so darn neat! But if we look at services from the patrons' points of view, we can get a sense of where the value truly lies and streamline our offerings so that can we do a lot more with less.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

For your bookmark collection

My posts have been running a little long lately, so here's a quick blurb about a new resource I found: - Marketing and Advertising. There are a number of helpful articles here, as well as the sample marketing plans you can find on There are a few articles in particular about marketing on a tight budget, which I know we can all relate to! Good stuff!

Treasure time!

Chris Olson & Associate's latest Marketing Treasures newsletter is out and it's a great read! I especially enjoyed the brochure before-and-after makeovers that are featured. Any tangible materials you provide patrons tells them a lot about the quality of your services, so it's important to make those publications count.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Making conversation

I found this Harvard Business School book report today on a title called The New Marketing Conversation: Creating and Strengthening Relationships Between Buyers and Sellers, published in 2004. I read the excerpt of this book on Amazon and thought it was pretty relevant, especially in light of my recent post about Harry Potter and story telling.

The premise here is that marketers are going to have to strike up two-way conversations with consumers or risk being shut out or ignored by people tired of being inundated with meaningless advertising "noise." To do this, marketers must speak to people's needs directly and forge long-term relationships. As I've mentioned before, lots of companies are trying to do something like this through "democratic marketing," in which customers themselves participate in carrying out marketing campaigns (there was another good article about this in Business Week the other day).

Personally, I hate ads where marketers try too hard to be your "friend" when you know they couldn't care less about you as a person. However, I tend to look at GOOD marketing as an important service to people. We all have needs, we all want to fill them, and we want to do so with quality, affordable goods and services. To facilitate this, marketers (including librarians) need to know their customers, plain and simple. So, in effect, good marketing means good relationships with people, which is why a marketing mentality is so useful for librarians in carrying out their work.

Without having read the book yet (it's on my list), I think librarians are in a great position to strike "marketing conversations" because we don't have a profit motive and we genuinely DO care about people, which gives us a lot of credibility from the get-go. When we combine our sincerity with services that solve patrons' problems, we have a powerful marketing message to talk about!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Harry Potter marketing story

What kind of a marketing blog would this be if I didn't mention the Harry Potter phenomenon? Ok, so I have to admit, I haven't read one word of any of the books in the series yet, although I have enjoyed the movies. :) My colleagues have now "persuaded" me to read the series, or risk being left out of almost every office conversation, which is why I currently have books 1 and 2 in hand!

So, aside from my ignorance of the books' contents, I, like many others, have been intrigued by all of this frenzy over the latest Potter release. An article in the New York Daily News cites the high levels of secrecy surrounding the book and the debut parties as reasons for all the hype. Another news article from the UK features a marketing professor, Stephen Brown, who takes a deeper look at Potter's magic. He points to the creation of a Potter brand and the ability of story-telling to captivate the imaginations of consumers.

I particularly liked this last point about story telling. Brown states, "Businesses and brands have been crying out for clarity and emotional engagement. Nothing supplies these qualities better than stories. So, belatedly, marketing has been discovering the fundamental power of parable, myth and narrative." Libraries already have such great stories from their rich histories as cornerstones of democracy and community. I think it's a great idea to think about a narrative for our libraries, where they "fit" in the stories of universities and communities, and be ready to tell them whenever we can. The State Library of Iowa has a Telling the Library Story Toolkit that may help.

I believe that when we're marketing, we really are telling a story to patrons about how our services can enrich their lives and fit their needs. We just need to work on making that story a convincing and compelling one. A little magic and mystery couldn't hurt either. ;)

Monday, July 18, 2005

Become a student at Blog U

I'm really excited to mention Blog U, which is going to be a terrific opportunity to learn about all things blog. As you may know, blogs have been getting a lot of attention as marketing tools, and they can be an important way to share info about your library with patrons. Blog U, a mini preconference that is part of WebSearch University, will be a fun way to learn more about how to get the most out of blogs. Topics include:

  • Technology options

  • Getting buy-in

  • Interface design: look, feel, & usability

  • Case studies & real-world applications

  • RSS & getting the most out of your feed

  • Guidelines, policies, & ethics

  • Writing good content for Weblogs

  • Marketing library staff & client Weblogs

Blog U takes place on Sunday, September 18th in Arlington, VA. I was very surprised and flattered to be asked to speak at this event, and I'm looking forward to meeting and learning from a lot of notable librarian-bloggers. I hope that if you come, you will introduce yourself to me! I'm sure it'll be a good time and I can't wait to experiment with all of these new ideas! Hope to see ya!

Outside the Book - W.O.W.!

Now for the (marketing) words you wait a whole week to read: market segment.

A market segment is defined as "a group or sector within a heterogeneous market consisting of consumers or organisations with relatively homogeneous needs and wants; those within a market who will respond to a given set of marketing stimuli in a particular way."

What's that in Enlish? Segmenting your market basically means breaking down your target patrons into groups based on common characteristics in order to serve their needs better. Usually, segmentation relies on carefully identifying the demographic, behavioral and geographic variables common to your target market. Of these, behavioral is the best segmenting dimension, so the more you can learn about your patrons' habits, the better.

One foundation has a wonderful web page, complete with worksheets, for getting you started with segmenting. Also, check out other libraries to see how they break down their patron base and what services they offer each group. For example, the New York Public Library offers a wide ranging suite of services all aimed at particular audiences (readers & writers, adult learners, teens, etc.).

The bottom line is, you can't serve all of your patrons equally well with the same set of services. Most segments will require a unique marketing mix. Your marketing efforts will have more effect if you make sure that they're directed at the right people in the right way.

Friday, July 15, 2005

@ your library survey

The ALA Executive Board and the ALA Public Awareness Committee want to know what you think about the @ your library campaign, which has been extended for another 5 years. Take the survey and put in your 2 cents about where you'd like to see this campaign go. You can also send an e-mail with your thoughts to Deadline is Aug. 19th.

Making marketing fame made marketing news this week as it celebrates its 10th anniversary. It's Hall of Fame is drawing particular attention. A Motley Fool article states, "Initiatives like halls of fame and awards shows are definitely useful as promotional vehicles."

I've seen some libraries highlight their local celebrities on READ posters and such. Maybe this idea can be used by academic libraries to highlight student and faculty achievement? Or in public libraries to recognize volunteers and donors?

Thursday, July 14, 2005

PESTs (not the bad kind!)

PEST analysis is another important preliminary step in the marketing planning process (although, I think the acronym PETS sounds a little more friendly...). PEST analysis forces you to take a close look at external factors that influence your library, specifically the Political, Economic, Socio-Cultural and Technological situations in your greater community (aka the big picture). Check out for the how-to. PEST is a complement to SWOT, which has a bit more of an internal focus.

It's hugely important to be aware of these kinds of larger-scale changes so that we can anticpate them and act quickly (in fact, I'd love it if more librarians were the first in blazing new trails). It's no good to always be in reaction-mode.

As luck would have it in the wide world of the blogosphere, the writers of the It's all good blog (OCLC) have a series going on now about environmental scans: what they are, how to do them and why. It's a VERY good read!

Doing SWOT and PEST analysis shouldn't be a hard and tedious process; it should just be a done process that is re-done on a frequent basis. A marketing plan that doesn't address current wants and needs with a unique offering isn't worth much, so I guess it pays to learn to love PESTs!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

New portal from the UK

A UK consortium built a neat market research portal brimming with resources and articles. See Gary Price's Resource Shelf blog post for details.

SWOTting: it's not just for flies

A good ol' SWOT analysis is a great starting point for your marketing planning. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. The analysis part, well, that's where the fun comes in. This is where you start putting the SWOT puzzle pieces together to form a strategy.

There are lots of sites out there to help you with SWOTting, but one in particular I like is from, which (quickly) explains how to analyze your SWOT by comparing different components of it. Pair off the 4 areas of your SWOT to find out what you can do best and what you should fix or avoid, like so:

Strengths + Opportunities = Go for it!
Weaknesses + Threats = Things you need worry about
Weaknesses + Opportunities = Fix those weaknesses to seize those opportunities
Strengths + Threats = Can you use your strengths to eliminate your threats?

The New Pathways to Planning site I've mentioned before has a SWOT worksheet you can use. They also link to The National Arts Marketing Project, which offers SWOT guidelines.

Tomorrow, I'll work backwards and mention PEST, a close relative of SWOT (can't have enough acronyms, can we?). :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Must-see marketing T.V.

I knew that someday my channel surfing would eventually unearth something of use for the blog! Well, Saturday was the day. I stumbled upon a terrific television show from CNN called The Turnaround, which airs weekly at 11am Eastern. From what I can gather, the show's been on since February, and it's now on my must-see list.

The premise is that a struggling business owner is paired with an experienced mentor who offers guidance on how the entreprenuer can beef up his/her bottom line. In the episode I saw, a doggie boutique owner learned how to maximize his best selling items while ditching the ones that collected dust. I was fascinated to see all kinds of marketing principles come into play, like how to focus very tightly on who exactly makes up a target market and write an equally focused business plan that captures what the enterprise is really "about".

Sure got me thinking! Along those same lines, it took me a while but I finally got into watching The Apprentice this past season and I also learned a lot about marketing from that show, believe it or not. You might want to give it a chance when the next season rolls around. Even if you're not a business buff, these shows are an entertaining way to get some creativity going...from your couch of all places!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Outside the Book - W.O.W.!

Consider this week's (marketing) Word of the Week, and think about looking inward before marketing outward: internal marketing.

The American Marketing Association defines internal marketing like this: "Marketing to employees of an organization to ensure that they are effectively carrying out desired programs and policies."

While you're busy making marketing magic, don't forget to let your colleagues in on your plans. They can be your best spokespeople and push your message/service at patrons' points of need. Just imagine how much more punch your campaign could pack if everyone is singing the same tune to patrons!

Here's a "for instance": This fall, we're rolling out a new series of open workshops. Part of our rollout plan is to train staff about our new offerings so that they can recommend them to patrons as appropriate - right when they're most likely to need the help.

Put internal marketing to use by thinking about two audiences for your marketing endeavors: your target market and your staff who will help put your plan into action!

Friday, July 08, 2005

The art of marketing

Some artsy marketing ideas have sprung up today on a couple of blogs. LISNews reports on a University of Iowa PR campaign where librarians send out old catalog cards to patrons and encourage them to don them with artwork. The cards will be displayed throughout the year.

The WOMMA blog mentions how organizers in the UK are promoting World Book Day by providing patrons with beautiful postcards to send out to friends along with a book recommendation.

Learning by association

I stumbled upon a neat site by the Word of Mouth Association (WOMMA). (How great is it, by the way, that there is an association for this?!). Their Womnibus section contains heaps of interesting stuff like a blog (of course), Word of Mouth 101, a library, and info about free e-mail newsletters.

What is word-of-mouth marketing, you ask? WOMMA defines it as, "Giving people a reason to talk about your products and services, and making it easier for that conversation to take place." A quick peek at the June/July 2005 cover of American Libraries will tell you how important grassroots and other word-of-mouth marketing campaigns are for libraries. WOMMA offers some strategies that may prove useful in your efforts. Tell a friend! :)

Thursday, July 07, 2005

From consumers to twinsumers - a new trend

For better or worse, how consumers think about products and whether they buy them is influenced less and less by the producers themselves and more by consumers' peer groups. has the scoop on this latest marketing trend called twinsumerism. Trendwatching defines Twinsumerism as, "consumers looking for the best of the best, the first of the first, the most relevant of the relevant increasingly don't connect to 'just any other consumer' anymore, they are hooking up with (and listening to) their taste 'twins'; fellow consumers somewhere in the world who think, react, enjoy and consume the way they do."

Relevant for libraries? You bet! To get some inspiration, take a look at some of the examples of companies taking advantage of this trend in the newsletter, like Findory and Audioscrobbler, to name just a couple.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Gather 'round the table

An interesting discussion took shape on the AcademicPR listserv recently about designing effective displays at fair tables. One school's ideas in particular jumped out at me as especially creative. Erica Schattle, Coordinator for Outreach and Reference Librarian at Emerson College Library (Boston), shared what the Orientation Planning Committee came up with:

Using the Lights, Camera, Action @ yourlibrary theme, Emerson librarians raffled off movie cutouts to students who set up their library accounts. In addition, they made a 6ft. long wordsearch using library and database terms (you can use the word search generator they used here). According to Erica, lots of students made an effort to find a word and chat with a librarian. Cool!

Thanks to Erica for sharing this idea!

For more tips and techniques about crafting fair displays, take a look at Trade Show Displays: What Makes Them Work (free registration required). Overall, simple is best, and don't let the table do all the work - get out there and talk with people!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Marketers feeding on RSS

LISNews has a post about a New York Times article that describes how marketers are putting RSS to work. The article has been been making news on marketing blogs too like CMO Magazine's. Also, MarketingVOX points to another overview of how companies are using RSS. Turns out, businesses are now using RSS to push everything from coupons to classified ads. Neat stuff! According to the NY Times article, Microsoft announced they'll be integrating RSS into their next operating system. I'll be excited to see what librarians do with this!

Customers putting the "act" in interactive marketing

A lot of buzz this weekend about interactive marketing in light of Crest, Cingular Wireless and Staples asking customers to help design products and promotional campaigns. They're asking customers to vote on favorite flavors, send in photos and submit product ideas, respectively. The theory behind all this being, "When consumers vote overwhelmingly for a product or participate in its development, it is more likely the new item will sell well" (Michael D'Esopo).

See what all the talk is about and get some ideas from MarketingVOX and from the NY Times News Service articles.

Outside the Book - W.O.W.!

Wait no longer for this week's (marketing) Word of the Week, which is: marketing. Betchya didn't see that coming!

I know we've talked about this before (see Thursday, March 31, 2005's post), and I know that you are all marketing-savvy; but I also know that it's easy to lose sight of what we're really doing when we're marketing, so I thought this topic deserved another go 'round.

Maybe you've had colleagues ask you, "How did you market x service?" when you know what they're really wanting to find out is how you promoted x service (a red flag). The problem here is that if we only think about advertising our services, we're addressing a small piece of the marketing pie. In fact, promotion is usually the last thing we should think about when designing new services.

In my marketing studies, I've been instructed to think about marketing as a philosophy and a way of doing business. That philosophy centers first and foremost on the needs and desires of an identified market segment from which all other considerations (product, price, place and promotion) follow. If we design a service just because we think it will be beneficial for patrons, we've already made a crucial mistake. First, we need to figure out who our patrons are and what it is that they want.

I don't mean to oversimplify here. As librarians, we do have social and cultural responsibilities to provide services that go beyond just stocking the latest best-seller, and it's important to anticipate needs that are often unexpressed, but I would argue that marketing principles still apply here. Knowing our patrons very well can help us to find the best matches for their needs and our abilities.

My favorite article of late on the nature of marketing comes from one of my favorite sites ( It's called What is Marketing? by Allen Weiss. If after this post you're still up for reading more, I'd highly recommend it. According to Weiss, "Marketing is, in fact, the analysis of customers, competitors, and a company, combining this understanding into an overall understanding of what segments exist, deciding on targeting the most profitable segments, positioning your products, and then doing what's necessary to deliver on that positioning." Whew!

Friday, July 01, 2005

Maximizing your strategizing

Since Strategic Planning is Marketing's close cousin, you may want to take advantage of Pat Wagner's "Free Online Program on Fast, Cheap and Decent Strategic Planning," which takes place on Jul 13, 2005 from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. Pacific. This session is intended for librarians with little time and resources who want to put together a practical, useful plan without a lot of fuss. Check out the site for details.

LOL + PR = Good move

Before heading out for a long holiday weekend, I thought a post on the lighter side would be in order. I found an article about using humor in promotional campaigns that I thought was worth some consideration. Humor in PR: Can You Hear Me Now? points out that "If done right, humor can help with the most important aspect of PR—garnering visibility." To do it right, you have to back up humor with substance and relate it to a particular benefit for your target market.

I'm a bit biased here because I'm a sucker for clever humor, but I think we could all use more of it! LOL! :-D