Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Try This Tuesday

I mentioned last week that I'm done with my Words of the Week and am moving on to a new weekly "thing," which I'm going to call Try This Tuesday. The idea being that every week I suggest one small, simple action you can take to improve your marketing efforts. Try them all or try one or two things that fit your situation. Let me know how it goes!

This week, because I was so excited when I read the aforementioned post from Creating Passionate Users, I thought it would make good fodder for discussions among library staff. Try reading over the post's comparison chart between "Old School Marketing" and "Neo-Marketing" and make a point to discuss these differences and address marketing misconceptions during your next staff meeting or get-together. This could help to clear the air and gain buy-in for your marketing work.

Did you know you were a marketer?

Steven Bell does an amazing job of making sure that academic librarians are kept-up, including yours truly (thank you!), as he showed me a MUST-READ blog post entitled, You ARE a marketer. Deal with it. (Amen!) from the Creating Passionate Users blog.

I say it's a must read because the post gets at what the real essence of marketing is - a means of connecting with our patrons. Not connecting in an artificial, "fluff" kind of way mind you, but bridging the gap between what we have to offer and patrons' needs. The post also discusses the negative connotations associated with marketing/marketers, which I bet at least some of you have witnessed coming up in conversations with colleagues. The author even suggests devising a new word for marketing, which I've thought of doing before too but without any luck. As the post points out, all of us are marketers anyway so it's time to face the music. Be sure to look at the comparison between "Old School Marketing" and "Neo-marketing" (great for showing to skeptics). After reading, you'll be well-armed to get out there and market with pride!

Monday, August 29, 2005

Can you hear me now?

Big news last week as reports about libraries offering audiobook downloads surfaced. A CNN.com article states, "Librarians say such offerings help libraries stay relevant in the digital age," and "Librarians say they had little interest in audiobook downloads just a few years ago, but they have since noticed what everyone else has: the ubiquity of people sporting earbuds on streets, buses and malls". These reports emphasize the importance of two marketing functions: keeping up with trends and improving distribution channels.

Knowing and understanding trends in how peole get their information can help you anticipate what patrons might need and discover breakthrough opportunities to serve them better. Sometimes, those breakthroughs are uncovering new ways to distribute information to patrons, as the audiobook example shows. What's even better is to be the first to recognize and seize these opportunities so that you can establish your relevance and innovation before others do.

It's not easy to be the first to recognize a good thing, but the payoffs are worth it. In staying ahead of technology trends, check in on the technology sections of newspapers, on relevant blogs and web sites, and keep your eyes open in your own community and ask your patrons what technologies they use. You may also want to look at ALA/LITA's Top Technology Trends page for ideas.

Friday, August 26, 2005

A great pyramid

Mplans.com's featured article of the week is called The Strategy Pyramid. Perched at the top of the pyramid is your strategy, followed by tactics and programs. The goal, according to the author, is achieving strategic alignment wherein you match up all parts of the pyramid so that they make sense, and your resources are allocated accordingly. For example, if your main strategy is to enhance your online research tools, are your money and energy being funneled in that direction? Or do other distractions get in the way? The pyramid and related article can help you get a mental picture of how you can achieve your goals.

If you're like me and don't have budget authority, the pyramid can be a great way to organize your marketing work. I'm guessing that most of us are always eager to get involved in any and every project, which, at least in my case, can sometimes mean that I spread myself too thin or get sidetracked from my orignal goals. In those instances, being choosy about what we devote ourselves to, while difficult, can be an effective means of moving forward with our strategy.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

WOM wins out among college students

A fascinating study, Hard-Working College Students Generate Record Campus Wealth (pdf), from Alloy Marketing + Media and Harris Interactive found that "fully 91 percent of [college] students say they pay attention to the more nontraditional advertising method of word of mouth, with almost 70 percent of students who pay attention to ads saying that this most influences their purchasing decisions." This should be a wake-up call for how we do promotion in academic libraries. We need to give students the excuse and means to pass along their good library experiences to their friends.

Thanks to WOM Blog from WOMMA for the info. Check out WOMMA's site for word-of-mouth resources and tips you can use (their library and WOM 101 pages are good places to start).

Doing your homework

Who knew that marketing meant doing so much homework? And that you could never actually turn in it in because you always have to redo it?! Doing homework on your patrons, however, will have big pay-offs for you as you market away.

The American Marketing Association website, as I've mentioned before, can be a big help. There's an academic resource center with all kinds of marketing research materials for your use. Many come from, as you might expect, Uncle Sam, but there are other fun tools too that I was unfamiliar with like SecondaryData.com and PollingReport.com.

My favorite marketing web site, KnowThis.com contains a wealth of info too. On their Market Research and Internet Marketing Research page, you can get help with both primary and secondary research including research and survey design.

In related news today, LISNews reports that Beloit College has released it's Mindset List that describes the significant events and perspectives of freshman students. It's mainly for fun, but it's a good reality check.

My tip? There's really no such thing as homework in library marketing. Market research is a day-to-day part of librarianship. Keeping a constant sharp eye out for expressed and unexpressed needs can make a big difference. If you don't believe me, read this short article called How to Create the Accidental Evangelist for examples about little things you can do just by paying attention to the people you serve that count big in the long run!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Why you should become a liar

A while ago, I told you that I would read All Marketers Are Liars, by iconoclast marketer Seth Godin, and give you the scoop on the important points for librarians. I did (finally) and I am. The premise of this book is that marketers are liars in that they tell stories to customers in order to persuade them to buy their products. In order to work, those stories have to be authentic AND they have to connect with an audience that is willing to buy into the story.

Godin points out that in our advanced economy, there are only so many ways to make a better widget, or to brew a better pot of coffee, and that if you are competing with others on the quality of your product alone, you’re fighting a losing battle. It’s easy for most companies to copy your more efficient/better made/technically superior product and, after a point, those differences become quite minor in the eyes of consumers. In libraries for example, we can work to increase our accuracy and speed in fulfilling information requests, but for the most part many libraries do essentially the same basic things in roughly the same way.

They key then is to develop a story or experience that draws in people for reasons other than your better-than-the-other-guy’s product or service, and then to actually LIVE the story. This makes sense, right? We all know intuitively that people don’t make their consumption decisions based on rational thinking; consumers are much more driven by emotion. I may rationally know that the library is where people go to find high-quality information, but I may ultimately decide to go inside because my friends are all studying there, or I’m hungry and there’s a snack bar available, or I enjoy the ambience and comfy chairs, and so on.

There are a number of librarians who have discovered the power of lying, or storytelling, and have made going to their libraries and experience for patrons. The Southfield Michigan Public Library (check out their virtual tour!), and Charlotte-Mecklenberg Public Library come to mind, but there are many others. Libraries like these understand that patrons seeking their services come with a variety of needs, and they want librarians to construct an experience for them that is satisfying on many levels, with a narrative that makes sense.

All Marketers Are Liars is honestly a very quick read if you’re interested in seeing how storytelling plays out in all kinds of ways. I agree with most of the points Godin makes, but, for a librarian, it’s difficult to wholeheartedly accept the notion that we should only tell stories to people who are likely to go along with them, since we have responsibilities to draw in non-users as well. Godin would say that the way you reach those people is to have your fans do it for you, since non-users would just filter out our messages anyway. Whatever your opinions, the book does get you thinking at least, so that alone might make with worth checking out.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Writing for results

I know that a lot of you write newsletters, blogs and brochures aimed at your patrons, so I thought I'd point out a recent article that might be of some help to you called How to Write Sales Literature That Sells. Written from a business perspective, it's not hard to translate into library-ese. Here are some of the salient points (translated for your reading enjoyment):

  • Keep in constant communication with your patrons--Use your points of contact and advisory boards to uncover common questions and concerns.

  • Put your main points in headings and subheadings--Patrons won't linger long.

  • Show that you understand your patrons problems, and how you can fix them.

  • Include captions with your photos--People will read them.

  • Use specific examples of how others have benefitted from library services.

  • Give patrons extra incentives--If a patron turns up at an event you mention, maybe they can get a coupon for your coffee bar or a sneak peek at a new tool.

Monday, August 22, 2005

It's a brand new day...and a brand new resource

I discovered a new blog out there from Business Week called Brand New Day: Thoughts on Marketing and Advertising, which I recommend you take a peek at even if you don't subscribe to the feed. I like the way that the authors analyze events and popular culture through the lens of marketing.

"Why," you may be asking yourself, "does Jill insist on passing along these business-type sites when we are clearly librarian-type people?" Good question! The answer is two-fold. One: I really, really like marketing. It's fascinating and it affects every part of our lives, not just the library part. So, for me, thinking about how marketing works in the wider world is educational and gets ideas going that I can apply to the library. Two: Libraries are not immune to marketing forces. Ideas about product life cycles and consumer product classifications don't stop applying once you hit the library's doors. Business people have been studying this kind of stuff for a long time and I like to see what they've come up with. But don't worry, I'm always on the lookout for librarian-type info too!

By the way, watchful readers may have noticed that I'm no longer doing an Outside the Book [Marketing] Word of the Week (W.O.W.!). That's because I want to try out an idea for a different weekly offering soon. I might even get it going next Monday...we'll see.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Treasure tidbits

The latest August issue of Marketing Treasures by Chris Olson is out and about and features tidbits about recent conference proceedings and upcoming events, bundling, slogans and more. My favorite piece is Cross Promotion Opportunities, since most of my work involves partering with various campus units and departments. I think this is a particularly effective way of promoting our services because it puts the library in a different and/or unusual context and demonstrates to our patrons that we are relevant in ways that they might never have expected.

What's the big idea?

In celebration of the centennial of Einstein's famous equation (you know the one I'm talking about), NOVA is airing a PBS special on October 11th from 8-10pm called Einstein's Big Idea. NOVA is also supplying a Library Resource Kit with display ideas, handouts, activities and events to help your patrons celebrate this important milestone.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Aim to target your market

Knowthis.com released Part 5 in its tutorial Principles of Marketing entitled Targeting Markets. It's only 10 short pages long and very informative. This tutorial outlines how to go about segmenting your target market and outlines 3 stages of segmenting variables. Each stage requires more specific information about your target, and therefore requires more money and time. I hadn't seen those variables broken down in that way before, and I thought it could be a useful way to think about segmenting.

I'm still trying to find an answer to the question I have about segmenting in the library world: How do you know you've chosen a "good" segment in the absence of profit? The best answer I've come up with is that a "good" segment is one that helps you meet your library's mission and goals, regardless of the raw numbers of patrons you've reached through your marketing efforts. Do you have ideas about that? I'm going to be speaking with some more with non-profit-marketing-types about this question and I'll pass along what I find.

Friday, August 05, 2005


Ahhhh...vacation at last! I will be back 'n' bloggin' on Wednesday August 17th. I'll miss blogosphere, but probably not as much as I'll like vegetating for a while! In the meantime, I wish you much marketing merriment and a minimum of marketing mishaps!

What's in it for me part 2: The sequel

Kind of eery that I found an article about how to effectively communicate the benefits of your services to people in light of my post on Tuesday, but here it is, from MarketingProfs.com.

The author's point is that it takes more than just describing your services' benefits to people to get them to listen. You also have to put those benefits in context so that your customers can clearly see that you understand the problem you are trying to solve for them. To make your publicity materials jump out to people, spell out the big picture. The author's example is that using the phrase "streamlined project management" is not nearly as effective as stating, "No more chasing people down every time you need to know who's done what and how much." So, to use our examples from Tuesday, instead of saying, "Librarians can save you time," or, "Librarians can help you get better grades," how about, "You don't have to pull an all-nighter the day before a paper is due to get a good grade. Ask a librarian for help!" (or something like that anyway).

There are other tips too, like making your copy focused and clear. I really liked the idea of adding context though, which I think is lacking in our promotional materials here. I'll have to play around with that idea some more!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Resource for your reading pleasure

Marketing Group Inc. is another one of those consulting firms trying to sell you stuff BUT that also has plenty of free, helpful resources to offer. Skip over the pitchy parts, to the Articles Library where you will find an abundance of tips and strategies for your consumption.

To the anonymous librarian out there who took my survey and commented that she wanted some how-to's about branding, you may want to look at the Branding your Business section of this site, and in particular read over Branding Through Effective Logo Design, which outlines 8 qualities of a good logo. Remember though, a brand is much more than a logo. Branding is about showcasing the overall image of your library in everything you do. Good luck to you!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

September is library card sign-up month

(But then again, isn't every month library card sign-up month?). See ALA's press release or PLA's Smartest Card site for toolkits and other resources.

Heavy duty marketing materials

Thanks to Steven Bell for passing along this interesting resource: The Strategic Marketing Planning Process Using EXMAR (pdf). Sure, the Marketing Process Company is trying to sell you stuff, but the documents they provide, although somewhat technical, outline the processes involved in marketing planning, which can be helpful. They also provide sample marketing plans as well as presentations and white papers. They're pretty heavy-duty though, so read with caution! ;)

Get to know the IMLS

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is "an independent federal grant-making agency dedicated to creating and sustaining a nation of learners by helping libraries and museums serve their communities" AND they have some marketing fodder for librarians!

For some marketing ideas, you might want to peek in on their monthly highlights full of inspirational, creative library and museum initiatives.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

What's in it for me?

One of the lessons straight out of Promotion 101 is to showcase your services in light of their benefits to patrons. Makes sense. It's not enough to tell people that your Interlibrary Loan service exists, but you also have to tell them why they should care that it exists ("It will help you get a better grade on your paper," etc.).

So what's considered a benefit to patrons? If you agree with this post from Marketing Genius, there are five benefits (only five) that people seek: money, looks, popularity, health and sex.

Ugh! Do you agree with that assessment?! Can you really boil down human ambition to 5 desires? Although, I think of the benefits of the library that I try to get across to students, like better grades (money/success) and saving time (more time with family and friends translates to popularity), and then there's that saying, "knowledge is power" (money), and I wonder if library benefits could be lumped into one of these broad categories. It's something I'll have to think about it some more, but if it helps your promotional campaigns to focus on those 5, have at it!

Monday, August 01, 2005

Market research - and you're the market!

My blog is about 7 months old now, and I couldn't be more appreciative of all you readers and the wonderful colleagues I have met through the blogosphere - it's been pretty amazing!

I figured that it was time to do a little "marketing research" and find out how I can make "Outside the Book" a better blog to read. If you could please take my survey, I would really appreciate it! I PROMISE that it's VERY short and will only take a minute to complete. All responses are confidential and if I share results at all, I will do so in aggregate form. I'll keep the survey up for a while, or until I get 100 responses.

If you have questions or problems, feel free to e-mail me, as always. :-)

Thanks again for your help!

Outside the Book - W.O.W.!

Here's your terminology fix of the week: price - "The formal ratio that indicates the quantities of money goods or services needed to acquire a given quantity of goods or services." In other words, price is an exchange of something for something else (usually money in exchange for a good or service).

In library land, we may not think about how much our services cost since patrons don't often hand over cash to receive our services, but this doesn't mean that our services are "free" for them. Sure, there are indirect costs that students pay for with tuition and community members pay for with taxes, but there are other direct costs too. A major cost that stands out to me is time. Patrons have to give up valuable chunks of their busy schedules to make the extra effort to consult a librarian. Consider too that there may be psychological costs involved. It's not always easy to aks a question and admit you don't know something. Sometimes patrons have to step out of their comfort zones to approach us. Any other prices come to mind?

As you think about your service offerings, try thinking about whether your services are at the right "price" for patrons. Are they getting their time's worth? Can you think of ways to lower your prices by delivering your services in a more timely manner at the place of need, or make your services more welcoming so that patrons get more "bang for their buck"?