Thursday, December 21, 2006

The wrong way to win customers

Sometimes, the best way to do something right is to know the wrong way and do the opposite. That's precisely what this post from Brand Builder Blog is about: How to Lose Customers in Ten Simple Steps.

[Via Quality Services Marketing blog]

Categories: tips_to_try

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Coming up on LM

As this year comes to and end and next year is right around the corner, it's a perfect time to reflect on the past year and look ahead to the next. I have a lot of New Year's resolutions for this blog, so I'd like to give you an idea of what I'm thinking about for the Library Marketing in '07.

I imagine that almost every blogger out there has a pile of notes on posts they'd like to write about but don't seem to get around to (at least, it makes me feel better about my own post backup to think so!). I have heap of topics I'm eager to dive into early next year. Here are the big ones:

1. A series of posts on the emerging trend of mobile marketing and why librarians should jump into this arena now. As part of a research project for a marketing class, I did a good deal of research into this topic and believe that cell phones and other mobile devices make good venues for library services. I'll share some of my findings with you.
2. A series of posts on forming and leading a library advisory committee. I don't know how many academic libraries out there have advisory committees, but if the literature is any indication, there aren't very many. I'd like to share my thoughts on how I put this group together, for what reason, and how I think they fit into marketing efforts.
3. A discussion of what I find to be a central tension in marketing that is especially noticeable in library marketing: Finding a balance between giving people what they want and offering what they need. Sometimes the two are the same, but other times they're at odds. When is it best to assert our expertise and when is it best to let the patrons do the leading?
4. A consideration of what are some reasonable expectations/outcomes for marketing plans. Is marketing always about getting patrons in the door? Or are there other ways to evaluate marketing effectiveness?

In addition to catching up on my posts, I'd also like to upgrade the LM blog itself. I've talked for a while now about doing a re-design, but decided to hold off until Google sorted out its new version of Blogger. Now that the new version is out of beta, I'm going to be making the switch. In the process, I'm hoping to also change the look and feel, and make it a little more Web 2.0-friendly so that it more closely reflects what I think a blog should be. I hope you'll enjoy the upgrades. :-)

Finally, a goal I've had for LM from the beginning is that I'd like to involve readers and showcase their own marketing efforts, thoughts, ideas, questions, and so on. Most marketing, with the exception of some major promotional initiatives, happens behind closed doors so it's hard to get a sense of what librarians are doing. In a number of cases, I've e-mailed colleagues asking for more information about their marketing efforts, but usually don't receive a reply. I understand that for some, participating in a blog can be off-putting or too time-consuming, which I understand and respect. But for those of you who do want to share your marketing projects or perspectives, please do keep LM in mind as a place to highlight them. I'm pretty open to sharing the floor and responding to questions or comments, so long as they fit with the blog and are useful to readers. Don't hesitate to e-mail or IM me at JillatCabell with your thoughts and ideas. I don't have all the answers, but I always learn a lot from others' points of views and experiences. For those of you who have already taken the time to share your thoughts - thank you! I've enjoyed meeting many outstanding librarians and marketers with a passion for building better relationships with patrons/customers and I hope you'll continue to keep in touch.

There's a lot to look forward to in '07 and I thank each and every one of you for reading and for your support of this blog project. I could never have kept this up if it wasn't for your feedback and kind words. It's meant a lot to me!

I'll be leaving on Friday and returning after the first of the year, so you may notice a pause in posting during that time. Have a terrific holiday and best wishes to you and your families for a happy new year!

Categories: random_stuff

Marketing the social way

Marketing is a team effort, and it's nice to see marketers teaming up with customers to make their initiatives more meaningful. In a ClickZ article, Mark Kingdon reports on a WOMMA conference panel discussion in which presenters discussed ways to successfully integrate themselves into social networking sites. One of my favorite points offered is, "Demonstrate that you're knowledgeable and credible, someone who can contribute to the knowledgebase. Think about how to create this level of participation among the communities you create." In other words, don't just be there for the sake of being there; Bring something of value to the table.

Along these lines, I found a WOMMA report on the Nintendo Wii ambassador program. It's a really interesting case study of how to put an ambassador program together, particularly since Nintendo's efforts are so well documented. Nintendo sought out and recruited enthusiasts who would host secret Wii gaming parties. According to the Go Nintendo site, "Wii Ambassador Program: The yearlong initiative identified ambassadors in markets throughout the country. These ambassadors are of three categories: multigenerational families, hard-core gamers and modern moms. During the initial phase, Nintendo hosted events for each ambassador and 30 of his or her closest friends and relatives. The events offered an opportunity for everyday people from all walks of life to play Wii for the first time and share their experiences with others." This effort was supplemented by a number of other promotion tactics including a MySpace page, countdown events, and brand partnerships. This example raises the question of how librarians can do a better job of engaging their biggest fans to export the "library experience" into people's homes and among the community.

Categories: promising_promotions | real_life | tips_to_try

Friday, December 15, 2006

Co-creation manifesto

I enjoy a lot of the manifestos posted on ChangeThis, but this recent one by James Cherkoff and Johnnie Moore is fantastic. The topic is co-creation, and the manifesto outlines 17 points for effectively working with customers to make your marketing effective. Reading this made me want to get to work right away at finding new ways to partner with patrons in my work. Some of my favorite points: Get Vernacular; Make Your Customers Look Good (big shiny star next to this one!); Make Mistakes; Play...ok, I could list them all because they're all terrific, so you're better off just reading it yourself. I think a lot of these points could also be applied internally to increase cooperation among staff.

Why bother with co-creation? The authors sum it up this way: "If we have to choose between engagement and control, we prefer engagement. We think that organisations in the future will do well to have the same preference when it comes to dealing with their own people and their customers." Co-creation is the main reason I'm so excited about marketing and about marketing libraries in particular. I'd love to see libraries as THE partner for anyone who wants to expand their horizons. So much of what Cherkoff and Moore recommend comes naturally to librarians (sharing "secrets," creating opportunity) that I know we can be leaders on this front.

Categories: creativity_and_inspiration | must_reads | neat_trends | tips_to_try

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Mini marketing idea

Paul over at Idea Sandbox mentions a fun way to spread the word (and the pictures!): mini cards. A company called can turn your flickr pics into tiny promotional items. The company states, "We dream up new products, personalised by your stuff on the web, that let you take that virtual life offline. We hope you like them." Neat! You can put all of your vital stats on the back and feature your favorite photo on the front (here are some examples). There's something about the smallness and personalized nature of these cards that makes them seem way more fun than business cards or bookmarks. I know a lot of libraries out there use flickr to document outreach events, etc. Why not turn those images into mini cards? You could send them out with newsletters or other promotional items, tack them onto computer monitors, stick them in books at check-out, and all kinds of things. I should say that I haven't used the Moo service myself, but I really like the idea. If any of you try it, please tell me about it.

Categories: promising_promotions | tips_to_try

Employee buy-in, continued

True to her word, Sybil responded to my comment asking for examples of tactics to gain employee buy-in for marketing initiatives, which I discussed in a previous post. In her answer, she mentions a some great ideas like including employees when distributing promotional items and hosting a kick-off event for a boost of motivation.

What's important to keep in mind is that when we employ marketing to reinforce or change patrons' expectations, we are also implying that staff need to alter their expectations as well. For example, if our promotions brag to patrons of our speedy service, we're also saying to staff, "Speed is a priority." All of our messages have two audiences: internal and external. I'm interested to hear about ways in which you've addressed your internal audience. Any good ideas?

Categories: promising_promotions | tips_to_try

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Create; Innovate; Don't wait!

Creativity and innovation imply one thing: change. And I'm not talking about the coins jingling in your pocket (though I'm sure those help!) feature an Innovation Forum that is overflowing with good ideas and inspiration! The site consists of short videos, so you don't need to block out huge chunks of time to take advantage of these sound nuggets of advice. I haven't listened to all of them, but two that stood out to me so far are talks from the CEO of The First 30 Days, Ariane de Bonvoisin. Her two clips, Believing in Change and Comparison Killer were great for a quick jolt of inspiration. In the latter clip, she talks about how the biggest killer of innovation is doubt, and that comparing yourself to other companies squashes innovation in its tracks. These statements make me think about libraries and librarians' tendency to look outside to how we stack up to the competition. Being aware of competitors is necessary, but I can see how there's a point at which we stop seeing our own value because we are too wrapped up in what others are doing. If you want more discussion of change, how to adapt to it, and why it's a good thing, check out Ariane's blog, First 30 Days.

Since we're on the topic of change and innovation, I found an article from on the Importance of Being Relevant. In it, the author notes that sometimes remaining relevant involves reinventing yourself and who you aim to please.

Categories: creativity_and_inspiration

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Engaging patrons with YouTube

Somehow, I only just discovered this outstanding new initiative from the Denver Public Library (where else?). The library is holding a YouTube contest where patrons are invited to submit videos about "How I have fun at the Library" to win an MP3 player. What I think is especially cool is how DPL is tying this contest in with its eVolver MySpace site. [DPL librarians: If you're out there, please let us know how this goes.]

This is consumer-generated media (CGM) in action! Neilsen BuzzMetrics has a nice overview of CGM with suggested readings, including a vocabulary guide, to help you learn what it is and how to use it.

Thanks for the heads-up, Bob!

Categories: promising_promotions | real_life

Monday, December 11, 2006

Planning for promotion campaigns: Tips and tools you can use offers a Marketing Calendar Template to supplement the article, "Creating and Using a Marketing Calendar Effectively." Since we're about to enter a new calendar year, it seems like a good time to talk about planning, particularly promotion planning. I find the template to be a little sparse, but it is a decent starting point.

When I was studying Integrated Marketing Communications, we were tasked with developing a promotion campaign complete with budget, schedule, etc. I learned a few invaluable lessons during that class that have proven useful in my work. Here are the big ones:

1. Think frequency: Depending on who you listen to, you'll find that it takes AT LEAST 3 repetitions for someone to remember an advertising message. Three. If you're pinning your hopes to one ad in a newspaper that runs one time, then you're probably going to be disappointed in the results. Plus, there's no guarantee that your target audience will actually see every ad you place. For these reasons, it's necessary to place multiple ads in multiple vehicles before people take notice. To choose the right vehicles, think about all the points of contact your target audience has with various media (bulletin boards, magazines/newspapers, Web sites, on-board bus signage, etc.) and determine if they would work for your message and budget.

2. Integrate: The whole point of Integrated Marketing Communications is to focus on the customer's perspective and to create a consistent message/image across all media. Do the elements of your promotion campaign reinforce or compete with one another? Consistency can help boost the overall strength and effectiveness of your campaign.

3. Know your goals: Advertisers adopt numerous theories and models in their work. The model we focused on most was AIDA (Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action). The argument here is that customers move through these 4 3 stages before taking an action, particularly for high-involvement purchases. Therefore, a promotion campaign for a new service should build up to taking action (using the service) by first making people aware the service exists, then obtaining their interest, and so on. (Note: Some argue that for lower-risk/involvement purchases, an emotional appeal is other models are more effective, but that's for another post.) A good question to ask yourself is, What do I want my promotion campaign to accomplish? Maybe you only want to generate awareness. However, if you want to prompt patrons to use a particular service, you may want to build up to that by arousing their awareness/interest/desire first through a series of promotions that describe what the service is, how it benefits patrons, etc. Whatever the case, pick a goal and a means of measuring whether or not you achieved it. Keep in mind that sometimes a promotion campaign is process, rather than a one-shot initiative.
[Update: In retrospect, I realize I've given this whole AIDA business short shrift. There's a lot more to this "think-feel-do" model and its implications than what I've discussed here. I'll give it more focused attention in the future.]

4. Your message is your competitive advantage: Ideally, your service has some kind of competitive advantage that makes it different from all of the other options out there. It could be your ability to tailor the service to your community's needs, for example. Whatever "it" is, make sure to tell patrons about it over and over again. Your competitive advantage is your reason for being and your most compelling asset - use it!

5. All good things must come to an end: Promotion campaigns weren't meant to last forever. Some last for a few weeks, others for a few months, and a select few could run for a few years or more. As part of your planning, determine how long you will persist with your campaign to reach your goals. Once you've accomplished your goals, ditch the campaign or, if successful, refresh it. Nothing is worse than a stale campaign that won't go away.

As you can probably tell already, planning and implementing a promotion campaign is a complicated process that involves an in-depth knowledge of your intended audience. To help with planning, I'm making available a sample promotion schedule (Excel file) that I've used and like fairly well as it helps me to visualize all of the various stages, vehicles, and how they fit together. It's very basic, but you can adapt it as you see fit. For example, you might want to include a column or separate sheet for costs. Also, don't forget to schedule in any assessment you plan on conducting. Let me know if it helps!

Promotion isn't my primary responsibility, but it is closely related to my work in service planning and delivery. Those of you who do promotion full-time may have some insights of your own to share and I'd love to hear about them!

Update: Of course, a tip I should have added is that promotion is not just about getting your word out. It's also about listening to and conversing with patrons. But you knew that already, right? ;-)

Categories: promising_promotions | tips_to_try

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Who's #1?

If your answer to "Who's #1 in your organization?" is customers, think again. The more I learn about services marketing the more I've come to realize that employees should be the #1 concern for any service provider.

In 1984, Richard Normann developed the concept, "moment of truth", which basically refers to any instance in which a customer comes into contact with any aspect of a business. Each of these points of contact has an effect on how customers perceive a business and whether or not they'll use its services. Think about the points of contact for a library. Most of them involve library staff directly, or, like in the case of Web resources, behind-the-scenes. The moment of truth is also where your marketing plans live or die. So, who are you going to trust with these life-and-death moments? Staff! Preferably, well-trained, happy staff. If staff aren't willing and able to help patrons, all of your attention to patron needs/wants will be for nothing.

I've mentioned before that there is a terrific blog by Sybil Stershic, former Chairman of the American Marketing Association and very nice lady, that focuses on internal marketing and communication. While all her posts are educational, a couple stood out to me because they address a common problem: lack of employee buy-in. Sybil addresses both the cause of employee resistance to marketing and what to do about it. Her advice addresses all stages of implementing a marketing plan - before, during, and after. One of her suggestions is to recognize and reward employee participation. In a comment, I asked if she has some specific examples of recognition/award programs that work well. She contacted me to let me know that she wants to think about it some more and will respond in a forthcoming post. Of course, I'll let you know when it's up. For now, enjoy these two great posts on an important topic. Please share your ideas too!

If you still need more insights into helping employees to help customers, the Corante Marketing Hub has an excellent piece by Olivier Blanchard on aligning employee experiences with customer experiences, along with plenty of suggested readings.

[On a somewhat related note, if you want to read more about "moments of truth," there is a book by that title written by Jan Carlzon in the late 80's. The book describes how Carlzon turned Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS) around to become a success. While it may seem dated, the approach Carlzon used still seems fairly progressive even by today's standards ("focus on the customer, encouraging risk-taking, delegating more authority to front-line employees, and eliminating vertical levels of hierarchy"). I'm going to put it on my To Read list.]

Categories: tips_to_try | usable_theories

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Cool new tool from RSS4Lib - WOMBLINK

Ken Varnum is officially a great guy! Based on posts from LM and RSS4Lib, and some resulting commentary, Ken took it upon himself to develop a quick-and-easy way for libraries to spread the word about their services. He created a tool called WOMBLINK (Word of Mouth Blog Link) that enables librarians to generate a piece of code for their Web sites that creates a "Blog This" link. The link allows bloggers to copy another HTML code into their posts that directs readers to the library site of interest. (Check out Ken's explanation for details). The idea here is that librarians can make it easy for patrons to spread the word about library news and service.

Ken was kind enough to let me be one of the WOMBLINK guinea pigs and I have to say it works very well! Give it a try and let Ken know if you have any suggestions or comments (


Categories: technology_tools

Monday, December 04, 2006

Obedience training for pet projects

It's hard to let go of a project or initiative that you were instrumental in getting off the ground. However, this MarketingProfs article advises doing just that and offers tips on how to achieve a healthy perspective for the greater good.

Categories: tips_to_try

Friday, December 01, 2006

A glimpse into the next tech-ade

The Federal Trade Commission (somewhat) recently concluded its conference, Protecting Consumers in the Next Tech-Ade. The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) reports that the conference, "featured experts from the business, government, and technology sectors, as well as consumer advocates and academics, all discussing how changes in demographics, marketing practices, and technology will affect future consumers." The FTC maintained blog coverage of the events, including discussions about RFID, nanotechnology, Web 2.0 topics, demographics, and privacy to name some. You may be surprised to find how most of these discussions are very much like those that take place in librarian circles, like this one on consumers' attitudes toward blogs and Web sites. I've only just skimmed the surface of the FTC blog but I'm finding many relevant and interesting insights and reports. I hope you will too! If you'd like to point out any particularly good nuggets of info, please write about them in a comment.

Categories: excellent_events

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The value of values

John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing echoes thoughts I've shared about libraries' sustainable competitive advantage, though he talks about independent bookstores. Here's a great quote from John's post:

"Bookstores and, for that matter, any local business that understands they can't compete with the chains, but that they have something much more valuable, can build a business that is not price sensitive because it's value sensitive.

Thriving Indies of all ilks understand that community, belonging, knowledge, experience, transformation and service are what they sell. Any local business that finds that, packages that, and serves that up fresh and hot, can compete with the chains by not really viewing the chains as competition.

Well said! Substitute "libraries" for "bookstores" and you have a library marketing mantra to live by.

Categories: creativity_and_inspiration | random_stuff

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Learn from the pros

Q: What do Rachel Ray, Chris DeWolfe, and Chad Hurley have in common? A: They're successful. CNN asks these and many other business juggernauts for their advice about what it takes to make it in business. Most of the lessons are pretty sound and apply to marketing as well as business in general.

Categories: random_stuff | tips_to_try

What does your Web site say about you?

Library Web sites are more than portals to information. In many cases, they are the first or only points of contact patrons have with the library and they can relate volumes about what the library represents. What does your Web site say about your library? The Branding Blog addresses this question and points out two often-neglected parts of a Web site - the "About Us" and "Contact Us" sections. The Blog refers to two articles that offer tips for improving these pages.

The "About Us" article suggests that this page should answer five questions:

  • Why do you do what you do?
  • Who are the people behind the company?
  • What kind of people will I be working with/buying from?
  • What does your company stand for?
  • What does your company stand against?
The article about "Contact Us" pages presents problems and solutions to common difficulties. The bottom line is to make sure people don't get frustrated trying to find help.

There are lots of terrific tips here. Your Web pages are showcases where you can "sell" yourselves and your services with a human touch. They're not just listings of the resources we have, but reflections of what we're all about. Make them count!

Categories: tips_to_try

A framework for better understanding online social communities and WOM

New research suggests that online communities go through 7 stages of development and that each stage has a certain word-of-mouth type associated with it. The WOMMA Research Blog mentions research done by Boston University professors Anat Toder-Alon and Frederic F. Brunel, which identifies these stages and WOM genres. Specifically, the seven stages are Joining, Coordination, Prompting Intimacy, Communal Sense, Alienation & Splintering, Communal Again, and Culmination. The WOM genres are Identity Orientation (individual or group), and Pattern of Interaction (task-oriented or socio-emotional). What does this newfound framework offer marketers? In their paper (PDF), the authors argue that this approach can help marketers to better understand how WOM works in online communities and the context in which it occurs. In turn, marketers can better modify their communications to encourage purchase or consumption (p. 24-25).

I bring this to your attention because as we librarians tread into the new world of online communities, it's helpful to understand why people use these sites, how they exchange information, and in what context. In doing so, we're better able to communicate our services and leverage WOM.

Categories: research_and_reports

Monday, November 27, 2006

Weekly WOM: Tracking the buzz offline

It's one thing to monitor blogs, discussion boards, and social networks to track the buzz surrounding a brand; it's quite another to do the same offline. But, as the New York Times reports, some WOM marketing agencies are trying to do just that.

The WOM research agency Keller Fay Group, for example, enlisted customers to keep diaries about conversations they have regarding brands. Researchers later interviewed participants about the details. In doing so, Keller Fay found that people talk about a dozen brands a day, and most of those discussions are positive. Personal care and household products generate the most positive WOM, while telecommunications companies and financial services tend to get negative flack. Also, people talk most about entertainment, food, and travel products as well as retailers.

The article also mentions a WOM marketing agency, BoldMouth. Their site features a blog, a complimentary research study with details on how to create your own WOM marketing strategy, and MouthCasts. Could be worth investigating.

How do you keep track of offline WOM at your library? I have an informal system in which I maintain a document with comments I overhear about the library, doing research, etc. For me, it's a good way to remind myself of patrons' perspectives. I could also envision a more collaborative process in which staff all contribute to a blog or wiki of library WOM. Staff could include comments they hear inside and outside of the library, and links to online mentions. My advisory committee also informs me of what students are saying about us. (There will be more on this committee in an upcoming series of posts). Perhaps an intrepid librarian could undertake the panel approach used by Keller Fay to figure out how WOM works in a library context. WOMMA produced a couple of books on how to go about measuring WOM, but I'd like to hear your ideas too!

Categories: promising_promotions | research_and_reports

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Weekly WOM: WOM wins big over other media

Media Life magazine reports on a study done by BIGresearch on the effectiveness of various advertising media. The big winner? - WOM! The study found that 92.5% of consumers regularly or occasionally avoid advertising (no surprise there), but that of those, more than 40% say they're influenced by word-of-mouth. The Media Life reporter interviewed the VP of research for BIGresearch who had a number of interesting comments to share. My favorites:

"Just because a group of advertisers are out in the marketplace spending more and more money doesn't mean everyone has to keep clogging up the world to try and out-shout everyone else."

"The No. 1 combination for watching TV is being online at the same time, so people should be able to opt-in and request information rather than having it pushed on them.

If marketers start realizing this, they'll see that less can be more because the frequency will make advertising a more scarce commodity. I think that's where the message has to be."

"You need to address the individuality of the consumer and you need to be much more targeted based on what media they prefer, the dayparts in which they prefer it, and the formatting they prefer."

The bottom line here appears to be that less is more. I'm so glad that more marketers are beginning to acknowledge this. If some of them don't reign in their tendency to fill in every communication channel with untargeted messages of little value, they'll only make consumers more resolved to tune out and ruin it for other marketers. Respect the customer by getting to know them and sending them relevant stuff. Then they'll listen.

Categories: neat_trends | research_and_reports

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thank you to you readers and colleagues out there who have been so supportive of my work here on LM. I sincerely appreciate it and wish you a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday full of good food and good times. Drive safely if you're going to be on the road (I know I'm not looking forward to the trek up I-95 today - eek!).

Best wishes!

Categories: random_stuff

Monday, November 20, 2006

Trend time

It's that time of year again when marketing pundits venture their guesses about the marketing trends that will shake up the new year. This early entry comes from The brief article sums up consumer trends, trends in traditional media, and hot online trends. Not surprisingly, online research and local search are the online trends to watch. Word-of-mouth is also going to continue to be important. In terms of demographics, affluent women and the U.S. Asian population will be attractive target markets, and online media will be the tool of choice for reaching college grads. At least, that's what the author thinks. I also came across a press release that describes a study done for the American Advertising Federation (AAF), which found that a hefty portion of TV ad budgets will shift to online media. The press release also contains a PowerPoint summary of the study. The message here for librarians is that the online environment is going to become increasingly dynamic, so what are we going to do to keep up? Do you see any other marketing trends looming on the horizon?

Update: Mr. Ubiquitous has some creative ideas about using media and iTunes to market the library.

Categories: neat_trends | new_news

Friday, November 17, 2006

OCLC receives grant for library marketing campaign

Candi at the LibTalk blog reports on a Library Journal article stating that OCLC has been awarded a Gates grant to develop a library marketing campaign. From the press release: "The $1.2 million grant will be used by OCLC to conduct research, develop strategies, create materials and test elements of a national marketing campaign to demonstrate the value of libraries, and the need to increase support for libraries to meet the changing needs and expectations of library users. The project will aim to create a national campaign that can form an umbrella for regional- and local-level programs." It appears that this campaign will focus on public libraries.

It's all good: Any comments on the grant?

Categories: new_news

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Weekly WOM: A little good karma goes a long way

An article from Adotas considers the karmic nature of WOM. Attaining Advertising Zen: How Word-of-Mouth Success is Savored Through Good Karma discusses 5 bits of advice to ensure that your good marketing deeds come back to you many times over in the form of long-lasting customer relationships. The five points are: 1. Is Your Product or Service Inherently Viral? 2. Do the Right Thing, Every Time. 3. Do Something Unexpected. 4. Keep the Ball Rolling. 5. Let it Grow Organically.

Believe it or not, I've actually thought of marketing in Buddhist terms too, although I haven't thought about karma per se. For me, marketing involves two major Buddhist principles: detachment and impermanence. Marketers should be detached to the extent that they don't cling to existing ways of doing things just because that's how they've always been done. Also, detachment can prevent marketers from getting too emotionally involved in pet projects that don't result in value for patrons, or too discouraged when taking a risk doesn't work out. Similarly, we're all familiar with impermanence. What's in one day is out the next, so we have to be flexible with how we envision our libraries, our services, and our patrons' needs as environmental changes dictate.

Is it a stretch to link Buddhism and marketing? Maybe. But library marketing lessons and inspirations are everywhere once you look for them.

Categories: random_stuff | tips_to_try

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Don't just blog, blog well

If your library is still on the fence about blogging, or if you've made the leap but would like to improve your blog content and management, the following resources will be of use:

As I was doing some digging today, I found a report that is the product of a joint research project between a Northeastern University professor and Backbone Media. For this study, researchers interviewed 20 corporate bloggers to find what characteristics successful blogs have in common. The results are presented in the Blogging Success Study document and, while I haven't read all of it quite yet, what I have reviewed is quite helpful. Lead author Dr. Walter Carl wrote about the findings in his own blog where he mentions five themes that emerged from his investigation - culture, transparency, time, dialogue, and entertaining writing style and personalization.

Also, if you already have a good blog but aren't sure what to do with the comments it attracts, the MarketingProfs Daily Fix blog offers some good advice. In a nutshell, the author advises bloggers to embrace comments, including the bad ones, as opportunities to build relationships and improve service. (The comments on the article are worth reading too).

Categories: research_and_reports | technology_tools

Monday, November 13, 2006

Going mobile

A press release from the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) describes the latest update to its Mobile Advertising Guidelines (PDF). The Guidelines include banner and content guidelines, technical requirements, and a glossary. There are also examples of the various kinds of banner ads out there.

I suspect libraries will be using these mediums for promotion purposes, and this document does a good job of explaining how it works.

Categories: promising_promotions

Marketing tips from the future

If you've noticed that I've been a little behind in posting, you're right. Last week, I was busy getting together a presentation for VLA on podcasting. While I was at the conference, I attended the keynote speech given by Thomas Frey, Senior Futurist and Executive Director of the DaVinci Institute. Frey, appropriately enough, spoke on the future of libraries and I was pleased to find he confirmed many of the trends I've noticed and discussed here on LM, and he also introduced me to some new possibilities. You can read Frey's report, The Future of Libraries: Beginning the Great Transformation on your own, but here are the marketing-related trends that stood out to me:

  • Search technology will become more complex: As Google and other competitors continue their quest to include everything, the nature of search will consequently become more involved and librarians will be important resources for helping patrons find the specific information they need.
  • The rise of the experience-based economy: People are caring less about the products they buy and how they stack up to their neighbors', and are more concerned about the experiences they consume. What information experiences will the library be able to provide?
  • New target markets emerging: As more and more people work from home full- or part-time, they suffer from one or two problems, according to Frey - isolation or distraction. What these people need is a "third place" like the library. What services and facilities would a library offer these patrons?
  • Patrons take center stage: Frey argues that a library's physical space is its greatest asset. The library of the future will need to accommodate the creative ambitions of its patrons and their desire to produce their own information by offering spaces with facilities like blogging/podcasting stations, rehearsal studios, art studios, theaters, etc. While I haven't discussed physical spaces much on this blog, Frey's ideas coincide with my argument that librarians are going to have to design services that allow patrons to be successful at their endeavors, whatever they may be. Doing so entails going outside of our traditional services to find new opportunities to help patrons with our information resources.
Frey's overarching point is that our vision of the future shapes the present. To me, this means that if we as librarians don't have a vision for ourselves and what we hope to accomplish, we're not going to be able to create coherent and meaningful experiences for users in the present. While today is a time of great transition for libraries, it's important to take a step back to look at the big picture from time to time and envision a future where libraries are the cultural centers of their communities.

Categories: neat_trends | usable_theories

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

12 customer values for technology-related services

A common topic among library circles is how to use technology to deliver value to patrons. The problem is, it's pretty tough to know what it is our patrons value most. Is it ease-of-use? Community? One research and consulting firm recently conducted some research to get at answers to this question. A firm called Social Technologies studied what people want from future technologies and what qualities they appreciate. The result of their work is a list of 12 consumer technology values: user creativity, personalization, simplicity, assistance, appropriateness, convenience, connectedness, efficiency, intelligence, protection, health, and sustainability. You can read an analysis of these findings on Marketing Profs Daily Fix, where the author has kindly assembled these values into a nice graphic (PDF) suitable for your most prominent wall space. Heck, you can even frame it if you want to! But more importantly, as the author advises, is to make sure your technology innovations address at least some of these items.

Categories: must_reads | research_and_reports

Monday, November 06, 2006

Thanks a bundle, librarians!

Kathryn Greenhill of Librarians Matter demonstrates how librarians are becoming expert bundlers by using technology to gather relevant materials for patrons and making it easily accessible. In her post, Librarian bundles for philosophy scholars Kathryn describes how she used Google's Custom Search Engine, toolbars, and RSS to assemble philosophy resources for patrons. She includes examples of each of these tactics along with how-to's - very neat!

In marketing terms, I see this as adding value to our services by packaging them so that they make sense to patrons while making it easy for them to find just what they need. For me, helping patrons make meaning of the massive amount of information out there is the most important and marketing-savvy thing we can do and I hope we'll see more initiatives like what Kathryn describes.

Does anyone have other examples of packaging like this to share?

Categories: creativity_and_inspiration | technology_tools

A nation of generations - Tips from CRM

On the Marketing Forum, Paul points out a terrific CRM piece about the generations that make up our nation and how best to market to them. The author states, "This special issue of CRM magazine presents an overview of population trends for consumer strategists that covers various generations: the War Generation (and older), Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y--a nation of generations, if you will. The handiest way to approach this overview may be to regard it as a united state of measurements, methods, and tools that will help marketers navigate the complex sales and marketing waters that swirl around targeted campaigns for each of these segments." By clicking on the links to each generation, you'll find descriptions of each group as well as ideas for effective promotions, their buying behavior and more - very nice!

Categories: resource_roundup

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Marketing and social networking sites - important lessons

On the ACRLog, Steven Bell considers a recent WSJ article about users' growing disenchantment with social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. Steven also points out a related article from Wired News that describes how students are getting wary of the online world. Users are choosing to close down their profiles on these sites for a range of reasons including that the sites have grown too large for comfort, they don't protect privacy, the "friendships" made there aren't genuine, and commercial interests are proving too distracting as they infiltrate the networks through spam and fake friend requests.

These and other articles that are cropping up are evidence of some important technology/social trends taking shape and they provide many lessons for librarian-marketers. Here's I'm taking away from these developments:

Most services will fail once they try to be everything to everybody. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all product or service, particularly considering that the overall marketplace seeks customization and close relationships with organizations. Why then, would Facebook willingly throw open its gates to let anyone in and sacrifice its position as a place just for college students? It seems as though Facebook gave up its competitive advantage for the sake of being big, which is exactly what's turning a number of existing users against the service. When it comes to building relationships, big isn't always better. Big in this context can make these sites more threatening and less genuine. In the WSJ article for example, one 19-year-old sophomore tells of how she was compelled to leave Facebook after a creepy incident involving a near-stranger who tracked her down using the site. These sites should do a better job of trying to understand where the value lays for their users and zealously protect that value in everything they do. This approach may mean targeting smaller segments of users, but serving them better.

Another lesson that comes out in these cases is that marketing clutter can do a lot of damage. As the articles describe, network users are increasingly inundated with spam ads and companies that try to befriend them in hopes in increasing sales. To me, this is the dark side of marketing. Bad marketing will fill any new vehicle to reach people with meaningless garbage, making it difficult to get relevant messages across. For their part, site owners are encouraging this kind of commercialism to improve their bottom lines. Once again, the sites are looking at value from the perspective of the service providers, not the users. On a related note, this is why as a librarian I'm reluctant to blindly adopt the "go where the users are" mentality. I hear this phrase a lot and it's a good idea on the surface. I agree that we should make it easy for patrons to interact with us by reaching them when and where it's convenient for them. However, being there is pointless if we don't offer anything useful to them wherever "there" is. If, for example, we toss up a profile in MySpace just because patrons happen to be there, we're just adding to the clutter, giving patrons yet one more thing to sort through. We'd be better off not being involved than in portraying ourselves poorly. If, on the other hand, we put up a profile in MySpace because we have great information about the local music scene, then we're adding value to people's experiences in a way that is respectful and appropriate given the context. Force fitting ourselves into these communities and approaching them as a means to push stuff on people is doomed to failure because they will find a way to filter out this junk thereby cutting off another avenue for reaching them in the process.

The final thought I take away from all this is that people's relationship with technology is continually evolving. The Wired article states, "As the novelty of their wired lives wears off, they're also are getting more sophisticated about the way they use such tools as social networking and text and instant messaging -- not just constantly using them because they're there." This trend presents librarians with a perfect marketing opportunity. As information experts, we are well-positioned to help patrons make sense of technologies and what they're best suited for, as well as how to protect their privacy, and how best to manage all kinds of information. Furthermore, this trend tasks us with the responsibility to research our target patrons to determine which technologies are most appropriate for serving them and in what circumstances. If we hope to reach users as they become more technologically sophisticated, we need to get to know them and their preferences. Putting up profiles in every social site that comes along won't be sufficient to truly reach patrons.

Ultimately, technology isn't the answer to anything - it's a tool to apply to finding and implementing answers. The answers come from our relationships with people and an understanding of what they need and how we can help them. Because most librarians I know are genuine in their intent to make people's lives better and have intimate knowledge of their communities, they already have a big advantage over most competitors out there. The key is to not squander it by neglecting to put our patron's needs at the forefront, online or off. Technology is merely another way of demonstrating our commitment and value, but it doesn't create that value. Whatever we do in the tech world should have its roots in our understanding of our patrons.

Go out there and play with every tool that's out there. Experimentation is necessary to discover better ways of doing things. Some technologies will stay, some will change, and others will disappear, but don't forget why we're using the technology in the first place.

Categories: new_news | random_stuff | technology_tools

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

More marketing tools for kids @your library

An ALSC press release announces the addition of new materials to its promotional toolkit. The new materials include games, PSA's, and a specialized Web site.

Categories: new_news | promising_promotions

Weekly WOM: Honesty counts

There's a lot of discussion brewing in the WOM world over PR firm Edelman's questionable marketing tactics on behalf of its client Wal-Mart. Apparently, Edelman created fake blogs for the retailer that related the stories of two people traveling cross-country in an RV and camping out in Wal-Mart parking lots. You can get a recap of the story and the ensuing debate at Church of the Customer, but the most significant development so far for librarians who may be considering WOM strategies is WOMMA's response - The Association created an Ethics Assessment Tool that gives marketers 20 questions to consider before launching a WOM program. The questions are supposed to help marketers avoid doing anything unethical and they are related to the following topics: honesty of relationship, honesty of opinion, honesty of identity, taking responsibility, respecting the rules, and when hiring an agency. Integrity is particularly important with respect to WOM because once you abuse people's trust, it's difficult to win it back. Without trust, WOM doesn't work.

In other WOM news, you may want to check in on how Starbucks is using the social networking site to promote the book for one more day. Despite the issues of authenticity these SBUX tactics call into question, using social networking sites to augment or substitute for in-person events is an appealing option for librarians to explore further.

Categories: new_news | promising_promotions | technology_tools | tips_to_try

Friday, October 27, 2006

New tool for locating marketing info on the Web assembled its list of top marketing Web sites into its own search engine using the Google Custom Search Engine. This search option allows you to search only those marketing sites deemed to be high-quality by the site's editor. I've always had a high opinion of the resources offered on this site and I've found this search engine to be a useful tool. You may want to check it out the next time you have a burning marketing question.

[In the interests of full disclosure and all that, I'm a Founding Member of the site's Marketing Forums.]

Categories: resource_roundup | technology_tools

Thursday, October 26, 2006

When a brand just doesn't cut it anymore

Librarians continue to debate the library-as-books brand. Should we change our brand? Can we change it? If we do change it, what should a new brand look like? Whatever side of the fence you're on, or even if you're on the fence, these are important questions to ask. Marketers, in fact, must contend with brand issues like these all the time. The new MarketingProfs article, Why Rebranding Often Fails points out the pitfalls in undertaking such an ambitious effort. Here are some of the author's points that stood out to me:

  • "A brand is the sum of perceptions people have about your company and its products and services. Ultimately, a brand isn't something you have, it's something you do."
  • "Rebranding should always clarify and refine your positioning. Your goal in rebranding should be to make it easier for customers and prospects to understand exactly why your company should be one of their top choices—why there are few credible substitutes for your company in the market.
  • And my favorite: "If, when rebranding, you're not scared, that [sic] rebranding probably won't create meaningful change in your organization or in the marketplace.
If librarians become committed to the idea of building a whole new brand based upon something other than books, simply tacking on additional services won't do. To change people's minds about who we are, we have to fundamentally change what we do and how we do it, without going so far as to alienate people entirely or lose sight of our special role in society. Difficult? For sure. Worthwhile? I believe it probably is, though I hope we continue to discuss this topic.

Categories: must_reads | usable_theories

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Starbucks aesthetic on the march

Alice remarks on the continuing Starbucks expansion into the entertainment/cultural landscape on It's All Good. Alice points to a terrific NYT article called The Starbucks Aesthetic. I won't repeat the post or my comment on it, but both Alice and the article raise some important points about marketing and authenticity. Personally, I am increasingly disenchanted with SBUX's presumptuousness, though I do appreciate many of the marketing lessons the company teaches by example. It's insulting to me that they expect to dictate to customers what aspects of culture are worth paying attention to and which are not. As Alice suggests, perhaps libraries' strength is that they are a refuge for authenticity. I agree that I think one of librarians' competitive advantages is our ability to understand and work collaboratively with the communities we're a part of, and that our transparency and lack of a profit motive makes us very strong in the authenticity arena. Granted, we have a ways to go in the cool arena, but we're getting there. :)

Categories: must_reads

Google launches customized search engine

Google launched a custom search engine service that promises to be a very neat tool for adding value to Web sites and service offerings. It could be yet another way librarians can showcase their expertise by building search engines for target audiences.

You can read more about it on Search Engine Watch.

What immediately drew my attention is the ability to collaborate with others on building the search engine. Specifically, "Contributors can add additional sites to be included or excluded in your Custom Search Engine and annotate them with any refinement labels that you have created." This could be a great way to interact with colleagues as well as patrons.

I have to play with this to comment on it more fully, but I'm definitely excited about this tool. As you experiment with it, I'd be glad to hear about your thoughts on how this might be applied for library marketing purposes.

[Thanks to forums for the tip!]

Categories: new_news | technology_tools

Weekly WOM - Tools to fuel the WOM fire

When doling out advice, WOM specialists usually tell practitioners to give people the tools they need to spread WOM. This is a pretty vague directive, but I recently stumbled upon an example from library land that might help make this idea more concrete.

I was playing around in the database Engineering Village, and noticed that when you click on an abstract, you'll find a button labeled "Blog This." When you click on it, you're given a piece of code that you can plop into your blog or Web site so that you can share the abstract with others. How great is that?! This functionality makes it easy to share a chunk of information that could otherwise be buried in a database and it allows bloggers to supplement the record with their own thoughts. It also helps to highlight the Engineering Village product. I really love this approach to raising the visibility of our high-quality library resources, and it's an excellent example of how we can help patrons to spread the word.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Ford tailgates customers as part of their market research

CNN reports on how Ford is using ethnographic research to build customer personas, which in turn form the basis of their car designs. Through survey research, marketers closed in on people who might like a particular kind of car and gave these people a name like "Phil." They figured out what the Phil's of the world like and dislike, and what their lives are like, etc. They then followed around a sample group of Phil's as the article describes, "They were followed in their homes, cars, offices and on shopping trips by researchers carrying note pads and video cameras. Their tastes in clothes, home furnishings, even beer, were noted. Everything they did with their cars, or wanted to do but couldn't, was noted and studied." Ford then built a car around Phil's lifestyle (which turns out to be a Ford Edge).

Of course, I'm wondering what librarians could discover about patrons by applying these research methods. What I like about this technique is that it puts researchers in the shoes of the customer to flesh out what survey data says. I'm not sure if this is a method that librarians would adopt, but I do think it's important when possible to step out of the librarian role to understand how patrons experience the library.

Categories: neat_trends | real_life

Friday, October 20, 2006

Creativity clips

If marketing is about adapting to ever-evolving customer needs, then marketing is also about change and risk - two things that don't come easy to most organizations. Maybe that's why so many Web authors write like crazy about how to overcome obstacles to creativity and innovation. Here are some of the pieces I picked up on this week:

1. Aaron Schmidt of Walking Paper addresses questions about how to beat organizational resistance to adopting new technologies. The questions came from audience members who attended the SirsiDynix presentation, "Engaging Youth on their Own Terms: Instant Messaging and Gaming in Libraries."

2. Blog About Libraries' Steve Backs asks if your workplace is a "Culture of No" or a "Culture of Maybe" (both are bad news for innovators) and points out Five Rules of Creativity from the Weiden and Kennedy ad agency.

3. Creativity guru Paul Williams offers a Mixed Tape of Weblinks that points out two books for those seeking to break free from the mold: Zag: The Number One Strategy of High-Performance Brands and The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary.

4. BusinessWeek online explains the danger of copycatting: "The lack of individuality makes it hard to remember, understand, or talk about brands. They lack the emotional appeal and intellectual trust needed to keep us loyal."

Categories: creativity_and_inspiration | resource_roundup

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

New skills, new services, new opportunities

Librarians, I've argued, aren't in the information warehousing business - we're in the improving people's lives business. We help people find, evaluate, and use information so that they can accomplish those things that are meaningful to them. Those "things" could be learning a new skill, completing major research projects, learning about a new or personally interesting topic, finding employment, doing self-exploration, filling in the family tree, communicating with friends, creating works of art or any one of countless activities that enrich patrons' lives. How exactly we go about our life-improvement business is changing. Patrons want and expect different things from us and they have more alternatives than they did in the past. These changes may be a little scary because they create a lot of uncertainty, but they are also incredibly exciting because they give us the opportunity to find new ways to apply our talents and resources. And we're not the only ones doing a lot of introspection these days.

Duct Tape Marketing blog author John Jantsch advises small businesses on marketing. In this post, John offers the following bit of advice, "This principle is one that every business can and should think long and hard about. How can you become more valuable to your clients. What can you offer to do, even if it's not really your job, that would help them be more successful, get better results, solve more problems. Do that, and you will find the universe will make you more successful in the process.[emphasis mine]" I agree. On a related note, I was doing research for an assignment and found this article about how the financial services industry is struggling with its own sense of purpose. The gist of the piece is that wealthy Baby Boomers demand more services from their financial planners. These clients don't just want financial advice anymore, they want input on their life goals, career choices, and help with how to achieve their dreams. Essentially, Baby Boomers want help with being successful in the big scheme of things, and right now they're unsatisfied with what planners have to offer. To meet these new demands, planners are going to need to develop entirely new skill sets and operations. They will have to broaden their areas of expertise and discover new ways of managing clients. Does any of this sound familiar?

The point of these two business examples is that we're not alone in confronting the question of how to redefine ourselves given the realities of the modern marketplace. Some of what we've always done will remain, but I believe that librarians will have to develop new skills (like marketing?) and uncover new opportunities to turn our stuff into meaning for patrons. We will have to become adept at finding ways of helping our patrons be successful in their pursuits. Doing so means that we will have to leave our comfort zones, continually refresh our skills, and become indispensable partners with our patrons. Our success, it seems, is directly linked to our patrons' success.

Categories: random_stuff

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

QR: The next big thing?

[photo from SlashPhone]

Wireless: Mobile Marketing in an Ink Blot discusses a technology already commonplace in Japan and South Korea - QR codes. QR stands for "Quick Response." These codes are like bar codes, but they look more like ink blots and they contain a lot more information. Customers read the codes by taking snapshots of them with Internet-enabled cell phones. For example, the article mentions that grocery shoppers can take pictures of QR coded meat packages and learn where the meat came from, what the cow ate, and where the meat was processed. The codes are also finding their way onto business cards and McDonald's food packaging.

I can only begin to imagine the potential uses for this in libraries. We could code signs, exhibits, promotional materials, and on and on. What I like is that the codes are interactive and that they add value and layers of meaning to objects. Consider how even the simple act of consuming hamburgers is changed just by knowing all about the cow they came from! I'm enthusiastic about marketing applications for tools like these that allow us to provide a richer experience for patrons.

What do you think about QR and it's possible applications?

Categories: technology_tools

Monday, October 16, 2006

Weekly WOM: Making friends online

If you only do one thing today, read today's NYT article that investigates how marketers are making new "friends" on sites like MySpace and Facebook. The tactics are certainly creative. Marketers are developing characters that people can befriend, and they sponsor games and give away prizes for referrals. Networking sites are also making accommodations for advertisers: "MySpace is even willing to change some of its standard features to help advertisers. For example, it normally lets members display photos of their top eight friends on their main profile pages. But people who added the movie "X-Men: The Last Stand" to their friends list were given the right to show 16 top friends." The impetus behind these tactics is to integrate marketers into social networks so that they can take advantage of their WOM-friendly features.

Categories: must_reads | neat_trends | promising_promotions

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Brush, floss, and market

It's always interesting to see how professionals in other fields approach marketing. Dental Economics has a nice piece on marketing to patients based on the generation they're a part of including Matures, Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y. The characteristics of the groups are described along with customized marketing tips for each. For Gen Y patients, for example, the author advises, "Gen Y patients do not want to be instructed on what to do, but steered through the decision-making process. Help guide them through it, while appealing to their search for passion and identity. As they begin taking ownership of their health, provide them with enough information to make educated decisions." Many tips are general enough that they have some applicability to the library community as well, but you'll want to take them with a grain of salt since the author is pushing her wares throughout this article and there are no references listed. Nevertheless, it's a good starting point for thinking about marketing focused on particular age groups.

Update: I found this in yesterday's New York Times: Not Getting Older, Just More Scrutinized provides an in-depth look at Baby Boomers and the challenges advertisers face in reaching them - a great read.

Update #2: USA Today reports on Gen Y: Gen Y sits on top of consumer food chain.

Categories: resource_roundup | tips_to_try

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Listening-centered marketing

A Click-Z article, Time For a New Model: Listening-Centered Marketing, calls for a new way of thinking about marketer/customer relationships. The author, Pete Blackshaw, notes that there is a tension between marketers' and customers' perceptions of the marketplace and their roles in it. To alleviate this tension, Blackshaw advocates a new marketing model whereby marketers continually listen and respond to needs as they arise. He goes on to offer building blocks for this model. Blackshaw describes the proposed model this way: "Listening-Centered Marketing thinks about measurements and metrics as continuous, and not mere time-stamps. It's about managing in a world where real-time conversation is held in equal esteem with a click, or a page view, even an actual "transaction." It's where the consumer "voice" gives us a much needed aperture to make better, more informed brand decisions."

Listening is a difficult still to master. It's even more difficult to do on an continual basis. It is, however, key to being ahead of the curve and proactive in addressing needs, which in turn creates value for customers.

Categories: tips_to_try | usable_theories

Monday, October 09, 2006

Defending libraries - Are new tactics the key?

This is probably old news to many of you by now, but since I've been out of the office and away from the computer for awhile, I'm playing catch up and found a piece that absolutely belongs on LM. John Blyberg of the Ann Arbor District Library wrote a strong and compelling response to a discussion surrounding an op-ed piece whose author argues against building a new downtown library. Sarah Houghton took a lead in defending the value of libraries in her response (way to go!) and the article has rustled a lot of other feathers, as evidenced by the 61 comments it generated to date. John's analysis is outstanding, and I won't endeavor to repeat it, so give it a read. Two points stand out to me after reading his piece - 1. The op-ed piece is extremely enlightening as to why some people are disenchanted with library services. I agree with John that it's important to listen carefully to these arguments because we need to be prepared to address them with words, actions, and/or new services. 2. Librarians are going to need be increasingly proactive, risk-taking and marketing-savvy to create value for people and to promote that value. As John says, "I think as we push further into the 21st Century, a lot of librarians are going to have to reconcile their expectations of what they think a library should be with what a library needs to be. This is hard, because in order to effect the changes needed to do business in this new, emerging market (yes, we're part of a market), and find a place among the commercial giants we need to be much more nimble than we are now." I agree that being in a defensive, reactionary position is detrimental to our work, and I was glad to read the thoughts in this post. What do you think?

Categories: must_reads | real_life

Peek in on marketing conversations at

I was quite excited and grateful when Dr. Paul Christ, editor of, invited me to be 1 of about 25 Founding Members of the site's brand new Marketing Forums. The Forums launched today and are intended to be, "a place where marketers can share experiences, receive advice, discuss current happenings, meet other marketers and much more." There are forums on all kinds of topics like marketing basics, research design, marketing plans, and technologies and trends, to name just some.

No, I'm not getting paid to do this and no, I'm not shamelessly self-promoting, but I do think the Forums present a worthwhile opportunity for librarians to peek in on the conversations and advice offered. There's no fee to read the entries and it looks like there are top-notch marketers participating. I'm sure I'll learn a lot and I hope you do too.

[In case you were wondering, I post under the mysterious pseudonym "jill the librarian" - creative, no?]

Update: I just received word that the Forums have not yet launched publicly due to a last-minute glitch. I didn't notice it on my end, so I apologize for any confusion. The goal is to resolve the problem today and if not, to launch tomorrow.
Update #2: Everything's up and running!

Categories: new_news | train_yourself

Time: Too high a price?

In library land, our services entail little or no direct monetary costs. Other costs, however, are quite high for many of our patrons. Specifically, I'm talking about time (and the lack of it). Research is a skill and like any other skill, it takes time to develop. Even pleasure reading is a trade-off of time for a variety of personal benefits. Unfortunately, time is what today’s patrons lack. I'm sure that this statement is hardly news for any of you who probably suffer from your own time deficits. What's newsworthy to me is the extent of this problem. The other day, a patron approached the desk in search of a golf pencil. When I asked if she was finding everything else alright, she responded, "Yeah, except the inside of my eyelids." It was about 9 or 10a.m. This statement reminded me of other conversations I'd heard recently. For example, a group of undergraduates were talking about the challenges of balancing full-time jobs with full-time schoolwork. One girl commented that she remembers breaking down into tears some days because she was so exhausted she didn't think she could function. Perhaps you've heard similar sentiments. How, then, can we expect even the most well-intentioned person to devote valuable time to leisurely or scholarly library pursuits?

In marketing, one of the much beloved 4 P's is Price. Marketers set a price that is a reasonable exchange for the benefits a product or service offers to a target market. When it comes to time, how can librarians set appropriate prices as time becomes increasingly valuable? I don't have a magic bullet answer to this question, but I do have a few ideas and I welcome your own:

  • Set realistic expectations: We don't want to promise too much or too little to our patrons when it comes to how much time something will take. It's great if we can speed up processes, but some services take a fixed time to deliver. We should do all we can to get patrons what they need quickly, but if we over- or under-promise, we risk dissatisfying them. Furthermore, it's dishonest to portray research or learning new skills as quick and easy. They're not. And I doubt any amount of technology or automation will make a substantial difference time-wise for many of these endeavors.
  • Promote the benefits: Sure, attending a library workshop or program will cost patrons 60 minutes, but focus on what they'll get in return. A new skill, a good time, better grades, or new insights are just some benefits patrons seek in exchange for spending their time. Promotion materials should focus on those benefits and the service should be carefully designed so as to be worth the cost.
  • Segment by time: In the for-profit world, marketers use characteristics like income to segment markets. In the library world, why not segment patrons by how much time they have to spend? On-the-go businesspeople, sleep-starved students and busy moms will likely prefer quick and convenient services at their points-of-need, whereas retirees may be more willing to attend longer programs. Of course, market research will be required to make these determinations, but segmenting by time is worth investigating.
  • Help patrons make more time: Highlight resources you have on topics like time-management or sponsor workshops on time-saving themes.
  • Creative distribution: Technology offers exciting opportunities to deliver what patrons need when and where they need it. RSS feeds allow patrons to get the news they want quickly when then want it, for example. Librarians are already investigating how they can get small, quick chunks of information and tutorials to patrons on demand by way of screencasts and podcasts. These strategies put patrons in control of how much time they spend on tasks and when they engage in them, thereby offsetting the time costs of services.
Have any other price-reducing tips?

Categories: real_life | tips_to_try | usable_theories

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

From push to pull - Ads on demand

EContent has as nice write-up about how customers are becoming content creators in the ad world. The article describes how customers are no longer satisfied to sit idly by as ads are pushed at them. Rather, they now seek to make ads the way they want, and watch them when they want, as user-generated content continues to shake up the marketing landscape. The author, Steve Smith, asserts, "The forward thinking (but too few) advertisers who are embracing this user-generated ad format appreciate that their products take on the personality and voice of the host, becoming part of the spirit of the show itself. What these marketers intuit, if not realize consciously, is that media are shifting from a content-centric to an audience-centric model." Smith contends that customers are now media explorers, not consumers.

I think it's an open question as to how librarians are to adapt to this trend, both in terms of services and promotions, but it's clear that we should recognize the desire for patrons to exercise greater control over the marketing messages they take in. As we devise our own promotions, how do we involve our patrons and engage them as co-creators?

Categories: neat_trends | promising_promotions

Monday, October 02, 2006

Weekly WOM: Increase the fun factor

The Church of the Customer blog reports on how one intrepid Southwest Airlines gate agent took matters into his own hands to perk up flyers after the A/C broke down at the terminal. The agent soothed weary travelers with his jokes, goofy hat and greeting everyone by name. According to the report, the heat was quickly forgotten, but the fun experience was not. As Jackie Huba sums up, "It was still hot as hell at the gate, but most folks made their way onto the plane with a smile on their face, as I did. The freedom to be fun. Yet another reason why Southwest has such strong word of mouth versus its competitors." The post also includes a chart from a HBR article, The One Number You Need to Grow (Hint: It's customer referrals).

This story reminded me of another one I read from the NYT that describes how one hotel is training its employees in the finer points of etiquette: "The program, begun in August, is meant to set Loews employees apart by their behavior, dress and personalized approach to sales." The intensive two-day training covers all manner of social and sales skills. As part of this new strategy, the hotel's sales people encourage their potential clients to have fun, try out the bed and use the bath products. It seems to be working as one client said, "'I saw a big change,' Ms. Cricks said. "I used to see the hotel as stiff and sterile. The site visit was very whimsical. It was definitely fun." And more important for the Regency, she said she planned to expand the list of clients she would steer there."

As these two examples suggest, there would seem to be a direct WOM-fun relationship. I know we're not in the entertainment business, but if airlines and hotels can insert a bit of humor into their routines, libraries can too. I can't speak for everyone, but a sense of humor is a very endearing quality to me in both people and companies. Fun, however, doesn't just happen. As these examples demonstrate, for fun to work, it has to be a part of the organizational culture and front-line staff have to feel empowered to take certain liberties depending on the situation. Doing so may not just be good for the funny bone, but also for fostering positive word-of-mouth.

Categories: creativity_and_inspiration | real_life

Friday, September 29, 2006

Why WOM?

I mentioned earlier this week that I wanted to revisit the idea of word-of-mouth (WOM) communications and why WOM is a particularly important concept for librarians to understand and put to good use. Today, I'm offering a brief intro into this idea that I'm going to develop further.

First of all, I have to say that I think every librarian should be required at some point in his or her career to take a course in services marketing. I'm doing just that this semester and though it's still early on in the course, I can't tell you how valuable what I'm learning is. We've covered topics about what makes a service a service, how customers form their expectations, and how to manage service operations, to name just a few useful topics - good stuff!

The piece that's relevant for this post has to do with service models, namely, a model for understanding service qualities. In a nutshell, this model suggests that there are 3 kinds of qualities for goods and services: search, experience and credence. Search qualities are those that you can easily evaluate before you consume a good/service. Tangible goods are usually high in these qualities. For example, it's pretty easy to figure out what the features, design, speed, etc. of a computer is before you buy one. Services/goods high in experience qualities can be only be evaluated during or after purchase. A good example of this would be a haircut. You don't know if it's good one until after the deed is done. Finally, goods/services high in credence qualities are hard to evaluate even after you've purchased them. How, for example, would you evaluate medical services? How do you know you got the best check-up possible? Tricky...

The point of all this is that I would argue that most library services are rich in credence qualities. To use reference as an example, most patrons have no clue if they received the "best" answer (and a lot of librarians struggle with that issue too!). This ambiguity makes the reference transaction a somewhat risky one because patrons don't know how to evaluate the help they're given. How do they reduce the risk and figure out a way to assess us? Answer: word of mouth. As authors of one research study state, "The role of WOM communication is considered to be particularly significant in a service context because the predominance of experience and credence qualities in services suggests that consumers experience a higher degree of perceived risk in making a purchase decision." It makes sense to me that patrons rely on other patrons to help them figure out how good of a job we're doing. Not only that, but social technology like blogs and online communities helps them spread the word fast and to a large number of people. For those of you who are regular LM readers, you know that WOM frequently pops up in business news as marketers try to figure out how to manage WOM in an increasingly connected world. WOM, then, is important. And it's very important for librarians. For these reasons, I'm going to dedicate a substantial amount of this blog's real estate to investigating WOM further. I'm aiming for a post a week dedicated to WOM research, news and strategies to help us get a handle on WOM in a library context. I'll also look forward to hearing about your own WOM insights.

Categories: neat_trends | promising_promotions | usable_theories

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Forthcoming book on citizen marketing

FYI: I received a notice today from the Church of the Customer authors about a forthcoming book they wrote entitled Citizen Marketers: When People are the Message. The the authors, Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba, state, "The forces of democractization are strong, and they are fueling what's happening online with content created by everyday people. We'll document the democratization of technology and personal expression and explain the sociological and psychological rationales of why creative and passionate people (the 1 Percenters) contribute their time and attention to brands."

I pass this notice along because this customer-generated content marketing trend is in the news quite a bit and this book looks like a promising way to make sense of it. For librarians, this could be an uncharted avenue for engaging patrons. The book will be released in early January '07. If and when I get a chance to read it, I'll pass my two cents along to you. [Update: Per Jackie's comment, the new release date is Dec. 1, 2006 (yeah!).]

Categories: must_reads | neat_trends

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Quality service starts from within

The Quality Service Marketing blog highlights the key findings of an internal marketing best practice study that examined the marketing practices of companies in various industries across the U.S. Among the findings are that employees are extensions of the brand, all employees regardless of rank can make a difference, and a strong corporate culture can translate into a strong competitive advantage. The last point about competitive advantage stood out to me because it hadn't occurred to me before. It makes sense that if "garbage in" = "garbage out" that the reverse is true and that our internal processes can make a significant difference in our service delivery and how we stack up to competitors. The Quality Services Marketing blog promises more discussion of the study in upcoming posts.

Categories: must_reads | research_and_reports

Monday, September 25, 2006

WOM gone awry?

The Boston Globe questions the future direction of marketing, and specifically promotion, in light of popular deceptions like lonelygirl15: "Whether or not lonelygirl15 is art, it certainly owes its popularity to its willingness to blur the line between fact and fiction. It's a strategy that, online and off, has been popping up increasingly, not only in underground publicity stunts but formal advertising campaigns." The article goes on to talk about word-of-mouth marketing and whether or not honesty trumps trickery for advertisers who are frustrated with traditional channels and seek some novel way to captivate their target audiences.

This issue is an important one for anyone engaged in marketing, including librarians. For reasons I will talk about this week on LM, word-of-mouth (WOM) has great potential for promoting library services. But, it needs to be done right. There's a difference between creating a little bit of mystery to engage people in marketing tactics, and outright lying to people. Contrary to what popular opinion may be, good WOM is honest. Good WOMers acknowledge their relationship to companies and don't misrepresent their products. The Word of Mouth Marketing Association has even developed a code of ethics that spells out appropriate WOM protocol. Ethical WOM marketing is important if consumers are expected to trust marketers and pay attention to what they have to say. Too much deception could further exacerbate the problem of getting people to tune in to marketing messages and damage brands in the long-term.

This week, I'll discuss why the good kind of WOM could be a great approach for librarians and one that merits more study and practice.

Categories: must_reads | train_yourself

Friday, September 22, 2006

RSS that makes sense

MicroPersuasion points to a helpful post that explains how to use RSS in a way that actually makes sense. For those of you promoting your libraries' RSS feeds, this post could give you some ideas about how to describe the benefits to users.

Categories: tips_to_try