Thursday, April 27, 2006

Power to the patrons!

I was really thrilled when I read the Church of the Customer's report that the BBC is going revamp its Web presence to make way for user-generated content and reader communities!  The short story is that the BBC going to great lengths to engage users with its services by putting its entire program catalog online, encouraging users to create their own blogs and post their videos to the site, and allowing for more customization. It's also asking people to help with the redesign to make use of what services like Flickr and YouTube offer.  The BBC says it bases these changes on three concepts:  share, find and play. (Shouldn't that be a library slogan?)

To my way of thinking, this is exactly the path libraries should be taking as well.  There'’s a shift going on with what patrons want to do with information.  They don'’t just want to find it, but they also want to create it, organize it and share it.  As information providers, it makes sense to accommodate these needs in our physical and online spaces.  This can seem a bit intimidating to those in library-land at first, as it may appear as though we're ceding some of our authority and control, but giving up control is a very good thing to the extent that it invites patrons to become active partners with our organizations rather than just occasional users.  These trends don'’t imply, however, that we need to give up our expertise, but rather, that we find other relevant ways to apply it.  For example, what about offering workshops on saving, tagging and organizing files and bookmarks, and allowing patrons to share some of their finds in a library-sponsored forum?  For me, these trends are very much in keeping with our mission and purpose.  After all, we are stewards of information, and if our patrons are generating content, what better way to demonstrate what we have to offer than to help them be successful in their own personal information endeavors?  In addition, we have always fostered and supported communities, so why not invite them into our virtual spaces to share their thoughts with others, just as we would in our physical spaces?    

From a marketing and service standpoint, the more personally involved patrons are with our libraries, staff and fellow patrons, the more strongly tied they will feel to our mission and success.  It's those personal connections which will help to guide, sustain and differentiate us as patrons are faced with ever more choices and alternatives.  I'm excited by all of the possibilities technology is offering us to help the library come alive for those who want more than a passive library experience, and I hope we'll be prepared to offer that level of interaction in all our services.  

Categories: neat_trends | new_news

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

One to hang on your wall

This short but inspiring post comes from the Duct Tape Marketing Blog, and it belongs pinned up in a special place on every librarian's wall. It's called, "Your Marketing Stinks and It's Your Fault." Inspired yet? Well, give it a read and you might change your mind! The post states the importance of defining what makes you unique and sticking to that quality no matter what. Doing this takes guts and a stomach for risk! Not doing this means your marketing will stink and, worse, your library itself may be destined for failure. [Note: Before posting to the wall, cross out references to "small business" and replace with "library."]

Categories: creativity_and_inspiration

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Market research you can use: Search engine user behavior provides access to "good resource nuggets that are freely available" on its Focus on Market Research Reports. One such report librarians may want to explore is Search Engine User Behavior Study (PDF) from iProspect. The results confirm what many of us know: most people click on links displayed on the first result page and almost all people alter their keywords if they don't see desired results in the first three pages. People also tend to stick with one search engine and a significant number tend to trust the companies that show up near the top of the first page, believing they are the best in their field.

Findings like these help to inform our understanding of our patrons and their behaviors, which in turn help us create better services.

Categories: research_and_reports

Monday, April 24, 2006

Book it to these new titles

It looks like I'm going to have to put some more books on my to-read list: Paul Williams of the Idea Sandbox Blog pointed out a forthcoming book entitled, The Bear Necessities of Business: Building a Company with Heart by Build-A-Bear founder Maxine Clark. Build-A-Bear has received some praise for designing customer experiences that foster good word-of-mouth and customer relationships. This book is about building an organization from the ground up, as Maxine did, but I'm interested to know if there might be useful insights for librarians here too.

The other book comes by way of a note from Pat Wagner on the AcademicPR listserv called, Real-Life Marketing and Promotion Strategies in College Libraries: Connecting With Campus and Community, edited by Barbara Whitney Petruzzelli. The description states, "Real-Life Marketing and Promotion Strategies in College Libraries is a "how-to" guide to marketing and promotional activities that will raise your library's visibility in the face of increased competition from other information providers."

Categories: must_reads

A plethora of presentations

Steven Cohen of Library Stuff fame posted a reminder about a presentation he gave on libraries and communities with SIRSI/DYNIX Institute, which prompted me to take a look-see at this and other offerings that are available on the site. There are lots of very promising presentations! In addition to Steven's, I'd also take a look at Alane Wilson's on the OCLC perceptions report (this got high marks from Candice Clevenger on her LibTalk blog). I've listened to Dr. Koontz's "Knowing Who We Serve Presentation," and would recommend it if you need some instruction in marketing basics like the 4 P's and segmentation. I also really enjoyed Pat Wagner's "Fast, Cheap and Decent Strategic Planning."

These and many more presentations are available on the SIRSI/DYNIX archive. Enjoy! :)

Categories: train_yourself

Friday, April 21, 2006

Taking stock of good ideas

Amazing ideas for products and services can come from anywhere and anyone. To capitalize on their organization's wealth of ideas, the founders of a company called Rite-Solutions created an internal stock market of ideas where employees from all ranks and positions could offer up their innovative proposals (complete with stock ticker) for other people to "invest" in. Every employee receives $10,000 in "opinion money" that they can invest in their favorite ideas. People who volunteer to work on successful projects share in the proceeds when their "opinion money" becomes actual money. Take a look at the full New York Times article, "Here's an Idea: Let Everyone Have Ideas," for all the details.

Wouldn't it be terrific if a process like this were used to help in marketing library services?! This could be used to help uncover inventive ways to do market research, and to design, promote and assess services. Maybe patrons could also have "opinion money" to invest! As CEO of O'Reilly Media, Tim O'Reilly asserts in the article, "creativity is no longer about which companies have the most visionary executives, but who has the most compelling "architecture of participation." That is, which companies make it easy, interesting and rewarding for a wide range of contributors to offer ideas, solve problems and improve products?"

Categories: creativity_and_inspiration

Thursday, April 20, 2006

A McIdea

Adrants reports that a McDonald's in Tulsa initiated a SMS (text) scavenger hunt where customers use their mobile phones to figure out clues and get mobile coupons (called mCoup's) in a campaign called Mobile Whoa!.

I don't know all of the behind-the-scenes agreements and such that went into getting this off the ground, but I don't see why libraries couldn't use text messaging with a scavenger hunt game or maybe even a research assignment as a way to promote resources in a fun way. Just a thought.

Categories: neat_trends | technology_tools

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Tell me what you do...

This post from Duct Tape Marketing caught my eye as it ties into a previous discussion about bibliographic points-of-view. The post is about how to answer the question, "What do you do for a living" in a way that demonstrates your value. The example used is that of a doctor who tells people he, "help[s] people stay in their homes longer, go to one more grandaughter's [sic] wedding and attend their great, great grandson's Bar Mitzvah."

What would librarians say? We help students get A's on their papers? We enrich people's lives through reading? We create community and opportunity for everyone?

A good book-to-be (?)

A big thanks to colleague Nicole McGee for always having my back and catching all the stuff I miss! Nicole's find comes from the Branding Blog and a post about a forthcoming book entitled, Waiting for Your Cat to Bark?: Persuading Customers When They Ignore Marketing. Nicole and I both agreed that the title alone was worth the read, but this looks like it strikes a chord with librarians and their work. Library services tend to fall into what's called an unsought product category, which consists of those things people don't normally think about seeking out unless they have to (like life insurance, for instance). [I'm overdue for a post about product categories, so keep your eyes peeled - I might just get to it!]. Now, the fact that our services are generally unsought until there is a pressing need, and that patrons/customers are more empowered than ever to be selective about the promotions they expose themselves to, means that it's pretty easy for them to filter us out. That's why I think this book could be really useful. The authors founded a company called Future Now, Inc. and have a patent-pending Persuasion Architecture methodology, which, from what I can gather, is used to apply customer information to Web designs that lead people to take action (in our case, use our stuff!). The book is based on this technique, but seems address both online and off-line sales strategies, so it will be interesting to see how widely applicable this idea of Persuasion Architecture is. The book is due out in June and if I get a chance to read it, I'll review it for you and let you know how it is or isn't relevant for us.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Innovation ingredients

BusinessWeek and the Boston Consulting Group ranked the world's most innovative companies. What do these companies have in common? A few characteristics stand out to me: a collaborative spirit and a knack for forming fruitful partnerships, incentives for the companies' creative thinkers, flat hierarchies with lots of internal communication, and looking outside of the organization for ideas. Libraries too would benefit from making innovation a top priority, since marketing depends on being able to creatively identify and fulfill patrons' needs. The author of the article states, "Today, innovation is about much more than new products. It is about reinventing business processes and building entirely new markets that meet untapped customer needs." While this sounds more than a little businessy, I do agree that libraries are relevant only to the extent that they serve patrons' purposes, and that to do this, libraries ought to be innovation hubs that encourage librarians to continually revisit how we do things and how we identify needs. I think you'll be interested in some of the approaches used by companies in this article to do these very things.

If you need a little help in keeping your own creativity muscle in shape (and who doesn't?), you may want to sign up for the Idea Sandbox's monthly e-newsletter. This month's creativity tip is all about how to avoid squashing good ideas before they even get off the ground.

Categories: creativity_and_inspiration

Get a grip on your community standing

This study conducted by the Urban Libraries Council has been floating around on the blogosphere, and details how successful Chicago libraries have bolstered their community standing and formed partnerships (from Infoblog). I checked out the "Engaged Library Toolbox" as other recommended, and it consists of a series of worksheets that take stock of your community and library assets. Essentially, it's a SWOT analysis that focuses on community building. The only piece I see missing from what I've read is guidance in deciding which of the potential opportunities you uncover should be pursued. Most of us can't do them all, which is why in addition to looking at strengths and opportunities as this toolbox does, it's important to look at threats and weaknesses. Doing so allows you to hone in on what you can realistically accomplish and/or fix the things you need to so that you can go after certain opportunities. This guide from outlines how to do a SWOT and also gives you an example of a SWOT Matrix that allows you to analyze what your SWOT means.

Categories:: tips_to_try

Monday, April 17, 2006

Need a buddy?

I'm working on getting my blog to be a bit more compatible with my whole marketing philosophy, which includes being accessible, personable and collaborative. To that end, I created a new screen name with AIM: JillatCabell (It's also now in my Blogger profile). Eventually, I'll stick an indicator on the blog that will tell you if I'm online or not, but feel free to add me to your buddy list and contact me if you'd like. This is one in a long line of blog changes I need to make. I'll get to them as I can and let you know!

Categories: random_stuff

Using WOM for library events?

The applications of word-of-mouth (WOM) are pretty much limitless. This article about using WOM at corporate events to increase sales struck me as useful to librarians who put on events and who give presentations and/or organize conferences. Some of the major tips include making sessions interactive, adding a surprise like an unexpected meeting place, and soliciting feedback. One tip I particularly liked had to do with setting WOM goals. When planning your event or session, think about what you want attendees to walk away from your event or session saying. Then, make sure you devise key phrases that capture your goal and design your session accordingly. I could see this being especially helpful in short conference sessions in which speakers try to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. By creating a key WOM phrase, participants can easily remember the main point and pass it along to colleagues.

A little event WOM magic could go a long way to making more interesting and memorable library events!

[Article from Creating Customer Evangelists blog.]

Categories: tips_to_try

Friday, April 14, 2006

Marketers seeking librarians

I was pretty thrilled to see this post from MarketingProf's Daily Fix blog called Opening Doors Without Key(word)s. The author pointed out that there are some things Google just can't find and that it's often hard to figure out which keywords to use if you're not quite sure what you're looking for (I am not making this up!). He also expressed remorse for the loss of the print card catalog as it lent itself to accidental discoveries (is this sentiment refreshing or what?!). Anyway, I had to post a comment reminding readers that librarians help people negotiate research questions all the time and that our online card catalogs do allow for discovery and are searchable even when you don't have complete information. Anyway, give it a read and just ignore my overuse of the word "great" in my comment. :)

Categories: must_reads

All competition is local

Our library is a pretty hopping place, most of the time.  Earlier this week, I wondered why so many people pack into this building to do things they could probably do elsewhere, like check e-mail or type papers.  I thought that it might have to do with a shortage of social spaces that are also conducive to getting work done on campus and that we fill an important niche.  This got me to thinking about the bigger picture of competition and the nature of competition in the library world in particular.

The more I thought about it, the more convinced I became of the idea that most competition is local, which is especially true for libraries.  Just think, even the biggest, most well-known brands only have a competitive edge to the extent employees on the local level respond to and get to know their neighbors.  A barrista who remembers my name and coffee drink from day to day is a more compelling reason for me to patronize Starbucks than the look and feel of Starbuck’s Web site, for example.  If that barrista is consistently rude and messes up my order, I’ll go to the competitor down the street, no matter how much equity Starbuck’s brand wields.

For libraries too, their success or failure seems to hinge on how the stack up to their competition locally.  If students can only find social space or an item on reserve at your library, than you definitely have an edge.  If you’re the only game in town for children’s programming on Saturday mornings, you may also have a distinct advantage.  Likewise, if a coffee bar with free WiFi opens up across the street, you may be in for some trouble, depending on the needs of your patrons.  It seems that the local scene is where the threats and opportunities lay, no matter what’s going on in the grander scheme of things.

Of course, any good marketing plan considers broader social, technological and environmental changes, as those things do indeed shape behaviors on the local level.  But when all is said and done, it comes down to what you can offer that the guy down the street can’t and finding a way to sustain that advantage.

No sooner was I thinking about all of this when MarketingProfs came out with an article on the topic called The Surprising Secret of Successful Differentiation.  In it, the author talks about how marketers should look beyond the core benefits of a product or service to find the feature they will use to distinguish themselves.  For libraries, we are not different because we provide information (lots of entities to that), but we’re different because provide expert assistance in finding a broad array of information that is just right for patrons while respecting privacy, preserving documents for the future, and providing education and programming, all without a profit motive!  We’re different in other ways too, but you get the idea.  

Getting a leg up on the competition is not about out-searching Google, or out-Wiki-ing Wikipedia, for instance.  It’s about integrating ourselves so tightly into our communities that we can offer personalized services that no one can match.  While we don’t want to neglect the larger world, our ability to match services to specific needs on the small-scale local level might be our most important advantage.  Agree?  Disagree?  Am I missing something?  Let me know!

Categories: usable_theories

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

What's your bibliographic point of view?

I've been watching this truly excellent show on the Food Network called, The Next Food Network Star. On the show, contestants have to compete with not only their cooking skills, but also their personality, timing, organization, you name it. In one episode, the judges instructed them to create a dish that reflected what they called, "your culinary point of view." Surprisingly, I noticed that the majority of the chefs were all over the place, culinarily speaking, and I didn't get a good sense of what they were all about. Believe it or not, this made a huge difference to me in how I responded to them and I strongly favored those who could clearly express who they are and why I should care about their food. The existing Food Network stars are great at this, by the way! Rachael Ray gets her meals done in 30 mins. or less; Alton Brown (my personal fave) is the master of food "edutainment"; and Emeril kicks it up a notch with BAM!

The point, you ask? I got to thinking that librarians would have an easier time selling their libraries and services if they too had a POV - a bibliographic one! In services marketing, the person providing the service is a huge factor in the service equation, so we as service providers ought to figure out what the heck we stand for. Doing so would be especially helpful in situations where we have one brief opportunity to make an impression on patrons, like in instruction sessions, at fairs and in presentations. Knowing what we're about will help patrons to identify with and remember us. We already have great examples in the library world: Steven Bell is the "Kept-Up" guy and Nancy Pearl is the over-the-top stereotypical librarian lady. Some of you might be the "cool new technology librarian," the "librarian who always knows the latest news/books," the "scholarly communication guru," or "the librarian who is the fun anti-stereotype." This POV idea is a lot like the one-minute commercial people throw out at job fairs, but this is more about you personally.

One problem I notice with our profession is that we always want to be everything to everybody. Not a bad motive in and of itself, but it can be bad when it muddles communication. Instead, pick one thing about your job that love, are passionate about and good at, and try to eventually personify that "thing" when you interact with patrons. After they get to know you, they'll see your other sides, but your POV could get you a foot in the door (just look at that nametag guy! His "thing," by the way, is approachability!).

Category: tips_to_try

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The alternative teen scene

I've been meaning to post about this incredible find for a while now: If you work with teens, you really ought to make Alternative Teen Services one of your top must-read blogs. The content is just fantastic, with two teen services librarians' views on working with their patrons. Here's their description: "Welcome to the Alternative Teen Services web site. This web site is the collaborative effort of two teen librarians who work for the Kansas City Public Library. It is a grassroots publication tool that we use to share our personal ideas and our collection of resources with the public. It is not an authoritative source on working with teens. Instead, it is a look at our take on serving teens, what we think is important, and a collection of resources that other teen librarians can use such as program ideas, collections ideas, and general theory for serving teens. We want this web site to be fun, informative, and inspirational"

The authors seem really passionate about what they do and they have lots of creative programming ideas. I first found them when reading the post, Library 2.0 Services to Teens, which lists public libraries that are connecting with teens through podcasting, MySpace, blogs, etc. Very neat! The authors are also looking for contributors, if any of you are so inclined.

Categories: resource_roundup

Monday, April 10, 2006

Lusting for info: A new trend from's latest trendy-trend is what they term INFOLUST, which is (you guessed it), customers' insatiable cravings for on-the-spot information. The report is a fascinating discussion of how existing and emerging technologies will empower people to find out anything about anything no matter where they are. I was particularly interested in the merging of the physical and the virtual with SMS codes placed on physical objects (like "for sale" signs in yards) that can be entered into cell phones to get full details (like square footage, asking price, etc.). While most of this report has to do with information in the consumer sense, trends like these will certainly shape patrons' expectations and the ways in which we think about and deliver services. As the report concludes, "INFOLUST is obviously not about advertising, it's about pull, not push. So are you providing your customers with every price, product, comparison, and story element that you can, on THEIR terms, not yours? Are you making this information available to them wherever they need it most, accessible through whatever channel or device they prefer, so they can get the best of the best, the cheapest of the cheapest, the first of the first, the healthiest of the healthiest, the coolest of the coolest?" Food for thought!

Categories: neat_trends | technology_tools

Friday, April 07, 2006

Cruising the LII

I was poking around on the Librarians' Internet Index to scope out its marketing resources, and I found a few things you might be interested in that have some general applicability:

  • The Library of Congress' Market Segmentation guide has, "books and other resources that discuss marketing to particular segments of the population along with other sources that are important in determining the size and power of a particular market segment." It includes generational, ethnic, geographic and other segments (complete with LC Subject Headings, of course!).

  • HispanSource is, "is your one-stop source for information related to the U.S. Hispanic/Latino community. Use HispanSource to develop sound business plans, marketing plans, and sales strategies."

  • AdCracker: I have only just begun to play with this resource, but it looks promising. While the site is devoted to selling the AdCracker software, there are some neat free features that help to unleash some of that advertising creativity bubbling beneath the surface.
Categories: resource_roundup

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Hello? What's this?! A new blog!

This will teach me to keep up with my feeds: MarketingVOX reports that (as you all know by now, is one of my top marketing sites) now has (drumroll...) a blog! Yes! Ok, you can tell I'm more than a little excited by this news. The blog is aptly named, Daily Fix, and I'm addicted!

No answer is ever final

One concept that raises its head in buyer behavior lit but that I don’t hear much about in library land is the idea of post purchase evaluation.  Just getting patrons to use the library and its resources is only half the battle.  The other half is convincing them they’ve made a good choice long after they’re done.  Patrons may evaluate whether or not going to the library was such a great idea for quite some time after they attended a workshop, event or asked a question.  For example, maybe that student you helped with citations on Monday types his paper on Friday and realizes you were referring to the wrong style guide.  Or, he sings your praises for teaching him all about your library’s nifty new citation management software.   Whatever the case, we never really finish our transactions with patrons, which is why those interactions are more like relationships.

Here are some ways that we could help reinforce patrons’ sense of satisfaction with library services after their visit (in-person or online):

  • Ask workshop and program attendees to provide their e-mail addresses on an optional basis.  Then, a few days to a week later, send them an e-mail asking them how their projects are going and if you can be of further assistance.

  • Be liberal with your contact information so that patrons you’ve helped can easily get in touch with you by phone, e-mail or live chat if they have follow-up questions or concerns.  Foster conversation and put a friendly face on the library through blogs, wikis, discussion boards and live chat.

  • Surprise patrons by sending hand-written thank-you’s to a random group of those who recently borrowed items along with some recommended readings or library news.

  • Give patrons something tangible to walk away with such as research guides, tip sheets, your business card, a summary of resources and strategies you discussed, etc. to serve as reminders of the terrific service they received and to avoid possible frustration later as they try to remember what they learned.
Share your tips too and leave a comment!

Categories:  tips_to_try | usable_theories

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Marketing now has a manifesto

"It is not about targeting audiences, it is about engaging communities. It is not about delivering key messages, it is about facilitating conversations. It is not about control, it is about empowerment." Posted by: Jeffrey Treem

"It" is marketing and this is just one sentiment expressed in Jaffe Juice's Marketing Manifesto. I think you will be floored (and excited) by how these marketing values are not entirely dissimilar to librarian values, broadly speaking. This is an incredibly exciting time to market library services as marketing becomes more humanized and we are challenged to find new ways to forge meaningful relationships with patrons. Give the manifesto a read to see how progressive marketers view what they do, and why librarians should throw out some of their old, preconceived notions of what marketing is all about.

Categories: creativity_and_inspiration

The marketing power of metadata

ResourceShelf points out a new publication from PerX entitled, 'Marketing' with Metadata - How Metadata Can Increase Exposure and Visibility of Online Content. It's an interesting piece but I'll leave it to those of you more knowledgeable about these topics to judge its usefulness.

Categories: research_and_reports

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Know this!: Advertising

Another installment of's excellent Principles of Marketing Tutorial has arrived: Advertising. This tutorial is just terrific! In this part, you will learn about the importance of advertising, how to manage advertising decisions, and also trends. Yeah!

Categories: train_yourself

Blog power!

"Harness the Marketing Power of Blogs" (via MSNBC) is a short article about how and why blogs are great marketing tools. It lists how organizations can benefit from blogs and some tips for being a successful blogger. This may be a nice piece to pass along to those who have yet to be converted. ;)

Update: The Duct Tape Marketing Blog has more on blogging and some creative ways in which you can offer blogs as service to customers [patrons]. I've always thought the library could be a resource for blog training and helping patrons set up their own, which is one of the ideas the author suggests. Take a look at the other ideas, here.

Categories: must_reads

One heck of a how-to!

WOM Basic Training posted my favorite how-to to date: Democratizing Marketing. The post has 5 tips for opening up the marketing process to get the word-of-mouth ball rolling, and they're also excellent pointers for librarians! Here's the list with my comments, but see the original post for all the details:

1. Wow 'em with your product. A great product generates great buzz. There's not a company or library out there that can't use this tip!

2. Meet an unmet need. Good librarians have built-in unmet need detectors. Putting the detectors to work even outside the library is a good way to find niches to fill.

3. Become a resource for information. Ding! Ding! Nailed this one! But, we can always find new and exciting ways to apply our expertise and make it relevant for patrons.

4. Create community. Marketing is all about relationships and making them meaningful. Not only can we serve communities, we can spark them! (I've also written about this topic recently, here and here).

5. Invite them to help create marketing. The days of employing marketing to talk at patrons is over. Marketing is a dialogue that begs for patron involvement.

Categories: must_reads | tips_to_try

Monday, April 03, 2006

Average Joe advertisers

USA Today has more on how customer-generated content is leaving its mark in the Advertising world. The article outlines how average Joes are lending their creativity to some big players including Converse, Ban and MasterCard. These mini case studies could certainly be adapted for libraries in our advertising endeavors. For instance, I liked the MasterCard approach of asking customers to fill in the blanks in an ad featuring a man sitting in a field with a typewriter. What about patrons doing something similar with a library theme? Take a look at the article and see if any of the ideas would translate well to your institution!

Categories: neat_trends | tips_to_try