Monday, July 31, 2006

Taking the "non" out of "non-user": Part 3 of 4

You know what your problems are and what you want to achieve, but now you have to actually bring your non-users into the fold. What do you do?

Welcome to Part 3: Possible tactics

The AMA defines tactics as "short-term actions undertaken to achieve implementation of a broader strategy." The assumption made is that you have a strategy in place before you start thinking about tactics (see Parts 1 and 2). The following tactics may or may not fit your strategy, so take them as starting-off points rather than prescriptions. Also, please do share tactics or strategies that have worked for you!

  • Bring a friend: I'm a fan of the idea that our current patrons could be terrific partners in reaching out to new patrons, particularly since there is so much distrust of traditional forms of promotion. One way to do this would be to sponsor a "Bring a Friend" event, where current patrons bring friends and family who have never been to the library, have them sign them up for a library card, and enter a raffle. You could even feature your more enthusiastic borrowers by asking them talk to the newcomers about what the library means to them.
  • Win over key leaders: Every community has key leaders and influential people who may prove to be effective in getting non-users inside your doors. Are there any civic, business or social groups in your community that could benefit from what your library can offer? Contact the leaders of these organizations for a brief meeting or presentation in which you outline specifically how the library can be an asset to members. Perhaps offer to lead an on-site workshop on a topic of interest to members. To be convincing, you may have to change/redesign/repackage your services to fit the needs of these targeted groups. For example, last month the Associated Press reported that libraries in New York and Pennsylvania are reaching out to small business owners through customized online resource aimed at helping them to write business plans and do market research. Tailoring your services leads to the next tip...
  • Differentiate yourself: It's likely that one reason your non-users haven't made the leap to users is that they probably don't understand why your library's services are different or more useful than other sources of information they regularly use. When you reach out to these community members through e-mail or print mailings, events, etc., be sure to let them know what it is you can do for them that no one else can. Marketers call this your Unique Selling Proposition, and if you have one, flaunt it whenever possible. However, positive selling points will vary between target markets, so it's useful to fit your USP to each segment.
  • Let people talk back: Perhaps your non-users have all kinds of good reasons for not visiting your library, but how will you know what they are (and how to address them) on an ongoing basis unless you give people opportunities to share their thoughts with you? As you go out into the community, make it a point to ask people what you could do differently or better, or for any "Wouldn't it be cool if...?" ideas they may have. Include suggestion cards with mailings or when doing outreach events, and make sure that your Web site clearly shows how patrons can contact staff with questions or concerns.
Next up, Part 4: Additional Considerations & Final Thoughts

Update: Steve Backs of Blog about Libraries has some great points about differentiation that are worth taking a look at.

Categories: tips_to_try

Thursday, July 27, 2006

What your clothes say about you (and your library)

Thanks to Sophie over at Pop Goes the Library for a great word-of-mouth/general promotion idea: customized hoodie sweatshirts. Check out her post to find out how you can customize your clothing for library events or just to make people jealous of your keen fashion sense. :)

Categories: promising_promotions

Word-of-mouth tips from the PIO

ALA's Public Information Office (PIO) has made materials available from its most recent PR Forum, Word of Mouth Marketing @ your library. You'll find handouts, a presentation outline, and Naperville Public Library's communication policies and guidelines.

Categories: resource_roundup | train_yourself

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Keeping bad things out of the way of good causes

Today's resource comes by way of a university colleague who works in the area of health promotion. She recommends the site for finding promotion/advertising guidance for public interest groups and other non-profits. The site's owner, Andy Goodman, is a communications consultant who "specializes in helping public interest groups, foundations, and progressive businesses communicate more effectively through print, broadcast media, and the Internet." If you click on the Publications link, you'll find some great, free publications, including the one recommended to me, Why Bad Ads Happen to Good Causes.

Hope it's helpful!

Categories: must_reads | promising_promotions | resource_roundup

Monday, July 24, 2006

A tactical tip on reverse testimonials

This tactical tip comes by way of John Jantsch of the Duct Tape Marketing Blog. If you already collect patron testimonials, John suggests a way to get more mileage from them: create a 10-12 postcards with the client's (patron's) testimonial, an offer and your contact information, and direct the client to jot a handwritten note on the postcards to send to people who could use the information. This can be done cheaply in-house and sounds like a good way to get patrons sharing their terrific library experiences with one another!

Speaking of tips, the AcademicPR listserv began a Forum where librarians can share their ideas without the flood of e-mail messages that ensues. The most recent topic of discussion is library giveaways.

Categories: tips_to_try | promising_promotions

Friday, July 21, 2006

Taking the "non" out of "non-user": Part 2 of 4

Once you have a good idea of what's keeping potential patrons from becoming actual patrons, you'll also want to come up with some objectives for your marketing initiative, which brings us to:

Part 2: What are you trying to do? (Setting goals)

You may be thinking that the goal here is obvious - you want non-users to become users. Doing so, however, is not as straightforward as it may seem. What, for example, defines use and non-use? Patrons may be users in some respects, but non-users in others. Perhaps you have teens who are heavy users of your library's computing resources, but they don't take advantage of your homework help service or your electronic databases. Also, what about patrons who simply don't have any relationship whatsoever with your library? Do you want to get them through your doors for programs and events? Or encourage them to sign up for library cards? Or prompt them to utilize your online resources? All of the above? If you don't know who you want to do what you'll have a hard time persuading anyone to do anything. Your marketing efforts will come across as jumbled and irrelevant, and you'll waste a lot of time and money in carrying them out.

For these reasons, you'll want to choose a population (target market) and an objective(s) related to that population's needs. Hopefully, the direction you take became apparent as you identified the problem. During your initial investigation, you could find, for instance, that a substantial group of your non-users (however you've defined it) happen to be working mothers who would like more children's programming at convenient hours. Now you know "who" (a market segment of working mothers in a particular geographic area with children of a certain age...) and "what" (children's programming that takes place during hours that are convenient for working mothers). At this point you can customize your marketing strategy to address the needs of this group and create promotions that ask people to take a specific action (attend the programs). Also, it's usually best to set some kind of numerical and/or measurable goal. In this example, you could set goals for the number of attendees or levels of satisfaction with the programming.

What's difficult about this is that hard choices have to be made. We want to reach out to everybody, but it's virtually impossible to appeal to all non-users in the same way because they all have different needs and characteristics. (If you can do this, by the way, you have a very lucrative career waiting for you in marketing!) Ultimately, you have to select and target the groups you can serve most effectively. Remember too that marketing plans don't last forever. You can target one group for the next six months to one year and then adopt a new strategy. You can also implement more than one strategy at a time. The idea here is to have a crystal clear plan of what you want to accomplish, focus your efforts on that target group and desired outcome, and assess if you met your goals.

Stay tuned for Part 3: Possible tactics.

Categories: tips_to_try

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Taking the "non" out of "non-user": Part 1 of 4

Attracting those who don't yet use library services is an ongoing challenge for all libraries. In fact, I suspect most of your marketing efforts include, to varying degrees, reaching out to non-users. As I mentioned back in May, I'd like to give this topic focused attention. While the overall marketing considerations don't vary drastically from marketing aimed at current users, there are enough differences to warrant special consideration. In addition to the points I mention, I'm always very interested to know what your experiences have been, since we all have unique situations and user populations that can lend some insight into this issue. [Note: This series isn't intended to be a step-by-step program, but rather a collection of factors to take into account when marketing to non-users.]

Without further ado, let's get on with Part 1: Figuring out the problem:

There may be lots of reasons why people don't use your library, and they may not be what you assume. Maybe they just don't like libraries in general. Or, maybe they love libraries but are pressed for time, can't accommodate the hours you're open, or regularly can't find what they need at your library. Perhaps they had some very bad service experiences or don't care for your particular library environment (too loud, too quiet). The answer can be any one of a number of things, but the first step in reaching your non-users is figuring out what exactly is getting in the way of them becoming regular library patrons. As you can see, the problems you identify will make a considerable difference in your marketing planning. If, for example, the problem is poor customer service, you'll want to concentrate on service training and communications that promote your new and improved service (once it actually is new and improved, of course)! If, on the other hand, your non-users just don't like libraries in general, maybe you need a promotion campaign focused on repositioning and creating awareness of the benefits that modern libraries have to offer.

How can you go about identifying the problem? You may already have a strong sense of what's holding people back based on your personal experience, but you should probably consider doing some exploratory research to test your impressions. Perhaps conducting some focus groups will give you a rough idea about what the major issues are. Also, take advantage of opportunities that present themselves to talk with people in the community about their library use. Then, if needed, you can design and conduct a community-wide survey that assesses the problematic areas to determine which ones are the most pressing.

This important step may seem simple, but it's not! Getting at the underlying root causes of non-use requires more than just guesswork. It requires some focused inquiry and research. Getting it right can make the difference between a marketing success and a marketing flop.

Next: Part 2: What are you trying to do? (Setting goals).

Categories: tips_to_try

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Coming to a theater near trailers!

NPR's John Ydsti reports today on one of book publishers' novel marketing ploys: book trailers. Just like movie trailers, book trailers give audiences glimpses into what's going on between the covers of the latest titles. Some of these trailers are selectively aired in theaters near bookstores to prompt those post-movie purchases, while others are Web-only productions. For a discussion of this tactic, see the CBC's piece from earlier this month, "View to a Thrill."

Categories: new_news | promising_promotions

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Enlivening e-mail

For many of us, e-mail is an important promotional tool, but are we using it to its fullest potential? A marketing research report featured on suggests that e-mail subject lines that are very specific have the best chances of increasing conversion rates (or, in our case, getting patrons to read the e-mails and/or take an action). The report comes from where you can find numerous reports on e-mail marketing, including one about launching effective e-mail campaigns that reveals ten key points for getting the most out of e-mail.

As I was looking around on, I also found a terrific article, Putting Personality into your E-newsletter. Yes! Thank you, MarketingProfs! (Free registration required). I like this article because it recognizes the distinction between adding a touch of human authenticity and going overboard with getting way too personal, and instructs people on how to find the right balance.

Update: The 7/17/06 edition of the Wall Street Journal has an article called, "Marketers Give Email Another Look" that describes research done regarding which parts of an e-mail message get the most attention. The research found that graphical icons and terms like "solutions" raised some eyebrows, but that the word "free" got little notice.

Categories: research_and_reports | tips_to_try

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Fantastic failures

One thing I've learned since beginning my professional career as a librarian is that it is much, much worse to favor the status quo than to embrace risk (and the unavoidable "failures" that experimenting brings). To point out the obvious, the pace of change only gets faster. To keep up, we need to be creative and daring in how we tackle the future. That's why I'm pleased to see that creativity is getting its due in marketing/business and education circles.

Take two recent articles from BusinessWeek online: How Failure Breeds Success and Inside Google's New-Product Process. The former details how businesses are trying to reshape their workplaces into creativity labs that embrace the speed bumps (or potholes) on the road to breakthroughs. These companies are even highlighting failures in their presentations and workshops so to deconstruct the creative process and figure out why some things didn't work. The article's author states, " "Getting good" at failure, however, doesn't mean creating anarchy out of organization. It means leaders -- not just on a podium at the annual meeting, but in the trenches, every day -- who create an environment safe for taking risks and who share stories of their own mistakes. It means bringing in outsiders unattached to a project's past. It means carving out time to reflect on failure, not just success." The author also points out that there's a difference between pointless failures and intelligent ones. Intelligent failures allow employees to see their customers and their problems in a new light. These moments of insight could be the early stages of later successes.

Google seems to get this concept and welcomes the failures that come along with successes, as discussed in the other article. Google's vice-president of search products and user experience, Marissa Mayer, talked about the company's perspective and said, "The way you find really successful new innovation is to release five things and hope that one or two of them really take off." She also describes Google's product design philosophy where teams work together to "build a vision" around the product while leaving plenty of room for changes and flexibility so that creativity is not driven out of the process.

Related to the value of failures, Harvard Business School's Working Knowledge interviewed authors of a working paper entitled, "Accident, Innovation, and Expectation in Innovation Process," written by Robert D. Austin and Lee Devin. The authors identify numerous innovations that happened by accident including anesthesia, Ivory soap, nylon, penicillin and photography, and point out that many such discoveries happen when people are tuned in to noticing the value of accidents as a way to envision other possibilities. They also point out that fixating too much on a particular end result when one is trying to anticipate unknowns can backfire by shutting out creativity.

Business-types are not the only ones honing in on the practical importance of creativity. Steven Bell reported that Tufts University is rethinking its admissions strategy, giving weight to students' creative prowess in addition to their test scores and GPA's. Today, Bell also shared a presentation by author Sir Ken Robinson in which he argues that education stifles creativity.

Why do I continue to talk about creativity and risk-taking on a library marketing blog? I do so because marketing is all about anticipating the unknown. We conduct surveys, analyze trends and statistics, organize focus groups and all kinds of other things with the purpose of figuring out (guessing) what people need and imagining ways to fill those needs. Doing this takes a leap of faith. We have to believe our information is accurate, that we're interpreting it correctly and that the services we come up with are useful and needed. When we're talking about something as amorphous as needs and wants, it's impossible to be 100% right 100% of the time. The only thing we can do in marketing 100% of the time is innovate and learn. A lot of times, I hear people say that library work isn't life-or-death work. Why, then, should librarians behave as if their actions (or failures) carry that kind of weight? I don't want to demean the importance of what we do or the decisions we make. Librarians do some of the most culturally and socially important work there is, which is why I chose to become one. But, relatively speaking, the impact of possible failures from smart experimentation are relatively small as compared with the truly risky prospect of doing nothing at all.

Catgories: creativity_and_inspiration | must_reads | real_life

Monday, July 10, 2006

Marketing trends are catching on

Today's Wall Street Journal gives special attention to how businesses are trying to attract attention, in its special reports on marketing! Two articles of particular interest to library-land inhabitants are The Marketing Maze and, from the Advertising section, Dell Skips Tech Talk for a More-Personal Link (yep, a subscription is required to read these). The former reports on the various communication channels marketers are exploring to snag a piece consumers' increasingly divided attention. Marketers seek to fuse themselves into life events, as one marketer put it, rather than relying on the more traditional approaches they've used in the past. The messages are becoming increasingly more targeted, and so are the marketing channels. Exciting times for sure!

The second article is an especially important one for service providers. The article sketches out the new marketing initiatives Dell is undertaking to portray its products as more than just an assembly of technology components. Instead, the company wants to highlight the emotional aspects of computing, such as sharing photos and making videos, employing the tagline, "Purely You" to capture this focus on personalization. A brand consultant remarks that this is a good move because competing on product features alone isn't enough since other companies can easily duplicate those advantages. In library services where so much of what we do is intangible, good marketing relies in part on an understanding and appreciation of patrons' emotional connections with the library.

You can also listen to a WSJ podcast about how marketers are trying to sort out the effectiveness of their advertising campaigns in this new marketing environment.

Categories: must_reads | neat_trends

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Perfecting PR released yet another module of its Principles of Marketing Tutorial: Public Relations. As with the other modules, this one is excellent for getting a grasp of the basics. The tutorial covers topics like what PR is, its advantages and disadvantages, PR tools and trends (including blogs and podcasts!).

Categories: train_yourself

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Beyond "outside the box": Three new books on marketing and creativity

Welcome back! I hope you all had a great Fourth of July holiday!

To get you back in a marketing mindset, the New York Times reviews three new books on the topic of sparking creativity in the business/marketing world: Juicing the Orange, How Invention Begins and Funny Business. Of these, Juicing the Orange appears to have the best reviews and seems to be more focused on marketing in a broad sense. The authors lay out a seven-step creativity plan, including some downright intriguing steps like, "always start from scratch" (don't we usually try to avoid doing this?) and "find a 'proprietary emotion' you can appeal to". I'm excited to read it once I widdle down my reading pile a bit. If you get to reading it before I do, please feel free to leave your take on it in the comments!

Update: BusinessWeek online has another review of Juicing the Orange.

Categories: must_reads