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