Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Location, location, location

I have this theory that people don't read signs. I think it's true for the most part. There's not a wall on campus that isn't slathered with flyers, so it's no wonder that people pass over them as just another piece of clutter in their already cluttered visual world. But, every once in a while, despite all the competing information, a message gets through. How does this happen, and better yet, how can we make it happen for us? Part of the answer at least seems to be location and messaging.

I was reminded of this last night when some friends and I paid a visit to our nearest Starbucks. On my coffee sleeve I noticed a quote from a scientist about mountains and their significance. The message prompted me to visit Starbucks' site The Way I See It where people can read more quotes that serve as points of discussion. Maybe this is only news to me, but I thought this was a good example of how thoughtful placement of an interesting message can get people to take a desired action like visiting a certain site.

Here are some other placement/messaging ideas being discussed lately:

Put It In Its Place suggests 5 questions marketers should ask themselves about placing advertisements, including Does the location draw your best prospects?; Does the ad appear in the right context?; Can your place-based ad influence a purchase [action]?; Is the venue appropriate for your company's [library's] message?; Can your place-based advertising create community goodwill?

In the book world, some authors are leaving nothing to chance with their location strategies. They're taking their books right into people's workplaces. According to the New York Times, authors are conducting readings in business offices because, "The idea is to reach people who rarely buy books and might otherwise never attend a reading."

Just getting your message to the right place is half the battle. The other half is creating an effective message. Emily Bennington at Marketing Genius says that one of marketers' biggest shortcomings is a lack of clarity. To make your meaning clear, Emily advises marketers to picture their target customer who knows nothing about your business, and then picture that person walking down a crowded street distracted by kids and then decide if your message has what it takes to cut through it all.

In a recent article, Sridhar Ramanathan discusses The Power of Excellent Messaging. He writes that great messaging answers the questions Who are you?; What do you do?; Why does that matter? Ramanathan also provides links to further reading on the topic.

Don't be the clutter - cut through the clutter! Happy messaging!

Categories: resource_roundup | tips_to_try

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

What's up with word of mouth

I've been reading a lot of good stuff out there on WOM, and want to pass along some of the highlights to you.

Church of the Customer always has thoughtful posts on WOM, but these in particular are quite interesting:

  • Word of mouth: Mostly offline and positive - this post cites a recent study that revealed 92% of word of mouth happens offline! As Jackie says, "It's pretty clear, though, that the most word of mouth occurs primarily while we're not sitting in front of computer screens." It's a good reminder that we need to keep our eyes and ears open in the "real world" in addition to the online one. Oh, and that we need to get out of the office!
  • Why opt-in is your friend points out the need for marketers to create opportunities for customers/patrons to opt-in to get updated information. In my experience with creating an opt-in e-mail listserv for undergraduates, I've found it to be invaluable. We pass out a sign-up sheet in classes or at events, and in one case we gave a free cup of coffee to those who signed up, and we use the low-traffic listserv to pass along new events and services to students. I've also had a lot of luck recruiting for focus groups using the list. Opt-in is so effective because it reaches the students who care about what's going on at the library without spamming everyone.
  • More on the "new traditionalists" vs. the "WOM progressives" - This post reports on a potential split among WOMers who fall into two camps: those who think WOM should produce immediate, short-term results (new traditionalists) and those who think that WOM is all about nurturing long-term customer relationships (WOM progressives). You can check out the original post for more details. Whichever camp you fall into, you'll still want to know how to measure the effectiveness of your WOM efforts. To do this, Marketing Genius offers 5 very simple steps for tracking marketing effectiveness. The biggie? Ask people how they found out about the library/event/class/whatever.
  • While WOM is a very promising strategy, it doesn't mean turning over all the marketing work to customers. A WOM campaign takes strategy, ongoing attention and a lot of work! For some good advice, Successful Marketing is More Than 'Word of Mouth' addresses how to market effectively.
Categories: tips_to_try | resource_roundup

Rockin' and rollin' at the library

The Boston Globe describes how a few dozen public libraries in Michigan have become venues for rock concert tours (Library sheds stuffy image with rock band). The bands play for about an hour, and then open it up for a Q&A period. In a new twist this year, bands now let the audiences help them write a song at the end of the show (sounds like open-source marketing to me)! As the librarian who got this project going says, "My goal is to change the image about what people think about public libraries...You take something that appears to be complete opposites, rock 'n' roll music and libraries, and it makes for an explosive combination."

Categories: new_news | real_life

Friday, May 26, 2006

Continuing the conversation on co-creation

As many of you know from reading LM, I'm convinced that library marketing is becoming an open-source endeavor shared by librarians and patrons. However, just what that means and how to do it are key questions that marketers are trying to sort out. I've been reading over a series of posts on What's Your Brand Mantra that address this idea of co-creation and how it's different from collaboration, and there's been an excellent discussion going on. Give these a read:

I'd recommend reading the comments too, because they flesh out the discussion and highlight a number of related books and articles. One comment pointed to the Customer Innovation Blog and a post where the author proposes two factors that distinguish the many different styles of co-creation along with a PowerPoint slide that presents the 8 different styles of co-creation that emerge.

I'd like to hear your thoughts on these entries. In services, we're always developing our "products" along with our patrons, but to varying degrees. Marketing services in this way is tricky because, as What's Your Brand Mantra author Jennifer Rice points out, "Services: This is another tough one. Typically a service company exists to do something that a customer doesn't want to do." However, I think there's great value in co-creation. By working closely with patrons, we gain insights into their needs, get greater buy-in, and increase transparency so to build trust and strengthen relationships. So, how then, in libraries, can we motivate patrons to participate in our service development and to what extent? I'll revisit this topic next week with some thoughts, but please share your own!

Categories: must_reads | neat_trends | resource_roundup

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Mixing it up with SIVA

Ok. I admit it. I'm a marketing geek. I love to learn about marketing theories and principles, and I especially like learning about new ways to interpret and use them. After all, many of those basic principles guide our planning and implementation. So, I thought you'd be interested in an article I read recently that proposes a new approach to the traditional marketing mix (the 4 P's) that is the backbone of most marketing strategies, namely, product, price place and promotion.

The article is entitled "In the Mix: A Customer-Focused Approach Can Bring the Current Marketing Mix into the 21st Century" by Chekitan S. Dev and Don E. Schultz, Marketing Management v.14 n.1 January/February 2005. This is not the first or only article to suggest revamping the marketing mix, but the "customer-focused approach" part grabbed my attention immediately. The authors argue that the traditional mix is insufficient because it is supply driven in that it is designed to better enable marketing managers to get stuff out to customers. They prefer a demand driven approach that focuses not on the marketing managers, but on the customers. In this model, the customer's role is at the beginning of the marketing process, rather than at the end, and the entire process is aimed at solving their problems, not just getting stuff out to them. With this in mind, the authors came up with a new mix to replace the 4 P's called SIVA, which stands for Solutions (instead of Product), Information (instead of promotion), Value (instead of Price) and Access (instead of Place). As the authors summarize, "What we're proposing here is to redefine the marketing mix as customer driven, rather than manager driven...The time has come to build on that foundation [the 4 P's] with a next-generation marketing mix that will help businesses create and capture value within the realities of the 21st Century marketplace" (p.24).

If this approach is of interest to you, I would highly recommend picking up a copy of the article as the authors go into the details of the SIVA components, what they mean, and how to apply them with some good examples. In fact, I'm going to give this a try this summer when I develop my marketing plan for undergraduate services and see if it is as useful and customer centric as it appears to be.

Categories: must_reads | usable_theories

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

College students in focus

Candi of LibTalk blog, points out a newly-released companion to the OCLC Perceptions report that focuses on college students' perceptions with new graphs and analysis. The companion report, College Students' Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources can be downloaded here.

Categories: must_reads | research_and_reports

For better word-of-mouth, shut it

Though it may seem a bit counterintuitive at first, good word-of-mouth stems from good word-to-ear, a.k.a. listening. Listening is harder than it seems when it comes to marketing, since so much of marketing is message-driven, based on what we want others to know about us. But, as PhD and CEO of a customer-listening company Laurent Fores says, traditional marketing strategies are evolving. He writes, "The implication is that marketing is no longer about planning and shaping the message for the brand -- or in other words marketing to consumers -- but rather marketing is now about understanding and better listening to what consumers say about the brand, moving towards marketing with consumers." You can read the full article here, which also includes 5 points about how listening impacts WOM campaigns.

I would further recommend putting together some kind of listening strategy (hopefully, my summer project). offers a report called Trend Unit that outlines how you can organize information to become your own trendspotter (basically, a good listener and observer).

Categories: neat_trends | tips_to_try

Monday, May 22, 2006


Did you know that education can be a powerful marketing tool? One study by Powered, Inc. says so and argues that online consumer education is more effective than traditional media advertising and direct marketing, according to their press release. In fact, Powered Inc.'s survey of 200,000 people who completed online education programs found, among other things, that 90% of respondents are likely to recommend the experience to a friend and 94% have a more favorable perception of the brand because of the experience.

What does this mean for libraries? A lot. Marketing is becoming less about pushing stuff out to people, and more about empowering them to succeed. Library instruction is one great way to do that as patrons gain valuable knowledge skills while librarians are positioned as experts on particular topics. Church of the Customer authors also point out that education is a great way to rally enthusiasts through what they call "napsterizing knowledge." The key, I think, is to strategically think through what our target patrons need the most help with and match that with the expertise we can provide that few others can, and deliver that educational content in the way patrons prefer (one-on-one, in-person classes, online tutorials/classes, etc.). There's a lot of room for creativity here. Faculty may appreciate lessons on RSS that help them keep up with the literature in their fields; new mothers may like guidance on how to find the best free resources on childhood development. I, for example, am trying to put together specialized online tutorials and resources for national scholarship candidates. These efforts could put libraries at the forefront of patrons' minds and give them an experience worth recommending to others.

I haven't read the full report (which you have to exchange personal information for), but you can hear the CEO of Powered talk about the business perspective of what online consumer education is and why it is an effective marketing tool here. I would take the results with a grain of salt since the company that conducted the study also produces online educational materials. However, I am hearing more about consumer education in marketing circles and think it's worth examining for library marketing purposes too.

Update: I just found this nice post from Blog Business World about the value of sharing information, both internally and externally.

Categories: neat_trends | new_news

Friday, May 19, 2006

Starbuckization coming to books near you

USA Today reports that Starbucks is well on its way to Starbuckizing all things pop culture. The article states, "[Starbucks] is hot to extend its brand beyond the espresso machine to influence the films we see, CDs we hear and books we read. In the process, it aims to grow into a global empire rivaling McDonald's." The "books we read" piece grabbed my attention. Apparently, SBUX plans to publish and sell books. Not only that, the company is testing plans to transform its stores into "digital fill-up stations" where people can download MP3's and other forms of electronic entertainment. Interestingly, the article closes with a statement from SBUX Chairman Howard Schultz who says that despite its grandiose ambitions, "one of the great strengths of Starbucks is our humility." Umm...yeah. This is one development librarians will need to keep an eye on.

Categories: new_news

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A look at eBook users's featured market research report is an eBook Users Survey (PDF) conducted by the International Digital Publishing Forum. The survey delves into 3 areas: Past eBook Experience, eBook Features and Suggested Improvements. The researchers appeared to target eBook users in that they sent invitations to customers of major eBook retail sites, so it's perhaps no surprise that 82% have purchased an eBook in the past month. However, even though many respondents complain about the high prices of eBooks, only 8% borrowed an eBook from a library in the last month. Also, I was a bit surprised to find that a large majority of respondents (79%) prefer to read their eBooks on Personal Digital Devices like Palms. The main improvements suggested in the survey to increase eBook use and satisfaction are lower prices, more selection and interoperability between eBook devices and software.

Categories: research_and_reports

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

It's all "me"

Modern Marketing (MM) has a very intriguing post in reference to a WSJ interview/article that discusses the future of the Internet. MM pointed out a comment from interviewee Esther Dyson who predicts that consumer power will shift increasingly toward individuals who will declare what it is they want and marketers will be tasked with listening to and addressing those needs. Dyson asserts, "There will be much less "advertising" and much more communication to interested customers. Advertisers will have to learn to listen, not just to track and segment customers." We see this trend taking shape already with the ability for people to personalize just about anything from ring tones to Web portals to m&m's, and in the immense power people have to selectively consume marketing messages. I can only begin to guess what this will mean for how we design and deliver our services, but it seems clear that we will have to be proactive in listening for and addressing needs, and that we'll have to work very closely with patrons to provide customized services at their times and places of need.

Categories: neat_trends

A new book describes what we need to succeed

I recently received an e-mail from librarian Dennie Heye who informed me he has written his first book entitled, Characteristics of the Successful 21st Century Information Professional, which addresses a number of marketing topics. As Heye describes, "Marketing is a key element in our jobs as information professional. In my book there are several chapters related to marketing in the book, such as: marketing yourself, presentation skills, creativity and adding value. Each chapter has practical tips which can be used immediately." Heye works in a corporate setting and also has a Marketing degree. While I have not read the book yet myself, I am happy to pass along work librarians are doing in the area of Marketing. You can read more about the book and the author at Amazon.

Categories: must_reads

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

ACRL best practices in marketing award

For those of you in academic and research libraries, ACRL announced its 2007 Best Practices in Academic and Research Libraries @ your library award. Check out the press release for all the details.

Categories: new_news

Spreading the word...the M word

Library Garden points out a new library marketing blog called The "M" Word (I love the title!), written by Nancy Dowd, Marketer for the New Jersey State Library. Her blog aims to "Bring the wonderful world of marketing to librarians." Right on, Nancy! :-)

Categories: must_reads

Summing up Solinet

I'm back after a trip to Atlanta last week to speak at Solinet's Annual Membership Meeting, where I was fortunate enough to meet some of the most encouraging, friendly librarians in the field.  My sincerest thanks to my colleagues for such a warm welcome and an excellent program!

While I couldn't attend every session, there were some that I think you librarian-marketers would have enjoyed.  Dr. Richard Madaus delivered his popular "Staying Ahead of the Technology Curve" talk.  The biggest trends have to do with user-based meta-tagging and what he calls "personalization on steroids."  Furthermore, librarians will need to adapt their Web sites to accommodate formats for small handheld devices like cell phones.  Dr. Madaus made the point that it's not about the technology, it's about people, and that, no, technology is not a threat to books, as evidenced by the numerous Barnes & Nobles/Borders that regularly crop up.  

I was most intrigued by George Needham's (OCLC) presentation on the Perceptions report, which he briefly summarizes on It’s All Good.  The bottom line seems to be that patrons want to be in control of information and librarians should not function as gatekeepers of that information, but rather as educators.  Patrons pursue what George calls "free-range learning," or self-education.  Librarians, then, ought to facilitate this style of learning by providing ample educational materials and learning opportunities.  George also spoke to a major report finding – the library-as-books brand.  He notes that most businesses would kill for such a strong brand association and that rather than try to change this strong brand (which he says is nearly impossible to do), librarians should embrace it as their most vital asset.  He argues that instead of focusing on revamping the brand, librarians should extend it to other service offerings.  This discussion has come up before here on LM, and it’s still one I struggle with a bit.  I do agree that trying to change a brand is a fraught with difficulties and can quickly become a disaster, and there's certainly nothing wrong with being associated with books, but I do wonder if the book brand will prove to be a limitation rather than a boost for libraries in the long run.  I have a lot to learn about brand management before I can develop an informed opinion on this, but I would be extremely interested in your thoughts!  My favorite of George's points was that librarians ought to focus on transformation, not information since there are a lot of competitors in the information business, but not in the transformation business.  Agreed!

If you want to take a gander at my presentation on marketing trends, the PowerPoint is here, but it's probably familiar territory if you read LM regularly.  I tried something I've never done before and offered a wiki as a follow-up to the presentation where attendees could share their own thoughts.  Even though I only gave the password to attendees, the questions I pose on the wiki follow the outline of the talk and will give you a good idea of the topics that were covered and some of the issues these trends raise (there are a lot of them!).  So far, there haven't been any takers but I'm excited to see if a discussion or two pops up.

Also, though I couldn't sit in on these sessions, they both looked very promising:  Max Anderson’s "Advocacy:  Working with Public Officials" discussion covered how to craft messages that resonate with officials in order to raise libraries' visibility, and Robert Burgin's "The Library as Place:  Why It Matters" considered the role library as place plays in the lives of users and how fulfilling these roles will matter in the future.

While my sparse notes on all of these sessions don't do them justice, Solinet is going to be posting the slides to their site soon, and I hope you'll find them to be as helpful as I did!

Update: Solinet presentations are now up and available for viewing!

Categories: excellent_events | resource_roundup

Monday, May 08, 2006

Open up and say ahh-right to open-source marketing

One of the best summaries of what open-source marketing is all about appeared on a new-to-me blog called Modern Marketing. In it, the authors describe the origins and principles behind this new trend of inviting customers to co-create brands with companies and organizations. For a sneak-peek at the future of marketing, check out the post!

Speaking of the future of marketing, I'm giving a talk this Thursday about marketing trends for the SOLINET Annual Membership Meeting ("Library Marketing with Meaning: Keeping Up with the Future"), the themes of which are eerily similar to the Modern Marketing post! (No wonder it struck a chord with me!). Anyway, wireless should be plentiful and I'm hoping to be able to blog on-location from Atlanta. There are a number of very interesting talks planned that could be handy for us librarian-marketers, so I'll be sure to pass the highlights on to you. I'll also share my PowerPoint for those who may be interested. I'm leaving Wednesday, but if my blogging plans should fail, I should be back up-and-running by Tuesday of next week.

Categories: must_reads | neat_trends | random_stuff

Future or fad? Online social networks in the spotlight.

You can't go anywhere or watch anything these days where someone isn't talking about online social networks like My Space and Facebook. In fact, just this morning the CBS Early Show aired a segment on the dangers of My Space (you can watch the clip here). And, obviously, the news isn't all good. Indeed, there is a mixed sense of caution and enthusiasm among the general public and marketers in particular, as they jump into the murky waters of these networks.

A recent Knowledge @ Wharton article describes marketers' uncertainty about the staying power of these sites, and caution that one ought to be prepared for the "next big thing" that will lure users from their current network to a different one. Librarian Brian Mathews expressed similar sentiments in his blog post.

Despite these warnings, even the Wharton article concedes that social networking is embedded in Internet culture, and won't disappear even though the tools may change. Certainly marketers are moving ahead with new and different ways to generate these kinds of communities. The Word-of-Mouth Marketing Association's blog reports that book and music vendor DirectGroup is working on bringing its book clubs online, and the qtags blog describes how companies are turning to mobile phones as socializing tools.

Whatever your views on these communities, it seems as though they're here to stay and we librarians will need to address how we best fit in these environments. To help make sense of all this, a joint project of Northeastern University and the University of Pittsburgh School of Information Sciences offers an online learning tool, complete with blog, for librarians faculty and students to explore "new media" including these community sites. A post on the AcademicPR listserv describes the project: "Northeastern University, with the help of the University of Pittsburgh School of Information Sciences, has launched a new online learning tool with a supplemental discussion blog. The online learning tool and blog explore "the key concepts in new media and address a host of new media issues including the collapse of distinctions between media forms and the societal effects of new technologies such as blogs, chat rooms, TiVo, and Facebook."'

Categories: neat_trends | new_news | technology_tools

Friday, May 05, 2006

ALA PR forum to spread the word about WOM

While I try not to recap every press release or listserv post here on LM, this notice from ALA was one I thought I ought to pass along: The ALA Annual Conference will include a PR forum on word-of-mouth marketing to take place Sunday, June 25, 2006, from 8 to 10 a.m. I'm excited to see attention being given to WOM, which is just starting to be considered a formal part of marketing plans. I won't be at ALA this year, but if anyone attends this, I'd be interested to know how it was.

Update: There was a very good comment to this post that brought up some important questions about WOM, which you may want to look over. I took a stab at addressing them, but would be interested in other comments along these lines.

Categories: excellent_events | new_news

A tiperoo or two on recruiting for focus groups

After having been involved in some focus groups from both sides of the discussion, I thought I'd pass along my 2 cents about how to address one of the biggest challenges in putting such a group together, namely, recruitment.

I love working with undergrads, but it can be like herding cats to get even the most motivated into a single room at a certain time. I was really proud of the last focus group I put together about undergraduate research because we had just the right number of people (5) and they were all very engaged in the conversation. Here are some things I learned that might help you too:

  • Recruit about double the amount of people you want and expect that half won't show up. I was nervous about doing this the first time, but at least with undergrads the rule seems to hold true.
  • Give incentives. Snacks and refreshments are a must, but you should also offer something extra. We gave students $10 on their ID cards, which they seemed to like. I didn't want to offer "serious" cash since, not only would it cost more, but I also wanted to talk with people who weren't solely motivated by money. A colleague of mine told me about how she offered a very active library contingent the opportunity to select a book for the library. That was a HUGE incentive for those die-hard library fans! Ultimately, the incentive depends on the patrons in question.
  • Don't spam prospects. (This one was key for me). Since a focus group is by nature focused, your recruitment strategy should be too. With my group, the topic was undergraduate research, so I asked my contacts in the Honors Department to help provide names of people who are doing research and might be interested, and also to send out some targeted e-mails on my behalf. In addition, we have an opt-in mailing list where I sent a request. The patrons on the list self-identify as being more engaged with the library than average, so the odds were good I'd find some people who were eager to share their ideas about research (and I did!). By doing these things, the focus group comes across as relevant and worthwhile to participants, and not just another piece of spam. I concede that this may leave room for a biased sample, but in my case I specifically wanted researchers rather than non-researchers and undergraduates rather than non-undergraduates, so I figured that being selective (applying purposive sampling) in this way was alright. I actually ended up with a wide range of research experience just by chance, which was very helpful.
  • Send reminders. What can I say? People need reminding. However, I wouldn't send too many - maybe one a week out and another the day before. I kept a spreadsheet of who planned on coming, who canceled, who wasn't sure, etc. I also made sure that I told people up-front what to expect and answered any questions they had.
These were the key things I've learned about focus group recruitment, and this past time it was no sweat getting enough people who also turned out to have terrific insights! I'm sure many of you have other successful recruitment techniques and I'd be happy to hear them. (Feel free to leave a comment!)

Categories: tips_to_try

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Guest post from Nicole McGee on non-users

Guest post from Nicole McGee

Nicole McGee, of the Municipal Reference Library in Virginia Beach, VA, has been very helpful in passing marketing goodies for the blog my way.  In fact, she had so many things to say that I offered her a guest post for her to share some of her thoughts.  Nicole chose to write about a book called The Must-Have Customer:  7 Steps to Winning the Customer You Haven't Got, and reflect a bit on reaching out to our potential patrons who donÂ’t yet use the library.  

Here'’s what Nicole had to say:

The Virginian-Pilot (4/27/06, p. D5) had a short review of a new book (April 2006) called The Must-Have Customer: 7 Steps to Winning the Customer You Haven't Got by Robert Gordman. In my experience, this is a discussion all library marketing committees have on a regular basis. How DO we reach those pesky "non-library users?" And as this new book addresses, how do we win back the customers who are lured away? Warm, cozy bookstores and your favorite local wireless hang-out, among others, are all competing against libraries for peopleÂ’s attention and "business." And in a lot of cases, they're winning. So how do libraries effectively get the word out about all their services and collections?

Marketing literature in unexpected places is one potential strategy. MPPOW (my previous place of work) placed advertisements for our classes and our peer advising program in the local buses. The 2002 ACRL Innovation in Instruction award was CSU-Fresno's InfoRadio program, a series of public service announcements creatively promoting information literacy skills that aired on the campus radio station.

And also related to this topic is the idea of "library as place" and all the ways that it affects people'’s decision to return or not (un)welcoming policies (see Aaron Schmidt's, aka The Walking Paper blogger, Flickr pic), (un)inviting atmospheres, and a customer service-(un)savvy staff, to name a few.

One solution is knowing what future patrons want or expect from your library. While browsing through The Cluetrain Manifesto, the idea that the "internal" (companies, libraries, etc) and the "external" (patrons) need to be able to communicate freely, i.e. online, in an integral component. Organizations who don't build this into their culture, if one follows this idea from the book, will become far removed from the pulse of the conversations happening online and will quickly become obsolete. And IMHO, this is yet another strong argument for library blogs, RSS feeds, and other exciting forms of communication and exchange that are at the heart of Library 2.0 concept.

Here's the link to the if you want to read more about this new book:

Thanks for sharing your point-of-view, Nicole!  I hope to hear from others on this topic too. I plan to address reaching out to non-users more on this blog, since it'’s an important obligation we share.  One thought I'm exploring is how to use our biggest library fans to help draw in those who are the less-than-enthusiastic.  More (hopefully) later.

Categories: must_reads | tips_to_try

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

An excellent new blog tends to service issues

A group of librarians from New Jersey joined together to write the blog Library Garden. In it, they explore the best of all topics: service (which is what marketing is all about anyway, right?). And not only that, but they are all over the map professionally, so the blog is very well-rounded with many viewpoints. The writing and ideas are fantastic, and I was very happy to add it to my aggregator. Way to go, Library Gardeners!

This new-to-me blog has been up and running since February. Thanks to Meredith of Information Wants To Be Free for passing this find along!

Categories: must_reads

Noteworthy nuggets from MarketingProfs

In my continuing quest to inform you of the best of MarketingProfs, here is a list of the most recent, and most relevant article for librarians:

Categories: must_reads | resource_roundup

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

It's all about soul

Did you know that brands have souls? At least, that's what one marketing consultant argues. According to her, "brand soul" is "a company's ability to connect with consumers by building affection for its product or service...It's not just about the product but about the company's general philosophy -- one that the consumer hopefully comes to believe in." Libraries are overflowing with soul, as librarians continue to stand up for important principles and patrons' rights. Given that most people associate libraries with books, it seems as though we're not communicating the spirit of libraries very well. When we think about branding, its important to recognize the emotional relationship people have with brands. I think a good place to start is by taking a close look internally at the personality of the organization as a whole so we can communicate that to patrons.

Categories: usable_theories

Monday, May 01, 2006

Long overdue post about library marketing in online communities

I've been suspiciously silent on the topic of social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, as well as blogs and their potential for library marketing.  Why?  Well, I'm still trying to sort out what I think about the libraries promoting themselves in these forums.  There's been a lot of debate amongst librarians on both side of the issue.  On the one hand, many people stick to the view that librarians should go where the patrons are, virtually and physically, and since so many people are using sites like MySpace, we should have a presence there too.  On the other hand, others say that the purpose of these communities is socialization, and libraries would be unwelcomed guests in this environment and it’s not the place to "sell" our services.  While I'm still not stuck to any one opinion, my current view tends to fall somewhere in the middle:  yes, we should be there, and no, we shouldn't use it to overtly promote.

At my school, the community tool of choice tends to be Facebook, although I've seen some people using MySpace too.  At first, I was wary of inserting ourselves there, but I've been talking quite a bit the students in my advisory group (I highly recommend this, by the way), and they tell me that students are accustomed to some level of promotion in Facebook and it's easy enough to ignore if one wants, so intrusiveness isn't much of an issue.  I've also seen many student organizations advertise themselves and their events there, and there are even a few groups (actually, 6 at last count) that have organized themselves around the library because they spend so much time here.  Many libraries too have dipped a toe into these services.

Now that I don't consider intrusiveness a barrier, I'm more concerned about other issues, namely, value.  When we choose to have a presence in these communities, what are we offering that's of value to us and our patrons?  If the point is to just "be there," I'm not confident that will do much good, even though it probably won't hurt anything.  What can we offer that would be a good fit in a social setting and that might lead to some meaningful interactions?

There are some positive steps in the right direction on this front.  The Hennepin County Library's MySpace profile has a great design as you'd expect from them, but also links to resources that seem appropriate for teens in this environment such as college, dating and health advice as well as homework help.  I was also impressed with Aaron's recent Walking Paper post about Denver Public Library's MySpace, a site that features great music in keeping with the spirit of MySpace, and also relevant services.  What I like best is that they also refer to their guides that link to excellent, teen-specific sites like a local teen music studio, and music reviews by teens.  DPL seems to have found how to mesh well and respect the MySpace culture without being pushy.  Even the marketers seem to think that obvious advertising doesn't fly here, but offering relevant products/services and information that are appropriate to the environment are most effective.

The greatest potential for library marketing purposes may be market research.  My hero in this arena is Brian Mathews, AltRef author, who had the guts to do what I've only been thinking about, which he outlines in his Intuitive Revelations white paper (must-read material!).  Basically, he set up a keyword search in student blogs to find instances of words like “assignments,” etc. and then offered his help if it seemed relevant to the conversation.  In the comments of his post, one librarian expressed concerns about students feeling as though this was an invasion of privacy, to which Brian responded, "I have found that if I stay on topic, that is, commenting only on academic/research related postings, that the students don’t seem to mind my 'intrusive' behavior. I think this whole point of social software is to interact and communicate. As long as I can add value they welcome the assistance."  I agree wholeheartedly, particularly with the focus on value from the patron’s point of view.  I'd also like to see patrons offering us help through these mediums.  I keep thinking about those 6 student groups in Facebook whose members say they "live in the library" and I can't help but wonder what great insights they may have to share on our facilities and services.  Why not ask?  I admit that I haven't jumped full-force into Facebook yet, but I'm going to be looking at this over the summer.  I'm especially interested in our advisory group being there and opening it up to any student who has thoughts or ideas to share, sort of like an ongoing focus group.  

Done right, I think librarians can be a welcome addition to blogs and social networks by:

  • Adding value to our services from our patrons' perspective

  • Being respectful of the social environment we're a part of (no library-ese, no sales pitches)

  • Inserting our expertise and resources in a relevant way (such as in response to an expressed need, as Brian's initiative does)

  • Monitoring discussions to assess needs and improve our services

  • Having fun and engaging patrons!
Categories: neat_trends | tips_to_try