MarketingSherpa announced the best marketing blogs as voted on by readers. Get the results here, and congrats to the winners!
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Making "E" Visible, a recent Library Journal article by Lesley Williams, presents the problems and pitfalls in promoting libraries' online resources. I'm sure most of us share the same frustration when patrons overlook terrific, needed e-resources that are right under their noses on library Web sites. One solution Williams advocates is getting vendors to pick up the marketing slack by helping to promote their databases as well as the libraries that provide access to them. Her rationale makes great sense, and hopefully we will see more vendor/library partnerships along these lines. Williams points out that Thomson Gale is off to a good start with its AccessMyLibrary.com, which directs researchers to their local collections. I would disagree slightly with Williams' statement that librarians are not marketers. I fully concede that marketing is a profession in its own right, and that most libraries don't have marketing departments and can't be expected to do all the things marketers do, but I believe that by knowing some basic principles, we can apply marketing to make our collections more user-friendly and appealing. In fact, Williams suggests doing just that by advising librarians to group databases by subject (package services) and describe how they're useful (put resources in the context of patrons' needs) and so on. Marketing is mainly about shaping services to match user needs, which is exactly what librarians are expected to do. Marketing is one of many skills librarians should have to some extent, just like Web skills, communication skills, basic statistics and budgeting skills are important parts of librarians' repertoire. It seems that Williams' argument focuses more on the promotional aspects of marketing, which I agree, is a responsibility that could be shared by vendors as well. Williams will be speaking at the Internet Librarian 2006 Conference in a session called, "Increasing the Use of Online Products."
If marketing e-resources is of special interest to you, you may want to see the King County Library System & University of Washington's Virtual Reference Services: Marketing Guidelines. The document outlines considerations for creating a marketing plan for virtual reference services, but seems to be applicable to other online services as well.
Categories: must_reads | tips_to_try
Monday, June 26, 2006
Well, it seems as though I was right when I predicted that marketing research would be a theme on LM, at least for a little while. A nice entry on the About.com marketing blog points to an article entitled The Art of Listening: Market Research Tools That Any Company Can Use, which discusses the many benefits of doing formal and informal marketing research on an ongoing basis. The author, a marketing consultant, argues that research can perfect products and deepen relationships. He also provides numerous examples of various techniques and their applicability. Good read!
Friday, June 23, 2006
The Church of the Customer named a couple of resources I didn't know about that made me feel like I've been asleep at the wheel! How on earth did I miss WOMMA's Research Blog?! This blog is terrific, especially for those of you who want to do word-of-mouth in library marketing efforts, but get stuck when you consider how to measure it. The authors describe the blog this way, "We started this blog, along with the companion email newsletter, to highlight the latest develoments [sic] in word of mouth marketing measurement and metrics. Our goal is for this to become the definitive go-to resource for all the latest research and studies." From what I've read, I'd say this is resource is quite practical for planning and evaluation purposes. Also, you'll find that business-types are conducting research on this very topic and that the literature is exploding with stuff that you may want to look over.
The second site that snuck under my radar is called marktd. Marktd is a collection of marketing articles ranked by readers, billed as "marketing news for marketers by marketers." That about sums it up!
While we're on the topic of resources, MarketingSherpa opened up voting for its 2006 Reader's Choice Blog and Podcasting Awards. They've extended voting until Monday, June 26th, so, if your aggregator is looking empty these days (ha!) you might want to pop over to scope out the nominees and see what's hot in Marketing Land.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
WOMMA's Basic Training 2 conference wraps up today but fortunately for us, the talks have been blogged! They had some interesting speakers lined up including Shel Israel and Robert Scoble, Jackie Huba, and Emanuel Rosen. Worth a look!
Categories: new_news | train_yourself
To go along with the contrarian theme popping up here on LM, you may be interested to read a MarkingProfs article about writing good copy called "Copy and Content: Avoiding What's Familiar." The author argues that employing tired and overused phrases undermines the reader's sense the letter's authenticity and also undermines the brand itself! The solution, he suggests, is to write every e-mail in a unique way and to be specific and relevant.
Update: There's more on avoiding the familiar from the Idea Sandbox Blog where Paul discusses avoiding the overused terms "fusion" and "infusion."
Monday, June 19, 2006
Companies increasingly realize that they haven't cornered the market on innovation, and many are looking to the very people they hope will benefit from (or at least buy) those innovations as a source of ideas - their customers. An excellent post appeared yesterday on Make Marketing History that comments on a recent NYT article about involving customers with brands by way of co-creation. The article quotes MIT professor Eric von Hippel who calls this phenomenon "lead-user innovation." As he describes, "This is not traditional market research - asking customers what they want. This is identifying what your most advanced users are already doing and understanding what their innovations mean for the future of your business."
This definition may put critics at ease who fear that this open-source movement means giving up all marketing functions to customers. According to the definition, these efforts draw advanced users (not necessarily typical users) for purposes of gauging trends (rather than current needs). It doesn't suggest going along with every idea that customers come up with on the product/service level. As one business owner put it in the article, he doesn't expect users to come up with new product lines, but rather to help define the brand through their participation. This is the point-of-view I'm coming around to as well. While we can and do find terrific, immediately applicable ideas from our patrons (there's a great example of this from the business community in the NYT article regarding Threadless.com), we also have to balance that input with our own expertise to make sure that our services best fit in the bigger picture for all parties concerned. What the NYT examples illustrate is not so much a shifting of marketing responsibilities as an opening up of the brand itself for people to make their own.
Along these lines, you many want to read another Make Marketing History post referenced about the value of market research, or lack thereof. This perspective is useful to think about as we assess users' needs and try to apply the data collected to our services. As I've mentioned, I'm studying marketing research right now, so this viewpoint hit home with me and it certainly has merit, but I'm not yet sure whether or not I share the same level of skepticism presented in the post (I'm still pretty unjaded :) ). However, there's no denying that it's impossible to rely on customers/patrons to directly tell you what they want because they don't know all of the possibilitiess available to them, let alone what it is they truly need most of the time. Nevertheless, I'm hopeful that by using the appropriate techniques, some market research can help to draw out unarticulated needs. It's an interesting issue I hope we all think about as we try to put survey results and the like to use.
Update: A Friday post from Modern Marketing has another take on user-generated content.
Categoriess: must_reads | neat_trends
Friday, June 16, 2006
I was more than impressed by an article out of Minneapolis about how libraries there, "aren't just changing physically. Libraries are becoming less about books, and more about people". In many respects, librarians' efforts at the Minneapolis Public Library strike me as great marketing practices. In this case, the MPL has targeted the immigrant population in the community and has designed services to fit their specific needs by offering language learning tools, a Homework Center, and a library bookmobile that engages people outside the library. They also have immigrant group liaisons who meet with newly-arrived Somalis, Hmong and Latinos and expose them to the library's offerings. One nice touch that I especially liked is that staff members wear small pouches around their necks that were handmade by Hmong immigrants in an attempt to make the immigrants feel welcomed.
In addition, the Friends of MPL devised a People's University whereby they get university professors and local experts to speak at libraries for free!
To my way of thinking, this is marketing at it's best in that librarians are creatively tailoring services to fulfill unmet needs and delivering superior, sincere, customer service. I like how the article's author summarized MPL's initiatives, as she noted, "Now, instead of simply being reservoirs of information, libraries are actively engaging people in transforming that information into knowledge."
Really, these efforts boil down to one very important theme: empowerment. Librarians are empowering patrons, in this case immigrants, to learn skills that will enable them to be successful. Empowerment is perhaps libraries' most valuable competitive advantage. I don't see the Google's of the world reaching out to underserved communities and offering them instruction, lectures, customized programming and research assistance for free, and all for the sole purpose of making people's lives better. I believe that librarians will need to seize upon this advantage in marketing our services so that we can demonstrate our value and continue to help people. As I see it, libraries' value doesn't reside in the databases we own, the books we buy, the classrooms we provide or the computers we offer. Libraries' value is with the empowered user who can now write a business plan, discover a new way of thinking, understand a foreign language or connect with loved ones. Good library marketing results in a deep understanding of patrons and their needs so that we can best connect them to those resources and services that allow them to turn library resources into something truly valuable. Marketing, in this sense, is empowering.
Categories: creativity_and_inspiration | new_news
Thursday, June 15, 2006
There are Annoyed, Shifted, and Ubiquitous Librarians, but have you thought of becoming a contrarian librarian? Blog Business World has a nice piece called Contrarian Thinking: Don't Follow the Herd. The author says, "Think about this idea for a moment. When following the crowd, you are always behind, by definition. It's impossible to become an industry leader when travelling in the competition's dust. Fad followers are already several steps behind." Being a contrarian in a service industry like ours can seem...contrary to how we normally think. In many ways we are always following behind our patrons, because their needs and preferences guide our decisions. So, if our patrons are all using iPods and reading blogs, that's where we need to direct our attention, right? If they do most of their searching with Google, we need to have a presence there too, don't we? Certainly, trends and needs to guide our decisions, but the real breakthrough moments come from addressing needs in a unique way, which requires a good dose of contrarian-ism. I was reminded of this point as I was catching up with items in my aggregator and discovered some related posts on Creating Passionate Users. In one of her posts, Kathy discusses the merits of changing up contexts and putting the expected in an unexpected light. I have quite purposely tried to do that with undergraduate services in my library by putting librarians in new, unexpected contexts. I try to show up at normally librarian-free environments like our computer lab, student organization fairs, the career center, and community service projects to name a few. The idea here being that 1. patrons will notice that which is different, prompting remarks like, "What's the library doing here?" and 2. that being in a surprising context will demonstrate that we can help patrons with all kinds of needs, prompting remarks like, "Wow! I didn't know you guys do that!"
What does it take to be a contrarian librarian? In a word, guts. It can be as strange for us to be out-of-place as it is for our patrons to see us out-of-place. Another of Kathy's posts asks readers to do something scary every day. After all, don't we want our patrons to take a chance on us and ask us questions even if they're a little scared to admit they don't know something? Like it or not, risk is a part of any business, even the library business, so embrace it as a chance to be creative, explore, make breakthroughs and be contrarian.
Somewhat-related note: I happened upon a new-to-me marketing blog called Make Marketing History - "the views of a marketing deviant." Seems pretty contrarian!
Update: I knew that the phrase "contrarian librarian" sounded VERY familiar. That's because, even after a quick check, I seem to have missed that there is one! Check out the Contrarian Librarian blog. (It looks like the first post went up on CL the same day as this post...eerie!).
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
E-Commerce Times reports on how big brands are nurturing their own private online communities for market research purposes. The article points out one company, Communispace, that helps companies set up their own community infrastructure with all kinds of neat features. On a related note, MarketingProfs just put out an article called How to Make the Online Community Your Marketing Partner. What's interesting in this discourse is the idea of partnership - the idea that both parties have to work together to make good marketing happen. Even Communispace, which argues that customer communities can work for any business, cautions that, "Companies must be genuinely interested in hearing customers' views and be willing to tell community members how their ideas are being used. When customers are treated as company insiders like employees, they go to extraordinary lengths to help you." Online communities, just like offline ones, require time and attention. If you don't take the participants seriously, they'll return the sentiment. No matter what your marketing strategy, be it online, offline, or something in between, approaching it as a collaborative effort between patrons and librarians is the way to go. However, while I'm on-board with pursuing customer/patron communities as avenues of research, I would take their input with a grain of salt. As the E-Commerce Times article cautions, "Private online communities do come with a warning, though. You can't take the results as set in stone. They do not represent scientific statistical samples. You may be able to gauge reactions, but you shouldn't make multimillion-dollar decisions based on user feedback in these communities, Hessan [Communispace CEO] admitted." So, online communities are much like focus groups in that they represent the views of a relatively small number of people (in this case, tech-savvy online customers) and aren't generalizable to the entire population. Of course, this doesn't mean we shouldn't be active in these arenas, but it's important to interpret the results appropriately.
I'm currently taking a course in marketing research, which is promising to be incredibly useful, so I have a hunch I'll be talking about this topic more in the weeks to come. If you're interested in learning more about this topic on your own, my favorite site, KnowThis.com, has two tutorials of interest: Information for Market Research and How to Do a Market Study. The SBA has a quick guide called Marketing Research that you might want to look at, and QuickMBA has a fairly in-depth guide that more closely resembles what I'm doing in class, but it could be too much detail if you just need to get a quick jumpstart on the process.
Categories: neat_trends | technology_tools | train_yourself
Monday, June 12, 2006
Marketing planning can appear to be a daunting and time-consuming task, but there are ways to streamline the process to make it a quick and relatively painless undertaking (you may even join the ranks of marketing geeks and learn to love it!). Entreprenuer.com describes how to write a marketing plan in 23 hours by breaking the process down into these chunks: taking stock, goal-setting, defining target audiences, research, creating an action plan, budgeting, timing goals and carrying out the plan.
I'm in the process of working on a marketing plan using KnowThis.com's How to Write a Marketing Plan tutorial, although I'm substituting the 4 P's portion with SIVA (as I discussed in a previous post). I don't know yet how long it will take to complete the plan following this model, but it does call for a fair amount of detail so I wouldn't call it a quick approach to planning. Despite the time involved in marketing planning efforts, doing so is well worth the time and should, in fact, be a necessary part of library work. There are some things you can do to make process efficient, if not speedy:
Keep an ongoing record of market research and resources. If you read any articles or blogs, collect observations, conduct focus groups, etc., keep the records in a file/bookmark/aggregator so you can refer to them easily when you write up your environmental scan and target market analysis. This is similar to the approach described in Trendwatching.com's Virtual Anthropology and Trend Unit reports.
Remember that if you are seeking out multiple target markets that require their own marketing mixes (4 P's), then you should write a separate marketing strategy for each. Yes, this can take additional time to write up, but your strategies will be easier to write, understand and carry out because they are more focused. For example, as my plan takes shape I'm focusing on 3 main segments: honors students, first-year students, and faculty who advise or work closely with undergraduates. It will benefit you to review what makes a good market segment.
Take a stab at measures. A library marketing expert told me recently that it's important to have measures but you don't need to get too hung up on this. Take a guess at what a reasonable target and measurement tool could be and see how it holds up. Eventually, you'll get a sense of what your benchmarks are as well as what works and what doesn't.
The most important thing about marketing plans is creating and acting on them. No plan will be perfect, but you'll learn a lot about your organization and your patrons each time you do it and you'll continue to improve. While it feels good to turn out a well-articulated plan, remember too that marketing planning doesn't end once you've completed the writing. You'll always need to continue conducting research, analyzing results and rethinking strategies in anticipation of your next plan.
Update: On a planning-related note, Alane has some interesting thoughts today on avoiding myopic planning over on It's All Good.
Categories: tips_to_try | train_yourself
Thursday, June 08, 2006
One standard rule of thumb for best blogging practice has been to post frequently. In fact, I try to hold myself to a once per weekday blogging regimen, and when I've discussed blog marketing with colleagues, I've also recommended a similar frequent post strategy. A post from the DailyFix challenges this practice and asserts that post frequency doesn't matter anymore. The basic argument of the piece is that people are suffering from RSS fatigue and that by posting often bloggers are only muddying the already murky waters. Instead, quality, infrequent posts are the way to go.
The DailyFix post generated a healthy conversation, indicating that it must have struck a nerve. I must admit that I too generally avoid reading those bloggers who post more than once a day, so there could be something to this. Since many librarians utilize blogs as marketing tools, this idea should prompt us to think selectively about what we post to our library blogs and focus on what the audience wants to read and how they want to read it, rather than what we want to say. Perhaps that means fewer posts. Adjusting post content and frequency is really just following good marketing practice.
I've also been thinking about post frequency for a while here on LM. I love thinking and writing about marketing, and doing so daily keeps me on my toes and on the lookout for great content. On the other hand, there are many topics I'd like to dig into and investigate more thoroughly, but I've found it difficult to do so on a one-a-day schedule. For these reasons, don't be surprised if you find a decrease in weekly posts here along with what I hope will be an increase in quality and analysis.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
If you're serious about staying ahead of the latest in the marketing lit, consider setting up alerts in your favorite databases. When Ebsco began offering RSS feeds for its alerts, I was eager to try it out for one of the databases I like best for marketing research - PsycInfo. In PsycInfo, I'm mainly looking for consumer behavior research and there are great resources to be found. My recent alerts brought me interesting and potentially-relevant-for-libraries titles like "When Service Fails: The Role of the Salesperson and the Customer," "Usability Beyond the Website: An Empirically-Grounded E-commerce Evaluation Instrument for the Total Customer Experience," and "Campus Spies? Using Mystery Students to Evaluate University Performance." You'd also be surprised by what good stuff you can find in Services Marketing Quarterly and Journal of Services Marketing, for examples. I haven't gotten around to setting up alerts in business databases yet, but if you'd like to copy/adapt the search I set up for PsycInfo, here it is:
(DE "Consumer Research") or (DE "Consumer Surveys") or (DE "Advertising") or (DE "Brand Names") or (DE "Brand Preferences") or (DE "Consumer Attitudes") or (DE "Consumer Behavior") or (DE "Consumer Satisfaction") or (DE "Marketing") or (DE "Product Design")
I'll see how it works and modify it as needed, but so far this search is turning up good information! Feel free to share your tips for keeping up-to-date with marketing literature.
Monday, June 05, 2006
As promised, I'm revisiting the idea of co-creation in libraries and how best to make it work for us and for patrons. I've been thinking about it quite often, but so far have generated a collection of ideas, rather than a coherent philosophy, but at least it's a start. I would agree with one marketer's statement that services make tricky candidates for co-creation because many services exist because customers don't want to take on the task of performing those services themselves. I believe the same is true of many library services. I doubt that most patrons care to be involved in many of the less-glamorous aspects of making books and articles publicly accessible. However, some patrons may be highly motivated to have a say in services that directly impact their ability to be successful in tasks worthwhile to them. Those tasks may range from locating and organizing important information, learning research skills, writing great papers, networking with people, becoming a better public speaker, planning a business, etc. So, perhaps patrons wouldn't be motivated to co-create library services in general, but they might be highly interested in having a say in those services that demonstrate a direct benefit to them. In this case, the ability to segment library patrons by job becomes increasingly important so that librarians can outline just what those benefits are.
As an example of how co-creation could work, let's say a library finds a large number of budding entrepreneurs in the community who need help getting their businesses off the ground (a.k.a. the job they need to get done). The librarians meet with some of these patrons and find that they need a host of resources and training in how to write business plans, give presentations, and use Microsoft Office products (needs assessment). The librarians and patrons work together to package a service offering tailored just for entrepreneurs (it could take the form of a Web-based resource, a weekend workshop, or something else). Both the librarians and patrons gather information resources including books, articles and local experts, and both develop content and promote the service. The resulting service package represents the collective expertise and collaboration of both parties who worked together through every stage of development. Of course, gaining this kind of buy-in from patrons is far from easy, but if one can identify a few committed and influential entrepreneurs who are convinced that the project has concrete benefit for themselves and their peers, such high-level co-creation has a chance of success.
I don't see co-creation as turning over our work to others, but as expanding our idea of what it means to be information specialists by considering a very important information resource - our own patrons. At the same time, patrons will learn first-hand that librarians have something valuable to offer that is directly applicable to their own goals and needs. It's important to recognize that as with any service, the quality of library services is ultimately dependent upon both the librarian and patron working together (you can't conduct a reference interview, for example, without patron input after all), and so co-creation is a logical extension of the collaborative nature of marketing services.
I'm curious to know if you see high-level co-creation taking place in libraries and how you see co-creation working (or not working) in a library context.
Update: The folks over at Modern Marketing are working on a Co-Creation Rules manifesto. You can see the draft, in wiki form, which looks quite excellent so far. Perhaps this could be a model we adapt for library services?
Friday, June 02, 2006
KnowThis.com and MarketingExperiments.com feature results of marketing tests. One recent test involving e-mail promotions yielded particularly interesting results: E-mails that focused on only promoting one product or service at a time greatly outperformed the e-mails that focused on four products or services by a whopping 464%! As librarians/information providers, we often feel compelled to get as much information as we can out to our patrons about what we have to offer, but this test would seem to indicate that doing so is like shooting ourselves in the foot! Perhaps the old saying "less is more" is also sound advice for our promotion strategies.
MarketingExperiments.com offers its journal articles for free as well as its teleconference calls. Pretty neat!
Thursday, June 01, 2006
There's a fun radio show on the airwaves called The Brand Show. You can listen to the show live online, or you can listen to past episodes from the archives. What's great is that you can also subscribe to the show via iTunes. The episodes are on the longer side, but they are very entertaining from what little I've been able to listen to so far. The topics are compelling as well. The archives include titles like "Keep It Simple," "How Dissatisfied Customers Can Help Your Brand," and "Show Me You Know Me." It's refreshing to listen to educational marketing material that's conversational and exciting too! (You may also want to look at their list of resources).
(Via Daily Fix)