You know what your problems are and what you want to achieve, but now you have to actually bring your non-users into the fold. What do you do?
Welcome to Part 3: Possible tactics
The AMA defines tactics as "short-term actions undertaken to achieve implementation of a broader strategy." The assumption made is that you have a strategy in place before you start thinking about tactics (see Parts 1 and 2). The following tactics may or may not fit your strategy, so take them as starting-off points rather than prescriptions. Also, please do share tactics or strategies that have worked for you!
- Bring a friend: I'm a fan of the idea that our current patrons could be terrific partners in reaching out to new patrons, particularly since there is so much distrust of traditional forms of promotion. One way to do this would be to sponsor a "Bring a Friend" event, where current patrons bring friends and family who have never been to the library, have them sign them up for a library card, and enter a raffle. You could even feature your more enthusiastic borrowers by asking them talk to the newcomers about what the library means to them.
- Win over key leaders: Every community has key leaders and influential people who may prove to be effective in getting non-users inside your doors. Are there any civic, business or social groups in your community that could benefit from what your library can offer? Contact the leaders of these organizations for a brief meeting or presentation in which you outline specifically how the library can be an asset to members. Perhaps offer to lead an on-site workshop on a topic of interest to members. To be convincing, you may have to change/redesign/repackage your services to fit the needs of these targeted groups. For example, last month the Associated Press reported that libraries in New York and Pennsylvania are reaching out to small business owners through customized online resource aimed at helping them to write business plans and do market research. Tailoring your services leads to the next tip...
- Differentiate yourself: It's likely that one reason your non-users haven't made the leap to users is that they probably don't understand why your library's services are different or more useful than other sources of information they regularly use. When you reach out to these community members through e-mail or print mailings, events, etc., be sure to let them know what it is you can do for them that no one else can. Marketers call this your Unique Selling Proposition, and if you have one, flaunt it whenever possible. However, positive selling points will vary between target markets, so it's useful to fit your USP to each segment.
- Let people talk back: Perhaps your non-users have all kinds of good reasons for not visiting your library, but how will you know what they are (and how to address them) on an ongoing basis unless you give people opportunities to share their thoughts with you? As you go out into the community, make it a point to ask people what you could do differently or better, or for any "Wouldn't it be cool if...?" ideas they may have. Include suggestion cards with mailings or when doing outreach events, and make sure that your Web site clearly shows how patrons can contact staff with questions or concerns.
Update: Steve Backs of Blog about Libraries has some great points about differentiation that are worth taking a look at.