Friday, September 29, 2006

Why WOM?

I mentioned earlier this week that I wanted to revisit the idea of word-of-mouth (WOM) communications and why WOM is a particularly important concept for librarians to understand and put to good use. Today, I'm offering a brief intro into this idea that I'm going to develop further.

First of all, I have to say that I think every librarian should be required at some point in his or her career to take a course in services marketing. I'm doing just that this semester and though it's still early on in the course, I can't tell you how valuable what I'm learning is. We've covered topics about what makes a service a service, how customers form their expectations, and how to manage service operations, to name just a few useful topics - good stuff!

The piece that's relevant for this post has to do with service models, namely, a model for understanding service qualities. In a nutshell, this model suggests that there are 3 kinds of qualities for goods and services: search, experience and credence. Search qualities are those that you can easily evaluate before you consume a good/service. Tangible goods are usually high in these qualities. For example, it's pretty easy to figure out what the features, design, speed, etc. of a computer is before you buy one. Services/goods high in experience qualities can be only be evaluated during or after purchase. A good example of this would be a haircut. You don't know if it's good one until after the deed is done. Finally, goods/services high in credence qualities are hard to evaluate even after you've purchased them. How, for example, would you evaluate medical services? How do you know you got the best check-up possible? Tricky...

The point of all this is that I would argue that most library services are rich in credence qualities. To use reference as an example, most patrons have no clue if they received the "best" answer (and a lot of librarians struggle with that issue too!). This ambiguity makes the reference transaction a somewhat risky one because patrons don't know how to evaluate the help they're given. How do they reduce the risk and figure out a way to assess us? Answer: word of mouth. As authors of one research study state, "The role of WOM communication is considered to be particularly significant in a service context because the predominance of experience and credence qualities in services suggests that consumers experience a higher degree of perceived risk in making a purchase decision." It makes sense to me that patrons rely on other patrons to help them figure out how good of a job we're doing. Not only that, but social technology like blogs and online communities helps them spread the word fast and to a large number of people. For those of you who are regular LM readers, you know that WOM frequently pops up in business news as marketers try to figure out how to manage WOM in an increasingly connected world. WOM, then, is important. And it's very important for librarians. For these reasons, I'm going to dedicate a substantial amount of this blog's real estate to investigating WOM further. I'm aiming for a post a week dedicated to WOM research, news and strategies to help us get a handle on WOM in a library context. I'll also look forward to hearing about your own WOM insights.

Categories: neat_trends | promising_promotions | usable_theories

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Forthcoming book on citizen marketing

FYI: I received a notice today from the Church of the Customer authors about a forthcoming book they wrote entitled Citizen Marketers: When People are the Message. The the authors, Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba, state, "The forces of democractization are strong, and they are fueling what's happening online with content created by everyday people. We'll document the democratization of technology and personal expression and explain the sociological and psychological rationales of why creative and passionate people (the 1 Percenters) contribute their time and attention to brands."

I pass this notice along because this customer-generated content marketing trend is in the news quite a bit and this book looks like a promising way to make sense of it. For librarians, this could be an uncharted avenue for engaging patrons. The book will be released in early January '07. If and when I get a chance to read it, I'll pass my two cents along to you. [Update: Per Jackie's comment, the new release date is Dec. 1, 2006 (yeah!).]

Categories: must_reads | neat_trends

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Quality service starts from within

The Quality Service Marketing blog highlights the key findings of an internal marketing best practice study that examined the marketing practices of companies in various industries across the U.S. Among the findings are that employees are extensions of the brand, all employees regardless of rank can make a difference, and a strong corporate culture can translate into a strong competitive advantage. The last point about competitive advantage stood out to me because it hadn't occurred to me before. It makes sense that if "garbage in" = "garbage out" that the reverse is true and that our internal processes can make a significant difference in our service delivery and how we stack up to competitors. The Quality Services Marketing blog promises more discussion of the study in upcoming posts.

Categories: must_reads | research_and_reports

Monday, September 25, 2006

WOM gone awry?

The Boston Globe questions the future direction of marketing, and specifically promotion, in light of popular deceptions like lonelygirl15: "Whether or not lonelygirl15 is art, it certainly owes its popularity to its willingness to blur the line between fact and fiction. It's a strategy that, online and off, has been popping up increasingly, not only in underground publicity stunts but formal advertising campaigns." The article goes on to talk about word-of-mouth marketing and whether or not honesty trumps trickery for advertisers who are frustrated with traditional channels and seek some novel way to captivate their target audiences.

This issue is an important one for anyone engaged in marketing, including librarians. For reasons I will talk about this week on LM, word-of-mouth (WOM) has great potential for promoting library services. But, it needs to be done right. There's a difference between creating a little bit of mystery to engage people in marketing tactics, and outright lying to people. Contrary to what popular opinion may be, good WOM is honest. Good WOMers acknowledge their relationship to companies and don't misrepresent their products. The Word of Mouth Marketing Association has even developed a code of ethics that spells out appropriate WOM protocol. Ethical WOM marketing is important if consumers are expected to trust marketers and pay attention to what they have to say. Too much deception could further exacerbate the problem of getting people to tune in to marketing messages and damage brands in the long-term.

This week, I'll discuss why the good kind of WOM could be a great approach for librarians and one that merits more study and practice.

Categories: must_reads | train_yourself

Friday, September 22, 2006

RSS that makes sense

MicroPersuasion points to a helpful post that explains how to use RSS in a way that actually makes sense. For those of you promoting your libraries' RSS feeds, this post could give you some ideas about how to describe the benefits to users.

Categories: tips_to_try

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Is Facebook diluting its brand? (And are there lessons for librarians?)

Knowledge@Wharton addresses a concern I've had about the wisdom of Facebook's decision to expand its network beyond the realm of colleges/universities. I highly recommend reading the article Losing Their Cool: The Downside of Expanding Hot Social Networking Sites for an excellent analysis of Facebook's change of direction. The author asks, "Underneath Facebook's expansion plans is a conundrum facing any social networking site: How do these companies expand into new markets without losing what originally made the site popular and alienating their existing customers? This question hit home for me since what I liked about Facebook was the very fact that it wasn't as open as communities like MySpace and I felt like I had at least a little bit in common with members. In fact, as the article points out, sites like Facebook may be losing their "air of exclusivity" that draws in audiences. The author points out that perhaps a "portfolio of brands" model, such as that utilized by P&G could be preferable, "A company like Facebook could do the same thing. According to Bell, the primary brand could focus on college students and a new site could follow young professionals. "That way, there's little concern about diluting the main brand. There are elements of other industries that are analogous to this one."'

The danger here, as I see it, is that Facebook is devolving into a me-too product that doesn't offer a competitive advantage over MySpace. Certainly, companies are entitled to expand their businesses, but the lack of a clear purpose may make it difficult to convince people of the service's benefits, which could result in alienating many current and potential users. Is there a lesson here for librarians? Possibly. With all the talk about how we can make ourselves more Googlesque, shouldn't we instead be discussing what makes libraries libraries? What distinguishes us from other information providers, and why would people want to use what we offer? The answers to those questions should be the driving force behind our service decisions, and not the impulse to duplicate what exists elsewhere. Furthermore, books are not the answer, at least not all of it. The stuff we have is not what we are. We are stewards of information and members of our communities; we create possibilites for people where they didn't exist before. These are the kinds of qualities that will endear us to patrons. Books can be found in numerous places. Opportunities are harder to come by. I consider myself a very open-minded person who seeks service inspirations from everywhere: restaurants, advertisements, car dealerships, psychology and business literature and, yes, Google and Amazon and every other place that makes me consider another way of doing things. As we adapt some of these inspirations to what we do, I hope we'll continually ask ourselves which adaptations dilute and which adaptations distinguish what libraries are. Even better, I hope that we continue to evaluate and improve upon aspects of what we do that are uniquely libraryesque, and that other service providers derive inspiration from how we conduct ourselves.

Categories: must_reads | random_stuff

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

B is for branding

We all know that branding is important. Branding can be a strong competitive advantage and can also reduce patrons' perceived risk of using our services.

Because branding is so crucial for those of us in the service industry, I'm passing along a few helpful branding pieces I've read recently:

  • MarketingProfs has two branding articles in its latest newsletter. One entitled, Strong Brands Always Have More Brand Credits Than Debits: A Starbucks Lesson describes how SBUX uses a credit/debit system in deciding whether or not a marketing move will add or detract from the brand. The author describes the four key questions SBUX marketers ask to make this determination and recommends making one for your own business.
  • In the second article, The 10 C's of Branding, the author gives ten qualities of strong brands (all starting with "c" of course): competent, credible, clear, compelling, consistent, constant, connected, committed and current.
  • points to a fun article from CNN Money about product mascots and how they communicate the brand. This strategy can also be used for character-free brands for which the main focus is on story-telling. On a related topic, the Marketing News blog asks, If your brand were a person, what kind of person...? The recommended exercise is fun and worth a try. The authors says the technique is "a means of seeing the brand in three dimensions in a way that mere descriptive terms can'’t illustrate, and conjuring up a whole person is more likely to get at the flaws as well as the strengths of the brand."
Update: I realized that the 10 C's article from MarketingProfs is missing #7, so there are only 9 C's listed. I've contacted the author so we can find out what this mysterious seventh C is. I'll keep you posted. :)

Update #2: I just heard from the 10 C's author, William Arruda, what the 7th C is. Here is what he wrote: "7. Confident
Confidence is attractive and it is an attribute of all strong brands.
Strong brands are not wishy-washy. They make decisions with conviction and
deal with the consequences. They have a vision and believe that the vision
can become reality.

Marriott was confident in their decision to go no-smoking. They instituted
the policy world-wide – taking a stand and attracting attention. Strong
brands aren’t bashful. They are confident and that confidence permeates the
entire organization.

Thanks, William!

Categories: creativity_and_inspiration | must_reads | resource_roundup

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Customer care - learn from those who do it right

This is neat: FastCompany released its 2006 Customer First Awards. The winners, "transform ordinary transactions into entertaining experiences -- delighting customers and showing everyone else the way." What's great is that the Fast Company site not only lists the winning companies, but it also describes why they're worthy of the honor so it's an ideal place to find some pointers and ideas. Also featured are podcasts from the winners as well as related articles.

Speaking of customer service, don't forget about internal customers as well. Employees are the people who actually take all of the strategies laid out in marketing plans and make them happen...or not. To be successful, employees must understand what the organization is trying to accomplish and be given the tools and support to get the organization to where it aims to be. Services, unlike goods, involve employees creating the service along with the customer. This unique aspect of services gives employees a promising opportunity to shape the service to meet or exceed customers' expections. However, if under-trained and unprepared, employees can fall short of what customers want. Obviously, the role of front-line staff is extremely important in any service, including library services. For these reasons I was very excited to find the blog Quality Service Marketing that specializes in internal marketing and internal communications. It's written by a former Chairman of the American Marketing Association who is currently a marketing and organizational advisor. Of course, we all know of more good blogs than we can keep up with, but this one appears to fill an important internal marketing niche. As an added bonus, the author writes with an accessible, educational tone for non-marketing types. I'm already finding some terrific ideas (take a look at this post for instance).

Categories: creativity_and_inspiration | resource_roundup

Monday, September 18, 2006

Marketing in higher ed

NPR, Morning Edition, reports on how colleges and universities are ramping up their marketing to attract students. Have a listen!

Categories: new_news

Pop-ups (not the book kind)

Pop-up retailing is hitting the streets of Canada, according to a CBC News article. In efforts to cut through the clutter (THE ultimate promotion challenge), retailers like Evian and Target aren't waiting for customers to come to them - they're taking their products to customers in attention-getting ways. Evian, for example, established pop-up spas where people could drop in for a bottle of water, a hand massage, or other relaxing treatments. Interestingly, these awareness-grabbing tactics hearken back to traditional means of distribution as one retail consultant describes, "Having stores and firm places of business is more recent than the history of retail would have you believe."

In my library, I've always argued that librarians should "pop up" in unexpected locations delivering unexpected services. It's important that we change up the contexts in which patrons view us as relevant and free ourselves somewhat from associations with the library building itself. Information doesn't have boundaries, so why should we? I think we librarians could do a great deal more with how we manage the place/distribution portion of our marketing mix.

Library as place, however, is still a powerful service offering, but how well do we manage it? An article from USA Today might make you rethink how you approach your library spaces. The piece describes how retailers manipulate everything from scents to layouts to sounds in order to encourage purchases. The books Call of the Mall and Why We Buy by Paco Underhill explore the intricacies of the retail environment in depth. For retailing from a library perspective, check out Jeannette Woodward's Creating the Customer-Driven Library: Building on the Bookstore Model.

Categories: new_news | promising_promotions | resource_roundup

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Get the skills to succeed...@your library reports on an emerging trend that's right up librarians' collective alley: Status Skills. The report defines Status Skills this way: ""In economies that increasingly depend on (and thus value) creative thinking and acting, well-known status symbols tied to owning and consuming goods and services will find worthy competition from 'STATUS SKILLS': those skills that consumers are mastering to make the most of those same goods and services, bringing them status by being good at something, and the story telling that comes with it." Skills are a product of information and training, and librarians fit squarely in the skills-providing business.

For me, one of the strongest appeals of this profession and of libraries generally is empowerment, which I suppose is a close cousin of status, but I'd never thought of it in those terms. I often talk to faculty and students about how empowering and plain cool it is to be able to find information on any topic that tickles their fancy. As a librarian, I'm enthralled by how almost any kind of information a patron may want is find-able. If it doesn't exist, then the resources are out there to make new knowledge to fill the gap. Amazing.

I've thought a lot about empowerment, libraries, and Web 2.0, or, whatever you call people's increasing tendency to want to generate/add to/customize information online via blogs, wikis, communities and so on. What I see is an emerging niche for librarians, which the Status Skills report does a good job of describing. Patrons don't just want to locate information. They also want to adapt, modify and transform information. We information experts can help them to be successful in those pursuits. We already dabble in this to greater or lesser extents. At VCU, we offer RefWorks, which allows patrons to store and manage their citations. Most libraries also offer basic software packages that allow patrons to manipulate information to create presentations, videos, and other projects. We're no longer gatekeepers of information; we're professionals who assist our patrons in achieving their best, whatever that may be. Doing so may lead to status for some patrons, but it will also hopefully increase the status of our profession in their minds. In other words, it's positioning ourselves to be relevant in an evolving information world by doing what we want to be doing anyway: helping people with information and expertise.

Recently, I've been struck by how powerful positioning ourselves in this way can be. The example I have from my work is far from Web 2.0 and equally far from innovative, but the results have surprised me nevertheless. This fall, our university began promoting a set of study skills that they expect incoming students to master, including time management and being prepared for class. In support of this worthwhile initiative, I created a brief study skills resource guide that addresses the university's expectations with supplemental library resources. Essentially, I've tried to give students tools they can use to improve their skills so they can perform better in classes, which differs from the traditional discipline-based guides that help people find stuff for their papers. It's nothing earth-shattering to those of us who make these guides all of the time, but here's what's happened in less than a month since I made the guide: A university administrator asked that instructors explore ways to incorporate this guide into their coursework; a residence hall advisor asked me if he could disperse the guide throughout his dorm because he wished he had those skills as a freshman (I said yes :-) ); I asked the RA if I might have a chance to talk to students in the dorm about these resources (he said yes :-) ), and I'm now planning a program for the dorm along with a colleague who heads up tutoring on campus; and I'm working with library colleagues to beef up our study skills collection. I also made a similar guide for members of student organizations with resources on topics like leadership, planning meetings and events, etc., and I've been invited to talk to organization advisors about what we can offer as a result. Granted, much of this has to do with the welcoming, collegial atmosphere here and trends on campus, but marketing is all about environment. I want our patrons to understand that we have resources for all kinds of information needs that can make them more effective in whatever they're doing on campus in addition to writing papers.

If you'd like more ideas on repositioning, I highly recommend Drew Racine's thought-provoking article in the latest American Libraries called "Bifurcate to Survive!" He suggests some pretty drastic changes to move patrons away from "libraries as books" to "libraries as information." You may or may not agree with him, but his ideas will shake up your thinking.

Categories: creativity_and_inspiration | must_reads | neat_trends | real_life | tips_to_try

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Marketing inspirations abound

I've found that learning about and exploring marketing ideas is downright inspirational. Today, I've stumbled across so much inspirational stuff that I can't give all of it its fair shake here in this blog post, but I can at least stick them in a list so you can take from it what you will. Here goes:

  • The New York Times reported on a new trend taking shape in the marketplace called Social Shopping. According to the article, social shopping sites "tr[y] to combine two favorite online activities: shopping and social networking. These sites are hoping to ride the MySpace wave by gathering people in one place to swap shopping ideas. And like MySpace, the sites are designed for both browsing and blogging, with some shopping-related technology twists included." These retailers are trying to do something that librarians often try to do: allow people to discover resources when their needs are still somewhat vague and they're not quite sure what they want, but they know they can't find it through the usual suspects.
  • Real-life RSS Marketing from ClickZ isn't necessarily unique, but there are lots of idea-generating examples of RSS at work (I found the Apple widgets described to be particularly interesting).
  • How to Be a Compassionate Designer for Passionate Customers from MarketingProfs outlines 4 practical ways to nurture compassion for users: get out of the office, talk to someone, eat, sleep dream, curiosity, and do what they do. Also, you all know I'm a fan of MarketingProfs' content. Recently, there was a technology-related mix-up that resulted in subscribers like me being deluged with e-mail messages we weren't supposed to get. I really didn't think too much of it, but MarketingProfs lost some subscribers as a result and profusely apologized for the mistake. It's a terrific example of service recovery when things go bad (they even responded personally to each person who complained and thanked them for complaining - wow!).
  • Blog About Libraries author Steve Backs initiated Naked Reference Month at his library. This September, desk staff are forbidden to bring non-desk work to the reference desk but instead they are to be 100% focused on providing reference and related desk duties. Though I am extremely conscious to never appear to be too busy to help someone if I'm working on other tasks on the desk (which there's rarely time to do anyway), I know I would probably learn a lot more about needs, be more approachable, and discover more service opportunities if I ditch the non-desk stuff entirely, so I'm joining in.
  • has two recent and highly-recommended reads: Customer-Made Update and Status Skills. The former is an update to the first Customer-Made report that came out in May 2005, which was an excellent description of how customers are taking on marketing roles. The latter merits its own post, which I hope to work on tomorrow.
Whew! That's a lot of inspiration, at least for one day. Hope these examples get your gears turning like they did mine. If you have inspirations of your own to shre, please feel free to do so!

Categories: must_reads | resource_roundup

Monday, September 11, 2006

It takes two

Marketing services is different from marketing tangible goods in many respects. One major difference is that in services, customers take part in creating the service along with the service provider. This means that if the resulting service offering is going to be any good, the customer needs to be prepared to do his or her part.

There's been quite a bit of discussion in several forums about simplicity vs. complexity, which hinge on whether not libraries should model Google/Amazon. However, this discussion represents only half of the equation. The other half has to do with preparing the patron to take part in the service. Let's face it, even "intuitive" services require some kind of learning on the part of the consumer. I doubt anyone is born knowing how to use an ATM machine or shop online. As service providers, we're responsible for teaching patrons the basics of using the library, such as reading call numbers, etc. Some would argue that if a task requires that someone be taught how to do something, that the task should be simplified to the point that no instruction is required. I disagree. Some of the most fun or enjoyable service experiences are so because we have to be taught how to use them. Take, for example, Starbucks (I know. It's an overused example, but it often works). Starbucks provides a guide for customers on how to order a drink complete with definitions for the "latte lingo" involved in the transaction. Does Starbucks need to call a "small" a "tall" or its staff "barristas"? Wouldn't it be more simple and easily understandable to ditch the specialized vocabulary? Perhaps. But here the language helps to build the brand and once customers know the lingo, they are "in" with the culture of Starbucks, which can give people a sense of belonging (a popular motive behind purchase decisions). To make sure that customers can engage in the service transaction successfully, Starbucks (and even its regular customers) offers instructions to novices. When the Starbucks Gossip blog posted one customer's complaint that too many choices made getting coffee there too confusing, Starbucks fans replied that people go to Starbucks because they can get exactly what they want. One customer stated, "The reason Dunkin Donuts has only "plain black coffee" is because they are a donut shop and not a coffee shop. That's like complaining there are too [many] kinds of underwear in an underwear store and comparing it to the small underwear section of a department store."

I don't want to suggest that we should make navigating our libraries unnecessarily complex or elitist in any way. I know that in our library, most people are here because they need to get time-sensitive work done and don't want any annoying holdups that impede their progress. However, it's important to remember that there are such things as market segments, and that we should be respectful of the fact that there are members of our patron base who don't want just any article-they want the best article. Finding the best article often requires time, patience, and tools that allow patrons to do sophisticated searches. The research process is complex and so is information. We can and should take steps to mitigate frustrations, but we shouldn't pare our offerings down to accommodate the segment of our users who want fast and good enough at the expense of users who want quality and the best fit. Training, then, is a vital marketing function needed to ensure that users can achieve the level of service that best suits their needs. Patrons, for their part, should expect that they will have do some amount of learning that is appropriate for what they hope to achieve, and we have a role to play in setting those expectations.

Update: I neglected to mention that I believe most patrons are used to having to learn to use services, even services as straightforwad as getting a haircut.

Categories: random_stuff | usable theories

Friday, September 08, 2006

Pssst! (It's a secret!)

The NYT reports on a new (or renewed) trend in advertising: secrets. Companies are encouraging their customers to share secrets with them and also sharing company "secrets" with customers. The article points to the Post-it and Secret deodorant campaigns among others.

Why would anyone want to share the intimate details of their lives with a corporate entity? I don't know, but apparently it taps into the natural allure of learning and telling secrets. From the company's point of view, secret campaigns, "give giant companies, which are often perceived as impersonal, a chance to address consumers "in an approachable way,"' says one brand manager quoted in the article.

I also believe that this tactic feeds into WOM by giving people something to talk about, and reminds me of the mystery campaigns I've mentioned before.

Perhaps this trend will give librarian-marketers some food for thought. I like the Post-it approach in which customers share their secrets for being successful using the product. Likewise, it could be fun to have patrons share their secrets to doing research and hidden gems they've found. Librarians could turn it into a contest for the best secret and post the secrets on their sites. Also, it could be fun to do a library mystery tour, particularly in older libraries that have lots of stories and secrets to tell.

Want to share your best-kept library marketing secret? Leave it in a comment!

Categories: creativity_and_inspiration | promising_promotions | tips_to_try

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The difference a note makes

Nothing appeals to me more as a customer than the sense that a business cares about me as a human being. Usually, I can get basically decent service most places I go, but it's the added touch of personality that endears me to a store and compels me come back. Most of the time these touches require very little extra effort on the part of the service provider, but they do require a great deal of extra thought. Here are some examples of what I'm talking about:

Church of the Customer displays a personalized note that the author received from a J. Crew salesperson after a recent visit. The salesperson even remembered that the author was a Steelers fan - now THAT'S personalization! I've received a similar note from a saleswoman at a jewelry store. Even though I didn't purchase anything, she thanked me for stopping by with a hand-written card. I still haven't returned to make a purchase, but I'm 100% sure that when I finally get around to making a decision, I'm going to buy from her.

Calls from salespeople are usually nothing more than a minor nuisance. But I was impressed when one retail store gave me a call to remind me that my coupons were about to expire and that I should stop on by to use them. Far from annoyed, I was actually glad for the call because I did in fact forget about the coupons I intended to use. Plus, the girl who called was quite friendly, which reinforced my positive experiences with the store. Granted, they just wanted to get me to spend more money that I intended to spend anyway, but it was money I felt better about spending because they took the time to contact me personally.

Everyone likes getting free gifts, but it has to be the right free gift. Not too long ago, I bought a new car from Mazda. It was my first new car in fact and so it was a pretty momentous decision for me, particularly since I switched to a new-for-me make of car. How was I rewarded for taking this financial leap of faith? With peanuts. That's right...peanuts. I'd heard stories of new car buyers getting showered with flowers and all manner of nice gifts, but I got an ugly tin of stale, inedible peanuts. They were probably better off sending me nothing rather than this "present" because it said a lot about how they valued me as a customer (not much).
[Update: In retrospect, I was a little hard on Mazda here, given my less-than-comfortable sales experience. The company has redeemed itself over the past year. They sent me a nice note on my birthday and a letter on the one-year anniversary of my purchase. Their service is outstanding too. So, overall, they do a good job with customer service despite the icky peanuts.]

The point for librarians here is that you don't have to spend a lot of time or money to impress upon patrons how much we value them. Sticking to our promises, personalizing our interactions as much as possible, and surprising our patrons from time to time with a little something extra can help to demonstrate our appreciation for them and go a long way toward differentiating ourselves from alternatives. From a purely marketing standpoint, it's also important to remember that customers evaluate a service every single time they use it (and in-between uses). Encouraging patrons to use our services once doesn't mean they'll come back a second time. We need to offer continuous evidence that they're making a good decision to come through our doors. A small gesture can make all the difference.

Update: Yet another example of the little ways in which organizations show they care (and mean it), from Panera Bread.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Is your brand Web 2.0 compliant?

An article on delves into the implications that Web 2.0 has for organizations' brand identities. The author argues that Web 2.0 makes understanding and implementing the basics of good branding a paramount concern, even among small businesses and non-profits. Specifically, he believes that brands need to adapt to the Online word of mouth that Web 2.0 facilitates. He states, "It's [word of mouth] not just for corporates. In fact, smart SMEs and not for profits will also see opportunities here to lift the goodwill they enjoy in the community. It's not necessarily an expensive strategy either - although it is exacting, because it requires your business, regardless of size or sector, to actively monitor its interactions, impressions, perceptions, likeability and deliverables." He also offers up 12 considerations to prepare your brand for WOM including, "What sort of reputation do you actually want?," "Are you listening?," "Are you intriguing?," and "Are you ready to be hijacked?."

My two cents: I'm studying Services Marketing this semester, and I'm already bubbling over with fascinating information to share with you. One such nugget is related to this discussion of brands. As we talked about today in class, services by their very nature are risky products. You often can't see, touch, or try them out until you're experiencing the service, and by then it's too late - you bought it! This is true of library services as well despite the fact that there is little to no financial risk. There are, however, risks such as the risk of looking silly by asking a question. It turns out that many kinds of risk can be mitigated by a good, solid brand. In other words, if patrons associate your library with trust, professionalism and good service, for examples, then they'll likely feel reassured by your brand and venture taking advantage of what you have to offer. Until now, I've mainly looked at brands as a way to shape identity and perceptions, but now I see that brands have an even more functional purpose in that they can remove a major psychological hurdle between patrons and your front door. As the article I mentioned illustrates, the prevalence of online word of mouth only makes branding more important and challenging because we share control of our brand with patrons more than ever. has a number of free articles online that appear to come from marketers with good credentials. You may want to take a look at them as you think about how to make your brand Web 2.0 compliant.

Categories: must_reads | neat_trends | usable_theories

Friday, September 01, 2006

Technology tidbits to try out

MicroPersuasion is a terrific blog whose author, Steve Rubel, "explores how social media is transforming marketing, media and public relations." I haven't mentioned it in a while because Rubel happens to be prolific blogger and it takes me some time to catch up with his posts. Nevertheless, I uncovered some marketing tidbits on his blog worth sharing with you:

  • - I was excited to find this gem of a blog, and if podcasting is a prominent piece of your promotion plan (say that 5 times fast!) you'll probably want to explore it for handy tips and resources to make your podcasts effective and entertaining.
  • Web 2.0 Workgroup - This site is a "network of premium weblogs that write content about the new generation of the Web." There's a definite and direct relationship between Web 2.0 (or whatever you want to call it) and the latest trends in marketing, so hopefully the sites listed here will help unleash some library marketing innovations. Oh, and MicroPersuasion and Library Stuff appear on the list.
  • Most of you have probably already seen WikiCharts, but I mention it just in case it slipped under your radar. It's an interesting (if not a little unsettling) peek inside the topics people want to know more about.
  • Will All of Us Get Our 15 Minutes On a YouTube Video? - This WSJ Online (free) article discusses who's using YouTube and why. One interesting stat: "70% of YouTube's registered users are American and roughly half are under 20 years of age." This information could certainly help inform your marketing efforts if you're looking at YouTube as a promotion vehicle.
That's it for now! I wish you a nice holiday weekend and equally nice weather to those of you who, like me, are pretty sick of Ernesto.

Categories: resource_roundup | technology_tools