Tuesday, October 31, 2006

More marketing tools for kids @your library

An ALSC press release announces the addition of new materials to its promotional toolkit. The new materials include games, PSA's, and a specialized Web site.

Categories: new_news | promising_promotions

Weekly WOM: Honesty counts

There's a lot of discussion brewing in the WOM world over PR firm Edelman's questionable marketing tactics on behalf of its client Wal-Mart. Apparently, Edelman created fake blogs for the retailer that related the stories of two people traveling cross-country in an RV and camping out in Wal-Mart parking lots. You can get a recap of the story and the ensuing debate at Church of the Customer, but the most significant development so far for librarians who may be considering WOM strategies is WOMMA's response - The Association created an Ethics Assessment Tool that gives marketers 20 questions to consider before launching a WOM program. The questions are supposed to help marketers avoid doing anything unethical and they are related to the following topics: honesty of relationship, honesty of opinion, honesty of identity, taking responsibility, respecting the rules, and when hiring an agency. Integrity is particularly important with respect to WOM because once you abuse people's trust, it's difficult to win it back. Without trust, WOM doesn't work.

In other WOM news, you may want to check in on how Starbucks is using the social networking site Gather.com to promote the book for one more day. Despite the issues of authenticity these SBUX tactics call into question, using social networking sites to augment or substitute for in-person events is an appealing option for librarians to explore further.

Categories: new_news | promising_promotions | technology_tools | tips_to_try

Friday, October 27, 2006

New tool for locating marketing info on the Web

KnowThis.com assembled its list of top marketing Web sites into its own search engine using the Google Custom Search Engine. This search option allows you to search only those marketing sites deemed to be high-quality by the site's editor. I've always had a high opinion of the resources offered on this site and I've found this search engine to be a useful tool. You may want to check it out the next time you have a burning marketing question.

[In the interests of full disclosure and all that, I'm a Founding Member of the site's Marketing Forums.]

Categories: resource_roundup | technology_tools

Thursday, October 26, 2006

When a brand just doesn't cut it anymore

Librarians continue to debate the library-as-books brand. Should we change our brand? Can we change it? If we do change it, what should a new brand look like? Whatever side of the fence you're on, or even if you're on the fence, these are important questions to ask. Marketers, in fact, must contend with brand issues like these all the time. The new MarketingProfs article, Why Rebranding Often Fails points out the pitfalls in undertaking such an ambitious effort. Here are some of the author's points that stood out to me:

  • "A brand is the sum of perceptions people have about your company and its products and services. Ultimately, a brand isn't something you have, it's something you do."
  • "Rebranding should always clarify and refine your positioning. Your goal in rebranding should be to make it easier for customers and prospects to understand exactly why your company should be one of their top choices—why there are few credible substitutes for your company in the market.
  • And my favorite: "If, when rebranding, you're not scared, that [sic] rebranding probably won't create meaningful change in your organization or in the marketplace.
If librarians become committed to the idea of building a whole new brand based upon something other than books, simply tacking on additional services won't do. To change people's minds about who we are, we have to fundamentally change what we do and how we do it, without going so far as to alienate people entirely or lose sight of our special role in society. Difficult? For sure. Worthwhile? I believe it probably is, though I hope we continue to discuss this topic.

Categories: must_reads | usable_theories

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Starbucks aesthetic on the march

Alice remarks on the continuing Starbucks expansion into the entertainment/cultural landscape on It's All Good. Alice points to a terrific NYT article called The Starbucks Aesthetic. I won't repeat the post or my comment on it, but both Alice and the article raise some important points about marketing and authenticity. Personally, I am increasingly disenchanted with SBUX's presumptuousness, though I do appreciate many of the marketing lessons the company teaches by example. It's insulting to me that they expect to dictate to customers what aspects of culture are worth paying attention to and which are not. As Alice suggests, perhaps libraries' strength is that they are a refuge for authenticity. I agree that I think one of librarians' competitive advantages is our ability to understand and work collaboratively with the communities we're a part of, and that our transparency and lack of a profit motive makes us very strong in the authenticity arena. Granted, we have a ways to go in the cool arena, but we're getting there. :)

Categories: must_reads

Google launches customized search engine

Google launched a custom search engine service that promises to be a very neat tool for adding value to Web sites and service offerings. It could be yet another way librarians can showcase their expertise by building search engines for target audiences.

You can read more about it on Search Engine Watch.

What immediately drew my attention is the ability to collaborate with others on building the search engine. Specifically, "Contributors can add additional sites to be included or excluded in your Custom Search Engine and annotate them with any refinement labels that you have created." This could be a great way to interact with colleagues as well as patrons.

I have to play with this to comment on it more fully, but I'm definitely excited about this tool. As you experiment with it, I'd be glad to hear about your thoughts on how this might be applied for library marketing purposes.

[Thanks to KnowThis.com forums for the tip!]

Categories: new_news | technology_tools

Weekly WOM - Tools to fuel the WOM fire

When doling out advice, WOM specialists usually tell practitioners to give people the tools they need to spread WOM. This is a pretty vague directive, but I recently stumbled upon an example from library land that might help make this idea more concrete.

I was playing around in the database Engineering Village, and noticed that when you click on an abstract, you'll find a button labeled "Blog This." When you click on it, you're given a piece of code that you can plop into your blog or Web site so that you can share the abstract with others. How great is that?! This functionality makes it easy to share a chunk of information that could otherwise be buried in a database and it allows bloggers to supplement the record with their own thoughts. It also helps to highlight the Engineering Village product. I really love this approach to raising the visibility of our high-quality library resources, and it's an excellent example of how we can help patrons to spread the word.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Ford tailgates customers as part of their market research

CNN reports on how Ford is using ethnographic research to build customer personas, which in turn form the basis of their car designs. Through survey research, marketers closed in on people who might like a particular kind of car and gave these people a name like "Phil." They figured out what the Phil's of the world like and dislike, and what their lives are like, etc. They then followed around a sample group of Phil's as the article describes, "They were followed in their homes, cars, offices and on shopping trips by researchers carrying note pads and video cameras. Their tastes in clothes, home furnishings, even beer, were noted. Everything they did with their cars, or wanted to do but couldn't, was noted and studied." Ford then built a car around Phil's lifestyle (which turns out to be a Ford Edge).

Of course, I'm wondering what librarians could discover about patrons by applying these research methods. What I like about this technique is that it puts researchers in the shoes of the customer to flesh out what survey data says. I'm not sure if this is a method that librarians would adopt, but I do think it's important when possible to step out of the librarian role to understand how patrons experience the library.

Categories: neat_trends | real_life

Friday, October 20, 2006

Creativity clips

If marketing is about adapting to ever-evolving customer needs, then marketing is also about change and risk - two things that don't come easy to most organizations. Maybe that's why so many Web authors write like crazy about how to overcome obstacles to creativity and innovation. Here are some of the pieces I picked up on this week:

1. Aaron Schmidt of Walking Paper addresses questions about how to beat organizational resistance to adopting new technologies. The questions came from audience members who attended the SirsiDynix presentation, "Engaging Youth on their Own Terms: Instant Messaging and Gaming in Libraries."

2. Blog About Libraries' Steve Backs asks if your workplace is a "Culture of No" or a "Culture of Maybe" (both are bad news for innovators) and points out Five Rules of Creativity from the Weiden and Kennedy ad agency.

3. Creativity guru Paul Williams offers a Mixed Tape of Weblinks that points out two books for those seeking to break free from the mold: Zag: The Number One Strategy of High-Performance Brands and The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary.

4. BusinessWeek online explains the danger of copycatting: "The lack of individuality makes it hard to remember, understand, or talk about brands. They lack the emotional appeal and intellectual trust needed to keep us loyal."

Categories: creativity_and_inspiration | resource_roundup

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

New skills, new services, new opportunities

Librarians, I've argued, aren't in the information warehousing business - we're in the improving people's lives business. We help people find, evaluate, and use information so that they can accomplish those things that are meaningful to them. Those "things" could be learning a new skill, completing major research projects, learning about a new or personally interesting topic, finding employment, doing self-exploration, filling in the family tree, communicating with friends, creating works of art or any one of countless activities that enrich patrons' lives. How exactly we go about our life-improvement business is changing. Patrons want and expect different things from us and they have more alternatives than they did in the past. These changes may be a little scary because they create a lot of uncertainty, but they are also incredibly exciting because they give us the opportunity to find new ways to apply our talents and resources. And we're not the only ones doing a lot of introspection these days.

Duct Tape Marketing blog author John Jantsch advises small businesses on marketing. In this post, John offers the following bit of advice, "This principle is one that every business can and should think long and hard about. How can you become more valuable to your clients. What can you offer to do, even if it's not really your job, that would help them be more successful, get better results, solve more problems. Do that, and you will find the universe will make you more successful in the process.[emphasis mine]" I agree. On a related note, I was doing research for an assignment and found this article about how the financial services industry is struggling with its own sense of purpose. The gist of the piece is that wealthy Baby Boomers demand more services from their financial planners. These clients don't just want financial advice anymore, they want input on their life goals, career choices, and help with how to achieve their dreams. Essentially, Baby Boomers want help with being successful in the big scheme of things, and right now they're unsatisfied with what planners have to offer. To meet these new demands, planners are going to need to develop entirely new skill sets and operations. They will have to broaden their areas of expertise and discover new ways of managing clients. Does any of this sound familiar?

The point of these two business examples is that we're not alone in confronting the question of how to redefine ourselves given the realities of the modern marketplace. Some of what we've always done will remain, but I believe that librarians will have to develop new skills (like marketing?) and uncover new opportunities to turn our stuff into meaning for patrons. We will have to become adept at finding ways of helping our patrons be successful in their pursuits. Doing so means that we will have to leave our comfort zones, continually refresh our skills, and become indispensable partners with our patrons. Our success, it seems, is directly linked to our patrons' success.

Categories: random_stuff

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

QR: The next big thing?

[photo from SlashPhone]

Wireless: Mobile Marketing in an Ink Blot discusses a technology already commonplace in Japan and South Korea - QR codes. QR stands for "Quick Response." These codes are like bar codes, but they look more like ink blots and they contain a lot more information. Customers read the codes by taking snapshots of them with Internet-enabled cell phones. For example, the article mentions that grocery shoppers can take pictures of QR coded meat packages and learn where the meat came from, what the cow ate, and where the meat was processed. The codes are also finding their way onto business cards and McDonald's food packaging.

I can only begin to imagine the potential uses for this in libraries. We could code signs, exhibits, promotional materials, and on and on. What I like is that the codes are interactive and that they add value and layers of meaning to objects. Consider how even the simple act of consuming hamburgers is changed just by knowing all about the cow they came from! I'm enthusiastic about marketing applications for tools like these that allow us to provide a richer experience for patrons.

What do you think about QR and it's possible applications?

Categories: technology_tools

Monday, October 16, 2006

Weekly WOM: Making friends online

If you only do one thing today, read today's NYT article that investigates how marketers are making new "friends" on sites like MySpace and Facebook. The tactics are certainly creative. Marketers are developing characters that people can befriend, and they sponsor games and give away prizes for referrals. Networking sites are also making accommodations for advertisers: "MySpace is even willing to change some of its standard features to help advertisers. For example, it normally lets members display photos of their top eight friends on their main profile pages. But people who added the movie "X-Men: The Last Stand" to their friends list were given the right to show 16 top friends." The impetus behind these tactics is to integrate marketers into social networks so that they can take advantage of their WOM-friendly features.

Categories: must_reads | neat_trends | promising_promotions

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Brush, floss, and market

It's always interesting to see how professionals in other fields approach marketing. Dental Economics has a nice piece on marketing to patients based on the generation they're a part of including Matures, Boomers, Gen X, and Gen Y. The characteristics of the groups are described along with customized marketing tips for each. For Gen Y patients, for example, the author advises, "Gen Y patients do not want to be instructed on what to do, but steered through the decision-making process. Help guide them through it, while appealing to their search for passion and identity. As they begin taking ownership of their health, provide them with enough information to make educated decisions." Many tips are general enough that they have some applicability to the library community as well, but you'll want to take them with a grain of salt since the author is pushing her wares throughout this article and there are no references listed. Nevertheless, it's a good starting point for thinking about marketing focused on particular age groups.

Update: I found this in yesterday's New York Times: Not Getting Older, Just More Scrutinized provides an in-depth look at Baby Boomers and the challenges advertisers face in reaching them - a great read.

Update #2: USA Today reports on Gen Y: Gen Y sits on top of consumer food chain.

Categories: resource_roundup | tips_to_try

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Listening-centered marketing

A Click-Z article, Time For a New Model: Listening-Centered Marketing, calls for a new way of thinking about marketer/customer relationships. The author, Pete Blackshaw, notes that there is a tension between marketers' and customers' perceptions of the marketplace and their roles in it. To alleviate this tension, Blackshaw advocates a new marketing model whereby marketers continually listen and respond to needs as they arise. He goes on to offer building blocks for this model. Blackshaw describes the proposed model this way: "Listening-Centered Marketing thinks about measurements and metrics as continuous, and not mere time-stamps. It's about managing in a world where real-time conversation is held in equal esteem with a click, or a page view, even an actual "transaction." It's where the consumer "voice" gives us a much needed aperture to make better, more informed brand decisions."

Listening is a difficult still to master. It's even more difficult to do on an continual basis. It is, however, key to being ahead of the curve and proactive in addressing needs, which in turn creates value for customers.

Categories: tips_to_try | usable_theories

Monday, October 09, 2006

Defending libraries - Are new tactics the key?

This is probably old news to many of you by now, but since I've been out of the office and away from the computer for awhile, I'm playing catch up and found a piece that absolutely belongs on LM. John Blyberg of the Ann Arbor District Library wrote a strong and compelling response to a discussion surrounding an op-ed piece whose author argues against building a new downtown library. Sarah Houghton took a lead in defending the value of libraries in her response (way to go!) and the article has rustled a lot of other feathers, as evidenced by the 61 comments it generated to date. John's analysis is outstanding, and I won't endeavor to repeat it, so give it a read. Two points stand out to me after reading his piece - 1. The op-ed piece is extremely enlightening as to why some people are disenchanted with library services. I agree with John that it's important to listen carefully to these arguments because we need to be prepared to address them with words, actions, and/or new services. 2. Librarians are going to need be increasingly proactive, risk-taking and marketing-savvy to create value for people and to promote that value. As John says, "I think as we push further into the 21st Century, a lot of librarians are going to have to reconcile their expectations of what they think a library should be with what a library needs to be. This is hard, because in order to effect the changes needed to do business in this new, emerging market (yes, we're part of a market), and find a place among the commercial giants we need to be much more nimble than we are now." I agree that being in a defensive, reactionary position is detrimental to our work, and I was glad to read the thoughts in this post. What do you think?

Categories: must_reads | real_life

Peek in on marketing conversations at KnowThis.com

I was quite excited and grateful when Dr. Paul Christ, editor of KnowThis.com, invited me to be 1 of about 25 Founding Members of the site's brand new Marketing Forums. The Forums launched today and are intended to be, "a place where marketers can share experiences, receive advice, discuss current happenings, meet other marketers and much more." There are forums on all kinds of topics like marketing basics, research design, marketing plans, and technologies and trends, to name just some.

No, I'm not getting paid to do this and no, I'm not shamelessly self-promoting, but I do think the Forums present a worthwhile opportunity for librarians to peek in on the conversations and advice offered. There's no fee to read the entries and it looks like there are top-notch marketers participating. I'm sure I'll learn a lot and I hope you do too.

[In case you were wondering, I post under the mysterious pseudonym "jill the librarian" - creative, no?]

Update: I just received word that the Forums have not yet launched publicly due to a last-minute glitch. I didn't notice it on my end, so I apologize for any confusion. The goal is to resolve the problem today and if not, to launch tomorrow.
Update #2: Everything's up and running!

Categories: new_news | train_yourself

Time: Too high a price?

In library land, our services entail little or no direct monetary costs. Other costs, however, are quite high for many of our patrons. Specifically, I'm talking about time (and the lack of it). Research is a skill and like any other skill, it takes time to develop. Even pleasure reading is a trade-off of time for a variety of personal benefits. Unfortunately, time is what today’s patrons lack. I'm sure that this statement is hardly news for any of you who probably suffer from your own time deficits. What's newsworthy to me is the extent of this problem. The other day, a patron approached the desk in search of a golf pencil. When I asked if she was finding everything else alright, she responded, "Yeah, except the inside of my eyelids." It was about 9 or 10a.m. This statement reminded me of other conversations I'd heard recently. For example, a group of undergraduates were talking about the challenges of balancing full-time jobs with full-time schoolwork. One girl commented that she remembers breaking down into tears some days because she was so exhausted she didn't think she could function. Perhaps you've heard similar sentiments. How, then, can we expect even the most well-intentioned person to devote valuable time to leisurely or scholarly library pursuits?

In marketing, one of the much beloved 4 P's is Price. Marketers set a price that is a reasonable exchange for the benefits a product or service offers to a target market. When it comes to time, how can librarians set appropriate prices as time becomes increasingly valuable? I don't have a magic bullet answer to this question, but I do have a few ideas and I welcome your own:

  • Set realistic expectations: We don't want to promise too much or too little to our patrons when it comes to how much time something will take. It's great if we can speed up processes, but some services take a fixed time to deliver. We should do all we can to get patrons what they need quickly, but if we over- or under-promise, we risk dissatisfying them. Furthermore, it's dishonest to portray research or learning new skills as quick and easy. They're not. And I doubt any amount of technology or automation will make a substantial difference time-wise for many of these endeavors.
  • Promote the benefits: Sure, attending a library workshop or program will cost patrons 60 minutes, but focus on what they'll get in return. A new skill, a good time, better grades, or new insights are just some benefits patrons seek in exchange for spending their time. Promotion materials should focus on those benefits and the service should be carefully designed so as to be worth the cost.
  • Segment by time: In the for-profit world, marketers use characteristics like income to segment markets. In the library world, why not segment patrons by how much time they have to spend? On-the-go businesspeople, sleep-starved students and busy moms will likely prefer quick and convenient services at their points-of-need, whereas retirees may be more willing to attend longer programs. Of course, market research will be required to make these determinations, but segmenting by time is worth investigating.
  • Help patrons make more time: Highlight resources you have on topics like time-management or sponsor workshops on time-saving themes.
  • Creative distribution: Technology offers exciting opportunities to deliver what patrons need when and where they need it. RSS feeds allow patrons to get the news they want quickly when then want it, for example. Librarians are already investigating how they can get small, quick chunks of information and tutorials to patrons on demand by way of screencasts and podcasts. These strategies put patrons in control of how much time they spend on tasks and when they engage in them, thereby offsetting the time costs of services.
Have any other price-reducing tips?

Categories: real_life | tips_to_try | usable_theories

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

From push to pull - Ads on demand

EContent has as nice write-up about how customers are becoming content creators in the ad world. The article describes how customers are no longer satisfied to sit idly by as ads are pushed at them. Rather, they now seek to make ads the way they want, and watch them when they want, as user-generated content continues to shake up the marketing landscape. The author, Steve Smith, asserts, "The forward thinking (but too few) advertisers who are embracing this user-generated ad format appreciate that their products take on the personality and voice of the host, becoming part of the spirit of the show itself. What these marketers intuit, if not realize consciously, is that media are shifting from a content-centric to an audience-centric model." Smith contends that customers are now media explorers, not consumers.

I think it's an open question as to how librarians are to adapt to this trend, both in terms of services and promotions, but it's clear that we should recognize the desire for patrons to exercise greater control over the marketing messages they take in. As we devise our own promotions, how do we involve our patrons and engage them as co-creators?

Categories: neat_trends | promising_promotions

Monday, October 02, 2006

Weekly WOM: Increase the fun factor

The Church of the Customer blog reports on how one intrepid Southwest Airlines gate agent took matters into his own hands to perk up flyers after the A/C broke down at the terminal. The agent soothed weary travelers with his jokes, goofy hat and greeting everyone by name. According to the report, the heat was quickly forgotten, but the fun experience was not. As Jackie Huba sums up, "It was still hot as hell at the gate, but most folks made their way onto the plane with a smile on their face, as I did. The freedom to be fun. Yet another reason why Southwest has such strong word of mouth versus its competitors." The post also includes a chart from a HBR article, The One Number You Need to Grow (Hint: It's customer referrals).

This story reminded me of another one I read from the NYT that describes how one hotel is training its employees in the finer points of etiquette: "The program, begun in August, is meant to set Loews employees apart by their behavior, dress and personalized approach to sales." The intensive two-day training covers all manner of social and sales skills. As part of this new strategy, the hotel's sales people encourage their potential clients to have fun, try out the bed and use the bath products. It seems to be working as one client said, "'I saw a big change,' Ms. Cricks said. "I used to see the hotel as stiff and sterile. The site visit was very whimsical. It was definitely fun." And more important for the Regency, she said she planned to expand the list of clients she would steer there."

As these two examples suggest, there would seem to be a direct WOM-fun relationship. I know we're not in the entertainment business, but if airlines and hotels can insert a bit of humor into their routines, libraries can too. I can't speak for everyone, but a sense of humor is a very endearing quality to me in both people and companies. Fun, however, doesn't just happen. As these examples demonstrate, for fun to work, it has to be a part of the organizational culture and front-line staff have to feel empowered to take certain liberties depending on the situation. Doing so may not just be good for the funny bone, but also for fostering positive word-of-mouth.

Categories: creativity_and_inspiration | real_life