Monday, November 19, 2007

Get your creativity on!

I had a blast last week getting my creativity on at NEASIST's program on guerilla innovation in Providence, RI. My gig was to talk about the theoretical/conceptual aspects of creativity, including techniques for enhancing one's innate creativity and the need to adopt creativity as a core professional competency. I had so much fun because NEASIST members are awesome, my fellow co-presenters were terrific, and because this topic (creativity) is very near and dear to me these days. Why, you ask (and even if you didn't)? Creativity is at the heart of every new service or 'a ha' moment in libraries. Ideas begin with creative thought. If we're not thinking creatively all the time, we're missing opportunities and letting problems hang around. Creativity, or ideation, are also accepted components of the marketing process, particularly in new product development. With all of the promotional clutter and competing services we face, unique, compelling ideas keep us competitive. Creativity, unfortunately, doesn't just magically happen. It takes an organizational effort and conscious practice to foster ideas and let the good ones see the light of day. It also takes a strong stomach because creativity is inherently risky as it usually means disrupting the status quo.

So, my talk had a lot of personal and professional significance for me and it allowed me to explore another marketing avenue. You're welcome to view the PowerPoint presentation here:

Since I try not to load my PowerPoints down with text, you probably have no clue what these slides mean, which is why I'm also going to make my script available. Important Note: I use my so-called-script so that I don't forget the major points I want to make but I don't read from it! So, what you'll read is hardly a verbatim account, but it should give you a sense of how the talk went. I don't claim to be the best speaker ever, but I figured if I didn't mention this fact, you'd all be a tad horrified by what you read. :-)


Jessamyn posted a brief account of the program on her blog, and I'll be recounting the major themes from all speakers on the Designing Better Libraries (DBL) blog. I'll also describe how to run a successful brainstorming session on DBL.

Best of luck with all of your creative endeavors!

Update: Here's an attendee's notes on the session.

Update #2: I posted my notes from the talk on DBL. I'll also feature creativity practices on DBL to help you generate lots of ideas!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Using library books as direct marketing vehicles - huh?!

This article from the UK's Guardian entitled, "Libraries to be 'new channel' for direct marketing" describes how some libraries have agreed to allow advertisements to be placed next to the due date slips in the books they circulate. To clarify, these ads don't come from the libraries themselves, but from private businesses. Here's what a director at the direct marketing company had to say about this tactic:

'"The inserts are put in the book at the first page as you're handed the book to check it out," he explained. "They're going to be inserted right next to the panel with the return date on it, which means that everyone will look at them at least once."

"We're looking at somewhere between 500,000 and 300,000 a month at the moment," he said, adding that if 300,000 slots were sold a month the participating libraries could hope to see income of around £10,000."

There are hopes to take this idea nationwide, though not everyone is happy with it, as noted in the article.

I'm not a fan of this approach at all, and I'm a marketing enthusiast! The proponents suggest that this kind of advertising promises big revenues, which may be true, but at what cost? One of our most substantial assets, in my opinion, is our brand - a brand that is based on more than books. Our brand also represents trustworthiness and unbiased information services, which these external ads undermine. No matter how much we need additional funds, we should never relinquish our competitive advantages for short-term gains, particularly when doing so could damage those advantages in the long-term.

This direct marketing approach hasn't reached the U.S. yet, but it's not a stretch to say that it could do so in the future. We've already had similar debates over corporate sponsorships and 3rd party entities like coffee shops occupying our buildings. But this crosses a line, in my opinion. I'm interested to know how this might strike you UK readers out there.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Twitter time?

Marketing Profs set the stage for a debate over the marketing merits of microblogging, available in podcast form: MarketingProfs Podcast: Is Twitter a Valuable Tool, or Waste of Time?

Disclaimer: I haven't listened to the podcasts yet, but will try to later today and add any 2 cents I may have. However, I would argue that we have a responsibility to seriously play with all of these Web 2.0 tools, whether or not we choose to implement them for library marketing purposes.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Making the unfun fun: A marketing lesson

This news from Florida Radiology Imaging should give any librarian a boost of inspiration. The creative people at FRI held a brainstorming session in which they devised a way to persuade women to get those pesky but important mammograms done. Their solution? Throw a party! FRI now offers Midnight Mammogram & Manicure sessions where women can invite up to 13 of their friends for an evening of wine, food, pampering, and mammogramming. According to a local news article,

"The idea came about as employees at Florida Radiology Imaging brainstormed for ways to celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October.

"You have heard of women going to Botox parties. Well, we decided this is way more important than that," said Melody Huffman, marketing director for the radiology group. "I have friends myself, moms who work and are so involved with school -- the last thing they do is take care of themselves. But you can always get a girlfriend to go to dinner. So we're trying to make it easy and fun to come out and take care of your health."'
The service, scheduled to run through October, is now booked through November, and then who knows? Their event site even features e-mail invitations, easily allowing women to spread the word.

Ok, librarians. We have our challenge! If a medical facility can make mammograms fun and actually motivate people to want to have them done, then making libraries fun and rewarding to use should be a snap, right? This is another EXCELLENT example of Triumphs in Marketing. Notice that this had little or nothing to do with promotion, and everything to do with rethinking services so that they appeal to women's needs and preferences. Also notice that this program is the result of a brainstorming session. Brainstorming is not fluff - it can have real and significant consequences and is a technique we should make more good use of. Kudos, FRI.

Bringing in non-users: A report from WLA

As you may remember, I recently got back from a trip to Green Bay, WI to speak at the Wisconsin Library Association Conference. It was awesome to be back in the Midwest, and in true Midwesterner form, everyone was extremely gracious and welcoming to me - thanks, WLA!

I thought you might like to see the PowerPoint presentation I gave in my session called, "Taking the 'Non' Out of Non-User: Increase Your Library's Reach with Creative Marketing Strategies."

I'm sure some of this will make no sense out of context, but you can always drop me a note if you have questions. I would like to make a couple of points based on some of the questions from the attendees (which I'm quoting liberally here):

Q: What if you have no money to draw in non-users?
A: None of the ideas I talked about in the presentation involve a lot of money unless you're thinking about designing new services for completely new patron bases (doing that can take a lot of staff time and resources). The key things I can advise people is to talk to as many people as you possibly can all the time by viewing all of your contacts as means of learning something new, and make the most of the contacts you do have. For example, you could form partnerships with other public or private entities who can help offset costs. There tends to be a lot of goodwill out there for libraries - use it!

It's all about building relationships, and that doesn't always involve money. If you're very concerned about cost, branch out slowly. Start looking for patron needs that are related to needs you're currently filling, and then fill those needs in a slightly different way by only modifying current offerings rather than overhauling them.

Q: What's the 'big idea' for libraries?
A: I talked a bit about how important it is to approach potential new users with a sense of excitement and enthusiasm for what you represent (your library's 'big idea'). It may sound cliche but it's absolutely true: If you don't care about what you're doing, no one else will. Someone then asked me what I thought the 'big idea' for libraries is. I then proceeded, in a very bad-marketing-like way, to ramble on about libraries as creativity labs, to which my colleague responded, "I was hoping for a slogan!". I told him I had nothin'. After thinking about it for a while, I did come up with some possibilities:

  • Your ideas. Your library.
  • Build ideas @ Your library
  • Creativity counts @ Your library
  • Your library: Where good ideas grow
  • Try something new. Visit your library. [Especially good for non-users, eh?]
  • Try-on-for-size; Realize; Harmonize; Patronize your library.
  • Libraries are built with ideas. Find yours here.
Ok, so these are just some starting points, but don't you hate it when you think of things long after the situation where they'd be useful has passed?! I guess what I'm saying is that I think libraries' big idea is ideas. Unfortunately, nobody in the group had other thoughts on what our 'big idea' is. So, I ask you, daring readers: What IS the big idea and do you have a slogan to add?

Some changes on LM

Here are some changes on the LM blog I thought you might like to know about:

1. Good Marketing Reads - This widget contains some interesting books from my newly-created LibraryThing account. To be honest, I can't claim to have read all of them YET. I ranked the ones I've finished reading and the others are on deck. Lately, most of my reading has been on creativity in preparation for at talk I'm giving in November, so expect to see some titles that will help you tinker with your thinker (wow, the lack of sleep last night must be catching up with me...).

2. Drop Jill a Note - This Meebo widget will allow you to get in touch with me and/or leave me a message (if you leave me a message and want me to get back to you, please include some contact info). This widget replaces my previous one to the Library Marketing Exchange Chat Room. I'll probably still use the chat room in the future, but I found that a number of people would pop into the room, ask a question, and find no one there. That's not very nice so I thought this was better. So far, it's been working out well in that I've received some questions and comments.

Happy reading and thanks as always for dropping by!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Wild Wyoming libraries

I was Meebo-ed by an anonymous tipper who asked if I had heard about the Wyoming Libraries Campaign - thanks anon.! I wrote about it last year, but was glad for the reminder to review their new campaign materials. I think the campaign is pretty funny and relevant for the patron base. I also really like the slogan: "bringing the world to Wyoming." Nancy Dowd has some thoughts on the campaign too.

Cultural institutions tackle memory loss

Good morning, campers! It's the wee hours of the morning (at least for me). I'm at RIC ready to fly to Green Bay, WI to give a talk on drawing in new users for the Wisconsin Library Association - how fun! Ever on the lookout for great marketing inspiration, I had to whip up this post after reading a great story in USA Today. An article called, "Alzheimer's program is one from the art" describes how Manhattan's Museum of Modern Art offers special programming to persons with dementia and their caregivers. The program is called Meet Me at MoMA. According to the article, the specially-designed tours have been shown to aid recall and open people up who might otherwise be too nervous to express themselves.

Not only is this program inspirational, it's brilliant marketing. Great marketing serves important needs. In this case, museums are addressing a significant health issue and nurturing people's well-being, while providing caregivers with a well-deserved respite. Wow! This example is sure to be featured in my talk as a creative example of how we librarians could segment our market and fill unmet needs, even in our overcrowded marketplace. What a wonderful way to draw in non-users and benefit the community at the same time.

I hope to blog a bit from the conference and share any marketing-related goodies with you.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Persuasion through education

The "Small Biz" section of BusinessWeek offers an article called, "Education-Based Marketing Sells" and it is definitely worth a read. In my reference desk experiences, I've often witnessed how teaching patrons about a technique or tool they didn't know they were missing can endear them to the library. It's during those so-called teachable moments that librarians can prove to patrons that they have something to offer that's relevant to their specific personal needs. Education is powerful marketing stuff, as the BusinessWeek article author, Christine Comaford-Lynch describes. She says,

"Sales is about building rapport, not breaking it. When you sell or pitch, you're often breaking rapport because the prospect may be skeptical—no one wants to be "sold." When you educate, you are building rapport. Your credibility is increased significantly when you begin meetings with data that is of value to the prospect. Launch all your meetings by teaching your prospect something or by offering data that establishes that you've done your homework." [Emphasis mine.]
[Ok, so this article is laden with overly-businessy terms. Here's a translation that should help:
  • Sales = Service
  • Sell / Pitch = Promote
  • Prospect = Patron/Customer/User/Client/Whatever Term is Popular These Days
  • Meetings = Meetings or Classes or Service Transacations
  • Data = Information]
These are great points that go along with another marketing principle that I strongly believe in: Never underestimate your patrons! I never approach service encounters assuming that patrons are unmotivated to learn something new or potentially challenging because if I do so, they'll easily pick up on my low expectations and become disengaged. If, however, I begin every interaction as a teachable moment, I demonstrate my expectation that they should be actively involved and also that I have confidence they can learn unfamiliar material. Not everyone will be enthusiastic about getting a lesson when they ask a seemingly-straightforward question, but I can always adjust my strategy after testing their reactions.

In fact, most people appreciate it when I point out a helpful advanced search tip or other extra tidbit of information. I suspect that some of this desire for educational opportunities relates to the trend that TrendWatching calls Status Skills. TrendWatching defines Status Skills as:
"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."
In short, education is empowering. By empowering our patrons through education, we gain their trust, respect, and repeat use. The question, then, that librarian-marketers should keep in mind as we interact with patrons in classes, presentations, meetings, and on the desk is: What can we teach patrons in this moment that will give them an edge in their projects? In doing so, we give ourselves an edge over the competition too.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Need some inspiration?

If your creativity needs a jump start, take a look at, billed as " required brain food for entrepreneurial minds." Springwise, a sister site of TrendWatching, enlists springspotters who scour the worldwide business landscape to unearth the neatest of the neat business-to-consumer (B2C) endeavors. Here's more from the site:

"Springwise scans the globe for the most promising business ventures, ideas and concepts ready for regional or international adaptation, expansion, partnering, investments or cooperation. Ferociously tracking more than 400 global offline and online business resources, as well as taking to the streets of world cities, digital cameras at hand...So whether you’re a budding entrepreneur, head of a start-up, management consultant, marketing manager, business development director, trend watcher, or anyone else interested in creating or expanding companies, Springwise will instantly inspire you by getting the world’s most promising young ventures right in front of you."

They also offer a free weekly newsletter so you can easily keep up with all of the innovative ideas being put into practice. For librarian-marketers, you can scan their idea database by topics like Education, Non-profit/Social cause, and Marketing & Advertising.

This is quickly becoming my favorite Web site because I always feel recharged after seeing all of the inspiring ways in which businesses are serving customer needs. For example, the latest newsletter contains an article about a moving company that helps senior citizens relocate with a suite of specialized service options. It's a fascinating example of how one could target this booming demographic by adding special touches to existing services.

Monday, October 01, 2007

User-generated libraries

IG TrendCentral reported on a new social networking/media sharing site called Here's what TrendCentral had to say about the online community:

"The sleekly designed, user-friendly site offers innovative functions and features currently unrivaled by other popular social networking sites. Not only can users discover, publish, collect, store, and share all forms of content (e.g. art, photos, videos, blogs, and bookmarks) all in one place, but the site also provides them with capabilities to consolidate, manage and store profiles, pages and media from YouTube, Flickr, MySpace, and Facebook all in one place. In other words, Uber is a virtual library where users can store their digital footprints.

Inspired by community members’ ideas and fueled by their desire to create, express and share, Uber’s unique Visual Index is organically generated through the compilation of user-generated pages. As such, the platform is quickly evolving into a next-generation media publishing company that, by fostering creative collaboration, allows users to emerge as stars."
I've played around on this site a little bit. You can log in with your Facebook account. It's really neat to see people experimenting with photography and other media, and to see the collections people are putting together. I'd love to see libraries allow patrons to do something similar on library sites with library materials. For example, libraries provide the resources and information for patrons to produce their own media, and then provide a forum like so that they can share their collections with others in a library-hosted platform. The idea appeals to me because it's a great way to demonstrate how information resources are brought to life, and to showcase patron's creative efforts at the same time. (Not a bad marketing strategy either...).

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Marketing: It's more familiar than you think

Not to toot my own horn, but the kind people at the Readex Report featured an article I wrote for its Fall 2007 newsletter on the similarities between marketing and teaching called, "Worlds Apart? The Relationship Between Teaching and Marketing and What It Means to Academic Librarians." The point of the piece is to demonstrate that librarians are conducting activities that resemble marketing practices in their instructional roles, at that these commonalities ought to encourage librarians to embrace marketing as a familiar friend. This piece expands on a blog post I wrote with the same theme. I hope the article will help to win over reluctant colleagues who may not understand how marketing works in a non-profit context. I welcome your thoughts on this, as always!

My "big move" into my first home is this Saturday, so I'm hoping that I'll have more time to blog once I get settled (there's so much great marketing stuff to write about and so little time!). That is, if I can break away from painting the walls...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Creativity as responsibility?

I'm excited to be taking a Marketing class on new product development this semester. What's most intriguing is that our instructor is emphasizing creativity and innovation, which has never been directly addressed in any previous course I've taken.

My professor made one comment on this topic that stuck with me ever since. He said that most companies seek small innovations. These innovations typically revise existing products, but don't result in anything dramatically new. This makes sense because these types of incremental innovations are low-risk and relatively cheap. He added that this approach prevents companies from exploring the more risky and costly radical innovations that could result in new product categories. As a result, companies are neglecting opportunities to improve society with breakthrough products.

His words made me think that librarians have a social obligation to be creative and to innovate. This obligation may entail approaches to service that are dramatically different from what we've done in the past. Continually revising services may not be enough to achieve the benefits modern patrons seek.

This week, I'll make a guest post available from a librarian who is helping to radically redefine library services, which will lead into further discussions about libraries as creativity labs.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Get a dose of this Tylenol promotion

I saw a Tylenol ad on T.V. today that features employees promising to do right by customers. Nice idea and all, so I went to check out the Tylenol "Promise" Web site. Here, you can find employees talking about their work and perspectives. Overall, it appears generally unscripted. What struck me most is what a fantastic idea this format would be for librarians. As you well know, we suffer from some fairly annoying stereotypes (like the glasses-wearing, bun-sporting, shhh-ers). I think it would be nice idea if patrons could find their librarians talking about the issues they're concerned about, projects they're working on, hobbies they have, and so on, to put a friendly face on our services. I realize there are privacy issues implicit in this, but I just like the idea of patrons getting to see a more-well rounded version of us has human beings rather than one-dimensional bookish-types. And what a great tool for recruiting to the profession! Just a thought. Have a great Labor Day weekend!

Flying high on outstanding customer service

The CBS Early Show aired a segment this morning called The Friendliest Skies. The star of the piece is a United Airline pilot, Captain Denny Flanagan, who takes it upon himself to bring customer service up to a whole new level. Here are the highlights:


  • buys McDonald's hamburgers for passengers on delayed flights.
  • takes pictures of pets stored in cargo to reassure passengers.
  • makes sure children flying alone get window seats; calls their parents if there are unexpected delays.
  • asks passengers to play in a contest in which they write down their best or worst flying experiences; he later posts them on United bulletin boards so that employees can learn about customers' experiences. (Contest winners, by the way, get a bottle of fine wine).
  • writes personalized thank-you notes on the back of his business card for first-class passengers who are frequent fliers.
Flanagan insists it only takes a minute to provide these little extras that put the "service" back in customer service. Makes one think about what small surprises we can add to our own services to make them exceptional.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Playing the marketing game...and winning

Over the weekend, I put up a post on the Designing Better Libraries blog called Playful Design. I'm sharing it with you on LM as well because the post's theme is highly relevant to librarian-marketers. In it, I outlined 12 learning principles discussed by James Paul Gee at the Gaming Learning and Libraries Symposium. These learning principles can be applied to library services to make them more enjoyable and widely-used. Play is a serious consideration as we develop meaningful patron experiences. Employing playful elements in our services can:

  • Create a feeling of community; Bring together people of various backgrounds
  • Engage and excite users by making them active participants
  • Nurture word-of-mouth communications
  • Increase the value of educational services by improving learning outcomes; Teach patrons how to effectively use our services
  • Make using the library fun. :-)
Let's get game and play around with our services!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Building a community creativity lab

In case anyone's been wondering what happened to me, I did not fall off the earth! It just feels that way since I've been wrapped up in beginning of the school year craziness and starting my second-to-last Marketing class before completing my certificate - yeah! While it's been insanely busy, I've still been cooking up ideas for the blog and I think there are some exciting developments in the works.

The next project I want to tackle is building on the concept of a community creativity lab as a model for library services. I got some fairly good responses to my previous post on the topic, so I decided to take the concept a bit further. I can't claim to be the first to come up with this general idea, and there's already a lot of outstanding work being done along these lines. However, I thought it was a little unfair to say that libraries should become creativity labs without giving any specifics as to how they could work in reality.

So, in a series of posts, I'm going to tackle questions like:

  • What would the founding principles and purpose of a creativity lab be?
  • What would it look like in terms of physical spaces, both public and non-public?
  • How would the community be involved?
  • What services would be offered?
You get the idea. Since there's already evidence of these labs taking shape, I'm going to start with examples I've seen and point out their key elements and build up from there. (I already have a guest post or two coming up that describe some outstanding initiatives). I have no idea how many posts it'll take to fully explore this idea or how long it'll take, but I'm just going to keep plugging away at it. At the end, whatever that may be, I'll assemble the posts into a document that you all can do with what you wish.

Care to be involved? I would really love it if you readers would contribute your thoughts and ideas as we go along. Please comment on any post of interest and I'll incorporate your thoughts into the final paper. If you want to be involved sooner, please send me examples you've seen in libraries or elsewhere that you think resemble "creativity labs." I'll feature them in my posts and use them to define this concept.

Final note: What does any of this have to do with marketing? Faithful readers will know that in marketing, the most important piece of the marketing mix is the product. This series on the library as creativity lab will essentially explore new product ideas for libraries that resonate with today's patrons and their increasingly sophisticated needs. Here's hoping it works! :-)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Let's chat about attracting new users

Well, last week's brainstorm was more like a sprinkle, so I think I'll go back to the usual format where I set a date/time and facilitate a discussion. Let's get together on Tuesday, September 4th at from 4-5pm EST in the Library Marketing Exchange. In October, I'll be presenting to the Wisconsin Public Library Association on the topic of reaching out to new users, so this topic is a timely one for me anyway. I'd love to hear what's worked and what hasn't in terms of gaining new patrons and what questions you have about reaching out to new user groups. If that sounds like a fun talk to you, you know where to go!

Also, the topic of the last brainstorm was innovation. In the chat room, I pointed out some helpful links I'd like to share with you:

Have a great week, everyone! Please don't hesitate to send me your ideas for discussion topics.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The big brainstorm begins tomorrow

I hope you'll get a chance to spend a minute or two in the Library Marketing Exchange tomorrow (Thursday) to talk creativity. I chose the topic of creativity not only because it's an ongoing interest of mine, but also because the ability devise original solutions to marketing problems is a must-have skill for librarians. I asked 2 questions that I invite everyone to answer:

1. How can librarians improve their ability to innovate?
2. How can libraries support their patrons' own creative pursuits?

More details on how to participate are here, but it's pretty simple. Just show up anytime and share your thoughts. I'll be in and out of the room as I can tomorrow. After the brainstorming session, I'll summarize the themes that crop up on the blog. Sound good? See you there! :-)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Get your game face on: Understanding and serving gamers

As fellow library marketing enthusiasts, I'm sure most you will agree that attracting new library users involves much more than a "build it and they will come" service mentality. In terms of gaming and gamers, it isn't enough just to plug in a Nintendo or two and hope that masses of people will flood your building. To attract this population we need to truly understand who they are and what value-added services we can provide to connect with them on their terms. Here, then, is my next post in my gaming series that takes a closer look at gamers and what we can offer them.

By the way, if you want an EXCELLENT primer on gaming and library services, you really have to read Jenny Levine's Library Technology Report, Gaming & Libraries: Intersection of Services. In fact, most of the demographic data I'm sharing with you comes from that report, but you'll learn much more by picking up a copy and reading it over yourself.

That said, who the heck are gamers? As Jenny and others point out, most of us are gamers of some form or another. If you play cards, checkers, video games, or Sudoku, you're a gamer. This fact flies smack dab in the face of common stereotypes that make gamers out to be basement-dwelling, socially awkward teenage boys. In fact, Jenny cites a CNN study that found women over 40 years old are the biggest group of online gamers! Furthermore, according to other reports, the average gamer is 33 years old, and 67% of American heads of household play video and computer games. What's so amazing is that gamers span in incredibly wide range of ages, ethnicities, educational backgrounds, and income levels. And you don't have to look far to find just how monumental a force gaming is in the marketplace. Just look at this recent article from GameSpot that says the game Halo 3 broke the all-time record for preorders in North America. If these sheer numbers and demographics don't get your marketing senses tingling with excitement, I don't know what will. This is definitely a significant segment of the population we librarians should be taking a close look at.

While it's all well and good to know who gamers are, it's often not enough just to circulate copies of Mario Kart (though it's definitely not a bad place to start...). Good library marketers know that to be really successful, we must take a look at gamers' underlying motivations and tailor our services to accommodate those needs and preferences. Through some reading and attending the GLLS event last month, I have some ideas about how we can add value to the gaming experience to make it worthwhile for this group to come to the library. Most of my conclusions are based on the exciting case studies and research I heard about that were extremely inspirational. Here are my thoughts, but I also welcome comments from experienced librarian-gamers who have other insights:

  • Scale: It's amazing what altering the scale of an experience can do to draw people in. This point was driven home by the gaming initiatives at GA Tech and Lori Critz's summary of their Unreal Tournament. The Tournament featured a gigantic screen (also pictured here) that attracted many students because it created an ambiance they couldn't duplicate in their dorm rooms. It's sort of like the difference between going to a park and going to Disney World. Disney does things big, and sometimes big (big audiences, big attractions, and big events) are better.
  • Competition: Surprise! Gamers like to compete. And librarians can help them do that. Just take a look at Ann Arbor District Library's homegrown tournament scoring and management tools. Tools include a leaderboard and blogs that allow gaming patrons to keep up with how they stack up. By facilitating competition, librarians are structuring meaningful experiences for patrons - a HUGE added value. Fortunately for library-land, AADL is making its GT System available free of charge in the near future, and even hoping to have multi-library synchronized tournaments!
  • Community: What sold me completely on gaming in libraries is how games draw diverse people together. I was amazed by Eli Neiburger's account of a senior citizen challenging young patrons in DDR Tournament. (Apparently, he was a big hit). To my mind, libraries are not only great at bringing diverse groups together, but doing so is a responsiblity. Community is also an added value because it's not something that many people can find easily, but it's something that most people seek.
  • Fun: Ok, this is an obvious one, but fun can be a major attraction. Fun doesn't just happen though (I wish it did! And students in my library instruction classes probably do too! ;-) ). Fun, it turns out, is the result of planning and structure. Consider an article by my #1 librarian hero and the reason I got into reference work, Lisa Norberg. Lisa's article, Play Matters: The Academic Librarian's Role in Fostering Historical Thinking, describes how to make research fun by creating digital sandboxes and other tools that allow students to explore primary resources in a risk-free, engaging format. Digital sandboxes and the like don't create themselves. Librarians need to think strategically about how to make using their services and resources enjoyable.
  • Validation: Even though we're not therapists, we have an opportunity to provide some psychological support to patrons by validating their interests and hobbies. At the Symposium, I heard story after story about how just by offering games instead of chastizing patrons for playing them, librarians turned disgruntled youth into fervent library fans. In large part this is because by supporting activities like gaming, librarians give those people who engage in them the recognition and approval that they may not be getting elsewhere.
  • New Perspectives: If you haven't heard of Big Games, do yourself a favor and check out Gegory Trefry's talk from the Symposium. Basically, Big Games move games from boards and TV screens to real-life environments, even entire citites. Trefry talked about how libraries themselves could become gaming grounds where patrons could search for codes in books, for example. This point is related to the previous one about scale, but Big Games and related activities are more than just big - they force people to look at everyday objects and places in new ways. Framing environments in new ways is a value-added service (it's tough work and loads of planning!). Portraying the familiar in unfamiliar ways is a great way for librarians to attract gaming audiences.

My next post on this topic will be about how gaming principles can be applied to designing quality library services, and it will appear, appropriately enough, on the Designing Better Libraries blog. In the meantime, let me know what you think: How can we add value to library services for gamers?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Facebook: Where socializing and monetizing collide aired a piece yesterday on how Facebook and banded together to provide a new service called Garage Sale - a service that allows people to buy and sell their stuff from their Facebook profile pages. The move is yet another example of a growing trend where the online worlds of socializing and consumerism are merging together. I think these developments will change people's expectations about having product and service providers in online networks since now members are becoming the marketers. The Chief Executive states,

"We see tremendous growth opportunities in providing the millions of users on business and social networks with an alternative to eBay, and the ability to transform their personal profile pages beyond information-sharing."
Perhaps the changes will also make reluctant librarians more comfortable promoting their services through social networking sites. Whatever the case, if Facebook is part of your library marketing strategy, these changes are good to know.

[Also see an article from WebProNews about Garage Sale.]


Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
If it's crazy to do keep making the same mistakes, then stop making these Eight Classic Marketing Mistakes that May Never Go Away as outlined by Paul on

My favorite of these mistaken marketing ideas are:

2. All We Need to do is Pump More into Promotion
Usually, if no one wants what you're "selling," it's because the product or service is bad, not because you need to spend more time and money telling people about a lousy product.

6. We Know Who Our Competitors Are
As Paul says,
"Companies not viewed as competitors are potentially the biggest threat to a company..."
This is why being broadly knowledgeable about market changes and new products and services is important for librarians, even when those new developments have seemingly little to do with libraries.

and 7. The Only Thing That Matters Is ROI
"For many companies investing in a marketing decision must have only one payoff – profit on the investment. Yet if this approach drives all marketing decisions the company is at best an underachiever and at worst vulnerable to competitors. Why? Because not all marketing decisions should be tied to a positive return on investment. Sometimes a firm must make strategic decisions that sacrifice profits in order strengthen other parts of the company."
Even in library land, obsessively focusing on profits, or outcomes, in terms of numbers like gate counts and service point transactions may blind people to more important matters. A BIG mistake!

Rules were made to be broken has an excellent piece called, "Getting Rid of the Rulebook." In it, the author talks about the perils of losing customers just because of never deviating from the company rules. One example she used involved a dry cleaners that was so insistent upon locking up the store precisely at the designated closing time that owners ignored one harried customer who arrived 10 mins. late due to traffic. Despite his frantic knocking on the door, and the fact that the owners were inside cleaning up, they pretended he wasn't there. They lost that customer's business for good. As the author points out,

"Contrast this cleaners story with one that Mike, the bell captain at the Hotel Algonquin in New York City, told me about his experience in a new Nordstrom store that had just opened in his New Jersey neighborhood. Mike and his wife were looking around the store and stopped at the customer service counter to ask what time the store closed. The associate smiled and said: "Whenever you're finished shopping, sir." What a very customer-friendly answer! Mike and his wife felt like royalty. Doesn't Nordstrom have an official closing time? Of course. But apparently you won't get thrown out of the store with bells going off."
The author concludes with a sound piece of advice from the retailer:
"The employee handbook of Nordstrom, the Seattle-based store group, consists of a central rule:
Rule #1: Use your good judgment in all situations. There are no additional rules."
Update: I decided it might be a good idea to give you a more illustrative example of what an appropriate "breaking of the rules" in service situations means to me. This is a true story (names have been withheld to protect the innocent). It was a rainy day. At lunchtime, I ventured a few city blocks in the damp weather to a local fast food restaurant for a bite to eat. I ordered my made-to-order meal and as I dug around my bag to find my wallet, I realized I'd left it in my office - argh! The cashier held my food while I hurried back to my office in my uncomfortable shoes and dreary weather (did I mention I don't like rain?). I finally made it back to the counter, winded and breathing heavy from the hike. The server hands me my food, which I paid for, and a cup for a fountain drink. I said, "Oh, I didn't order a drink." She responded, "I know." Bless her! That free drink was one of the kindest, most sympathetic gestures I've experienced in a fast food place and I always remember that small broken rule that has endeared me to that restaurant.

Monday, August 06, 2007

An internal marketing recap and the next chat!

Before I continue my posts on the values of gaming in libraries, I want to relate the feedback I received on our last chat about internal marketing. As you may remember, I asked internal marketing expert Sybil Stershic to review our chat and comment on the issues that sprouted up. She generously did so and now I'd like to share her insights with you.

One participant mentioned that her library is working on a logo redesign, and she was concerned that there was little staff buy-in since the process did not involve their input. My inclination is to encourage staff involvement in the planning stages, but I acknowledge that doing so may put too many cooks in the kitchen and stall projects. In her e-mail to me, Sybil noted that staff input does not necessarily mean getting full staff consensus. Rather, at minimum, staff should be told of the process and rationale for the design. They should also be the first to see it. As Sybil summed up,

Bottom line: employees should be considered an organization’s "first audience."
I thought this was a great tip and one that is simple to implement.

Another concern raised was that there exists an aversion to risk, or "culture of fear" as I put it, that precludes good ideas from being implemented and devalues experimentation as a part of the daily routine. We discussed that some staff feel like it's a waste of time to try out new technologies that don't seem immediately beneficial, for example. Sybil brought up a number of ideas that apply to this problem. First, she noted that internal marketing involves aspects of "attitude management" and "communications management." Attitude management means getting staff to buy into the organization's mission and goals, while communications management means giving staff the information and tools to do their jobs. Sybil pointed out that management needs to address each of these areas and be attentive to staff perceptions and concerns about technologies and other aspects of service. She mentioned a report from the Marketing Science Institute called, "Paradoxes of Technology: Consumer Cognizance, Emotions, and Coping Strategies." The study sounds like a good primer for managers about how technology can be a source of excitement as well as anxiety for their staff. It's easy to overlook the fact that staff perceptions count as much as patrons' perceptions. If they perceive a technology as irrelevant even if it isn't, they won't be inclined to investigate it further, which could ultimately hurt library services. Sybil also suggested that better communication is needed to clarify policies so staff feel comfortable taking some risks.

Finally, Sybil recommended treating staff like any other target market by doing some market research to identify how to best engage them. She states,

As for what helps motivate staff or what's holding them back from learning or moving forward, just ask them. I'm a big believer in internal surveys (whether formal or informal)...ask your staff: What barriers are in the way to [fill-in-the blank here]? And what suggestions do you have to get around these roadblocks? (Of course, the quality of answers will depend on the organization's culture, particularly in how open communications are, how well management listens and responds, etc.)

What a terrific point! Sometimes we forget that the simplest way to solve a problem is to first have a clear understanding of what it is.

My hearty thanks to Sybil for taking the time to share her years of experience in this area!

I'd like to build on some of the topics that came up in the last chat and develop them further in our next one. To that end, let's chat about transforming cultures of fear into cultures of creativity. How can libraries improve their ability to innovate and how can they also support their patrons' own creative pursuits? I'm to conduct the next chat a little bit differently. Instead of having a set time for the chat, I'm going to leave the chat open for an entire day. Just stop by the chat room, leave your comments and suggestions, and the next person can build on your ideas or just leave their own. I envision it as a sort of day-long brainstorming session. (You can also feel free to chat with anyone who happens to be in the room). By the end of the day, I hope to have a monster list of ideas. I'll review them and pull out the themes and most intriguing ideas, which I'll share in a blog post. Sound good? If you're game, here's how it'll work:

  • Go to the Library Marketing Exchange on Thursday, August 16th (anytime).

  • Introduce yourself and where you work (optional).
  • Leave your answer to the question, How can libraries improve their ability to innovate and how can they also support their patrons' own creative pursuits? I'm interested in your creativity tips and how you can inspire a creative culture in libraries.
    • Build on previous responses or leave ideas that are entirely your own. Chat with anyone who may be in the room.

  • That's it! I'll summarize the responses in a LM blog post.

I'm hoping this approach will allow more people to participate and be involved in the conversation. I'll be poking in throughout to day to deposit my 2 cents. Hope to find you there!

[By the way, please feel free to suggest a theme for an upcoming chat! I'd love to get your ideas.]

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Marketing 101 for geeks

InfoWorld reports on a keynote speech delivered by Steve Yegge, Senior Software Engineer for Google, at OSCON's open source convention. You can view the 20-minute-long-or-so presentation on Most of it is in geek-speak, but the branding lessons are good for anyone. The InfoWorld article describes the talk and some major branding principles, including this one:

But branding is much more than product name or PR. A brand stands for the experience customers have with a product.
It also lists two recommended readings, the first of which Yegge refers to in his talk:

1. The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding
2. Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind


Monday, July 30, 2007

Forget about being the third place. Be the first lab!

For reasons I won't bother to bore you with, today is the first day I've been able to post (or really, spend any extended amount of time on a computer) since returning from the ALA TechSource Gaming, Learning, and Libraries Symposium. This is unfortunate since the Symposium really pumped me up and gave me no shortage of library marketing inspiration. So much, in fact, that I anticipate discussing gaming and related marketing issues over a number of posts. To begin with, I'd like to share with you the over-arching message I took away from the event: Forget about being the third place. Be the first lab!

After listening to speakers like Eli Neiburger, Jim Gee, Greg Trefry, and many others, I learned that games, perhaps better than any other pursuit, build community and spark intellectual curiosity. Eli spoke about how gaming brought seniors out from their retirement homes to challenge teens to Dance Dance Revolution contests; Gee described how students who wouldn't crack open a textbook in school eagerly poured through tedious gaming guides teeming with sophisticated language for hours; Trefry told stories of how big games dramatically altered the ways in which people perceived their physical surroundings. Do you know of other media that are so transformative? I sure don't. Games and the application of gaming principles capture the essence of what libraries are all about. They engage patrons' imaginations, and allow them to play around with ideas in an interactive, risk-free format with wide cross sections of the community. In the process, gaming patrons actually construct a series of unique experiences, thereby turning the library into a laboratory of sorts.

This "community creativity lab" is where where I see libraries' future and competitive advantage. I can't think of any other free, publicly-accessible place (except perhaps for museums, which we should be partnering with), where people can come together for purposes of serious play and creative enterprise. Unlike other "third places" like Starbucks that attempt to be a home-away-from-home space, libraries are much more. They are where old and new knowledge are explored, created, and re-envisioned. Our duty is to recognize and facilitate the many varied creative pursuits of our patrons and give them the value-added spaces, resources, expertise, and community engagement to explore them in greater depth. Gaming represents one avenue for libraries to look into, but there are many others as well.

Some of you may be skeptical about the potential of gaming and libraries, which is fine. I wasn't entirely sold on it either until I understood it better. So, I will continue to analyze how gaming makes sense from a library marketing standpoint based on what I learned. My next post will address who makes up the gamer market segment and what value-added services draw them in.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Game on!

I'm excited to be in Chicago for a few days for the ALA TechSource Gaming, Learning, and Libraries Symposium. I have to admit that I know very little about how gaming and libraries work together, so I'm here with an open mind and a lot of note paper! I plan to transcribe my scribbles for you here on LM to explore how gaming could relate to library marketing efforts. Should be fun!

Learn to see what's not there for marketing success

I mentioned that I've been doing a bit of research and writing on the topic of differentiation. I also referenced advice from the book Zag that suggests looking for the "white spaces" or underserved/ignored markets. Now I want to share with you an outstanding article I read that identifies 6 ways in which marketers can find those "white spaces" by looking at familiar information in a new light. In doing so, organizations can find competitive advantages and new opportunities to apply their services.

The article is called "Creating New Market Space" by Kim and Mauborgne. The authors examined the marketing strategies of successful firms like Home Depot and Cisco Systems and found 6 common innovative tactics for finding what's not there. I highly recommend grabbing a copy of the article, but here is a brief outline of the main findings:

1. Look across substitute industries - Customers make trade-offs when selecting products and services. By looking across substitute industries and why customers choose option A over option B in certain circumstances, they can find new market space. The authors point to the example set by Home Depot, the company that noticed customers had 2 options for home improvement. They could either hire a contractor or buy the tools to do the job themselves. Home Depot blended these options by giving customers the knowledge, training, and sales expertise to improve their skills. As the authors put it,

"By delivering the decisive advantages of both substitute industries - and eliminating or reducing everything else - Home Depot has transformed enormous latent demand for home improvement into real demand."
2. Look across strategic groups within industries - Strategic groups in an industry as defined in the piece are groups of companies that act on a similar strategy. The authors state that these groups are usually based on price and performance. The idea here is to figure out why customers trade up or down across these groups and, like in the previous tactic, offer a unique mix of their advantages.

3. Look across the chain of buyers - This strategy involves challenging the notion of who the target customer is. To do so, it's important to know who actually uses the service versus who purchases it, and who influences these decisions. The authors state,
"By questioning conventional definitions of who can and should be the target customer, companies can often see fundamentally new ways to create value."
This point reminds me of a recent brainstorming session I led for a regional meeting of my local chapter of ACRL. One savvy participant came up with the idea of reaching out to university staff as an overlooked patron base. I admit I usually forget about this important audience, but it could be a new niche just waiting to be carved out.

4. Look across complementary product and service offerings - This is one area where I think librarians could find a lot of missed opportunities! With this strategy, marketers identify the total solution customers seek by consuming a service. The authors point to a couple of illustrative examples. For instance, they state that finding a babysitter is a hindrance to attending movies in a theater, and so theaters should concern themselves with addressing this need as it affects demand for their service. Similarly, they point to Borders and Barnes & Noble - companies that realized customers want more than just to purchase books. They want a complete book-buying experience.

5. Look across functional or emotional appeal to buyers - In this approach, marketers attempt to turn functional products into emotional ones and vice versa. The authors point to Starbucks as an example of a company that turned a functional product, coffee, into an emotional experience, which in turn stimulated much more demand. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Body Shop stripped away the emotional aspects of its cosmetics such as packaging and advertising, leaving only its functional, all-natural products behind.

6. Looking across time - Fortunately, this tactic doesn't require a crystal ball or any special foresight. It only requires the ability to hone in on significant, clear (observable) trends that are irreversible. Moreover, marketers must be able to envision how the trend in question will change how they will deliver value to their customers tomorrow.

Seeing what's invisible and how you might fill in those gaps is a talent librarians can benefit from as they define and differentiate themselves from the many alternatives patrons have at their disposal. While challenging, this is not an impossible task. As this article demonstrated, there are concrete strategies for finding your unique niche in the marketplace, which will sustain libraries and create real value for patrons as no one else can.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Beyond "telling and selling"

If you want an insightful summary of what modern marketing is about and where it's headed, you have to read this Forbes article about Proctor & Gamble's marketing chief, Jim Stengel, and his approach to marketing, which is all about building relationships with customers. Stengel summarizes the P&G approach this way:

'"We need to think beyond consuming ... and to really directly understand the role and the meaning the brand has in their lives," Stengel told The Associated Press in an interview. "If you're always asking that question, 'How can I be more relevant, how can I have a deeper meaning, how can I build this relationship between brand and consumer to a higher level' your marketing gets better, you innovate.'

In its effort to be more relevant, P&G marketers are immersing themselves in customers' day-to-day lives to find out where they fit and what people really need. Their on-the-ground investigations yielded amazing insights into women's lives, for example, and inspired innovations like decorative tissue boxes, Tide "To Go" stain removal sticks, and cleaning wipes that dispense like tissues. They even found that bunco's renewed popularity among women offered some unique sponsorship opportunities.

In modern marketing, the name of the game is dialogue, and to engage in conversations with customers, you have to be able to speak their language by understanding who they are beyond the surface level - a lesson P&G learned and that librarians should act on as well.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Thanks for the chat! Here's the summary...

Thanks to everyone who turned out for the chat last Tuesday. I thought there was some good discussion and some promising ideas came out of the talk. However, I do understand that the chat room format can get a little unwieldy, and we lost a person or two I really wanted to follow-up with ("Kate:" If you're out there, feel free to get in touch with me to follow-up on the question you had!). I want to summarize what we talked about and point out the major issues we identified when marketing to internal staff.

A major point of discussion was the observation that many staff are reluctant to try new technologies because doing so is seen as waste of time, a source of stress, and a distraction from serving patrons. Participants offered up a number of ideas to get staff into a "play" mode where they can experiment and make some discoveries that may ultimately help patrons. Some of the librarians in the chat room mentioned that they have no funds to pay for incentives, so our ideas focused on other means of motivation. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Have a bragging wall
  • Sponsor competitions with other libraries
  • Get people together to talk about what they learn
  • Put people in teams
  • Let managers and staff know what the ROI is (Return On Investment) for their time (it's not a waste of time to try new things!)
  • Partner with patrons who are familiar with social technologies so that they can teach staff (someone suggested that this could count as volunteer hours)
    • Have an "open mic night" where patrons can share their tech knowledge with staff
  • Integrate "play" into daily routines
"Kate" and I were the only two academic librarians in the bunch (I think), and she brought up a really good point but left the room before we could get into it more (darn!). She said that in her library, time and the learning curve do hinder experimentation with social technologies, but more of an impediment is the desire to move slowly because no one is sure how to proceed with these trials. There is no policy in place and people are a bit nervous to enter uncharted waters. Kate's observation stands out to me because in the past couple of weeks I've been hearing similar comments in a number of different contexts, which makes me think we have a pervasive problem on our hands when it comes to marketing: a culture of fear. I want to think on this some more and get Sybil's take on this before I write more (I'm being cautious - ha!), but essentially I hear from librarians that they are afraid to move ahead with ideas because they stop themselves by thinking of all the ways things won't work instead of considering their potential and reserving judgment. In part, I think the lack of clear policies or at least parameters can increase uncertainty and therefore fear. This problem is definitely not unique to libraries, but that doesn't make it any less problematic. For internal marketing to work, people need to feel free to fulfill their brand promises and confident that they'll be backed up by higher-ups.

Finally, our conversation didn't stop at tech talk. Some participants talked about branding projects their libraries are working on. The general consensus was that it's important to involve staff during the planning process, and that it could be more difficult to rally staff support when they are simply offered a finished logo they had no say in. One person mentioned that in a former position, the library redesigned its Web page, involving staff in the prototype stages. To top it off, staff were given nifty t-shirts with the Web address, which they donned enthusiastically. I know that having too many cooks in the kitchen has the potential to stall projects, but involvement could be structured so that it's productive. Today, I was just thinking that even something as simple as letting staff vote on one of a few prototype logo designs could give them an investment in the project that would pay off during implementation.

Feel free to read the full transcript of the talk and contact me with questions or other ideas. Also, I'm going to contact my internal marketing guru, Sybil, to get her take on our exchange.

Thanks again for showing up! I'll post a new chat time and topic soon.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Free library marketing class

I thought I would pass this along after seeing it on a discussion forum. It's free; it's a marketing class; it's led by Pat Wagner who knows her stuff. Wish I could go...

Let's chat

How does today 7-8pm EST sound?

Tonight's Library Marketing Exchange chat is all about internal marketing, or, marketing to your most important audience (staff). For some background, see my previous post.

As a special added bonus, Sybil Stershic, THE expert in internal marketing as far as I'm concerned, has graciously offered to respond to any issues and/or questions that come up as a result of the chat, which I'll communicate with her and share her answers in a special post.

Hope you'll be there! (It would just be sad if I were talking to myself...).

Monday, July 09, 2007

And how are you any different?

Whether consciously or not, patrons are always comparing you to your competitors and asking themselves how you're different from them. They're also asking how you're better than them regarding what they care about most. Have you taken steps to stand out from the crowd? If not, you may need to give some attention to your differentiation strategy. Being different (in a good way) can give you a competitive advantage. If you don't have a competitive advantage, then you probably don't have any business being in business!

Because differentiation is so important, I chose to write a chapter on what it is and how to do it in a forthcoming ACRL publication, The Desk and Beyond:
Next-Generation Reference Services
, which is due out sometime next year. In the process of working on the chapter, I learned a lot of important stuff about being competitive and I want to share what I discovered with you all (without giving away the chapter, of course!). So, you'll be seeing a number of posts on this topic in the coming weeks.

To kick off this theme, let's first consider why librarians should worry about competing. Being competitive is not a sneaky or underhanded tactic of any kind, but simply a means finding ways to fulfill needs that have been neglected or that no one has ever noticed before, and doing so better than anyone else. While addressing these needs in the best way possible, service providers like us challenge themselves to think hard about what they do, who they're doing it for, what they excel at, and how they can creatively satisfy their target market. Being competitive then, makes service providers more useful to their customers and also more innovative. It's a healthy thing to do, which is why I encourage every librarian look at the marketplace as a game of chess where you have to think a few steps ahead of the other player and execute moves that catch him off-guard. The best competitors not only do things differently, they do things differently for the benefit of their customers. There's no point in being different for the sake of being different. Patrons have to care about those things you stand for.

In his book, Zag, author Marty Neumeier explained competitive strategy/differentiation in a very illustrative way. He noted that talented artists have the uncanny ability to see not only the space an object fills, but also the negative space it creates, which he calls "white spaces." He says that our marketplace is full of white spaces that have yet to be discovered by marketers. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to hunt down those white spaces and stake that territory for libraries. Librarians have so much that is unique and worthwhile to offer, but we just need to make what we do connect with patrons so that we can stand out in their minds from all of the alternatives they have at their disposal. Easy, huh? ;-)

Since I go into a lot of detail in the book about how to find your competitive advantage, I won't repeat all that here, but I will share some of the terrific stuff I've read that you can benefit from taking a look at. Stay tuned.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Chat room date changed due to reality check

After digging out from two big projects that were due today, I poked my head out and checked in with reality. What did I discover? I realized that I scheduled our LM Exchange chat for tomorrow at 7pm. While this may work for some of you die-hards in the crowd, I figure most of you will be getting ready to enjoy the July 4th holiday. So, I'm moving the chat to next Tuesday 7/10, 7-8pm EST.

The topic this time is going to be internal marketing. Many people forget that getting your marketing plan down on paper is only half the battle. The other half is getting buy-in from the people who matter most: your staff. Doing so is not always an easy feat, to say the least. While the value of library marketing may be self-evident to us, it can be viewed by others as a (gasp!) waste of time. I'd like to discuss ways in which we can do better at making marketing a total organization effort. Here are some ideas I have about possible talking points (please do bring your own):

  • Staff recognition programs and other incentives.
  • Creating an open, collaborative marketing planning process.
  • Innovative approaches to staff training (Sybil Stershic had a terrific post on this topic recently).
  • Improving communications and information sharing
  • Writing internal marketing plans
To get you thinking, take a look at these two short pieces and just imagine different wordings and examples to fit the library environment: The Power of Internal Marketing and Making Internal Marketing Work.

Hope to "see" you next Tuesday in the chat room!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Reduce risk; Increase usage

To librarians, it may not seem like using our services is risky in the least, but to time-starved patrons, that's not always the case. Like other services, library services are intangible and it can be difficult for patrons to understand the benefits we have to offer. Why, then, should they spend their time participating in a research consultation, for example, if what they're "paying" for?

One way to persuade patrons to spend their time with us instead of alternatives is to clearly spell out what they can expect if they take a chance on our services. As an example, I'll share with you a project I've been working on for new instructors in our University College.

I've been creating a Blackboard site just for new University College instructors that, among other things, describes the services we provide them. One service is our individual consultations, which can be very valuable for instructors working on developing their teaching skills, keeping up with their fields, and doing research. To reduce the perceived risk of taking me up on my offer, I've outlined all of the expectations and outcomes from the service encounter. Here's a list of the items I describe:

  • Reasons for scheduling a consultation. Not everyone realizes when they have a need to see us, so I tried to spell out situations where our services will come in handy.
  • What to expect before, during, and after your research consultation. Here, I tell instructors that they can expect a prompt response from me in setting up a time to meet and that they should tell me as much about their research question as they can prior to the meeting so I can be adequately prepared. During the meeting, patrons can expect that we will meet for about an hour and they may be exposed to a lot of information, but that follow-up sessions or questions are welcomed. Finally, I tell patrons that they can expect an e-mail from me one week after their session to determine if they have any other questions or needs.
  • Patron responsibilities. While I'm here to serve patrons' needs, I want to establish the notion that service interactions require that both parties are active participants. Therefore, I ask the patrons schedule their sessions about a week in advance (if possible), that they bring documentation and/or objectives for the session with them, and that they inform me as soon as possible if they're unable to attend. The goal here isn't to give patrons a laundry list of things to do, but to encourage them to be prepared so that the session is rewarding for them.
In doing this, I hope that instructors won't be intimidated meeting with me one-on-one because they know how the process works and what they'll get out of it. Also, I want them to know that sessions may feel a little overwhelming at times because they're absorbing a lot of new information, but that this is normal and that it's not a one-shot deal. Hopefully, this will make them feel comfortable and confident seeking assistance.

I'll let you know the response to this once the Blackboard site goes live. I encourage you to think of ways to make your own services more transparent. Perhaps a video of a scripted, representational reference transactions can ease new students' hesitance to ask for help at the reference desk, for example. You could post it online so that before coming in, students know the drill. It will help to ease anxiety and make the interaction more fulfilling for both parties.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

More on Meebo chat

As a newbie to Meebo, I didn't realize that chats are saved in handy logs. This is a great (new?) feature, and one worth knowing about if you plan on using it for your own library marketing purposes. This also means that I didn't have to copy/paste/e-mail the (incomplete) transcript for those of you who participated in the Library Marketing Exchange branding chat (sorry!). Here's a complete and much more attractive transcript of the branding chat that took place on June 14th:

See you in the next chat!

The relationship's the thing

Hello, readers! I'm glad to be back blogging with you, though vacation was quite nice...

I wrote up a post for KnowThis that I wanted to discuss here to add a librarian perspective. The post is about what we're really selling to customers as we promote our services to them. There's the obvious stuff like resources, information literacy, and so on, as well as benefits like "write better papers" and "make informed decisions." But I think we provide patrons with more than that. As librarian-marketers invite patrons to co-create their services with them (a modern marketing phenomenon), and as patrons take it upon themselves to define the library brand and promote the library through word-of-mouth, they actually become a part of services we provide. Therefore, when we "sell" library services to patrons we're actually selling a part of our patrons' creativity, ambitions, and accomplishments. In effect, we're selling a relationship. Why not highlight how both patrons and libraries benefit from that relationship and showcase our relationship-building skills as a selling point for our libraries?

Need some examples? A recent one that comes to mind occurred as I was doing some freshmen orientation outreach earlier this week. I overheard one girl say that the library is her favorite part of campus. I immediately approached her and asked if she would be interested in joining my undergraduate advisory group, which is in need of some freshmen representation. She eagerly applied. From a marketing standpoint, I was glad I was able to offer an enthusiastic patron a relationship that allowed her to increase her involvement with our services, thereby keeping her engaged. The selling point, in my mind, is the fact that I have a relationship, in this case a formal one, in place to attract users.

Other ways to highlight relationships with patrons are to keep the promotional focus on the customers themselves and how you allow for interaction/involvement with them. At least, that's how I'm seeing things today. Am I striking a chord? Or just singing to my own tune? :-)

Friday, June 15, 2007

On vacation

In case anyone should miss me ;-) , I'm on vacation starting today and I'll be back on Monday, June 25th. Blogging may be light or non-existent during that time. I'll catch you when I get back!

Meet me at the library

In the latest of my all-too-frequent travels to Starbucks, I picked up one of their publications called, Let's Meet at Starbucks. The publication refers to a Web site where you can find out about SBUX events, learn about the latest drinks, and, my favorite part, send a customized e-mail invitation to your friends that asks them to meet you at a selected SBUX. Perhaps I find too many good ideas at Starbucks, but this particular one seemed like it was custom made for libraries. In public libraries, I could see this functionality being an easy way for patrons to identify library events and nearby branches for groups to gather. In an academic setting, it could help facilitate study group meetings and perhaps be linked to an online room booking system. I don't know about all of the technicalities involved, but isn't this a great concept?!

The SBUX publication also mentioned the Web site, where people can identify groups by interests and location. There's a group for just about everyone, including for those interested in books, education topics, languages, and music to name just a few. Wouldn't it be nice to reach out to these interest groups and offer library space and services to them? It's possible to advertise in Meetup, sponsor a group, or create your own group. There are also some MeetUp tools you can feature on your Web site including a widget that lists all of the Meetups in your area. At first glance, this service appears to be somewhat similar to Facebook and MySpace, but the major difference is that Meetup aims to get people together in person.

Whether or not you use these tools, it's worth considering how the libraries can do a better job of connecting the virtual and the physical while supporting the interests of their communities. Something to think about!

[Ooh - I just found numerous examples of people using Meetup to arrange meetings in the library: here, here, here, and here.]

Thanks for the talk! Mark your calendars

Thanks to all of you who showed up for yesterday's Branding 101 chat! I had a great time getting to know those of you who stopped by! As an experiment, I thought it went fairly well. A number of participants are working on branding projects, so we had a good deal to talk about. Much of the transcript is still available in the Library Marketing Exchange chat room, so feel free to peruse.

Based on yesterday's talk, I've decided to keep doing thematic chats once or twice a month, while dropping by and posting questions, comments, ideas, neat examples, etc. whenever I have a chance. I'm usually logged into Meebo, so odds are you can usually catch me hanging out there. (My Meebo ID is jsstover, so you can tell if I'm logged in and in the room). I'll also try chats at different times of the day so those of you in time zones other than EST aren't left out.

One participant remarked that the chat room is a little clunky for in-depth discussions, but great for community-building, and I agree! So expect to see a pretty casual exchange of ideas, chitchat, and some meeting-and-greeting going on. Here's the scoop for the next chat:

You're invited to talk library marketing!

What: The theme will be internal marketing (a.k.a. getting staff buy-in). Plus, anything else you'd like to discuss.
Where: The Library Marketing Exchange
When: Tuesday, July 3rd, 7pm-8pm EST
Who: Me, you, other library-marketing enthusiasts!
Why: To share ideas and get to know colleagues
Directions: Click on this link and type. You can also access the chat room directly from LM.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Chat prep: Branding 101

Tomorrow (Thursday, June 14th), I'll be hanging out in the Library Marketing Exchange chat room from 12-1pm EST to say hello, talk library marketing, and get to know what you're up to. To get the ball rolling, I'm making the theme of the chat Branding 101. If you have a different topic in mind (or no topic) that's fine, but I figured having a theme would help get the conversation moving.

In my recent branding talk, I distilled some of the lessons I'm learning into a few Branding 101 points, which are:

  1. Know your customers: Understand what makes your customers tick by finding out what's important to them and what they hope to achieve.
  2. Know yourself: Come to grips with who you are as an organization and who you aren't. By doing so, you'll see where you and your patrons meet, and where you may need to make some changes to better accommodate their needs. Remember, you can't be all things to all people, but you can do a better job of being yourself
  3. Find your inspiration: Great brands stand for something big. What gets you up in the morning? How can you get patrons excited too? If you don't care about something, you have nothing to build your brand on.
  4. Find your aspiration: What, ultimately, do you hope to become? Great brands connect their aspirations with those of their patrons. Think beyond today to the possibilities of tomorrow. Develop your vision with patrons and involve them in getting there.
  5. Write it down: Everyone inside and outside of your library should know what you stand for. Communicate it every chance you get.
  6. Live it: Here's where brand-building happens. Some ways you can live your brand include maximizing every point of contact you have with patrons and becoming their advocate in everything you do. Let's talk more tomorrow about how we can practice what we preach!
How can you participate in tomorrow's chat? Very easily! Just go to this address: or the Library Marketing - Thinking Outside the Book homepage (you'll see the chat box in the sidebar) and type away! If you can't make it this time around, leave a message anytime about questions or comments you have, projects you'd like to get feedback on, or other topics you'd like to see addressed in future chats. Your message will be available in the chat room for a while, so don't hesitate to leave a note!

P.S. You don't have to stay in the chat room for the entire hour, of course. Drop in, drop out, stop by in the middle, it's all good! :-D

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Can marketing make better researchers?

I'm glad to share with you a marketing research project I've been working on with Dr. Deborah Cowles of the VCU Marketing Department. The project evolved from a research paper I wrote for a Buyer Behavior class I took with Dr. Cowles. The topic of my paper was self-efficacy. Self-efficacy, as defined by Albert Bandura, is

the certainty one possesses that he can successfully execute a behavior that will result in a desired outcome.
Unlike self-confidence which is a more general feeling of mastery, self-efficacy is task-specific. Moreover, the more self-efficacy one possesses, the more likely a person is to persist in the task and be more successful at it. Therefore, high self-efficacy is linked to improved performance.

Many academics and practitioners are interested in self-efficacy. Marketers are interested in it as a means of encouraging people to use self-service options. Librarians and teachers have studied self-efficacy as a factor in achieving improved learning outcomes.

Why did I choose to write about this topic? And what does it have to do with libraries? There's been a lot of talk in library circles about the need to promote electronic resources (i.e. databases). I thought, perhaps, that boosting students' self-efficacy as it relates to electronic library resources would encourage them to utilize them more often and more effectively. According to Bandura, there are 4 main ways of fostering self-efficacy: (In order of effectiveness) past performance, vicarious experience, verbal persuasion, and physiological states. The problem is that it's difficult to give students the benefit of past performance because, at least at my library, it's impossible to reach every student through library instruction. However, it's possible to use promotional methods to model behavior (vicarious experience) and persuade students that they are up to the challenge of using e-resources (verbal persuasion). Our study will test our hypothesis that promotional treatments can be used to beef up students' library e-resource self-efficacy, which in turn will encourage them to use those resources more frequently and effectively.

Our initial study, in a nutshell, found that library e-resource self-efficacy is positively related to students' intention to use those resources, their attitude toward them, and the amount of time they spend using them. Also, we found that instructors' encouragement and expectations played a significant role in shaping students' self-efficacy.

So far, this research has been well-received. Our first report of the findings won the O.C. Ferrell Marketing Award/best paper on the track for the 2007 Association of Collegiate Marketing Educators Conference. To top it off, we received a grant from the VCU School of Business to continue work this summer on testing our promotional treatments that could foster self-efficacy among students. I'm grateful to Dr. Cowles for introducing me to marketing research design and analysis. It's been quite a learning experience!

I hope this project demonstrates that marketing can be used to achieve positive ends, like more sophisticated researchers. Granted, there is some self-interest at work here (I'd like for students to use our stuff), but the ultimate aim is to equip students to participate in the research taking place on campus in an informed way. Ultimately, by being knowledgeable about the possibilities available to them through online databases, students will become savvy about how the find, use, and evaluate information - a skill that will help them further their goals throughout life.