Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Everything I need to know about marketing I learned from teaching

I was reminded recently that the bad reputation marketing has among librarians is still alive and well. I heard some colleagues talking about confusing library terminology when someone said something to the effect of, "Yeah. That phrase is just a marketing thing anyway." As a marketing cheerleader, I was understandably a little taken aback by this comment. Not because I was surprised, but because I realized just how entrenched the idea of marketing-as-meaningless-fluff still is within library circles. Why on earth would librarians concede that confusing jargon and marketing are synonymous when the whole point of marketing is to make services and communications more understandable?

This incident led me to think about more ways in which we marketing fans can do a better job of convincing our colleagues of its merits. One way to do this is to compare marketing to something more familiar and friendly - teaching. This comparison is not a stretch; it's something I've thought about for some time. Think about it. When preparing for a library instruction session, you engage in a number of actions that roughly mirror marketing activities:

  1. Teaching: Set objectives based on the outcomes you want to achieve. Marketing: Ditto.

  2. Teaching: Understand your students and the tailor your lesson plan to their unique learning styles, needs, and experience levels. Marketing: Understand your target market and segment them into groups to tailor your offering to them based on their needs. Create a marketing plan to fill those needs.

  3. Teaching: Make a complex topic or task easy to understand. Marketing: Make the benefits of a complex product or service easy to understand.

  4. Teaching: Encourage student-teacher and student-student interaction for a richer learning experience. Marketing: Encourage marketer-customer and customer-customer interaction for a richer service experience.

  5. Teaching: Empower students by giving them the tools to succeed. Marketing: Empower customers by giving them the tools to succeed.
I could go on for pages with even more similarities but that wouldn't make for a good blog post. ;-) It's no coincidence that marketing theory borrows heavily from learning theory. What we're actually doing as we market library services is teaching our patrons about what we have to offer, why it's valuable, and how to take advantage of it.

As I was surfing around, I found a post from the famous Kathy Sierra who addressed the marketing/teaching topic in a post called Marketing should be education, education should be marketing that's well worth reading. Perhaps we can win over reluctant colleagues by drawing out the similarities between things we're already doing, like teaching, and things we should be doing, like marketing.


Jennifer said...

well said :)

Jill said...

thanks! :)