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.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Library Marketing has a chat room!

After seeing mentions of the new Meebo chat rooms on Walking Paper and BWL I just had to give them a try. So, I bring you the Library Marketing Exchange. It's also embedded in my blog, so you can chat with me and/or amongst yourselves directly from LM.

It's a highly experimental feature right now. My intent is for the Library Marketing Exchange to be a mechanism for librarians and marketers to get together and generate marketing ideas. Also, you can always use it to get in touch with me, though I doubt that's the biggest appeal! If it seems to be working well for fostering ideas, I'll keep it around.

To kick off the new room, I'll be donating my lunch hour this Thursday, June 14th at 12pm EST to get a conversation going. The topic du jour will be branding. This week, I plan to expand on the ideas from my recent branding presentation through a series of posts, and so I think we'll have some good food for thought prior to the chat on Thurs. (and if not, we'll just make something up!).

Hope to "see" you there!

Update: Please let me know if you have ideas for chat topics you'd like to participate in. I'll see about hosting some additional thematic chats if there's enough interest. You can leave your ideas in a comment or via the chat room.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Everybody lies

I mentioned earlier that marketing can be weilded to accomplish social good. I was reminded of this while I was (what else) watching T.V. I saw an American Express ad that asked card members to submit their ideas for worthwhile, socially significant projects. ClickZ News has a good write-up of this promotion, called The Members Project. Eventually, the top 50 projects will be put up for a vote, and AmEx will fund the winner. As ClickZ reports,

"When it first announced The Members Project last month, AmEx said the idea will allow its Cardmembers to "come together as a community by submitting and sharing their project ideas for making a positive impact in the world." That idea fits in with the Are You a Cardmember? campaign's goal of illustrating the values inherent in carrying AmEx."
There are already over 3,700 really creative ideas out there that you can review and rate. What I absolutely love is that it taps into the creativity and aspirations of customers. (Remember that I said good brands should be aspirational?).

What a great idea for libraries to steal (in a completely well-intentioned way, of course)! For those of you who do community work, why not let patrons help pick your projects. It's a terrific way to build your brand while getting people involved.

Oh, and if you're wondering about the title of this post, "Everybody lies" is a quote from my favorite T.V. character, House. The quote is a reference to the fact that I have yet to talk about my do-gooder-marketing research project even though I promised a week ago it would be my "next" post. I will write about it, but it's going to be a long-ish post, which is why it's been getting pushed to the backburner in the midst of a lot projects I'm working on, but it's coming! I just (unintentionally) lied about when. ;-)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Make every touch point count

As may of you librarian-marketers know, any time a patron comes in contact with your library in any form, be it signage, newsletters, or advertisements, is an opportunity to build your brand. A few blog posts remind us of this and give some tips on maximizing points of contact:

Market Genius asks why voicemail has to be boring. Instead, author Emily Bennington suggests using voicemail to differentiate yourself. I argue it's also an excellent way to live your brand by showcasing your personality. I guess I have another project waiting for me when I get back to the office!

Marketing Profs asserts,

Brands that deliver general interest newsletters filled with tips, tools, and advice—but not unique brand-differentiating content—should rethink their approach.
I'd say this accounts for a lot of newsletters I've seen. Fortunately, the author provides 6 ways in which you can make your newsletters do more heavy-lifting as a brand builder. My two favorite tips are:
Tell about-the-brand stories:
"Next-generation relationship marketing will tell more "about-the-brand" stories—always in the interest of the reader. Unbranded content has its role, but it must be balanced with more brand-specific stories."
and Inspire!:
"Guide your team to inspire the lives of your readers and strive to generate positive, hopeful feelings by promoting the benefits of using your product."
In addition to making touch points count, it's also a good idea to add more of them! Marketing Genius describes how one YMCA achieved marketing success by using a strategy that utilized numerous different tactics. Each of these points of contact worked together to achieve a "synergistic result."

Monday, June 04, 2007

'Bout branding - thanks GPLLA!

Thanks to the Greater Philadelphia Law Library Association (GPLLA) for inviting me to speak about library branding on Friday. GPLLA was an outstanding host and audience - I can't thank you enough for your kindness!

I also want to thank all of you who shared your insights into the wonderful world of law libraries with me. You opened my eyes to a fascinating area of librarianship and your input was invaluable to me in preparing the talk.

For those of you who may be interested, my talk is entitled, From Superfluous to Substantive: Marketing that Matters. In it, I outline what real branding is, why it's important, and how to do it. During my presentation, I tried to get across the following key points:

1. How you execute your brand is highly context-specific. Your brand depends on your personality and abilities, your competitors, your patrons and their perceptions, and your organization.
2. Every marketing decision you make and every contact you have with patrons is an opportunity to live your brand and to do something remarkable.
3. Brands are not just descriptive, they're aspirational.
4. No one cares about what you have; Patrons care about what you can do for them.

Point #4 is particularly important and where I think most librarians have trouble. It's easy to fall into the trap of demonstrating features instead of benefits, but doing so puts our own ambitions in front of our patrons', which in turn makes our libraries irrelevant to them. A better approach would be to apply the model/equation I outline here:

If we focus all of our marketing/branding efforts on C (and a bit on B), we position ourselves as vital partners in our patrons' success, which in turn makes us relevant and necessary to our users. If we focus on A, we lose sight of what marketing is about: patrons' needs. And that's plain bad marketing.

I hope the GPLLAers took this to heart (and that I made sense!). If any of you readers out there have questions about the items in the presentation, let me know and I'll be happy to answer them! Since I've done so much branding reading lately, you can bet that the topic will come up more here on LM, so stay tuned.