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.

1 comment:

Talking Books Librarian said...

great food for thought - I love your motto... it's very true, we should NEVER underestimate our patrons, and there are teachable moments all around us!