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Monday, May 6, 2013

Marketing the Library: A Few Things To Bear In Mind

If you are not marketing, you are not communicating. If you are not communicating, the community knows nothing about your library. Interesting thought to ponder for library administrators today. Library directors are not thought of as marketing scholars but then again I don't believe any director, or assistant director ever thought they would have to be the Human Resources chief either. It's all in the vain of going with the what you have versus complaining about what you don't have. Which leads to marketing. Without ever having to take a course in business most librarians can do what comes natural Think about the costumer. Pin point what they like or want. Then always and it is imperative to remember this point. Post it on the office door or on the desk. It is simply this: always communicate the positive. Whether your library is big, as in a major city's library or small as in rural libraries, all marketing concerns and hurdles are the same. Finding cost effective means to get the message out. Thanks to the digital era, marketing programs and news about the library can be as simple as tweeting about new bestsellers that have arrived to the registration date of Summer reading programs. However, printed library newsletters that are mailed to every resident can still add value when considering that there are still those without an electronic footprint. Or as one patron once said in a library surgery, "getting something in the mail has a personal touch. Its a sign that someone took the extra effort to reach out to the recipient." Communicating to someone is very personal. One can argue that the old fashioned mail to every address is expensive. This is not that case anymore. The United States Postal Service has made it very affordable to mail business promotions to every address for a rate that is almost too good to be true. (check out Every Door Direct Mail at www.usps.com) As with any business, a library strives or dives by the image it has in the community If the image is negative, then the flow of patrons dwindles down. Which cab lead to losses in state aid. To keep the revenue flowing, all libraries become positive brand promoters. When enticing the taxpayers to visit the library often and offering positive value to the community, the library director has made the community a partner in the library's future. This is not an easy task to do because it is a very delicate balance to achieve. For example, situations can arise where libraries will remains "loyal" to a small portions of the community because this is the group that has always supported the library. This is costly to the library in the sense that they have risked the future of the library. It's good to reward the loyal diehards who always walk into the library. However, if the diehards are demanding that nothing changes, then communicating to entire community is a worthless task and the image of the library as being able to serve only a select few is ingrained in the community. The image of the public library should be that it is there to serve the community. All can agree that the best image of the library is that it is equipped to take on the challenges of the future and use public monies well. The difficulty of small libraries is that with limited funds sometimes it is hard to keep up with the changes. Larger libraries can project that image better. Even if that is the case, a positive image can make the challenges seem invisible. If a library director can create marketing and communications plans that focuses personal and positive messages. It is also important to remember to be persistent. This is another way of saying be polite when nagging. Consider the local dentists who sends out reminders every six months that it's time for a teeth cleaning. The persistence in getting the patient in doesn't stop there. It is often followed up with a friendly phone call to remind the patient of the need to get their teeth cleaned and how convenient is it that the receptionist can schedule that appointment right now? Libraries don't need to schedule appointments but they do need to get their patrons in the door. An email blast may not be enough to get patrons' attention. It may have to be a combination of methods to motivate them to come to the library. Whatever combination works, it is the libraries' best interest to do use it again and again. Marketing and communications is not a one size fits all deal. Every library will find a way to reach out in their own way. The key to being successful at this is to always being communicating with your community. Any opportunity to communicate to the public about what the library does and what it can do should not be wasted or overlook. Finally, don't be afraid to fail. Sometimes, failure is the best teacher.
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