Published this year, the Library Marketing Toolkit has been enthusiastically received by librarians and marketers). Bethan spoke to author and LMD member Ned Potter about how he wrote the book, and his top marketing tips.
1) Tell us a bit about how & why you came to write the Library Marketing Toolkit
I was approached by the publisher (Facet Publishing) after myself and Laura Woods had done a fair bit of speaking and writing on marketing libraries and info services outside the echo chamber (see this SLA365 post as an example of what we were on about) – they wanted a very practical text on marketing, to cover all the sectors (academic, public, special, archives) and all the new web tools which have sprung up recently.
For the previous couple of years I’d had the thought that there would only ever be two books I could write: one about marketing libraries, and one about new professionals. Facet said that they’d be publishing both in 2012, and that you’d were already writing that new professionals one, Bethan! So that left one book I could write, ever, and someone was definitely going to be writing that very book that year, and amazingly the publisher had asked me rather than my having to go through the stress of proposing something to them… All in all, then, even though the timing was pretty terrible as my daughter was only a few months old, I felt I had to take the opportunity! It was then or never, so I went for then.
2) What were the best and worst parts of writing the book?
The worst part was fitting it in at all – I was writing it during my own time, with a young family. That was so hard. Also, trying to cover so many subjects in a relatively short amount of space – there were some chapters I felt like I could have written a whole book on just them. In the end the publisher let me get away with submitting something a long way over their normal word-limit, and that was with a huge amount culled in the editing process…
As far as the best parts go, it was the working with people to produce case studies. My dream wish-list of contributors were all able to get involved, meaning that it’s not just me banging on about marketing for 200 pages, but experts in each field telling the reader how they’ve achieved success. There’s New York Public Library talking about Twitter, The National Archive in the UK talking about digitisation; plus contributors like the SLA’s Rebecca Jones, like David Lee King, like the British Library, like Cambridge University. Everyone was generous with their time and they provide real insight into modern marketing in the information environment.
3) You have a companion website that’s showcasing great marketing material. Where do you find this material?
My Twitter network is the main route – you have to love Twitter for ensuring you don’t miss out on the good stuff. It’s also a network from which I found many of the contributors – not just book contributors, but people writing original case studies for the website too. Otherwise it’s the tools you’d expect – RSS feeds, blog-search alerts, information gleaned from presentations and events.
People all over the world feel passionately about certain things and do all they can to keep on top of the latest developments in their fields – the great thing about being part of the information profession is that passion becomes a filtering and sharing system so others can keep ahead of the game too. That’s the aim with the blog, really – and also to document significant library marketing tools and techniques which came about after the date of the book’s publication.
4) You’ve obviously learned a lot about marketing, both in writing the book, and in marketing it! What’s your one key lesson?
I keep changing my mind about this… The one I keep coming back to is to market benefits not features. This is something which library marketers talk about all the time, but it’s still not filtering through nearly enough. People are describing their processes and their content – they should be making it explicit how these things are going to help their users get where they already want to go. Mary Ellen Bates uses the example of databases – the feature is, we subscribe to lots of academic databases on your behalf. The benefit is, we have access to good quality information Google can’t find. The second version makes it immediately apparent how the library is providing a service which will actually make the user’s life a little easier / better / more efficient / richer / whatever it might be.
What I’ve realised is that a lot of people talk about this without actually doing it. I was at an event the other day when we discussed the whole features / benefits thing, and I was mentioning examples of renaming training courses to make them more appealing. The subject of Endnote, the referencing software, came up – someone said ‘we should rename our Endnote course Magic Referencing because it fills your references in for you like magic!’ And we all laughed at this and nodded and agreed it was a good idea, but then I pointed out the key thing here is to actually go and away and DO the renaming! Not just talking about how it’s a good idea within your librarian circle. A course called ‘Magic referencing’ really will get more attendees than one called ‘Referencing using Endnote software’ or whatever. A hundred librarians may discuss what a great idea it is to focus your marketing around benefits rather than features, but it’s the four or five who go away and actually change their approach who will reap the dividends. It’s a quick win, the gains are potentially huge. So DO it! Actually do it.
The other key lesson vying for top spot is the huge importance of marketing strategically – marketing with a plan. One-off promotional efforts rarely have the effect we want them to – it takes a LOT to actually change your users behaviour, so a joined-up approach is not an option; it’s a necessity. Your marketing can’t realistically expect to make people run to your information service every time they see your email or your tweet, but what it CAN expect to do is make your service the first thing your users think of when they need advice, help, good quality information, competitive intelligence or whatever it might be. One-off or generally not-linked-up marketing can work okay, but strategic marketing is so much more successful. It’s worth the time and effort and, unlike the one-off marketing initiatives, you won’t be disappointed with the results…