Marketing, in the library world, is how we communicate our value to the people we serve. With effective marketing, we help potential users understand the appeal and the value of our resources and even hold their hand just to the point that they feel competent using them on their own. When our marketing is ineffective, many potential users simply won't understand or use what we have to offer. For those users, it doesn't matter that we've put a link on our website or a record in our catalog. It doesn't matter how great the resource is or what problems it might solve. If our customers can't connect our resources with their needs, it's the same as if we weren't providing access at all.
Most of the patrons using the computers in your library and everyone who is connecting from outside the library will interact with your website. Given that fact, you want your website to be just as inviting as the physical space within your library. No matter what your website budget is or what your level of technical expertise, I'm going to suggest 3 rules you can follow to create a welcoming website experience. Whether you happen to be the person who works on your library website, or just someone who can recommend improvements, these 3 rules will give you useful guidance.
I should start out by telling you that I'm not a graphic designer or an artist of any kind. I'm not a trained marketer either. I have an MA not an MBA or an MFA. I don't know much about color theory and mostly wouldn't recognize a golden mean ratio unless you pointed it out to me. So why am I, of all people, proposing to tell you something about beautiful library marketing?
Simply this--I've found some tricks that have let me create some fairly effective library marketing material. So if I can do it, you should conclude, certainly you can too. Read on and judge for yourself.
In December, we did a webinar focused on some simple ways to drive up electronic resource utilization. This post is a summary of that presentation. You can watch the recorded webinar here: http://www.nicheacademy.com/simplifying-library-marketing.
There is a sense of community that runs deep among librarians. Generally speaking, they are quick to share their time and expertise, and also quick to seek inspiration and advice from their peers. It’s not surprising, then, that when we introduce librarians to Niche Academy, one of the first questions we encounter is: “How are other libraries using it?” We figured we were probably past due for a blog post highlighting what integrated tutorials look like in real-world websites at libraries that are actively using Niche Academy in their own library education mix and in their own library marketing plan.
Below you’ll find illustrations of three basic approaches from libraries currently using Niche Academy along with basic information about those libraries and the thinking behind their approach.
The Niche Academy platform provides value to libraries by helping them deliver their own educational curriculum more efficiently. The ready-to-use tutorials we offer are an essential element of that value. We get a common question when we first introduce people to the Niche Academy tutorials:
“How are your tutorials different from the tutorials provided by the vendors?”
This post highlights 5 things that differentiate our tutorials.
Libraries offer a great product to their customers.
They offer educational resources that help people solve their most pressing problems and achieve their most cherished aspirations. And, in most cases, they offer this stuff for free. How can you beat that?
There’s a car dealership near where I live that has a new motto: “We Hear You”.
They have a long-running series of billboards emphasizing the message that they listen more than they talk.
All too often I hear people say, “I didn’t know xyz resource was available from the library.” Then, inevitably a little while later I hear, “How does it work?” Or worse, “I couldn’t figure it out, so I gave up.”
The other day I was talking with a good friend. He was telling me about how his high-functioning autistic son is a voracious reader. Wanting to provide a constructive outlet, he would regularly buy eBooks for his son on Amazon and he was lamenting to me how much it was costing him. I asked him why he didn’t simply use his local library. He told me his son preferred to read eBooks on his iPad, not regular books. I then went on to tell him that his library most likely had eBooks. We looked up his library and sure enough, they have OverDrive and Axis360. He can now not only provide enough books for his son, but he can do it for free.
And I'm one step ahead of the shoe shine,
Two steps away from the county line,
Just trying to keep my customers
With apologies to Simon and Garfunkle, I think there's a parallel in the public library experience. Between the demands of our funders, the heightened expectations of patrons, and the shifting forces at work in both education and entertainment... It's hard to feel like you're satisfying anyone. Here are a few thoughts, though, that may spark some useful ideas for you.