Be Competitve

If you are a library marketer, chances are you knee-deep in preparations for summer reading. This fantastic campaign is the most important program of the library year. Summer is prime time for libraries to bring in new customers, and to engage with people who already have a library card, pushing them to interact more with their collection and services!

This critical and high-profile marketing period is the perfect time for library marketers to get competitive with their content marketing, and maybe a little aggressive. Your audience is captive. Their schedules are a bit more relaxed.  They’re spending time with their families and soaking up the happiness-inducing sunshine. It’s time to seize the moment. We want them to remember Summer 2015 as the year they connected with the library.

It’s important to be super strategic during this busy time of year. Focus all your energy into summer reading promotion during these critical weeks. This is particularly true if your marketing staff is small.   Here’s how to make the most of this season with your marketing.

Set specific goals. Does your library want to increase registration? Increase participation? Drive your circulation numbers for specific services? Get more people into your branches? Build your email subscriber base? Define at least one strategic goal for your summer reading marketing. Be as specific as you can.  This will be your north star. Everything you do, everything you write, every piece of content you create should surround and support this goal. Write it down. Get administration to buy into it and sign off on it. Hang it in the wall. Run with it.

Be more aggressive. Plan out your strategy for the entire summer, day-by-day if you can. Try to create as many pieces of quality content as you can. You don’t need to publish every day–in fact you should leave some breathing room in your plan for new ideas that will come to you or your colleagues as you progress through the summer. But its smart to have a promotional arch set in place before you begin.

Use every weapon in your arsenal.  Make social media a part of your strategy every single day. Work a summer reading mention into every piece of content you produce, even if it’s just the program’s hashtag. If you have email addresses for cardholders, send them a targeted email message at least once a week. If you have snail mail addresses for people, plan direct mail. If you don’t have a blog, start one. If you don’t have a podcast, start one. Publish extra copies of your newsletters and pass them out at key locations in your city (like the pool!) Try to think of as many ways to connect with potential and current customers as possible.

Use every tool at your disposal.  Educate library staff members so they can be evangelists for your campaign and your library. Share the overall plan and strategy with them and ask them to think of ways they can supplement the content. You’ll be surprised by the number of librarians who will volunteer for social media duty, to write a blog, or to create a reading list for bored kids during the summer.  They will also be able to reinforce your overall message and goals in a personal way each time they interact with a customer face-to-face.

Spend money on targeted social media ads. For libraries, this is the most efficient and cost-effective way to reach people. You barely need a budget to get started-$100 a month is a good amount. Get as targeted as you can with your ads.

Most importantly, as the summer reading season begins, keep track of how your efforts are working. Track the ROI on emails, social media, and direct marketing pieces through calls to action. Ask the librarians to track program attendance, if your library doesn’t already have a centralized tracking system for that. As the season ends, you’ll be able to use those numbers to evaluate your work and think about ways to improve your marketing for next summer!

What are you planning to promote summer reading? Have any new ideas you’re trying for the first time this year, or old tactics that work for you every single summer? I am really curious about how other libraries are tackling this season. Please share in the comments section!

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Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.