This is the time of the year when I start to formulate strategies for the next 12 months for all aspects of my team’s work, including social media, content marketing, contacting the press, and targeted email messaging.

Three of the keynote speakers at Content Marketing World had a lot to say about the future of marketing and looking back over my notes from the conference is helping me a great deal as I formulate the path for next year. I think these thoughts will help you too! Are you creating a strategy? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment or shoot me an email so we can have an in-depth conversation!

Ann Handley, Head of Content at MarketingProfs and author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller, Everybody Writes. Slow down. There is value in plotting and being more deliberate and thoughtful. The key is to slow down at the right moment. How do you know what those moments are? Ask yourself these questions:

So what? Why does that matter? When you figure out the point of empathy in your marketing, you’ll stop pushing messages out to your audience and start engaging with them instead. And that leads to better long-term results. We’re in it for the long game, people. Libraries are institutions that last for generations. We don’t have to worry about making our quarterly profits. We have to worry about gaining and keeping our cardholders active for a lifetime. In a way, that’s a scarier goal, but it’s vital to our success. And that leads me to Ann’s second piece of advice.

Wait, what? There is immense pressure to hustle. We feel like we need to be sprinting all the time. We don’t spend enough time on the preparation. Why are we doing this? What is our long-term plan? Ask yourself… will our library marketing sustain us? Opt for sustainability over speed. Are you proud of what you are creating? Does it feed your soul? If the answers to these questions are “no”, then stop doing that thing. I know saying “no” is scary and it feels wrong. But you were hired to market your library because you know what you’re doing. You’re an expert at this. Remind your organization of your ability by exercising your right to make decisions about what marketing will best serve your library.

Mitch Joel, President of Mirum and author of Six Pixels of Separation and CTRL ALT Delete. The library world is in a major state of disruption. Our funding is cut. Our competition is innovating. Just this month, Amazon Prime started offering free eBooks to users as part of the Prime service. Audible and local bookstores are drawing more customers and we’re losing them.

But Joel says don’t confuse disruption for destruction. We can gain back our footing in this state of disruption by integrating content marketing into our marketing strategy. Joel says content marketers purpose is to transform. It’s about making sure our cardholders realize we’re a dynamic, nontraditional organization with resources that can help them in all areas of their life. It’s about educating cardholders. Our competitors aren’t doing that, and content marketing gives us the chance to differentiate ourselves.

I’m with Joel but the transformation doesn’t happen quickly. It takes patience and consistency and this is where most libraries and businesses fail. However, if you create a consistent and clear message, over time, you’ll transform the image of your library. That’s priceless and it’s a change that will bring you so many other benefits.

How do we do it? Joel suggests that you get really focused. Most marketers think they have to churn out lots and lots of content, but they just end up churning out a lot of crap. So do a small amount but do it really well. Create the best content you can imagine for your library. Become the place where people in your industry turn for great content examples. And, says Joel, depth wins. When you explore topics in-depth, you will gain ground because most libraries don’t do that! (For inspiration on in-depth content, listen to the Longform podcast.)

Lars Silberbauer, Global Senior Director of Social Media and Video at Lego. Silberbauer says the best thing a marketer can do is engage the consumer. Libraries need to get close to their cardholders, to observe and understand their behavior. That’s how we make a connection and build a relationship. Listen and understand their needs.

Silberbauer is also a big fan of responding to customers in real-time and understanding moments that happen between your organization and cardholder right now. Silberbauer says that if we don’t have a continuous give and take relationship with the people using our library, they’ll be charmed by our competitors and we’ll lose them forever. I agree.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare,  Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.