It is hard to believe that in a building filled with the stories, a library marketer would need inspiration.
But alas, we are human. And sometimes we get stuck in a rut.
Library marketers are expected to be energetic and enthusiastic at all times. We must come to all meetings and be able to give a list on the fly of exciting and innovative ideas for promoting major developments and smaller decisions that affect the everyday cardholders.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes, I just too plain exhausted to be the marketing superwoman. The busyness of the library summer reading season seems to melt every year into the busyness of fall. There is little time to rest. And exhaustion makes it even more difficult to find creative inspiration.
We struggle to inspire our cardholders, both old and new. We want our customers to use our collection and enjoy our services every day, but we can’t seem to figure out a way to make them act. The tried and true methods of marketing no longer work and we’re frustrated, angry, and frankly, a little worried.
Here’s what I do when I find myself stuck in a marketing rut.
Define your workflow and make it the law of your marketing landscape. A defined outward-facing workflow sounds like the opposite of a creative endeavor. But in reality, it creates space for you to think. It ensures that you have time to be thoughtful so you can develop and deliver a quality product.
Set an expectation about who will manage workflow. That means all marketing requests go through one person on your team. That person is responsible for looking at the request and determining if it fits into the library’s overall strategic goals. That person sets clear expectations and goals for each project. That person communicates a plan of action based on realistic timelines and due dates.
Let me tell you: a defined workflow is a lifesaver. It reduces stress and anxiety for everyone on your team. When your staff understands what is expected of them, they can focus on the creative parts of the job.
If you are new to your library, it will take time to get a smooth workflow in place. Be patient with yourself and with others. Keep reinforcing your expectations. Eventually, your coworkers will be on board with you, especially when they start to see results.
Be generous with positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement always creates an emotional experience for individuals or a team working together. Don’t just say, “Well done.” Write a note or a card praising specific actions or portions of work. Give yours staff unexpected breaks: team lunches and surprise treats can lift the spirit of your team and re-energize them.
Use your staff’s strengths to create passion for the work. I highly recommend that you invest in the Gallup Strengths Finders test. It gives you incredible and nuanced insight into yourself and your staff members. It shows you how to recognize the strengths of your team members and how to actually manage them to put those strengths to good use. You can find the book by Tom Rath at Walmart and Target for about $15. It includes a code that each team member uses to take the test online.
Through the Gallup process, I discovered my team members have a strong capacity for collaboration. This wasn’t much of a surprise to me. But the book also gave me suggestions for how to actually use that desire for collaboration to the advantage of my library. It also gave me greater insight and empathy for team members who prefer to work alone or who seem resistant to change. I can assign tasks to the best person for each job. It’s really changed the dynamics of my staff and made work easier for everyone.
Observe your customers. It helps me just to take a walk around the library or to visit the branches. I pretend to be browsing the books but really, I’m watching the way the cardholders browse the shelves, interact with staff, work the self-checkout machines and use the public computers. Do they look for a map? Do they look confused? Are they drawn to a particular book display? Do they linger over the new books or do they dash in for their holds and dash out? What questions do they ask? How do people actually move through the branch?
Observing the behavior of customers inside the library can give you an idea of what visitors love and what problems they encounter during their interaction with your system. Then, you can focus on creating new marketing ideas that spotlight the things your cardholders love, and answer the questions they have.
You can also observe online visitors. Spend some time poking around Google Analytics. Figure out which pages get the most visitors. Look for the pages where visitors stay for the longest period of time. Look for the landing pages with a high bounce rate. Page views and read time will help you focus effort on improving the customer experience for your website.
Check your statistics. Our library makes circulation and programming stats available on our intranet. This little piece of data inspires me to find ways to help make their interaction with the library more worthwhile.
Sometimes a surprising trend emerges and that gives me a creative marketing idea. Sometimes a service takes a dip in usage, and it becomes clear that we need to shift our marketing focus to re-educating the public about that service. Data is such a valuable inspirational tool. Use whatever stats you can get your hands on!
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