I realized something significant in the past few months. It has changed the way I think about library marketing.

I have built a pretty great team and I’ve been vigilant about using data to help me market my library with tactics like email, social, and video.

But there was one marketing tactic that I haven’t used. I haven’t thought about using it. And I need to correct this oversight to take my library marketing to a whole new level.

I need to empower my library’s front-line staff to be library marketing ambassadors.

In the Library Marketing Show, Episode 26, we discussed handing over some of the library marketing work to branch staff. There is work that can only be done by trained marketing and communications professionals. But there are things branch staff can do to offer personalized promotions of events, services, and collection items. They can also offer personalized customer service. And that’s the most important marketing tactic of all.

Back in 2017,  commerce platform Cloud IQ team research found that 69 percent of people want personalized customer service.

In 2018, Accenture Research found that 91 percent of consumers are more likely to shop brands that provide a personalized experience.

Providing personalized customer experience is important for library marketing success. This is difficult for libraries, given our strong commitment to the privacy of our cardholders and their data. But there is a way to do personalized customer service without data. And it could differentiate libraries from our competition.

Library staff must be empowered to think of themselves as marketing ambassadors for the library. If we give our branch staff the tools, training, and confidence, they can create a great customer experience for our visitors. And that can be a competitive advantage for libraries.

We don’t have the money for artificial intelligence or fancy automated marketing tools. But we do have people. Great people. People who are passionately committed to their communities and their customers.

This is really a change in mindset for libraries. This is not something that you’ll talk about once at a staff meeting and forget it. This is something we need to do every day, without fail.

Here is the seven-step process to get front line staff to think of their work as part of marketing.

Change your own thought process around marketing. Just as the front-line staff doesn’t often think that their interactions with customers have anything to do with marketing, the marketing staff often doesn’t consider putting front-line staff to use. Make it a habit to think about how to incorporate front-line staff in your marketing. Handing them some posters doesn’t count. You will want to plot out the specific ways staff can help you with each campaign. Then give them the tools to help them succeed.

Communicate with branch staff regularly about your marketing. If you have a library staff blog or another communication channel, use it to share what you’re doing in your marketing department. And share often.

Each time you start a new marketing campaign or initiative, share your plans with staff. Tell them exactly what the goals are, what tactics you’re using to achieve them, and how you’ll measure success. Always remind the staff about your library’s strategic goals. State how your marketing efforts are making those goals become a reality.

Set aside time in your regular schedule to have conversations with the librarians. This shouldn’t be a scripted interaction. Ask the staff about their work. Find out what they get asked by customers. You will learn something new and get plenty of ideas for what library offerings need more marketing support. Speaking of ideas…

Ask the branch staff for ideas.  An informal suggestion process will help staff feel like they’re part of the marketing department’s success or failure. It makes them more likely to help market the initiative. And you’re likely to find something amazing in their suggestions.

Never reject an idea outright, even if it seems crazy. You risk hampering the creativity of your library staff if they are worried that their suggestions will be silly or stupid. Tell the staff that all ideas are welcome and that library marketing staff will consider each idea carefully. Incorporate the ones that best suit the campaign, the library’s strategic goals, the budget, and the library’s resources.

Try to work at least one staff idea for your marketing into each campaign. If staff make suggestions but see that their ideas are never taken seriously, they’ll stop giving you feedback

Encourage your staff to think of themselves as ambassadors for the library system. They represent everything your library stands for. Your library staff knows their community. They know the needs of their customer base. And they can offer the best, personalized customer service to the people coming into their location.

Let the staff know that you appreciate their unique perspective on your customer base. Reinforce the idea that every part of their job, from shelving holds, to signing people up for cards, to running programs, is a form of marketing. Every interaction they have with a cardholder is a chance for promotion.

Encourage staff to interact with your library on social media if they feel comfortable doing so. Talk to senior leaders and see if it’s possible to grant library staff 15 minutes a week, on work time, to share library social media posts on their personal profiles.

Give staff specific ideas for how they can help spread the library’s message on social by sharing library posts, sharing their own stories or inspiring thoughts about the library, and tagging the library’s social media accounts, commenting or liking posts, inviting friends and family to follow the library on social media, and listing your library as their employer on their personal profiles.

If staff is regularly engaging and sharing content from your library’s social media profiles, you’ll see engagement increase. Algorithms reward libraries with engaged staff!

Lead by example and encourage other senior leaders in your organization to do the same. When staff sees senior leaders and marketing staff talking about the library and sharing their enthusiasm for their work on social, they’ll likely follow suit.

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