I am a list maker.

This is going to sound crazy but one of the most enjoyable parts of my day is the moment when I get to check something off my to-do list.

Recently, one of my readers asked me if I have a checklist for library marketing. She wanted to make sure she wasn’t missing any opportunities to promote her library.

Of course I do! Scroll down for the master checklist for library marketing.

But just because there are so many tactics available to market your library doesn’t mean that you should use every one. There is a bit of science involved in deciding when and where to run a library promotion.

To help you make these decisions, there is a series of questions you need to ask yourself. Do this every time you create a marketing campaign for anything at your library. This will ensure your promotions are effective and you are working efficiently.

How does this event, service, or item serve your library’s strategy?

Every piece of marketing you do needs to be in service of reaching your library’s strategic goals. They are the reason you come to work every morning. So make certain there is a solid connection between your promotional efforts and your library’s overall strategy.

What do you know about your current cardholders and the people who live in your community? 

A clear image of the person who will consume your marketing messages will help you do a better job of marketing to them.

Where do these cardholders live? How do they engage with your competitors like Amazon and other bookstores? Where do they get their news? Do they have access to Wi-Fi? Do they have children? What is their living situation like? Do they work? What is their transportation situation?

The answers to these questions will help you create promotions that resonate with your intended audience.

Click here to download the master checklist for library marketing.

Now it’s time to decide what to promote, how to promote, and when to promote. Here are three rules to live by when figuring out the best channel for your library marketing.

Don’t feast at the buffet of tactics.

You don’t have to use every tactic available to you. Choose which ones will work best for each promotion. It’s a smarter use of your time and energy.

For example, my library held a teen poetry contest in April every year. We know that teens are typically considered to be a really hard audience to reach. So I went after their parents and teachers!

I marketed the contest on our website, in social media, on the digital signs in branches, with posters, and with email. Notice all the categories I didn’t use!

I didn’t send a press release because I had no evidence from past years to show that promoting this contest in the news would get us more entries. I didn’t use all the signage options available to me because teens don’t pay attention to signs. And I didn’t include the contest in our content marketing publication because the average reader of that publication was an older empty-nester–not the right audience for that promotion.

For each promotion, use only the tactics that work best for the intended target audience. You’ll be more efficient and effective!

Determine how you will measure success.

You must make sure that you accurately document the results of every promotion you do. This will help you to adjust your promotions to improve effectiveness. Keep meticulous records of data as it comes in.

As a starting point, you can measure every promotional request against two basic rules.

If the promotion doesn’t result in higher circulation, program attendance, or usage, don’t do it.
If the promotion is not tied directly to the library’s overall strategy, cut it.

When I worked at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, my marketing team conducted a year-long experiment to see if we could drive attendance at events. We hypothesized that emails sent to targeted cardholders would result in higher attendance.

We were wrong.

We did 118 branch promotional emails that year and only half were effective in boosting attendance AT ALL. With that data, we decided to cut way back on email branch promotions.

The next year, we sent only 34 emails promoting attendance at branches. Our effectiveness level increased to 68 percent. More than half of the programs saw a significant increase in attendance–at least ten percent–after their cardholders received an email. 

Why did the emails work the second year? When we cut down on the number we were sending, we were able to create messages that did a better job of resonating with people. Turns out, our audience responded to quality, not quantity!

At some point, you may realize there is an tactic that just doesn’t seem to work. You have my blessing to drop anything that fails. Use only the things that can help you to achieve your goals and cut the rest.

Share your results.

Talk about the results with your colleagues and share your results with other departments. Transparency in marketing is a good thing. It helps your co-workers and administrators have a clearer understanding of what you do. And they may look at the results and find some new insight that you missed.

Failure is okay, by the way. Marketing is an experiment! Sometimes the stuff you do will work, sometimes it won’t. If something doesn’t work, don’t do it again. Spend your energy on the things that do work.

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