Library Marketing Tips – Avoid the Noise

There are quite a few books on the topic of library marketing, and OCLC’s Geek The Library Campaign is definitely getting people talking, but this post is the first in a weekly series talking about marketing text messaging reference services in your library. We think they work well for any other services you offer, use what you like. The mobile channel isn’t going away, people in the U.S. every day are texting more than they are talking and they’re using text messaging in more ways than simply communicating with friends. Maybe you know this, have decided to implement text messaging reference at your library, it’s finally ready to go and now what? Start promoting the service!

Libraries as a Marketing Vehicle?

Less than 2 years ago, an agency in the UK considered libraries a new channel in direct marketing. Regardless of what your personal reaction to this is (let me guess: not positive?), the idea is worth mentioning: placing marketing materials inside the book will get at least one view or impression. I’m sure plenty of folks were pleased to find that the idea didn’t take off too well. I’m one to appreciate creativity even when execution might be hard to pull off, but execution is 99% of the battle in marketing and great execution requires great planning. That said, we can learn something from those whose job it is to think of new ways to grab people’s attention.

Just because you print up posters does not mean they’ll get seen and just because you create a Twitter account does not mean people will follow (or even read) your tweets. Sorry, but it’s true. (Side note: we love Twitter, use it daily and it’s OK by us that teens don’t tweet). In the end, it’s about deciding what gets you the most for your budget, time and resources. So what to do? Whenever possible, do something different from what has been done. Write a list of what is usually used to promote news, updates or services and then choose something new and unusual. If you have strict guidelines about how new services can be marketed, no problem, there’s still room for flexibility and creativity or you wouldn’t be reading this post. This isn’t about skipping all methods used in the past, some can be great, the point is to avoid the noise.

A few quick tips on what to consider when avoiding the noise:

1) Avoid the Noise.

Yeah, tough one, right? Seriously though, it’s simple enough. If you see stacks of postcards on a table, placing more postcards there isn’t going to help. One of my favorite stories is about Arizona Iced Tea during their initial roll out to grocery stores: they were looking at slotting/shelving fees and noticed that it would be cheaper to be near the fruits and vegetables than on the drinks aisle. Pay more and be one of many drinks in an aisle (noise) or pay less and be near healthy fruits and vegetables? Seems like a no brainer.

2) Choose more than one method, include one you absolutely know will work.

Prior to being in the mobile industry, I worked in internet advertising and guerrilla marketing, both when they were considered very new. I saw over 400 campaigns take place and always noticed one thing: the brands utilizing more than one method or medium to promote their product or service had higher levels of success. By using several methods, you have a better chance at increasing your reach. If someone sees you in both (or even more) places, you are increasing your frequency. Both are good things. We’ll be covering some methods and ideas we’ve seeing working by some of the libraries having success in future posts, but one of the things they have in common is using more than one method to get the word out. Another interesting element is that the librarians where SMS reference services are successful are seeing the value of the service and are excited to be able to offer it.

3) Make sure you are using the proper terminology in your instructions.

This one is very important and while it should go without saying, we’re saying it anyway. Make it easy to understand and it will get used. Patrons are texting to the service, not “calling” it. Links to templates you are free to use are below and have some simple, but useful terminology. It’s also important to note that “Standard Message Rates Apply” somewhere on your materials.

4) A great call to action is the only way you’ll grab attention and hold it.

You can come up with a great call to action phrase without sounding like an infomercial. Your call to action can be in the form of asking a question, followed by a request:

“Need Info? Have a mobile phone? Text a librarian!”

“Want info on the go? Text us!”

A great call to action goes a long ways.

5) Use mobile phone icons or graphics in your materials.

When you show a mobile phone image, you increase your chances of getting noticed by those interested in using their mobile devices for communication. Make it as big as possible on your materials to get people to notice.

Ultimately, you have to decide what will work best in your library, which area will get the most attention in the spot with the least amount of noise. Personally, I’m a fan of the business card-sized flyers because they are small, can be tucked into a book, put in a wallet or purse and used later. Other people prefer posters, table tents or bookmarks. If you find any of those interesting, keep reading, we’ve created some templates to hopefully make it easier for you.

(Promotional Perfection from East Baton Rouge Public Library)

Library Marketing Microsoft Word Templates

If you’re looking for a place to get started, here are some Microsoft Word templates we’ve created for you. In the efforts of leaving them open to promoting the service in your own voice, we made them somewhat content-neutral (we recognize the call to action could be a lot more exciting). You may download and customize them as you see fit for your library.

Click on any of the links below to open the templates on your computer:

Library Marketing Templates