Marketing orientation as a management style

A very useful article that explains how one library took a look at all the components of the marketing mix and adopted them as a management strategy is Walking the talk, market orientation in academic libraries : a case study of Queensland University of Technology Library, Australia –  a paper presented at an IATUL conference by Barbara Ewers.

Ewers echoes Alison Circle’s sentiments (and my own) when she says:

there seems to have been a fragmented application of marketing principles in the management and operation of libraries because they have lacked strategies to translate the marketing management into their functional management

and critically:

in a market orientated organisation, marketing isn’t pushed off to one side as promotion or public relations. Marketing orientation is an organisational management style

Ewers goes on to describe what she calls the 7 Ps of service marketing: product; price; processes; place; physical evidence; promotion and people, and how these have been utilised at QUT Library as strategies and  indicators of performance measurement.

Although the article provides an example from an academic library it is an excellent starting point for exploring the idea of marketing as a strategy rather than a tactic.

Ewer’s concludes with 7 suggestions that would be applicable to any library seeking to devise a marketing strategy:

  • understand your clients through market research
  • identify your client market – using segmentation and targeting
  • identify your strengths as a competitive business – positioning
  • know the product your clients want and where they want to use it
  • develop effective and efficient procedures to facilitate outcomes for clients
  • employ and train staff in client relationship marketing as well as work skills
  • communicate the benefits of your product over that of your competitors

Marketing – the last profession to be invited into the library world

So begin’s Alison Circle’s post on Marketing as strategy, not a poster. For me this is a critically important blog posting, as it highlights what Circle considers to be a fundamental confusion in libraries between marketing and promotion. For Circle, marketing is:

a high level strategy, not the tactics that give life to that strategy

and as such it involves:

  • market research to know as much as possible about current and potential customers
  • analysing customer needs – what can be met and critically what can’t be met
  • identification and analysis of the competition
  • a focus on the four Ps – product, price, position and promotion

For me this sort of focus is exactly what has been missing as I’ve sat through numerous conference presentations that have highlighted again and again the challenges that face libraries, but have resulted in very little or no discussion on the strategy of how we will meet these challenges. Clearly we need to promote libraries and what we do, but where is our strategy that gives us a foundation to that – that gives us a framework to focus our limited budgets and resources? 

This then is what has led me to study marketing and to consider it in relation to libraries – because I suspect there aren’t enough of us in the library profession that know enough about marketing.

So here are a few questions I’ve got for starters:

  • do we follow and understand the major societal and consumer trends and how they will impact on us as librarians?
  • we survey our customers but do we just find out what we already know, or do we gather information that can actually help us make decisions about service delivery?
  • are we really honest about what needs we can and can’t meet? Are we honest and brave enough to concede there are some needs we can’t meet and there is little point in wooing certain groups of customers?
  • do we know who are competitors are and do we keep track of what they are up to?
  • do we have a good idea of how we should plan for future services – specifically how will the information seeking behaviours of generation Y, Z and C evolve? Are we aware of any longitudinal studies in place to look at this?

Public libraries in New Zealand under attack again?

A recent  issue of the Listener features an editorial on why an increasing effort is needed to preserve our public libraries in New Zealand. It gives an overwhelmingly positive message which is fantastic, and in great contrast to a post on a blog from the UK  claiming libraries are a barrier to reading. The issue of public funding of libraries in New Zealand was a hot topic on a couple of the stuff.co.nz  blogs over Christmas/New Year, on Bill Ralston’s blog, and on Moata Tamaira’s Blog idle, – I haven’t read all the comments in depth but there will be a wealth of public opinion to be mined I am sure!

While on the subject of libraries and their worth I came across a fantastic idea Rochester Hills Public Library  in the U.S  uses to show library users the value of the books they have taken out, and thereby demonstrates how much money they have saved by using the library.  The link to this initiative was in a fantastic new blog I’ve come across on libraries and marketing – more on that soon!

What if we ran out of librarians?

One of my friends was recently musing about the apparent decline in numbers of university students embarking on IT-related careers in New Zealand.  I would have thought the IT industry was a “sexy” destination so it makes me increasingly worried about the future of librarianship as a profession, especially given the ongoing difficulty many library managers have in filling jobs around the country (I have a sneaking suspicion there might be a reply of “well so what” to this question from some quarters ;-)) It will be interesting to see what initiatives the LIANZA working party on marketing the profession will come up with.

Cultural trends for 2009

The Hartman Group is a consumer insight company and they’ve put out a summary of what they see as the cultural trends for 2009.

These are:

1. Big brands do boutique

2. Taking it to the streets

3. Customization is out of beta

4. User generated content is not a four letter word

5. Let’s meet up

6. The great and powerful Mom

7. The great big conversation

8. DIY goes global

9. The rise of steampunk

10. The rise of the amateur expert home decorator

11. Traveling in  hipster comfort

12. Gone Green for Good

Its a summary report, but there’s enough commentary to get a good idea of what each trend covers