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?

Interesting Job Ad

Having been one myself in a previous life (but not in a library), I was intrigued to see Auckland City Libraries are on the lookout for a Business Intelligence Analyst. They say “The business intelligence analyst will be critical to that change as they support the library to become customer centric and improve performance. This broad role requires advanced analytical and computer skills to extract, analyse and interpret information that will enable the business to make decisions”. The role will include developing effective systems for obtaining “customer experience” intelligence e.g. through direct interface with customers” (are they talking about surveys??) as well as data mining information from the library management system. Great to see a dedicated staffing resource committed to this area – it will be interesting to see how it develops!