Building a buzz (word of mouth marketing and libraries – book review)

Building a buzz: libraries & word-of-mouth marketing by Peggy Barber and Linda Wallace is a fabulous book. Starting off with a short description of what marketing is all about, they then emphasise the importance of having a plan and go on to describe the key components of a marketing plan and a marketing communication plan. They also include a great communication checklist you can use to self-evaluate all aspects of how your library comes across. The few pages spent on this are really useful stuff and are a great primer for getting up to speed in the area.

Then it’s on to the details of word-of-mouth marketing, and the 5 things you must have (and how to get them):

1. A good product and great customer service
2. A plan
3. A clear, conscious, consistent message
4. A prepared and committed sales force
5. People willing to testify

The book includes reports from the fifteen of the 35 libraries that participated in the Buzz Project that the book authors were involved with. These give rich detail about specific WOMM projects. Each mini case-study gives an introduction, the goals and objectives, key audiences, the message, strategies, tools, budget, impact and lessons learned. These provide a great framework you could use yourself, not to mention some inspiration. The overwhelming number of examples are from public libraries, but there is a case study from BP Information Services which showed how they used a staff survey to increase awareness of their services and to better target new resources to a globally dispersed workforce. It looks like three academic libraries were part of the wider project so it’s a little disappointing none of them made it to the book. Regardless of that there is highly useful information and examples in this book relevant to all sectors.

How do we reward our loyal customers?

A few days ago I got a very welcome email from Ezibuy telling me that one of their very best customers they would reward me with some extra bonuses like priority delivery for the price of standard delivery and a $20 voucher for my birthday. I do spend a lot with Ezibuy so it’s great to be rewarded for my loyalty 🙂

One of the things we touched on very briefly in our recent Marketing for Libraries workshops was the question of loyalty. I refered (again) to the excellent article by Julie Badger, Turning cold sellers into must haves: marketing unsought library products.

Badger’s focus is on article databases and is highly relevant for the tertiary sector and special libraries. But read the article and think about applying the idea of brand loyalty to libraries as whole. Many of us put considerable effort into persuading people to become new members. Think about who our competitors are in this situation – bookshops, ebooks, Google etc. Some people are very loyal to these “brands” and persuading them to change will be extremely difficult. Our drivers for increasing membership are numerous – and especially for public libraries can include the expectations of our governing bodies. But I think we should at least be aware that our efforts to increase membership may require a great deal of effort for not always a great return. Would that (or some of that) effort be better rewarded by increasing usage amongst our existing members? Or should we focus membership drives on targeted groups that we know are more likely to become regular library users (that’s if we know who these groups are to start with!). Food for thought.

Another thing to think about – this really applies to public libraries – is the practice of deleting customers off your system if they have been inactive after a set period. I am pretty sure that in the public library I used to work at (some years ago now) we deleted customers who were inactive after 2 years. How does this square with our idea of libraries being part of a person’s lifelong learning? In that context two years may not seem like a long time. Sure people pass away, move away etc. But not all of them. Some of them may be customers you put in the hard yards to win. What do you do to get them back as return customers and keep them loyal?

And how do you reward the loyalty of your regular customers? When it comes to academic libraries I am not sure that we do and right now I am not aware of how we could, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we can’t! Dunedin Public Libraries reward their loyal users of their hot picks and holds services by offering prepaid cards that give discounts.

And why would we even bother? Well as Badger says:

We also need to nurture and reward our loyal customers so that they stay with us and hopefully generate positive word of mouth publicity.

For libraries the possibility to capitalise on word-of-mouth-marketing is a seriously big opportunity. As Peggy Barber and Linda Wallace say in Building a buzz: libraries & word-of-mouth marketing:

With all the newfangled technology out there, the commercial world is turning to word-of-mouth marketing (WOMM) as the most powerful form of advertising. This is great news for libraries because WOMM is truly powerful and because we can afford it. For the first time, the playing field is level. We can compete. We can win public awareness and support (p. 7)

So how do you reward your loyal customers?