Promoting EPIC resources – ideas from the vendors at LIANZA11

One of the sessions I attended at the recent LIANZA conference was about the promotion of EPIC databases, with the session being presented by the vendors themselves.  You can find all their presentations from the session on the EPIC website .  Below are some of the ideas I took particular note of.

Most vendors provide:

–          posters that either you or they can customise for you

–          Search widgets for your website

–          Training for library staff in their resources

Liza Fisher from Gale Cengage talked about “shelf talkers” to make the link between hardcopy and print – they can provide these for libraries. This is what they look like:

Example of a Shelf Talker: Photo courtesy Gale Cengage

Liza also made a point that I whole heartedly agree with – you absolutely have to identify key content for your customers. In some library contexts promoting big databases can be overwhelming for staff and irrelevant for customers. Liza suggests taking opportunities to highlight journals that might appeal to your customers – for instance if you someone asks where the golfing books are this could be an opportunity to promote access to golfing magazines on the EPIC databases. This “would you like fries with that” approach is not so alien to us – it is an extension of our customer service values. As Camille from Britannica said at the same session, we librarians are in sales. Every great sales person worth their salt knows their product – and we have to know our products and resources too. Liza mentioned what they did at Auckland City Libraries a few years ago now where they ran a display competition between branches, with each branch promoting a different resource. In this way staff at each branch become familiar with at least one of the resources on offer.

In one of my earlier posts I included some ideas for promoting EPIC databases from the nz-libs list. Be sure to check that out – there are some great ideas there from libraries around New Zealand and staff training was a key tool. I also included a link to Julie Badger’s excellent article about the challenges of promoting library databases. If you only have time to read one article on libraries and marketing, make it hers 🙂

Measuring the impact of marketing activities in academic libraries

The question of measuring the impact of marketing efforts is a fraught one, even in the business world. Check out what Farris et al. have to say on the subject from Marketing Metrics: The Definitive Guide to Measuring Marketing Performance (2nd ed, Pearson Prentice Hall, 2010):

In business and economics, many metrics are complex and difficult to master. Some are highly specialized and best suited to specific analyses. Many require data that may be approximate, incomplete, or unavailable.

Little wonder then that many libraries don’t tackle it – in the US, one study found that less than 33% of academic libraries evaluated their promotional campaigns.

Farris et al. offer this:

Under these circumstances, no single metric is likely to be perfect. For this reason, we recommend that marketers use a portfolio or “dashboard” of metrics. By doing so, they can view market dynamics from various perspectives and arrive at “triangulated” strategies and solutions. Additionally, with multiple metrics, marketers can use each as a check on the others. In this way, they can maximize the accuracy of their knowledge … Being able to “crunch the numbers” is vital to success in marketing. Knowing which numbers to crunch, however, is a skill that develops over time. Toward that end, managers must practice the use of metrics and learn from their mistakes.

Brian Mathews in Marketing today’s academic library: a bold approach to communicating with students (American Library Association, 2009) offers up some of the potential components of that dashboard:

Response-based advertising
For instance getting a customer to visit a website, or take advantage of an offer. The website could be a campaign-specific secondary page to better track statistics.

Market share
This could be calculated by counting the total number of users and dividing them by the total student population. For instance if 4000 students checked out a book at least once during the year out of a total student population of 10,000 then the market share would be 40%. And then we might think about the other 60% who didn’t borrow anything and how to reach them.

How did you hear about us?
This involves inviting students to share their experience. This can be done face to face or by using a follow-up email.

Web analytics
Analyse total hit rates and click-through rates to your website via tools such as Google Analytics.

LibQual+
A customer service survey administered by the Association for Research Libraries (charges apply).

Recall
A technique that can be used in focus groups, surveys or one-to-one interviews.

Dorm (hostel) surveys

Longitudinal studies
This involves tracking student usage over time – how do they find out about our services and how do they use the library over time? Mathews’ example involves selecting 6 new students each year, who he meets with once a semester throughout their degree. He notes this isn’t scientific but it allows him to get a feel for selected user groups and to learn about their experiences.

As Mathew’s says, ultimately there is no silver bullet when it comes to measuring impact and as Farris et al. suggest we need a range of metrics. Critically we also need to remember that this is part of a bigger task – we need to figure out what success would look like – which is all part of the goals we set as to what we want our marketing activities to achieve – right back at the start of the cycle of our marketing activities. For Mathews:

… success, from a marketing standpoint, is a combination of familiarity along with usage, across the span of a student’s tenure. The longevity of library use from day one until graduation is what matters

and

I feel instead of simply focusing on generating awareness or even just increasing use of resources, we should approach communication more philosophically by viewing our marketing as a chance to elevate the role of the library in our students’ minds. In this manner, our advertising encourages them to expect more from us. We are not just providing more books, more journals, more computers, or more staff to help them, but rather more relevance. We should aspire to smash their preconceptions of what a library is and instead demonstrate what it can become.

He proposes the following:

1. List all of the library products and services that are relevant to undergraduates
2. At the end of the academic year ask a random sample of thirty students from different classes and ask them to
a) tick the products and services they have heard of and
b) tick those that they have actually used.

This allows you to track the effectiveness of your communications and the usage of your library.

What tools do you use to measure the impact of your marketing activities?

So it’s like YOUR Google?

At Massey University Library we have recently launched our Discover database –  which offers an integrated Google-style search of many of the Library’s article databases, ebooks, the catalogue, Massey Research Online and other resources, instead of searching each resource individually. Anyone can search Discover from our Library home page. Our publicity for Discover stepped up a notch this week at our Turitea campus with a simple but eye-catching display going up. We are starting to get more of branded look for our posters now using a specific template. We got the posters printed by our printery on campus so we could get some larger sizes, and had them finish them in a nice matt finish.  
 
 
The posters include quotes from initial student feedback:
 
 
 
Today we had a quick working party in the office to staple sweets to bookmarks and we then took them out to the Information Commons to hand out to students (felt a bit like channelling my inner flight attendant*). So that quick promotional effort reached over 100 students and it was a winner – we got several students asking us about Discover – one said “so it’s like your Google?” Right on the money. I think that actively distributing promotional materials with the added attraction of some candy is a technique that is well worth us trying again in the future.

 

 *In New Zealand flight attendants walk up and down the aisles distributing sweets before getting organised for landing.

 
 

The demise of Library Week and the need for Brand Library

The recent news that LIANZA’s Library Week is no more is regrettable I think. Without the funding it previously had, LIANZA saw no choice but to cut Library Week and instead provide a pool of resources available for all libraries in New Zealand. I’m sure that may libraries will do great things with these – however I still think Library Week had a lot of undeveloped potential. And one potential it had was for the development and delivery of a strong consistent message of what libraries are all about now to the New Zealand market. This potential can still be realised – I hope there is motivation to do it!

I am talking about moving beyond ideas about “Ask a librarian” or promoting different images of librarians (and there is nothing wrong with that!) but getting to the guts of what we need to promote. Is it libraries as a place? Libraries as a gateway to electronic information (that the have-nots cannot afford on their own?) So what are the key images/messages we want to promote? I’m talking about big picture messages, that all types of libraries could embrace. I think there is enormous potential for us to have that collective conversation, make some decisions and get on and do it. Library week would have been a great vehicle to deliver those messages.

It seems libraries are inextricably entwined with the book. The recent OCLC report, Perceptions of Libraries 2010: context and community seems to indicate this is strengthening in the U.S. In 2005 69% of respondents associated libraries with books and this was up to 75% in 2010 (1). With ever-increasing publicity about ebooks where does that leave the library in the minds of our customers? We’ve all seen plenty of things written about the demise of the library – do we have a collective response to this?

I don’t think any of us think the Brand Library is wedded to the physical book, but we need to start strengthening our promotional messages about what customers needs we really are meeting – so we can effectively demonstrate our value to our communities. And I think our best bet is to do that collectively.

(1) http://www.oclc.org/reports/2010perceptions/2010perceptions_all_singlepage.pdf p. 38

What article databases have in common with prepaid funerals

This post was inspired by recent exchanges on the NZ-Libs discussion list about the usage of databases provided via EPIC. Here I have included my response, and I have included some of the ideas for promoting database resources that came through in the responses. These are just a snapshot of the good ideas that came through and it was heartening that the EPIC Governance Group signalled they were looking for any feedback on collaborative approaches to training and promotion of electronic resources. (This can be sent to paula.banks@dia.govt.nz).

To borrow an analogy from Julie Badger’s excellent article “Turning ‘cold sellers’ into ‘must haves’:  marketing unsought library products” – article databases have as much appeal as a prepaid funeral.  They represent a type of product that consumers may be unaware of, or see no need for, or even have negative attitudes towards. And Badger is talking about databases in the academic library setting – promoting article databases to the general public represents further challenges.

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