Marketing on a Shoestring: Fifty Nifty Thrifty Ways

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Tough times = increased library use, but don’t neglecting marketing just because people are coming in more
Even though many libraries do not have a line item in their budgets for marketing, no library is too small to market
We took a look at excuses people use to not market including not knowing how to start, what to do, and how to handle the increased numbers if it worked.

Starting Out:

  • When you are small (or non-profit), the public is more apt to cut you some slack and are not expecting all the bells and whistles.
  • Plan first. Develop a strategic marketing plan before you start then decide what type of efforts it will take to make that happen. Be sure the plan includes how you are going to measure success. You need to be able to know if your efforts are working.
  • Good doesn’t mean expensive, but you may have to spend some $ so present your plan to the trustees and try to sell them on the idea of allotting funds for these efforts.

Don’t lose ground by disappearing when market gets tough. Get out and show how you are useful, what services you provide that are valuable to the public

No Nos of Library Marketing:

  • Mass marketing is not cost effective
  • Don’t focus on just one segment of your community. Look at teens, business owners, parents, ESL etc. Each specific segment has its own needs and you should try to speak to each individually
  • Do not rely on one medium. Go outside newspapers, less than 30% of public reads print newspapers. Use of multiple media is a must. Branch out and get your message to community
  • Test, then roll. Don’t mail the entire city a promotion. Start with 1/5 and look at results. Then decide if it’s worth it to continue. Saves paper and postage that way.
  • Don’t look cheap. Whatever you do, do it well. If it looks unprofessional, you do your institution a disservice
  • Inconsistent branding. The community needs to be able to readily identify your promotions.
  • Not counting staff time as $. Staff time is not free. Sometimes outsourcing is cheaper than overloading staff
  • Use caution when dealing with donations. Some come with prohibitive strings and restrictions or barter agreements that do not benefit your library in the long run. Look at value, not price A one time radio spot is not the same thing as an actual campaign. If there is no sustainability then it may not be worth it to start?

Ways to Market Your Library (highlights)

  • Good marketing always gets measured so build measurements into every marketing initiatives. Ask “How did you hear about this?” and record how much $ was raised, etc.
  • One message will not resonate with everyone. Identify a need of each segment of the population then target that group. This means mapping your population by looking at the census and getting to know all of the various groups in town (government, religious groups, schools, civic organizations), identifying those who can help introduce you to the populations you are targeting
  • Use stories/testimonials in your marketing like getting someone medical information or helping someone with a job search
  • Double duty rule: Look for marketing ideas that support multiple strategic goals. If you want to support both early childhood literacy and teen programming, try a program where teens act as reading buddies to younger kids
  • Your next customer is your current customer. Talk up new services to your current patrons. Are they story time parents that might benefit from one of your databases?
  • Make friends and trustees ambassadors of the library. They should know your services and be voices in the community.
  • Recruit marketing talent in community to be on the board or to otherwise volunteer time
  • Create a quality library presentation and go out and talk about it out in the community. Let them know what we can do for them. Try school board meetings, rotary, chamber of commerce, etc.
  • Get your info inserted in church, school newsletters, that of other city departments. See if you can get a flyer in the mailings sent out by other groups. Try to develop a relationship with the schools to make use of things like internal TV, newsletters, back to school nights, etc. Place ads in the yearbook and school play programs.
  • Use local celebrities in PR events and marketing campaigns like the mayor or fire chief
  • Get customer input before investing in wide scale production
  • Treat website as a virtual branch. Use it to promote e-resources & serve more people without more staff
  • Participate in community events like parades and town fairs
  • All communications should market a program or service. Create reader’s advisory bookmarks for patrons Solicit marketing support from vendors.
  • Provide local newspapers with book reviews
  • Draw the public into your space by inviting schools to display kids’ artwork or the public to display their old photos.
  • Train staff re: marketing. Ask circ staff to will hand out reader’s advisory or to talk up new services. Have materials handy to give out on various services
  • Solicit corporate support to cover the cost of promotional materials
  • Staff and trustees should have business cards. Hand them to potential supporters. Use both sides of the business card, back side for services
  • Incorporate return-on-investment statements into your annual report. Ex. Summer reading program helped 500 children retain their reading skills.
  • Remind callers of upcoming programs
  • Co-develop materials with other libraries to save staff time
  • Identify longtime card holders or frequent reader and reward them with something. Gift certificate to local store, button, tote bag
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