Marketing, Promoting and Advocacy in the Special Library: Personal Relationships Continue to Be the Most Important Aspect of Marketing, but the Use of New Technologies Is Changing How We Promote Ourselves to Potential Customers

Article excerpt

Recently, I conducted a survey to determine how special libraries and information centers are currently marketing, promoting and advocating their services. In late April, I created a survey and distributed it via the Leadership & Management Division listserv, and the results from the survey are discussed below.

The survey was intended to reveal standard practices and methods for marketing, promoting and advocating for the library, but also to determine whether technology was playing a significant role in changing how we undertake these activities. While most information professionals have a good working knowledge of marketing and promotion practices, I will review a few of the key points here, prior to discussing the survey results.

Marketing is basically about identifying customer needs and then meeting those needs. It means only creating a product or service when you have identified a need for the service or product. It is about building and sustaining relationships, and it is about creating customer value.

From that basis, every information center needs to develop a marketing strategy. This means identifying the target market (a homogenous group of customers), then developing the appropriate marketing mix for this target market. The marketing mix is comprised of the four "P's," otherwise known as:

* Product: developing the right product for right target market.

* Place: getting the product/service to the right place (the target market's place) and appropriate distribution channels.

* Promotion: the "telling and selling."

* Price: developed based on competition, cost to produce, customer reaction to price.

Your Marketing Plan

Once you have developed an overall marketing strategy, you will need to create your marketing plan. The marketing plan needs to contain the specifics for the marketing mix, the resources you will need to conduct marketing, including costs, the expected results of the plan, and controls that allow you to monitor the costs and the results as the plan unfolds.

Promotion is the "telling and selling," and it can incorporate personal selling, mass selling (advertising and publicity) and sales promotion. Promotion is all about informing, or educating prospective customers, it's about persuading customers that you have the preferred service or product, and it is to remind customers of past successes and satisfaction with your products and services.

Advocacy is another important activity in the special library environment. It encompasses "marketing your services, promoting your resources, educating your users and forming relationships with decision makers." Advocacy is about building relationships, increasing the perceived value of the library, and creating support for the library. It is aligned with the marketing activities, but it also encompasses more than merely marketing specific products and services; it is the ongoing activity to ensure survival and success of the library.

Marketing Frequency

The most significant aspect of the survey seems to be that information professionals take the information center marketing activities extremely seriously, with 82% of respondents say they market the center's services and products on a regular basis. In fact, many consider marketing, promotion and advocacy to be part of their regular work day:

* 30% market or promote their services to customers on a daily basis.

* 28% market on a monthly basis.

* 20% market on a weekly basis.

Comments from survey respondents included: "Marketing is something you do all the time, not only on specific occasions ... "Marketing is a continuous process to gain traction, value and memorability. It is a critical daily function of members of the information centers."

Comfort Zone

I wondered whether staff members, generally, were comfortable with doing marketing work. …