Terry Kendrick is the guru of strategic marketing in libraries. His book Developing Strategic Marketing Plans That Really Work is a must-read, and he writes, speaks, and runs workshops on marketing libraries all over the UK and in no fewer than 26 countries abroad. He also brings a nonlibrary perspective to the table, lecturing in marketing at the University of East Anglia in the UK.
I talked to him about all things marketing strategy for my recent book The Library Marketing Toolkit (Facet, 2012).
NED POTTER: Do you think that strategic marketing is undervalued in libraries generally?
TERRY KENDRICK: I do. I think strategy setting is very well respected, I think libraries are very good at writing strategy documents, and I think they're actually quite reasonable at doing tactical programs. The problem is that the strategic marketing planning part within those programs isn't always so well bought into, because it's hard and it requires a lot of resources that aren't always readily available.
What are the consequences of marketing as an afterthought? As in, the differences between making marketing a priority versus libraries that just do marketing if they get a chance once they've done everything else? Many libraries are driven by a series of pump-priming initiatives, so very few use a full marketing approach.
Many libraries feel the need to market what they've done as an initiative, and then they're quite often disappointed by it because it's been done as a series of one-off activities without the coherence of a marketing plan. Is there evidence that marketing makes a difference? What I see in North America--in Canada in particular, where they're more marketing driven--is that it does make a real difference.
Is the first step to creating a marketing strategy understanding your own library or understanding the market your library is in?
The first step in creating any marketing plan is knowing what your ambition is. If you don't know what you want to be, the market doesn't matter and your capabilities don't matter either. It's very important to know what you want to look like--putting some numbers on that will focus the mind immediately. If you say you want to grow 30% over the next "X" number of years, that'll certainly focus your mind on the marketing: Where in the market will that 30% come from? Which users will give us issues, visits, enquiries, database hits--whatever it is that is driving the performance measures in that organization.
There is a difficulty in using numbers, though: Perhaps libraries aren't used to planning like that--they find that quite intimidating. They want to do the promotional side of things rather than the harder side of the thinking. They're very good at doing things, and it feels good to do something, but to think your way through something is hard work; it can cause discord. And because there's not a culture of connecting marketing with the strategic planning, the numbers that should be used as part of the marketing plan are seen as irrelevant to that process when, in fact, they're very important.
Tell me about the importance of the lib rally brand fitting into the user's lifestyle.
For most of the things we want to be associated with, we've got to feel good about them. We've got to feel that if we're seen there, then we're seen as "okay" by the people whose opinions we value. People tend to have tribes and lifestyles, and they live their lives in particular ways. It's not always the case that a library fits closely to that. If you have a lifestyle that, for instance, is fairly relaxed, you might want the library to be relaxed. The trouble is others' lifestyles might not be quite as relaxed, so there'll be a tension there in the way you market your service, which is very difficult to do. Good marketers can deal with that; they can market to different user groups with different lifestyles simultaneously. …