Kathy Dempsey’s article “The key to marketing success: by learning what clients really want, you can avoid wasting time and money on things they won’t use” is honestly comforting to read. It’s presenting a strategy for keeping libraries relevant without sounding bitter or averse to adapting. It’s simply giving you ways to adapt and staying positive while doing it.
After reading this, I definitely agree with Dempsey that library schools should include marketing discussions; I don’t necessarily know that I associate marketing as a whole “with unsavory activities,” though there are aspects of it that are decidedly not good, but making people both in and out of the library profession aware of the useful ways to market and the ways that it isn’t all bad would certainly be useful.
“In true marketing, you start by asking the consumer what he or she wants,” Dempsey writes. I think that in any profession that provides a service to people this is true, and libraries certainly provide a service to people. Libraries exist to help people, to educate people, to provide them with information and resources. But in order to best do that, librarians and staffers need to ask their patrons what they need. Providing irrelevant resources is, well, irrelevant: in order to keep libraries useful, they need to be properly equipped to handle the community they serve.
Dempsey does a very good job of leaving no stone unturned. She outlines the strategy needed thoroughly, step by step, and there’s little room for misinterpretation. She’s discussing strategy in terms of what librarians need to do, what communities need, and how these things work together: it’s not just “this is what communities want,” it’s not just “this is what librarians want.” It’s balanced.
I particularly enjoyed the discussion of segmentation; such a concept appeals to me, just because I like to keep things in their proper place so as to make sense of them and use my own time more efficiently. It’s always nice to hear my own tendencies confirmed as being useful, though; “one-size service absolutely, positively, does not fit all,” Dempsey says. I believe this is very true, particularly today.
Knowing your customers makes sense. It helps avoid the aloof, detached “unapproachable guardian of information” feeling and helps the libraries be part of the communities socially, not just a building within them. The idea of Facebooking for a library makes sense, and I’m sure it’s effective; the idea of Twittering for a library is somewhat more mystifying for me, but I’m sure it has its advantages, too.
This is an article somewhat about marketing, but it’s more about marketing-as-customer-service, and that’s something I’m sure most businesses, libraries or not, could stand to learn about.