by Sandy Malloy, San Francisco Bay Region Chapter, News Division
David Meerman Scott, a marketing strategist whose work I see all the time, wrote a post on his WebInkNow blog, “Apple Is Not Different,” in which he opines that no product or company matters outside the context of the problems they solve for the user. Says Scott, “What your buyers do care about are themselves and they care a great deal about solving their problems (and are always on the lookout for a company that can help them do so.)”
Substitute “patrons” or “customers” or “clients” or “users” for “buyers” in this statement and “librarian” for “company” and you have a situation that we librarians should take to heart.
Scott cites Apple as an example of a company whose products are considered cool. But even the coolest products are only as good as the problems they solve. Sleek design? That solves the problem of “ho, hum, I have a computer on my desk”; in other words, boredom. The “it-factor” of being a member of the Apple tribe? That solves the problem of needing to feel a sense of community or belonging. Lack of viruses? Congratulations, you’ve saved the trouble of buying and maintaining a lot of external virus detection software.
Do you believe you should create a brand for yourself? Remake your image? Market your library? SLA’s Alignment Project gives you tools to do all these things, and they are important, but mean nothing outside the context of understanding your clients and how you are going to solve their problems.
So, it’s not “my library.” It’s YOUR library (you, my client) and I’m going to do my best to understand how you want to use it. Do you want it on your desktop? In your pocket? Would a regular email newsletter help you do your job? What about tweets of new articles that are available? A spreadsheet of leads? What can I do to help you get new business, or satisfy regulators, or help you look good to your boss?
Even the language barrier cited by SLA alignment research speaks to connecting with our clients. When we use their language, we say that we understand the organization’s business or at least enough of it to be on their wavelength when it comes to solving problems for them.
As a group, we librarians or are a very service-oriented group. But we can also be proprietary about what we know and the resources to which we have access. In promoting ourselves and our libraries in terms of resources and our own knowledge, we are, in marketing-speak, touting features. What we need to be touting are benefits. To quote Mr. Scott once again, being aware of “what’s in it for me? [the client]“, we are “addressing real problems rather than reverse engineering a benefit based on the feature set. ”
Sandy Malloy is Senior Information Specialist at Business Wire, a Berkshire Hathaway company, the San Francisco-based distributor of press releases where she has worked for almost 22 years. She received her MLS from the University of Southern California and has been an information broker, public librarian, academic librarian, medical librarian and sales representative (though not all at the same time.)