Last year I raved about Google's booth at ALA. This year they toned it down quite a bit and rather than giving away t-shirts, hats, mini journals and pictures, they were giving away small Google lapel pins and fortune cookies. Not so good.
Across the way from Google was another business breaking into the ALA exhibit world. Had it been last year, they would probably have been engulfed in the Google aura but as things would have it, this company's 10 by 10 booth actually slew the dragon and brought the princess home!
The company is Utah based organization called Backstage that offers on site digitization services to libraries and museums. They were at ALA looking to get the attention of libraries. The marketing manager, Justin Hackworth, had an idea to use a movie theme complete with ticket booth and postcards designed to look like movie posters. He added the final touch by deciding to make everyone a star by giving away a logo embellished flashing star. And that little star led the way bringing groves and groves of people to their booth. Those flashing stars were so popular that even the “Google girl” put one in her ear...talk about getting the giant to help out the little guy!!! Of course she didn't know she was advertising Backstage, nor did all the thousands of other people who wore the stars and spent the day pointing out where the booth was located. ... I was astonished by the traffic these guys were getting. But not only were people stopping by to pick up a flasher, they were actually talking to folks at Backstage and of course, Backstage was qualifying leads and making those sales call lists as fast as they could!
Okay so what was the "S" factor for this booth? First off, the folks at the booth knew their product and were able to talk about it in a casual conversational manner. They were patient yet to the point, not wasting your time or theirs, and it was subtle enough that you didn’t feel like a pitch. They were friendly, fun to talk with, friendly, pleasant, informative, friendly, did I say friendly? They were really friendly with everyone who came by to visit. Then there were those postcards that looked like movie posters. Well, it turns out if I gave them my name, they'd send me my own personalized post card (wow what a great follow up opportunity and best yet, they only offered the cards to people who were really interested in the service- ah the joys of qualified leads!) and lastly there were those fabulous flashing stars, perfect to be worn on ears, lapels, bags, shirts, you name it...
On the Qt, Justin mentioned that he went a bit over budget on the theme and was a little nervous before the show because he had been really persistent with his manager- we all know that feeling. I'm sure that manager is smiling real hard and will probably smile even harder as they make those sales calls. Great job Justin and the crew from Backstage.
Libraries can learn so much from this story. Simple ideas, well planned with a purpose really work. Our job is not to see how many bags of information we can distribute. We are there to seek the people who can benefit by our services and let them know about those services in a way that will motivate them to visit the library or go online to use them.
For Backstage, the draw to the booth was that flashing pin but that was only the first step. Next they chatted and as they chatted they began to find out a little about the people they were speaking to and as they learned more, they began to determine whether their service was the right match. If it was, then they'd offer the person the opportunity to have a personalized postcard sent to them or maybe they would ask for a card so they could follow through with a call. Libraries don't normally make follow up calls, but we do have e-mail lists that we use to share information about our programs and mailing lists for newsletters.
Give-a-ways are expensive, you don’t have to give the store away at outreach events. If you have a specialized target audience you are trying to reach for a particular service or program and you are at an outreach to pump up participation then you need to qualify. As you chat with people find out about them and if it is the right match then, take the name and tell them that you’d like to send them a t-shirt or whatever gift you want to give away. Then include your newsletter, a library card application and a note saying you’ve put their name on the mailing list so they’ll be able to keep up on the exciting events that will be taking place and send it off. The outreach is step one- the meet and greet. The follow up is the way you remind them that they wanted to us your library and motivate them into action.
If you are using a gift basket to get names then make sure you enter the names into the mailing list for your newsletter. Follow through! It’s time consuming but is an essential step in your success.