New Marketing Trends

Marketing Ideas for Non-Profits and Libraries

The M Word helps librarians learn about marketing trends and ideas.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

What's the Point?

Last week I gave my "Create Your Own Customized Marketing Plan" workshop to a wonderful group of men & women from the Midwest Collaborative for Library Services. I always enjoy this workshop because it's not just about me explaining marketing, there's also lots of discussion / brainstorming time as participants fill in pages with info & ideas for their own mini marketing plans.** 

In the first half of the workshop, I tell participants about various pieces of information they should have on hand in order to write well-thought-out plans. My first topic is about defining their organizations, and I always ask, "For what purpose do you exist?" (Yeah, that gets me a few funny looks.) I follow quickly with two more questions: "What's your mission statement?" and "What are your administration's main goals for your info center or library?"

What I'm trying to get at with these questions is to make sure that people don't spend time writing plans for events or services that aren't worth their valuable time and effort. This kind of forethought can help prevent people from doing and promoting projects that don't really fall under the organization's mission.

This can be an odd concept for some. Yet, part of good marketing (and of any job, really) is ensuring that you're in line with organizational objectives. Put more simply, there should be a reason for whatever you do, and a big part of that reason should be "this is what my organization is about." You need to support your org's mission. (SLA is doing just that with its very smart Alignment Initiative.)

Still, during workshops when I ask listeners why their libraries exist, the answers usually aren't terribly deep or detailed. Some say "to help people" or "to provide information to improve lives," and that's great. But it's not exactly what I mean. Everyone should know the exact mission statement of his or her org or corporation and use it to help make everyday decisions. 

Yesterday, I found a great article about this very thing when a trusted associate, Pat Wagner of Pattern Research, posted a link on Facebook. It's called "Accomplishing More With Less, Instead of Doing More With Less." I thought to myself, "Man, I need to read that!" Turns out, this post from the Executive Leadership Group, Inc. was all about what I recommend in my workshop. People can do more work that matters, it says, by concentrating on what needs to be accomplished (according to the mission) rather than on the steps they think they need to do. 

This will make more sense when you read the whole post (it's not long), but I'll whet your appetite here by sharing the three questions that these leadership gurus say you should ask in order to work more efficiently:

1. What's the point?
2. How will I know when I've achieved the point?
3. What can we stop doing that doesn't achieve the point?

Their tactics also mirror other points from my workshop:
1. Be sure that you're promoting something worthwhile, that your target audience really wants & needs.
2. If you don't set specific goals for where you want to be, you'll never know when you get there.
3. True marketing can save you time & money because getting to know what target audiences want can reveal what they don't want. Those would be products or services you can stop spending resources on.

I was excited to find this leadership article and to see that it recommends the same things I do, albeit in different language & in a different situation. I hope it helps prove to you why the market research / info gathering / getting to know your target audience is essential for doing good marketing. It's not sensible to try to offer (and promote) every possible thing. I mean, what would be the point of that? 

(**I say "mini"' plans because this workshop isn't about writing an overall organizational plan; you couldn't do that with half a day and only a few staff members present. This one is about planning how to promote one event or service to a couple specific target markets. Once attendees understand the process, however, they can use it to write bigger & better plans going forward.)

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