Patience (and Marketing) Makes the Audience Grow Fonder

by Christine Cigler

Marketing takes time.  It takes persistence and repetition and focus.

“People don’t even know that databases exist,” said Jennifer Asimakopoulos, Senior Reference Librarian.  Newly promoted to this position and facing the challenging task of overseeing database management at the Indian Prairie Public Library in Darien, she came to the job with ideas about how to increase awareness of these valuable, yet chronically underused resources.  E-resources account for the second largest category of acquisitions in our Adult Service Department – making an effective marketing strategy crucial.

We collaborated on a marketing plan; Jennifer shared her in-depth knowledge of these databases providing real life applications, while I introduced two basic principles of marketing – target a specific audience and promote the benefits, not the features.

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We deveoped a marketing campaign that would operate on two levels – one, increasing awareness of our databases  and two, promoting two specific databases – Job and Career Accelerator (JCA) and Learning Express Library (LEL) – for at least six months.  We chose to focus on Learning Express Library and Jobs and Career Accelerator mostly because they offered benefits to users who might be looking for a job or looking to improve their marketable skills; we felt these resources were particularly responsive to the economic climate and the ongoing unemployment situation.

The campaign started in earnest in July of 2011.  Our first strategy was to make it easy for our librarians to direct patrons to databases for use at home. We introduced a series of twelve business cards, one for each of our most popular databases.  The cards had simple directions to find the database on our website and a very brief description of its benefits.  We displayed them in an attractive acrylic holder on the Ask Us Desk and used them in relevant areas of the library, placing Consumer Reports near the consumer information, Value Line near the investment information, etc.  The database business cards were, and still are, very popular.

We expanded that concept to shelf talkers which we placed throughout the print collection to remind patrons that there were online resources to complement what they were finding in print. Graphically, we used the colors and images found on our website to create a family of products with a clear visual identity.  We had unveiled a new website in March of 2012 and our databases regularly claim prime real estate in our series of six rotating graphics.  A click takes you right to a page with an alphabetical list of databases.  The database page itself is attractive and easy to read with a summary of each database and a corresponding image

We featured a short article in every newsletter about a database, and included testimonials about database usage in our print and electronic newsletter.

Another focused strategy was to regularly feature a database, along with a link, in our semimonthly e-newsletter.  With 12,000 subscribers, this was an ideal way to reach one of our target audiences – computer savvy individuals. Constant Contact, our platform for our e-newsletter, would also help us to gather valuable information about our audience and evaluate our efforts with statistics on how many people actually opened the e-newsletter, clicked on a link, or shared information with someone else.  To hit another target audience, high school students, we purchased ads in the local high school newspapers pointing out benefits of LEL, such as free practice ACT tests and study guides for Advanced Placement tests.

We tailored our copy to focus on the benefits of a database; for example, “learn to avoid common resume mistakes” “get step by step guidance for completing print and online job applications” and “we have an easy way to boost test scores.”

Overall, our yearlong effort to promote databases was well worth it.  JCA, a new product for us, grew steadily for the first half of the year, then leveled off, but usage of LEL more than tripled.  Did we do anything groundbreaking?  No.  But we had a plan.  We tailored our message and we chose our audience, plus we gave it time to work.  So make a plan and give it time.

Christine Cigler is the Marketing Coordinator at Indian Prairie Public Library. You can email any questions or comments to crisc@ippl.info.

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One Response to Patience (and Marketing) Makes the Audience Grow Fonder

  1. Melisa says:

    Excellent ideas for marketing online databases.

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