The key to good marketing is to promote one thing at a time

If you've got a great idea, don't dilute it. Simplicity results in better traction for your idea. You need to give people one idea at a time, so they can grab onto it, digest it, and see how it relates to them. Not only that, but the simpler the idea, the more likely it is for people to share and pass it on. Think about the really successful online writers, like Seth Godin. He's made a career out of taking single concepts, focusing on them one at a time, and getting a bajillion hits to his blog as a result. Once people buy into his one-key-thing-at-a-time approach to ideas, they're then more likely to buy into him as a concept, and push his (more complex) books up the best-seller charts.

So, keeping things simple isn't dumbing down. It's providing people with an easy way-in. That's just good marketing. Much of marketing is to simply get people in the door - THEN you can give them a whole variety of reasons to say inside.

Most of the readers of this blog work in the information profession, like I do. This means we have a complex sell. Library services are myriad, but your promotion must be in bite-sized chunks. Libraries are complicated, but your marketing must not be. The secret to good communication is to market one thing at a time.

Here's an example of a poster promoting a library. In theory, it ought to be good. It looks okay, uses a nice font. But more importantly, it tells you about all sorts of amazing library services! What's not to like? How you can resist this?

But actually, this poster doesn't work. There's too much going on, it does not provide an easy way in. You're relying on people grabbing on to the part that relates to them, and then taking an action (coming to the Library) because of it - in most cases, that's too big a leap of faith. You're much better off dividing that list up into individual posters, and putting them in the most relevant areas for their specific target groups. So for example this message, even though it's only one useful thing instead of many useful things, is a much more powerful piece of marketing:

Then you make ANOTHER poster to cover another aspect of the original:

Or you can take multiple concepts but tie them together into one easily-digestible, relate-able, shareable package:

Finally, if you really want to put several library services into the same piece of promotion, you can do this and STILL have the one simple message for people to take away. In the example below, you're saying to people that the library is a welcoming place, that they can come in and use the wifi and enjoy the cafe, without being judged for not using the books and journals. But you're also listing all the other things they MIGHT do if they so desire. As I said above, much of marketing is to simply get people in the door - then you can give them a whole variety of reasons to say inside.

So remember, keep it simple. Market one thing at a time. It WILL yield tangible results.

(All of these posters are available on my Flickr account via an Attribution Creative Commons licence. Note that it's NOT a 'no-derivs' or 'non-commercial' license - in other words if you can find a use for these ideas, but want to change and adapt them to your own purposes, feel free to do so.)



People don't need to know about all the services we provide - they just have to know what's relevant to them

Reblogged from the Library Marketing Toolkit Pew Internet have just released their 10 key findings from their Library research:

The slide I'm particularly interested in is number 11, which tells us that:

  • 22% say they know all or most of the services their libraries offer
  • 46% know some of what their libraries offer
  • 31% know not much or nothing at all of what their libraries offer . .

Initially this makes somewhat depressing reading, statistical proof of what we've all known for a long time: the public don't understand what modern libraries actually DO. The library brand is so synonymous with 'book' that there's little room for the many and varied services we offer, and it really is the services we must emphasize in our marketing, now the content we provide is often readily available by other means. Ambiguity or confusion is the enemy of great marketing - simple messages stick so much better. But inevitably, as we change to accommodate the new needs of our users, and add more and more aspects to the offer we make, it becomes harder to summarize the modern library and easily communicate how we can help people in their lives.

Actually though, the figures aren't that bad. 22% is a surprisingly high number to know most or all of the services their library offers - I'm not sure I know all the services my library offers and I work there! With an offering as diverse as ours no one needs ALL that we offer, so what matters is not everyone knowing everything, but each group knowing what is relevant for them. Perhaps it's time to stop worrying about whether people 'understand' modern libraries in general, and move on to simply ensuring that the parents know what services we offer for children, the people on the wrong side of the digital divide know we can help them get online and use new technology , the people who hold the purse strings know how important we are to the local community, and so on.

This process is formally referred to as 'segmentation' or 'segmenting the market' - dividing your users up into groups, basically, and tailoring the message to suit each one. It's something library marketing types go on about a lot, and perhaps fills non-marketing types with dread... But it doesn't have to be intimidating. At its simplest level, you’re targeting each group with a slightly different aspect of the same message, making sure they know about one key service relevant to them, and then letting them discover the rest once they’re in through the door.

Going back to Pew’s findings. the 31% who know nothing of the library is much more worrying. But again, the approach needn't be 'how do we tell all 31% everything we do in the Library!' - it can be about dividing that 31% up into existing segments, and targeting them with relevant services. The average person in the street doesn't need to think 'I know all about the Library'; they just need to think 'I want to start looking into the genealogy of my family tree, and I know the Library can help me', or whatever their need might be.  Segmenting the market is hard to do, but it's proper marketing - the results can be hugely beneficial.

The Library Marketing Toolkit, 6 months on

It's now around 6 months since I published my book, the Library Marketing Toolkit. This post is an update on how it's going, so if you're not interested in that, stop reading now! This post is reflective to the point of self-indulgence so feel free to skip it... Generally I've tried to keep the Toolkit blog and this blog very separate as I know some people subscribe to both, so I've not talked too much about the book on here  - I'm breaking that tradition as a bit of a one-off, half a year down the line from publication.

Back story

I wrote a book across 2011 which was published by Facet in August 2012 - it's all about marketing libraries and it has 27 case studies from libraries and librarians around the world. I found writing the book very tough - the writing itself was okay, but juggling it with having a baby at the same time was nightmarish! My wife and I knew it would be difficult, and took the decision that it would be worth it for the opportunities it would open up; thankfully that has proved to be the case... I'm doing a lot of freelance stuff which I probably wouldn't get the chance to do otherwise and I'm really enjoying it, and people are finding it useful.


The book has, Facet tell me, sold very well (as these things go - the actual number is still very small of course!). charts change every day so it's impossible to keep track of when it's doing well (I don't want to be obsessively checking...) but on several occasions I've seen it at the top of the Library Management Charts, and taken a print-screen to celebrate!

A picture of the Amazon chart showing the book at number 1


I like the one better as you get a little '#1 best seller' thing on there...


A picture showing the book at number 1


People have been really nice about the book on Twitter, and I've favourited the tweets with the LibMarketing account to refer back to. Several people have said they've found it invaluable in their job or their studies, and I particularly like Dr Fidelius's comment that it was 'Far more readable than a book on marketing has any right to be'! It's so nice when people pick up on something you worked hard on. :)


Reviews trickle out REALLY slowly. You build up to the huge push of submitting the final manuscript, and then with much relief you think 'I don't have to worry about this any more!'. But THEN you think, oh blimey, reviews - how well will I deal with someone absolutely savaging it..? And then no reviews appear! So it's a bit anti-climactic.

Facet warned me it took AGES for reviews to happen (people do have to read the thing from cover to cover after all, and then there's the publishing process if the review is in print) and that often a year was a typical waiting time, so I was sort of prepared for this. (Library Journal are yet to review it and I'm a columnist for them!) We had various pre-publication reviews from people who were sent advanced copies of the book:

  • The Library Marketing Toolkit is packed full of useful, informative and above all practical information about the best ways of getting your message across, and it should be on the shelf of every librarian and information professional | Phil Bradley

  • The Library Marketing Toolkit is brilliant and  a great addition to the library professional discourse | Andy Woodworth

  • Ned Potter's book will help any library succeed in creating a community that is aware and engaged in its library. He has written an easy to follow tool kit targeted at the specific marketing needs of librarians that is sure to become a favourite resource for anyone involved in marketing a library. There are case studies from libraries around the world that will inspire you no matter whether your library is large or small. You'll love this book! | Nancy Dowd .

Since then I've found various other reviews from journals, book review blogs etc - all of which, thankfully, have been very positive!

  • Potter's enthusiasm is infectious and he writes in a user friendly manner, not getting caught up in jargon. Concepts are explained concisely with a liberal dosing of analogies and case studies. The aim and scope of each chapter is laid out clearly from the outset and there is a useful synopsis of coverage in the introduction as well as a comprehensive index enabling readers to browse areas of interest.The Library Marketing Toolkit follows on from Facet publishing's New Professionals Toolkit published earlier this year and is certainly a useful addition to the Library office reference collection. It should prove beneficial to anyone involved in the marketing or promotion of library or information services. | CILIP Health Libraries Group Book Reviews

  • So the questions for me on opening this book were “do we need another book on marketing libraries”, and “does this one offer anything different?”. And I am happy to say that this is not a traditional marketing text. It offers a contemporary perspective on what marketing means for libraries now answers are “yes we do need another book on marketing libraries” and “yes it does offer something different”. This book showcases the best of contemporary marketing practices from libraries all over the world. The case studies with the author's illuminating focus on key points of learning are, for me, the added value which differentiates this book from other marketing books.| Library Management Journal

  • That word—marketing—means so many different things to different people. In Ned Potter’s book The Library Marketing Toolkit, the complex process is divided up into distinct and manageable interdependent projects. I am certain I will be referring back to The Library Marketing Toolkit for years to come.|  Kendra Book Girl

  • From social media to old fashioned methods, and how to build a good brand, this scholarly and comprehensive guide will prove invaluable to any librarian who seeks to get the word out. The Library Marketing Toolkit is enthusiastically recommended, not to be missed | Midwest Book Review .

It's also got an average of 4.5 stars (out of 5...) on goodreads, and its only Amazon review so far is a 5 star one - yay!

No more books!

When I finished the Toolkit, I said 'never again'. The stress of writing a book in my own time, working full-time, and trying to be a proper Dad who didn't put work first, was just too much. And everyone - EVERYONE - told me, 'all authors say that but give it a while and you'll miss it, and you'll end up writing another one'.

Well, I can confirm I do NOT miss it! And I won't be writing another book - I did get asked to write one on Prezi, and I said no without hesitation. I'm delighted with all the stuff above, and maybe one day, if I'm working part time and the kids are at University or something, but for now: no more books.