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Narrative-based library marketing

Selling your librarys value during tough economic times
Michael A. Germano
John F. Kennedy Memorial Library, California State University, Los Angeles, California, USA
Purpose Managing through crises, especially economic ones, represents both peril and opportunity. Libraries of all types, whether academic, special or public, would benet from an infusion of marketing activity in the current economic climate. Such marketing need not be resource-intensive but must be relevant to specic user populations. In order to reap the greatest rewards while expending the least effort or resources, adopting a narrative or story-based marketing message that develops and reinforces a consistent value proposition can improve patron experience by speaking in a language that resonates with them regarding services and resources that may be unclear or altogether unknown. This paper aims to discuss current trends in developing narrative or story-based marketing that focuses on customer needs and applies it to library marketing specically. Design/methodology/approach The paper discusses of current trends informed by current marketing scholarship and draws upon the authors prior experience in sales and marketing as a vendor for LexisNexis. Findings Adopting a narrative-based marketing plan for libraries of all kinds, one that is based upon a specic user populations needs and expectations, can promote a notion of increased value as well as an overall sense of being indispensable and critical to those patrons. The ultimate goal is a demonstrable strengthening of support from user populations that will translate into avoidance of deeper or ongoing cuts during the current economic climate. Further benets also include the ability to identify and target users and groups for fundraising opportunities while improving library personnel morale based upon the increased, generalized perception of the librarys value within the broader organization or community. Practical implications Based upon years of sales and marketing experience, the author takes a practical and seasoned approach to creating a marketing plan that draws upon little to no resources but is compelling in its tailored and targeted approach that uses identiable language to reinforce and describe specic user-driven needs. Originality/value The paper provides recommendations for developing, creating and executing a narrative or story-based marketing plan that speaks to users in the language and needs most critical to them while highlighting resources and services that may not be currently valued or even known. Keywords Public libraries, Special libraries, Academic libraries, Strategic marketing, Services marketing Paper type Viewpoint

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Received May 2009 Revised July 2009 Accepted August 2009

Introduction The role of marketing, in most library organizations in the USA, is generally something of an afterthought. At best, it is approached with enthusiasm but lacking coherence or strategy. At worse, marketing is deemed wholly irrelevant to

The Bottom Line: Managing Library Finances Vol. 23 No. 1, 2010 pp. 5-17 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0888-045X DOI 10.1108/08880451011049641

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organizational goals. While there are few studies directly on point, there seems to be sufcient colloquial evidence that supports these two dichotomous representations of library marketing. For example, at the overwhelming majority of libraries there is no job function that is exclusively or even predominantly centered on marketing the library. Library budgets rarely, if ever, have a specic line-item for marketing or promotional campaigns. Library school curricula at virtually all ALA-accredited programs have no required marketing course and have limited opportunities for studying marketing (Winston and Hazlin, 2003). Studies that detail the role, impact or outcome of sophisticated marketing programs on library effectiveness are altogether limited. For libraries of all types, the role of marketing is most commonly satised in an ad hoc way highlighted by a process of trial and error with limited time, resources or expertise. As a result, little effort is expended to understand or achieve specic, measurable objectives or market-driven metrics delivered by library marketing programs. It would seem to logically follow that the current economic downturn should represent a signicant obstacle to the enterprise of library marketing in its arguably incipient state. With resources so limited and budgets so stretched, libraries seem justied in the choice to pull back on their edgling marketing efforts, abandon them altogether or worse, disengage from the process of even considering the role that effective marketing could play in the success of a library organization. While economic barriers to effective, strategic library marketing may be considerable, the reality is that most libraries are not at a stage that even requires a signicant expenditure in terms of resources on the functional area of marketing. Currently, despite the economic downturn, the greater obstacles to meaningful library marketing are a lack of vision, strategy, expectation and expertise. Currently, most library marketing seems to confuse the process of marketing with the more identiable, somewhat understandable, but more discrete, events that comprise it in total, such as advertising, public relations, branding, or promotion. It is true that engaging in such activities can prove benecial in terms of increasing visibility for an information center, growing patron counts or increasing circulation statistics. There is, however, a limited return on the investment when they are executed in a vacuum or independent of a cohesive marketing strategy. Instead, most libraries need to rst develop a culture of marketing along with a core set of co-created messages that can be delivered during all patron interaction while providing a value-driven framework for all relevant customer directed communication (Prahalad and Ramaswamy, 2004). The process of developing that culture, as well as the messages that drive it, are activities that are undoubtedly labor-intensive but not necessarily resource intensive. Specically, such organizational endeavors are extremely cost-effective in terms of the actual nancial resources required. Additionally, given the current economic climate, coupled with the emerging knowledge-based economy, the timing could not be better for a library to embark on the development and execution of an effective marketing program based upon the customers own articulated desires. A more sophisticated marketing program that does the following: . resonates with patrons and speaks to them in their language in an intimate way that presents the library as valuable and valued to them as a customer; . strategically focuses on the narratives of specic, common patron or customer needs and ties them to the services available;

represents a roadmap, or codication for all messaging, including those that promote, brand or sell library services during all relevant patron interaction; and provides a readily available and useable compendium of narratives that effectively ties users needs to the benets of specic services and in doing so, clearly articulates the librarys value to them.

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Marketing, libraries and the recession As most businesses grapple with declining revenues, lost market share and eroding customer bases, libraries are, in many cases, experiencing a denitive resurgence in patron interest. The current trough in our economic cycle leads many to readily grasp the usefulness in information centers and libraries of all types. While corporate libraries may possibly be the exception, academic and public libraries are seeing increased levels of visits and patron counts for differing reasons related to the current recession. Academic libraries are no doubt beneting from the renewed interest in education that economic downturns typically bring about. Public libraries, with free access to a wealth of information and entertainment, are being discovered by cash-strapped consumers for the rst time. The current economic situation represents a host of challenges for library organizations, but it also has a silver lining in its propensity to deliver a brand new customer base for many libraries. Will welcoming these new patrons with effective delivery of traditional library resources and services, however, instill loyalty and create continued patronage during the future recovery? In other words, once the trough becomes a wave, will these users disappear? Or will they stay? With the appropriate effort turned towards developing a planned and sustained marketing effort, the retention of existing patrons as well as securing new ones is much more likely. What exactly does a planned and sustained marketing effort look like and where does it begin? Any marketing program should have a strategic vision at its core, one that clearly denes what success looks like. Furthermore, most literature indicates that benet-driven marketing that moves the product or service forward by specifying value in terms of the customers perception, represents the highest probability of success (Schultz et al., 2002). Central to that exercise is the creation or drafting of a compelling, persuasive, organizational document based upon defensible research that clearly articulates the various segmented, identiable customers; their needs, desires and expectations, as well as their life-cycle with relation to the marketed product or service. Many companies are currently toying with, and perfecting, the idea of narrative or story-driven marketing strategies that are clearly articulated by a dened product story. Libraries can benet from this emerging trend with one signicant change based upon the fact that they primarily deliver services, not products. As a result, libraries should embark upon their marketing efforts by rst developing and drafting a service story. The service story, drafted as an internal strategic marketing document for use by all staff, serves as a road-map for virtually every imaginable patron interaction as well as efforts aimed at marketing or promoting library services. It allows library staff to effectively sell, up-sell and cross-sell the relevant library services to specic sets of customers at the most appropriate time. Such a narrative would additionally serve as the core strategy document needed to usher in a culture of marketing that recognizes the personality-driven component of delivering library services, and how each interaction represents opportunities for developing a

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user-based value notion of the library. In other words, a series or set of stories the library can share with its patron that, when told, have the power to retain users, alert them to additional relevant services, as well as encourage them to act as a supporter or champion of the library in the future. Service marketing through narratives Before elaborating upon the process of developing, drafting and establishing the use of a service story in the context of library marketing, it makes sense to step back and dene some of the ideas that make up the process and role of marketing in organizations generically. Most marketing theory is dominated by the marketing mix or 4Ps of marketing: Product, price, promotion and place (Constantinides, 2006). The marketing mix represents a tactical construct for achieving success in a marketplace with a product. The traditional 4Ps approach, it should be noted, was established during a time when most companies actually produced something tangible. Marketing, when the 4Ps approach was envisioned, conceived and established was charged with developing the messages that conveyed the benets of a product, developing the appropriate price, devising promotions and nding the places or outlets for selling and delivering that product. It was all about the process, including tactics and strategies, of bringing a tangible to market and ensuring its success there. When originally conceived, some 40 years ago, this structure was meant to provide a framework for an activity or functional area that was more art than science and oftentimes not readily understood by managers, especially in terms of actual or real value to the organization overall. Our current economy, however, is much more service-based than the economy that ourished when the traditional marketing mix was developed. Additionally, over the years, non-prots have developed a keen interest in promoting their products or services, not necessarily with an eye towards revenue, but oftentimes with a stated purpose of fundraising. Marketing theory and the literature, as a result, developed accordingly. Non-prot or public marketing evolved from the earlier paradigms to provide a framework for the inclusion of placing and promoting a product in the absence of true price or monetary exchange (Dann et al., 2007). Service marketing was further developed as an outgrowth of traditional marketing in order to bridge the gap between the then current processes and theories in an attempt to provide a cohesive set of principles for marketing in the absence of a product. Both of these areas, taken together, can provide fertile idea generation for the development of a more sophisticated notion of library marketing. Service marketing, by far, provides the best framework for engaging in the inquiry needed to support a more sophisticated foundation for library marketing overall. Finally, the current literature provides valuable insight into, as well as underpinnings with which to support, individual library market plans in terms of their envisioning, development and execution (Gupta, 2007). Arguably, most library managers are currently in a similar situation to that of corporate managers 30 or 40 years ago with regard to their perceptions of, and relationship to, the process, tactical orientation and strategy of marketing their organization. In other words, library managers could be described as not necessarily adverse to marketing, but instead as unaware of the precise or actual value of marketing as an organizational function. As stated previously, it appears as though

most library marketing is ad hoc and focused on specic types of discrete tactical activities like branding the library as well as promoting a service or resource within the librarys overall offering. This is usually carried out with a generalized outcome such as increasing patron counts or circulation statistics or web site visits. While these activities are indeed marketing based, they do not necessarily comprise an effective marketing strategy per se, one that encompasses the entire organization and reects a dened vision of its relationship to its customers. A signicant portion of the problem is certainly the general lack of organizational clarity or strategy that typies library marketing. Exacerbating it, however, is the paucity of evidentiary support in the form of empirical marketing-related library studies leading information center managers to determine what is worthwhile in terms of developing and executing marketing plans for libraries. Simply put, there is little to no empirical evidence showing which types of marketing events, plans, strategies, tactics or activities produce the best or even appropriate results for various libraries by size, type, or location. All of this leads one to the conclusion that marketing, as a library function, is at an early stage, and therefore is in need of developing a rened set of tools and processes that promotes a clearer, dened strategic direction while being supported by defensible data (Rowley, 2003). In its most direct terms, service marketing allows organizations to model and develop their business despite the absence of a denable product (Mittal, 2002). More importantly, and relevant to the process of adaptation to library marketing, it places the customer relationship in a more centralized position and encourages development of the business and customer relationship as similar enterprises. Transferring primacy to the role of the customer and away from the product has broad implications for marketing as well as the process of developing an effective marketing strategy. Additionally, since services are, by their very nature, highly personalized and human resource intensive, it is not surprising that the 4Ps of product, price, place and promotion are necessarily replaced or subverted by the ongoing interaction of the people representing and delivering those services. Value creation becomes dependent upon and intertwined with the customer and its perceptions of the service provided. Thus, service delivery and the marketing that drives it, becomes a very personalized experience when executed effectively in response to customer-created narratives (Padgett and Allen, 1997). This narrative is dened almost exclusively by customer needs. Customer expectations and satisfying relationships with the organization are the drivers that propel a service-oriented business forward (Rust and Chung, 2006). Harnessing that interaction in a codied way via a service story provides multiple benets to a business, most notably customer development, satisfaction and retention. These are three critical components of any service enterprise, public or private. While traditional marketing, especially service marketing, espouses a strong element of benet-driven messaging that places the customer in a context of understanding the relationship of the product or service to their needs or desired outcomes, benet-driven marketing is by its nature somewhat incomplete. For service marketing to be fully effective there is a requirement to adopt the language, demeanor, objectives and concerns of the customer in a narrative that resonates with their perceptions of those benets and how the service directly relates to them. For services marketing to achieve credibility and in turn resonate with listeners, it must be based upon narratives and the

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stories that ow from them (Stern et al., 1998). The service story becomes the narrative that informs and drives the marketing message, and is the cornerstone of value creation and dissemination throughout the organization. The application of the service story to library marketing, therefore, becomes an almost natural t. Placing library marketing rmly within the context of service marketing has multiple benets for developing a coherent marketing strategy for libraries. Understanding library marketing as service marketing allows for a clearer focus on the value that libraries commonly and predominantly represent: access and delivery of relevant information in a timely way. Service marketing is less concerned with traditional product-centric, short-term tactical marketing constructs like price and place and instead presupposes a more strategic, long-term interest in things like value, relationship loyalty and direct benet to the user. The propensity to personalize and customize service marketing messages in turn makes for a good t with the emerging trend to narratalogically describe service encounters along with their benets, desired outcomes and idealized results by specic customer base. The intangibility of services demands this approach since services, unlike goods, cannot be quantiably valued or easily demonstrated. As a result, effective service marketing sets up an expectation of direct, relevant, customized story-telling that delivers a clear framework for making individualized customer choices and eventually deriving satisfaction (Woodside et al., 2008). Simply put, effective service marketing is compelling because it speaks specically to a customers self interest, in their own language. Library marketing narratives How does this all translate into a more effective model of library marketing and a resulting marketing strategy for selling a specic librarys value? And, more specically, how does one engage in meaningful library marketing during a recession? As previously suggested, during times of economic uncertainty, for differing reasons, there is a renewed interest in virtually all library types. Individuals turn to public libraries as a cost-effective means of securing entertainment, nancial information and job-hunting resources. Academic libraries see an inux in visits due to the generalized increase in educational activity. Corporate libraries represent a decision-making resource that has valuable implications for companies forced to rely less on outsourced solutions and more on bought and paid resources that are already available. Furthermore, since recessionary environments create a whole new user-base for virtually all kinds of libraries, why take the additional step of marketing its value or specic services or resources? Because marketing, combined with creating and developing a culture of value-selling by exceeding expectations, is a librarys best strategy for retaining that new inux of patrons as well as turning them into champions of library service once the recession has ended. The best way to achieve this end is through a narrative driven, patron/customer specic and targeted service story that includes a well-honed value proposition. The library leader who encourages, facilitates and manages such strategic focus on the function of marketing can expect to see an impressive return on the time invested. Developing the library service story and value proposition requires planning, research and signicant expenditures of time for compiling and drafting data. In terms of real nancial resources, however, very little is needed. By developing a library service story and value proposition, a library is creating a foundation for all

subsequent marketing efforts, including promotions, branding and relationship management. All of these types of go to market activities are more readily understood and produce more effective, measurable and expected results when organized around the central tenets of a service story while being reinforced with a value proposition. Additionally, with the presence of the service story, staff are encouraged to engage in sales-like activities that alert users to relevant useful resources at the appropriate times. It is critical to remember, however, that both the value proposition and service story are meant to reect and reinterpret the actual needs of the customer. So they are derived specically from customer desires as they align with the library organizations offerings. The value proposition The service story correlates directly to enunciated customer needs. In other words, the service story should be a reection of what initially compelled an individual or set of individuals to seek out or use the library in order to solve a problem or meet a need. Given the current economic conditions it is not surprising that many library service stories and value propositions would reect the perception of economic value. Identifying the specic value of an individual library can be a thought provoking, introspective exercise, but one that is necessarily required as a rst step towards an effective marketing strategy (Holt, 2007). The process of creating and dening these two critical pieces of a narrative-driven marketing strategy is fairly straightforward. The value proposition comes rst (Scholey, 2002). It should reect an over-arching, all encompassing notion of what the library offers its customers regardless of who they are individually or collectively. It should be general but not vague, broad but not imprecise. A central component of any successful product story is its ability to demonstrate a keen understanding of customers needs (Anderson et al., 2006). For example, a value proposition for a public library could be something as general as Its your library and its here for you. The notion conveyed is openness, dependability, and service. An academic library could choose to project something as simple as Relevant, authoritative answers are waiting for you. The idea highlighted here is credible, trustworthy, and denitive information that is readily available to those who seek it. A corporate library could highlight the value of saving time and money in the context of business decision-making: Save time, save money, and move the business forward with intelligence. The value proposition is the most creative portion of developing a narrative-based marketing plan and should be the product of brainstorming, customer testing or even a community-based contest. Once the value proposition has been dened it can be used in marketing literature, outreach, displays and more. It is more than a slogan, though. The true value proposition should be something that resonates with customers while providing a promise, seemingly in their own words, of what the library will offer on a personal level when engaged in a relationship with the organization. The value proposition is effectively created by a customer or group of customers and is rmly rooted in their personality, needs and desires. As stated previously, the value proposition should be the product of testing and surveying. Unless there is customer buy-in and agreement, the value proposition, as well as the service story, which will be discussed later, is really just a collection of empty promises or an exercise in cheap sloganeering. For it to be a true statement of

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perceived value, it must reect the customers expectations, desires and idealized outcome. Using focus groups is the more common way of determining the best from a eld, or the validity of a specic value proposition (Von Seggern and Young, 2003). Supplementing focus groups with surveys, patron conversations, colloquial evidence and patron involvement in the form of, perhaps, advisory boards, provides necessary additional customer input. Finally, using new interactive Web 2.0 technologies that allow for sustained customer interaction and the new trend towards active listening, highlighted by ongoing two-way communication in the service provider-customer relationship, could prove indispensable for soliciting meaningful customer input economically and efciently (Poynter, 2008). The service story After dening the value proposition, the next step is to begin working on the true detailed narrative that will inform and direct the librarys future marketing efforts: the service story. In its simplest terms, the service story, in the context of a library, serves as a codication of the librarys offerings while dening key customer types and where they fall on the spectrum from initial user to loyal champion. It becomes a guidepost for all patron interaction and is meant to reect an understanding of how the librarys various services and resources t in with different customer needs as they move along a continuum of familiarity with library resources to expertise in using them and the loyalty implied by that. Stepping back a moment, it is worth considering the user perspective when encountering a new service. Considering the customer perspective and the steps by which they move from exploration to loyalty are critical components of any service story and its resulting marketing message. The process is not a complex one, but highlighted by three distinct phases: familiarity, condence in outcomes and ultimately, expertise. In the library context these phases can be easily understood in a general sense. A new patron must rst gain some sort of familiarity with the library or information center. This stage includes learning about resources, personnel, and physical set up. Once a basic level of familiarity is achieved the next step is to experience moments of condence in achieving expected outcomes. This could be as simple as nding a specic resource, having a question answered by a librarian, or as complicated as using multiple resources and different personnel to complete a difcult project. For different customers, establishing condence in outcomes can mean vastly different things, and therefore could take longer for one patron to achieve than another. Once condence is rmly established the user moves on to expertise. The expertise stage is highlighted by a user achieving a level of knowledge and comfort using the library. This level of expertise includes loyalty as well as unintentional or intentional moments of acting as an advocate for the organization. Frequency of use is not nearly as important as the twin perceptions of extreme comfort and value in the service or resources used. The idea is simple, yet profound for library managers: A customer at the expertise level thinks of the library as the rst and foremost place for satisfying knowledge-based needs in certain situations, and is willing to share that feeling and expand upon that loyalty with others through word of mouth and their own personalized narratives (Wong and Tjosvold, 1995). Not all users achieve this level. In reality most users get stalled or deeply rooted in the stage highlighted by condence in outcomes. Additionally, due to moments of truth, or episodes where users have an

unexpected and undesirable outcome, many users could regress or fall off the spectrum altogether. For example, if familiarity is thwarted by confusion over an incomplete or confusing orientation session or tour, the user who was subjected to that tour could hardly be considered ready to achieve the next step, condence in outcomes. Or, alternatively, someone at the expertise stage discovers that an oft-used resource has been eliminated from the collection could revert to the need to establish condence once again, since it has been undermined by a signicant moment of truth. Moments of truth are not wholly preventable. A good service story, however, should anticipate the most common or recurring ones and provide for contingent service narratives that minimize their impact. The spectrum of user loyalty behaviors from familiarity to condence to expertise is an important data point in determining the exact content and delivery modes of the service story. It becomes important, therefore, for the library to continually assess, through ongoing surveys and other means, where individuals as well as groups or sets of users fall on this spectrum. The next step to developing the service story is to consider the exact nature of the organizations customer populations and to begin to understand where they fall upon the user loyalty spectrum. For example, an academic library might segment their users into students by year, school, or major, and by function such as faculty or staff. A public library could think in terms of age or life stage. Examples include children, teen, adult, parents, singles, and seniors. In corporate libraries viable segments can easily be dened by department or functional areas like legal, tax, sales marketing, and product development. Once user populations are dened, the true heavy lifting, in terms of service story creation, begins. Identifying the phases by which customers approach a new service, and potentially become loyal to it, requires an overlay of the specic organizations customer segments. Once these segments are identied, as described above, the service story developer or author must dene each group in a meaningful way, especially with regard to the most common desires, needs and stress points of each group. Again, focus groups and surveys are ideal. The goal is to determine the priorities and shared stress inducers of the individual segments and where the resources of the library can help meet those needs or minimize that stress (Von Seggern and Young, 2003). Needs, of course, can be varied. In a corporate context they might all be job performance related such as meeting deadlines more quickly or producing a higher level of work product. They could also be related to saving the corporation money. In an academic environment, articulated needs are most likely connected to academic success and eventual employment. Public libraries present a more complex array of possibilities but the goal is the same: to determine shared desires, areas of collective concern or shared anxieties and connect them to library resources or services. The eventual goal is a coherent set of messages that can be created for each specic stage, from familiarity to expertise, and the best times to deliver those messages to specic segmented or targeted users. The vagueness here is intentional, since each library organization will have to identify and target users by groups that represent needs that are most related to their collection or strategic mission. The identied or targeted users must then be tied to stages of user comfort (familiarity, condence in outcomes or expertise) and the resulting messaging must speak to them in the language of their specic needs. Consequently, the individual narratives that make up the service story should reect

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an appreciation or understanding of such needs, as well as their direct relationship to the specic user, while recognizing where they fall on the user loyalty spectrum. For example, an academic library might decide that achieving familiarity is the goal for freshmen or new student users. The need for most freshmen students would be to understand the layout of the library, what successful university level research looks like, as well as how to achieve good grades. The service story should therefore have specic messaging as well as uniform service descriptions for the tools or resources that have been determined relevant to these needs. Specically, meeting those needs could be as simple as learning a few critical locations in the library, like reference and circulation, how to nd a book and how to use one or two databases. The messaging of the service story would encourage library personnel to stay on task with regard to these specic needs by providing explanations in clear, user-dened language that was benet-driven and resonates with the customer group, in this case rst year college students. The language of the service story could, in this example, highlight specic kinds of assignments or research tasks and describe the processes to achieve desired outcomes. The needs (understand university research and locate critical services in the library) are tied to real, relevant examples that highlight outcomes that are desired. The resulting story that describes library services that are meaningful becomes an effective marketing message that promotes the stated goal of achieving familiarity with basic library resources. The process is, admittedly, a bit labor-intensive in terms of precisely identifying, listing and drafting suggested, but not scripted, interaction. When completed, however, the library has a document that virtually codies which resources are most relevant to which user segments at the most critical times they are needed. The result is clearer messaging in all customer interaction, including passive forms like signage and yers, as well as active ones like classes, tours, research consultations and service interactions such as reference and circulation. Ultimately, customers constantly receive relevant messages that, when delivered consistently, will facilitate their move along the user loyalty spectrum with the eventual goal of achieving expertise and the loyalty implied. The service story, therefore, becomes a dened blueprint for patron or customer interaction. As a result, there is less likelihood of delivering too much, or incorrect, information too soon or at the wrong time. While many libraries tend to overwhelm users or make the library seem out of touch with their individual needs, those actively following a well-crafted service story are much less likely to engage in this type of self-destructive behavior. Furthermore, active, widespread use of a service story allows library staff to actually predict user needs when appropriate. For example, if part of the service story above included a specic notation that all freshmen need to write a research paper with citations and bibliography in a particular style, there could also be an added message encouraging attendance at a citation workshop. The service story would ideally include a short description of the benets of the class, and allow staff members to effectively cross-sell it during events such as circulation service encounters or reference consultations. The service story, in short, becomes the idealized customer experience over a length of time with the appropriate messaging at relevant moments that creates an ongoing narrative between the library and user which can be the basis for all relevant library marketing activity. The end result is a dened, clearly enunciated marketing narrative that is compelling in its ability to relate and connect targeted users needs to required services and an over-arching strategic roadmap for

related library marketing activities that speaks to customers in their language based upon their needs. Once completed, the service story becomes a living document that requires ongoing maintenance and ne tuning in the form of subsequent research and ongoing revision in order to incorporate new resources, customer needs and potential research events. Developing the service story, as previously mentioned, is not a resource-intensive event. It is, however, one that requires a serious investment in time in order to meet with customers, listen to their needs while empathetically understanding those needs and correlating them to the librarys services and offerings. The ongoing benets are enormous, but they mostly revolve around the notion of providing direction and efciency for subsequent library marketing efforts. Specically, with a service story, special events, collection additions, service promotions, outreach and relationship-building activities can be timed appropriately and directed with targeted focus, aimed at the users that will most benet from them. The marketing message and strategic approach become more rened and sophisticated as a result. The service story, when fully executed and rolled out across the entire organization, can ultimately provide economic benets as well. The service story represents a much more targeted approach to marketing the library that, when executed properly, promotes a more effective use of marketing resources than the more ad hoc, unrened approach of marketing in the absence of a well-dened strategy. Another added benet is that the service story encourages customer loyalty and ongoing patron support. It should be readily understood that customer loyalty is the librarys best defense against upcoming cutbacks and provides a basis for future fund raising activities. Creating a service story is a rst step towards managing customer relationships in the context of service delivery. In short, it provides a basis for understanding what drives customer loyalty of those services. Identifying the process of developing that loyalty promotes a more strategic deployment of marketing resources. When the process of loyalty creation is understood, marketing resources can be utilized to create a long-term and lasting benet by creating loyal users that champion the library. For library organizations this is a critical new step, and a vital reason, for which to engage in the act of marketing. It is reective of a more strategic view of the purpose and value of marketing since it reects a willingness to deploy the marketing function to achieve the institutional goal of fundraising and increased nancial support. In short, by using targeted marketing communication tools like a value proposition and service story in order to establish and highlight a users internalized and personalized perception of the value of the library, marketing is utilized both tactically and strategically to cultivate loyalty and ideally, nancial support. Not surprisingly, those who perceive a librarys value more strongly are the ones most likely to support the library nancially (OCLC, 2008). The development of a service story including a value proposition becomes a hedge against future erosion of library resources. Such tools provide the basis for effective marketing narratives that promote the librarys value, which in turn creates an environment most conducive to cultivating library fundraising and support. Conclusion While libraries are currently feeling the effects, both negative and positive, of an extended recession, it is clear from even a rudimentary knowledge of economic history and business cycles that this current one shall end. The library that uses the downturn

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as an opportunity to create a service story is indeed investing in that organizations future. Having a succinct value proposition, along with a coherent segmented service story that allows for developing customer/patron loyalty through a more focused view of library marketing, is a forward thinking strategy. The development of a service story with a value proposition, and its implementation organization-wide, creates a basis for all subsequent marketing activities that speaks to patrons in their own stories while reecting their specic needs at the appropriate times. In turn, the library that markets itself this way establishes and develops a strong sense of value among its users that creates loyalty and the willingness to champion the library. In doing so, the library cultivates a cohort of loyal service champions that will defend the library in future times of need as well as provide a potential source of fundraising revenue.
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Von Seggern, M. and Young, N.J. (2003), The focus group method in libraries: issues related to process and data analysis, Reference Services Review, Vol. 31 No. 3, pp. 272-84. Winston, M. and Hazlin, G.E. (2003), Leadership competencies in library and information science: marketing as a component of LIS curricula, Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, Vol. 44 No. 2, pp. 177-87. Wong, C.L. and Tjosvold, D. (1995), Goal interdependence and quality in services marketing, Psychology & Marketing, Vol. 12 No. 3, pp. 189-205. Woodside, A.G., Sood, S. and Miller, K.E. (2008), When consumers and brands talk: storytelling theory and research in psychology and marketing, Psychology & Marketing, Vol. 25 No. 2, pp. 97-145. About the author Michael A. Germano, after 15 years with LexisNexis, decided to put corporate life behind him to pursue a career in academic librarianship and was recently appointed to the California State University, Los Angeles faculty, as the Business, Law and Economics Librarian. He holds a law degree from Temple University, the Master of Science in Information Science and Technology from Simmons College, and the Master and Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and St Josephs University, respectively. Michael A. Germano can be contacted at: mgerman@calstatela.edu

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