February 17, 2018

Why You Need a Marketing Plan

This article from ALA about marketing caught my eye. There are some good points in it, and yet it strikes me that it shows again that libraries have a long way to go in understanding marketing.

First the good points: marketing needs a plan. Now that seems terribly self-evident to me, but maybe that isn’t so clear to others. A well articulated marketing plan needs to center around what you are going for, what is your positioning in the market, who is your key audience, what are your measurement markers? As the article states: “Today, libraries must test their steel with legions of entertainment and information-gathering competitors, and unfortunately many show up on the battle line with marketing strategies borrowed from George Armstrong Custer’s playbook at Little Big Horn. Marketing takes more than cauldrons or brainstorming: Marketing needs a plan.”

Now my quibble.To quote: “We picked six services that key stakeholders within different areas of the libraries saw as undermarketed that could have the greatest impact on students’ academic endeavors.”

First:marketing is all about finding what your customers want, then delivering the product in a way that works for your customers. You don’t pick services that you want to promote. It’s a hazard that I see often in libraires, that “build it and they will come” mentality.

Second: as I read this, the plan is about promoting services. It isn’t marketing. Again, it seems like our industry doesn’t really understand what marketing is and how it differs from promotion and public relations. Here’s a quick refresher:

Marketing generates strategies and builds relationships between the customer and the product… sometimes even influencing change of the product along the way to assure a good fit.

Promotion is one of the four elements of marketing, Product, Price, Promotion and Place.

Public relations is about maintaining image, best accomplished in a pro active manner, but often as a result of something gone bad. (Oil spills, anyone?)

 Advertising is persuasion… to get you to buy or do something. Advertising is often one of the elements of a promotional plan, including direct mail, personal selling, merchandising, etc.

Brand equity is the sum of these parts.

Alison Circle About Alison Circle

Alison Circle is director of marketing communications for Columbus Metropolitan Library. Previously she was an Account Director at Jack Morton Worldwide, a global branding agency, and her primary client was Target Stores. Prior to that she was the National Marketing Director for Minnesota Public Radio and "A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor." She has advanced degrees in English and Fine Arts, and is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant.



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