February 18, 2018

5 Things to Think About Before You Start Marketing

Has this ever happened to you? Library staff have an idea that they believe will really be helpful to the public, “if only we marketed it.” If only we raised awareness through posters or fliers or an event. While I applaud the passion of library staff who have these ideas, I’d challenge us all to think through these five things before a single step gets taken in the name of marketing.

I’ve borrowed four of these from one of my favorite bloggers, Katya Andresen. If you aren’t following her, make a point to do it today. I love how she sets up her list (here I am quoting her exactly; my comments are in brackets):

“In nonprofit marketing, we have a habit of launching campaigns or communicating before we do some basic thinking about the point of the whole thing.  Never plan anything without a tangible end result in mind.  And think through every angle of that call to action. [I say “amen!]

1. Know why you’re doing it: Have a goal.  Raising awareness is not a goal.  Decide what you are actually hoping people will DO as a result of your efforts. [Just because it is good for customers to know about isn’t enough. We need to think harder about what we are trying to accomplish.]

2. Identify everyone you need to take action.  That’s to whom you are marketing—not the general public. [LJ’s recent webinar on customer segmentation is a great first step for understanding who your customers are and how they behave.]

3. Test the actions you’re requesting.  Are they clear, simple and feasible? [First rule of marketing: less is more. Don’t over-communicate. Tell me one thing you want to do, e.g. “Just do it.”]

4. Remove any barriers to taking action.  Make taking action easy. [Anything online should be one click. Period.]

I’m adding a 5th rule:

5.  Measure. As I say often in this space, quoting Jack Welch, if you can’t measure it, it is just a hobby. And the measurement needs to be tied to the goal set out in rule #1: how many people do you want to do what? Did you achieve that goal? If not, why not? If you exceeded the goal, why?

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.



  1. Great one. And thanks for the tip. I am following her.

  2. “4. Remove any barriers to taking action. Make taking action easy. [Anything online should be one click. Period.]”

    Took me four clicks to get to this point. Does that make it an invalid point?

  3. I would expand just slightly on #1. Know how it relates to your brand premise – what you are truly good at and can deliver, and your brand promise – what you have declared to the audiences you serve. Also ask how it relates to your overall positioning strategy – what and for whom. Thanks, Kent