Some thoughts on marketing

I’ve been thinking about marketing for law libraries recently – partly because of a work project, and partly due to reading this post from Enquiring Minds Want to Know. Here are the results of my musings – I’d be interested to hear about how other law firms go about promoting their services (hint hint!).

· Raise awareness of the library as a department
· Improve the company perception of the library and its staff
· Increase awareness of services etc

The job of an information professional is to provide people with information. You can think of marketing as an extension of this – you are providing people with information about you, and about your service. How can they get the best use out of their library, if they don’t know what they can use the library for? What is the point in forking out cash to subscribe to all those databases if no-one ever uses them because they don’t know they’re there?

Assert Yourself
Many librarians assume that people will simply notice the wonderful service that we provide without having to do anything as vulgar as actually blowing our own trumpets. But the fact is that while people tend to notice (and complain about) bad service, they tend to take good service for granted. So it is worth getting up on your soapbox and shouting to the world (or at least the company) how good you are.

Tortoise vs Hare
Building a reputation as a vital, reliable and respected department will take time, and continuing effort. You can’t just do all your marketing in one go, then rest on your laurels. Investing time to create a long-term plan is well worth it in the end – things change all the time, and marketing materials should be up to date, and attract attention by changing.

Just Say No.
As an information department, you will often be expected to be the one-stop-shop for all the company’s information needs. However in many law firms this is not the case. Certain information tasks may be done by others – PSLs, for example, or a Company Search department. In these cases it is necessary to be clear on what the library doesn’t do, and direct people, in as helpful a manner as possible, to the correct department. Just saying you’ll do it, then forwarding the request isn’t ideal – as that person will continue to come to you with similar requests.

There are 4 Ps of marketing: Place, Product, Price, and Promotion, and also sometimes a 5th – People.

‘Place’ is not usually something you can do much about, unless you are lucky enough to be moving offices, setting up a library from scratch, but making sure that people know where you are is important – being visible.
So have signs, a presence on the front page of the intranet, so it is easy to find. Have library maps, so you are easy to find. Index the library intranet pages, and make them searchable, so everything is easy to find.
Also, where possible, take yourself where the users are – so take enquiries by email, phone or even (gasp) IM, offer training at their desktops, deliver books to them etc.

‘Product’ is books, research, e-resources, journals, space, training etc etc – it is the service you provide. Which is obviously great!

‘Price’ – obviously depends on the policy within the firm, as to whether electronic resources are charged to clients, or to matter numbers, etc, and also whether the library staff charges for their time (which can raise the professional status of the library staff in the lawyers’ eyes). A lot of what librarians do saves lawyers’ time (and time is money) – current awareness delivered to their desktops, research etc.

‘Promotion’ is advertising – done via the intranet, e-mails, and hard copy mailings, anything that raises publicity for the library.
– Newsletters – daily/weekly/monthly, general/subject-specific, electronic/hardcopy. Newsletters are both product (service), and promotion.
– Intranet advertising – pop-ups, banners etc on the firm’s intranet homepage, great content on the library’s intranet pages (blogs, research guides, etc)
– Open/drop-in days, library tours, (offer food – it is a great way to get people in)
– Create a virtual tour of the library on the intranet, with video, pictures and audio.
– Inductions – when new staff join, give them a library induction – a talk, a tour, some training. Follow up later with emails – ‘thank you for attending, did you know we can…’
– Library brochures, resource guides etc, in hardcopy. Old fashioned, maybe, but effective, damned effective. You can have contact details, maps, and a basic guide to services, in something they can have on their desks, noticeboards, in their hands. Give them out at training sessions, inductions etc, it’s always good for people to have something physical to take away with them. How about bookmarks, which can be promotional and useful?
– An internal email signature, that can be appended to all library staff emails, promoting a particular service, training session, or the library generally.

‘People’ refers to all of the people who come into contact with the lawyers – eg the enquiry desk staff. Obviously it is important to ‘give good customer service’ as you are representing the whole library. So train staff where necessary, have best practice guides, ensure staff are confident dealing with lawyers. Put photos of the library staff on the intranet, with descriptions of who does what – show the human face of the library and help filter queries to the right people. Be prompt when answering enquiries, and be polite (I know you want to tell people where to go when they come down with an urgent enquiry at 17:28, but be nice).

I’ve not (obviously) tried all of these things. The libraries I have worked in have all had library brochures of some kind (some more professional than others, but I’m naming no names), and some form of induction or library tour (again this varied greatly between the different firms, from a 10 minute tour, to a 45 minute induction presentation and tour, with handouts), but none of them used bookmarks, blogs, or the temptation of food.

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