Introduction to Marketing

Introduction to Marketing course – MLA London / Hopkins Van Mil

It was a sunny day in June. The room was hot, the air-conditioner so noisy it needed to be turned off when the trainer was speaking. We were a small group of nine people from a variety of backgrounds – and we were there to learn about marketing.

Our first task was to chat in groups of two or three about who we were, our marketing knowledge and why we were here. Several of us admitted to no marketing knowledge at all, others had some on-the-job knowledge. Once this was done, we all reported back to the trainer, who wrote our aims (such as ‘learn about marketing’) on a flip chart.

We were then shown a slide entitled ‘Vision’, which listed a number of animals and their supposed characteristics, and were invited to pick one animal which represented our institution as it is now, and another to represent it as we thought it should be in five years time. I chose the Owl as my current animal – wise and knowledgeable, followed by Eagle (vigilant and focused). These were pretty randomly chosen, I really have no idea what animal best represents my place of work.
The trainer explained the difference between how we see our library/museum, and how others see it.

The trainer then explained the key things with strategic marketing: audience (talking to the right people), what motivates them (about the right things), which mediums are appropriate (in the right way), when is appropriate (at the right time), and to then monitor whether it worked.

The next point was the difference between benefits and features. Benefits being the things that draw people in, the reason for them to come, the thing they get out of it. The point being that you should advertise the benefits, not the features. This is (I think) open to argument – most of the benefits of the Library are along the same lines (learning, study space, research, help etc), whereas there are lots of different features (resources, staff, databases, equipment) which if we don’t advertise them no-one will know about, though I suppose the point is we should talk about the benefits of the feature.

Moving on to research – the ‘three pillars’ are:
Desk research – information already available, previous market research
Secondary research – information others have collected about similar services, census data
Primary research – collecting data – surveys, comment cards, focus groups.
I was quite surprised this hadn’t been called the ‘triangle of research’ as it has been my experience that every training course on every subject at some point has a triangle in it. This was the only exception so far – but then again, they stuck with the number three.

Planning marketing was the next issue. The better choice between Tactical or Strategic marketing – (‘quick-fix’ v long term, sustainable) was made pretty clear. We discussed SMART objectives and SWOT analyses as tools in the planning stages and talked about the importance of auditing, and the four (or six) Ps – Product, Promotion, Price, Place (People and Planning).

Split into groups, we were invited to each think of one thing (other than essentials) that we would take on a journey into space. Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, we all chose technology – two groups chose a laptop, (as being able to hold ebooks, music, video, photographs etc), and the other a games console. The point of the exercise was the reasoning we had behind our choices (wanting to have something to occupy our time, remind us of home, enjoyment, etc) – we all focussed on benefits rather than features. A lesson learned.

We had a short discussion of the approach to marketing, budgeting (with a plug for Hopkins Van Mil’s upcoming course on marketing on a small budget), and then the tactics, or tools you would use eg posters, web, podcasts, blogs, social networking sites, leaflets.

Lunch, always an important part of any training session, couldn’t be faulted. The food arrived on time, and there was plenty of it. Trays of sandwiches, labelled meat or veggie, and a nice variety from cheese and pickle to coronation chicken. There were two trays of fresh fruit and two trays of absolutely gorgeous cakes. Definitely the best lunch I’ve had at a training session in a long time (and puts our internal training lunches to shame). There was also choice of tea, coffee, water and apple or orange juice (which, speaking as someone who doesn’t drink tea or coffee, made a nice change, as usually you just get water).

Anyway, lunch was finally over, the few remaining cakes were removed (presumably for the MLA London staff to enjoy, can’t blame them for that), the air-con was switched back off, and we had to get back to the training. We were all labelled ‘1’ or ‘2’ and the ‘1’s had to get up and go sit somewhere else. The ‘2’s then had to explain to their new neighbours what had been covered in the morning session. Hideous as this was for me as a ‘2’, it was actually quite useful in fixing what we had learnt in my mind.

During lunch the trainer had passed out some case studies of marketing from the Tate, Dulwich Picture Gallery and The Women’s Library, which we read through and discussed what aspects we could use ourselves (though this was largely irrelevant for a library setting). We were also given a postcard of a building, and asked to read what was on the back for about half a minute, and then to stop, and say what it was about. This was not very successful, as there was a lot of text, and most of us managed to gather only that it was from Central Saint Martins and was about some kind of event. We then read through it again, to pick out any benefits listed – and there was only one. It was a good example of how not to do it.

We then moved on to the problem of how to tell if your marketing has worked. The things we came up with were: visitor numbers, web stats, feedback forms, comment cards, visitor books, stats on item usage, telephone enquiry logs (again some of these were relevant only to the museum staff).

In order to relate what we had learnt to our own jobs, we all had to come up with our own SMART objective, identify the benefits for some target groups, consider the four Ps in deciding what we could offer these groups, choose tactics to market to them, and then write a ‘message’. The groups I came up with were mature students, external visitors, staff, international students, undergraduates and postgraduates. The benefits were things like access to learning resources, access to supportive staff, a quiet space to study in, etc

After the tea-break we moved on to discuss the importance of internal support, and getting buy-in at all levels, from management to front of house staff.

The day ended, and it was back out into the sunshine, for a nice (delay ridden) tube journey back to Waterloo, and thence back home.

All in all it was an enjoyable and interesting day. It was good to meet people from museums and other libraries, and it did teach me some basic stuff about marketing – the difference between benefits and features, and the idea of identifying and targeting audiences – which I hope will be useful in the future. However, the course really was aimed at museums, and a lot of the information was completely irrelevant to me (such as setting up ‘Friends of’ groups). I therefore wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else from a Library – I am sure there are other courses more specifically aimed at the Library crowd.

One comment on “Introduction to Marketing

  1. Jo Alcock says:

    Thanks for sharing your write up, really interesting to hear about the course. I’m interested in marketing libraries so this was really useful, especially about the benefits rather than the features, certainly given me something to think about with any library marketing I do.

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