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Marketing your library – Instalment 11

Delivering the goods! The follow through

We’ve been talking a lot about marketing library services and I hope you’ve gotten some good ideas. However, there is one very important part of marketing that I haven’t mentioned yet and that is follow through. When you market goods or services you are in fact giving the consumer of those goods and services a promise to deliver. How many of you have ever been disappointed by a merchant’s claim that their product was the best? Or been lured to an event with promises of sun and fun just to be disappointed? Think about how that disappointment made you feel about everything associated with that company or product. Have you ever refused to eat at any of a chain’s restaurants because of an experience at one particular restaurant? I have. Rational or not, one bad experience or broken promise can colour a person’s perception forever.

Perceptions and feelings

For libraries this means bad experience at a particular library with a particular librarian can shape and influence a person’s perception of all libraries. Instead of "that librarian at this library was mean to mean on this day" it turns into "all librarians everywhere are mean and all libraries are unfriendly places". If you throw into this mix that the person came into the library because of a marketing initiative that promoted the library as a friendly and helpful place then you add a real sense of betrayal as well. Simply put, the person feels lied to and tricked. So, no matter what you are marketing or promoting make sure it is something you can deliver. In other words you have to follow through.

There are some fairly easy things you can do to help ensure that you have proper follow through. The first of course is making sure you can actually do what you said you could. Setting realistic goals is an important part of any marketing campaign. This often means having volunteers and materials ready ahead of time. It can also mean that you hold off marketing until you are sure what you are marketing works. This is especially important when dealing with technology. We never market a new resource until we have tested it both on and off campus.

Setting realistic expectations is another aspect of this. Often what you say is not what people hear. For instance, I tell students all the time that the librarians are here to help them with the research but I make sure I say that we do not do homework for you. I try and do it in an off handed, funny way but I make sure I say those words. When there are communication issues you can often make things better by concentrating on what you can do rather than what you can’t.

When things do go wrong

Even when you have everything all planned out things can still go wrong. You may think you’ve been crystal clear with your goals and marketing, but someone will misunderstand. You can have a back-up plan and still run out of materials. The weather can turn on you, the technology can fail, and speakers can be delayed. When these things happen, do not be afraid to apologize. People can still leave feeling good about the library even though things didn’t quite work out as planned.


  • Don’t be afraid to apologize and make it right.
  • Set realistic goals.
  • Create realistic expectations.
  • Listen to your customers.
  • Always have a Plan B.

Check out Information Today, Inc.’s marketing newsletter, Marketing Library Services – a "How-to marketing tool written specifically for librarians"!