Let the Sparks Fly: 12 Ways to More Effective Marketing

Liz Morris /

Creativity is liberating. It is challenging. Creativity, as some maintain, is at the heart of philanthropy. It is also a key ingredient for conducting inspiring marketing of your library services – though not the only one.

In a recent WebJunction webinar, our dynamic guest presenter Jamie Matczak of the Nicolet Federated Library System in Wisconsin provided her insights on 12 Ways to More Effective Marketing. We've captured a condensed version of a few key tips below – and suggest you review the full archive to tap into the rest, along with the rich discussion and resource sharing that emerged from other library staff members through the chat.

Also – Channing Tatum and Patrick Swayze make an appearance – so there's that!

Use less text in written materials

Librarians and patrons love context in a reference transaction or instructional environment. But for marketing purposes – less is more. Readers tend to scan these days, so provide just the essentials in your marketing materials that will enable people to take action. This applies for all materials – emails, fliers, brochures, social media, etc.

Marketing messages are not one-size-fits-all

The marketing materials you provide IN your library reach an audience that is already there and knows where to find you. The materials you provide in the broader community may need to provide additional, or more customized information, to bring in newer users. Identify who will most likely see your various materials, and adapt for various audiences accordingly.

Differentiate your library

Other organizations in your community are also working to capture the time and attention of your users. In many instances, libraries and community collaborators cross-promote resources and services, which models stellar partnership. But – libraries can also make a clear claim about the unique value of your work, in a way that makes it stand out. Is your guest presenter speaking in your community for the very first time? Shout it out loud!

Show, don't tell

Provide images and visual cues as frequently and intentionally as possible.

Risqué is okay

Is there a pop culture moment that you really want to riff on in your community outreach? Can you, like Jaime, draw funny and effective connections between 80's film quotes and reasons to attend a library conference? Go for it! Attention getting is okay – particularly when it taps into the zeitgeist of your community. Make sure you understand your library's communications approvals process, and recognize that your creativity may be loved by some and not by others – then be bold!

Stop using library speak

Plain language is a good thing when communicating with your patrons. Acronyms and technical jargon don't often translate verbally, let alone in written materials. Don't make your outreach about your resources (i.e. "comprehensive databases"), make it about what a patron can DO with the resources ("find your family history using our online ancestry search tools!")

The webinar archive page provides a summary of many free or low-cost tools that you can use in your outreach, along with a learner guide for taking focused next steps in YOUR marketing. With all the tools out there, marketing is simultaneously easier and harder – easier because the tools are there, harder because it's impossible to use them all to full effect!

If a marketing task exceeds your capacity – don't be afraid to ask for help or clarify your limits, knowing that what you share about your library services and how you share it are equally important endeavors. (And, WebJunction has a full section dedicated to marketing and outreach to support you in your efforts to engage and inspire.)

Go forth and create!