Begin With The Customer: A Summary of ALA-APA’s Annual Conference Program “MBA for Librarians: Marketing”

Editor’s Note: This article is the first of a series in which Howerton summarizes one of the ALA-APA Programs for the People offered to conference attendees at the ALA Annual Conference 2011 held in New Orleans.

Looking to better publicize your library’s facility and services? From 8-10AM on Saturday, June 25, Ernest and Susan DiMattia presented basic definitions for those new to marketing, as well as excellent advice on the “art and science” of selecting and implementing marketing plans. According to Mr. DiMattia, to successfully promote one’s library and programming, one must

  • identify a target audience;
  • focus on the processes of creating, communicating and delivering items to the public;
  • manage relationships (internally and externally speaking); and
  • determine benefits to the organization.

The presenters urged the audience to put the consumers at the heart of one’s marketing. In fact, Mr. DiMattia explained that the two most important terms for the day were “need” and “communication.” In other words, a library must identify what the community and its members require and, at the same time, be able to clearly demonstrate how those needs will be met. Certainly, this process is ever-evolving; a library must be able to constantly assess (and identify) the changing needs of its patrons.

Thus, in developing a marketing plan, the presenters suggest that a committee “begin with the customer.” With the customer in mind, the team is able to decide “who you are, who you want to be and what you want your customers to think about you.” Once these principles are recognized, a library is better equipped to develop, evaluate and update a pertinent, useful plan.