Mark Schaefer’s article 30 Ways to Create Customer Value really prompted me to reflect on how libraries create value for users and more importantly how current practices, services and policies could be assessed to ensure that the libraries do add value. And then of course how to market our value through packaging aspects of the value pyramid.
So let’s take a journey through the value pyramid. Traditionally libraries have focused their major marketing effort on the functional aspect of the value pyramid and further narrowed the focus to the aspect of ‘reduces costs’ because libraries are free to the end user. I think we should also evaluate our services and policies against other aspects of the functional value to value add in a world that is increasingly competitive for our users’ attention. So how do libraries save time? Our curated lists of resources could save our users’ search time. I have found that ‘Simplifies’ is a big value for users of content who often choose convenience over cost — Audible is much simpler to use than library eAudio content in most cases with one person telling me they could not even find the eAudio on the library website so gave up and went to Audible. Libraries need to keep ‘is it simple and easy to find’ in mind when it comes to eContent.
Libraries also use the emotional value of providing access to appeal to our users, funders and as part of our social responsibilities to our communities. There are definite aspects of wellness being explored by libraries the world over in our programs, our partners and our collections. But do we market that going to a library will increase individual wellness? Do we appeal to this particular market segment? I think this is a real opportunity to increase the library’s impact and reach new audiences. Specific curated collections catering to this segment will also then appeal to the functional aspect of the value pyramid and build strong brand loyalty and relationships with a wider user segment.
The other aspect of the emotional value set that is underplayed by libraries is rewards me. I have written about Library Membership in previous posts Get carded: flexible library membership and The Digital Library card: think bigger and with a ‘rewards me’ mindset how could libraries build a rewards system into membership and usage? 10% off ticket prices to other Council museums, galleries and swimming pools could be a good start when a library card is presented. Priority access to a reference librarian to curate a special reading list at the 100, 200, 300 book borrowing mark? This could then become part of the value-add marketing plan for libraries in their communities. And yes, libraries have to build on all of the aspects of the value pyramid.
Now we get to the life changing value. Libraries and librarians definitely believe libraries are life changing and discuss, present and publish in professional journals all aspects of this value set. But do we market to anyone other than ourselves? I do see that in the United Kingdom, after years of attacks on funding and significant library closures, the public debate arguing for continued funding for libraries based on their life changing services. But this is for a defense of libraries. How could libraries market the life changing aspects of libraries to individuals? At my library we interview users on why they use the library for the SLQ Today blog and have gathered some wonderful quotes : ‘The Library is essential to me’ was one lovely quote from an international student. This type of content marketing is a great way to get the message of the impact of libraries out to the world in the words of our greatest advocates — our users.
Affiliation and belonging is another aspect of this value set that libraries could make more of. What does being part of the library membership family mean? How can libraries actively work to have ‘belonging’ as an aim for our programs and communities? This could strengthen and clearly demonstrate value adding to building communities for influencers, funders and tax payers who ultimately fund libraries. And libraries need to be intentional about this at the local level. I see Library Associations globally making these links, demonstrating impact and each library needs to translate these messages to their own local needs to really leverage the international and national work that is being delivered.
And similarly the life changing value of motivation is at the core of all the learning and literacy programs that are offered at libraries — motivation to a new skill set, a new qualification building towards a new life. Once this is understood libraries’ marketing efforts can be more effective and layered instead of always just focusing on ‘Its free’.
The top of the value pyramid is self-actualisation and this would need to be explored with our different audience segments.
The research into using this value pyramid in business found that the companies that performed well on multiple elements of value had more loyal customers than the rest. They also found that some elements mattered more than most depending on the industry represented. Also the researchers found that across all the industries studied, ‘perceived quality affects customer advocacy more than any other element’.
The opportunity to research the value pyramid in relation to library services is one that could underpin an effective marketing model for all libraries based on real evidence. Calling on all marketing researchers out there to think on libraries as a great subject to research and I am sure there are willing library partners out there who would love to join the project. Would be very interested to hear from library marketers on the set of values that they use to market their libraries and whether there are opportunities to add additional elements to the mix. Especially with the digital services now on offer.