A Publication of the Public Library Association Public Libraries Online

Strategic Marketing is a Smart Investment

by on December 3, 2012

Marketing isn’t cheap. No matter how you divide it up, marketing costs time and money. That is why having a strategic marketing plan in place at all times is a necessity. Being proactive with a plan at the start of every fiscal year versus reactive when trouble arises will save you countless headaches and make for more effective marketing.

Marketing is always among the first thing cut when funding becomes tenuous. This is true in libraries just as it is in any other business. It may seem like an obvious choice; however data shows that companies that cut marketing budgets during recessions had a higher return on capitol during the recession but lower during recovery. The opposite also proves true: companies that invest more on marketing during an economic downturn see higher market share during recovery1.

What does this mean to libraries? Cutting marketing budgets during times of economic stress means falling victim to the same danger as big business: not being top-of-mind. Top of mind awareness (TOMA) is one of the most important objectives any marketer can have. TOMA means being the first thing your customer thinks of when they think of your industry. Who comes to mind instantly when you are about to sneeze? I am willing to bet it’s Kleenex. Kleenex isn’t a product; it’s a brand. The brand has been so successful we now substitute it for the product name on a regular basis.

Our customers are bombarded by messages from every direction all day long, every single day. Developing a strategic marketing plan so that you are investing your time and money in an efficient and thoughtful manner will allow you to be intentional about your message and will give you a greater impact.

What makes a successful marketing plan? There are a few simple steps to follow to get started. The first step to any good plan is to do a situational analysis. A situational analysis will use research to make a realistic assessment of your current business.

A helpful tool is a SWOT analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Sit down as a staff or team and go over what fits into each of these four areas. What has impacted your environment in the past year, such as a recession or a tax vote? A SWOT analysis will help you get an overall picture of what your internal and external environment is like and will act as a launch pad for your plan.

Next, define your objectives. Now that you have a clear idea of your situation, determine where you will focus your time, energy, and budget. Are you aiming for an increase in circulation? Define it specifically with a measurable goal so that you have a clear vision of success.

The next step is to state your strategy. What tactics will you use to reach your objectives? These should be very specific plans such as implementing a public relations campaign (include a budget) or developing a partnership with a local organization. Be specific in your plan so that you can reference this document regularly as a guide throughout the year.

The final step should be evaluation. How will you measure your success? Stating this clearly makes sure that all parties are working toward the same goals. It also means being able to show your key stakeholders, such as your Director or Board, that marketing is a good investment, especially when it’s strategic.

1.Profit Impact of Marketing Strategies (PIMS) Database