The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at                                        www.emerald...
BL     organizational goals. While there are few studies directly on point, there seems to be23,1   sufficient colloquial e...
.       represents a roadmap, or codification for all messaging, including those that          Narrative-based       promot...
BL     user-based value notion of the library. In other words, a series or set of stories the23,1   library can share with...
most library marketing is ad hoc and focused on specific types of discrete tactical            Narrative-basedactivities li...
BL     stories that flow from them (Stern et al., 1998). The service story becomes the narrative23,1   that informs and dri...
subsequent marketing efforts, including promotions, branding and relationship              Narrative-basedmanagement. All ...
BL     perceived value, it must reflect the customer’s expectations, desires and idealized23,1   outcome. Using focus group...
unexpected and undesirable outcome, many users could regress or fall off the spectrum        Narrative-basedaltogether. Fo...
BL     an appreciation or understanding of such needs, as well as their direct relationship to23,1   the specific user, whi...
related library marketing activities that speaks to customers in their language based        Narrative-basedupon their nee...
BL     as an opportunity to create a service story is indeed investing in that organization’s23,1   future. Having a succi...
Von Seggern, M. and Young, N.J. (2003), “The focus group method in libraries: issues related to   Narrative-based     proc...
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  1. 1. The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at Narrative-based Narrative-based library library marketing marketing Selling your library’s value during tough economic times 5 Michael A. Germano Received May 2009 John F. Kennedy Memorial Library, California State University, Revised July 2009 Accepted August 2009 Los Angeles, California, USAAbstractPurpose – Managing through crises, especially economic ones, represents both peril andopportunity. Libraries of all types, whether academic, special or public, would benefit from aninfusion of marketing activity in the current economic climate. Such marketing need not beresource-intensive but must be relevant to specific user populations. In order to reap the greatestrewards while expending the least effort or resources, adopting a narrative or story-based marketingmessage that develops and reinforces a consistent value proposition can improve patron experience byspeaking in a language that resonates with them regarding services and resources that may be unclearor altogether unknown. This paper aims to discuss current trends in developing narrative orstory-based marketing that focuses on customer needs and applies it to library marketing specifically.Design/methodology/approach – The paper discusses of current trends informed by currentmarketing scholarship and draws upon the author’s prior experience in sales and marketing as avendor for LexisNexis.Findings – Adopting a narrative-based marketing plan for libraries of all kinds, one that is basedupon a specific user population’s needs and expectations, can promote a notion of increased value aswell as an overall sense of being indispensable and critical to those patrons. The ultimate goal is ademonstrable strengthening of support from user populations that will translate into avoidance ofdeeper or ongoing cuts during the current economic climate. Further benefits also include the ability toidentify and target users and groups for fundraising opportunities while improving library personnelmorale based upon the increased, generalized perception of the library’s value within the broaderorganization or community.Practical implications – Based upon years of sales and marketing experience, the author takes apractical and seasoned approach to creating a marketing plan that draws upon little to no resourcesbut is compelling in its tailored and targeted approach that uses identifiable language to reinforce anddescribe specific user-driven needs.Originality/value – The paper provides recommendations for developing, creating and executing anarrative or story-based marketing plan that speaks to users in the language and needs most critical tothem while highlighting resources and services that may not be currently valued or even known.Keywords Public libraries, Special libraries, Academic libraries, Strategic marketing,Services marketingPaper type Viewpoint The Bottom Line: Managing LibraryIntroduction Finances Vol. 23 No. 1, 2010The role of marketing, in most library organizations in the USA, is generally pp. 5-17something of an afterthought. At best, it is approached with enthusiasm but lacking q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0888-045Xcoherence or strategy. At worse, marketing is deemed wholly irrelevant to DOI 10.1108/08880451011049641
  2. 2. BL organizational goals. While there are few studies directly on point, there seems to be23,1 sufficient colloquial evidence that supports these two dichotomous representations of library marketing. For example, at the overwhelming majority of libraries there is no job function that is exclusively or even predominantly centered on marketing the library. Library budgets rarely, if ever, have a specific line-item for marketing or promotional campaigns. Library school curricula at virtually all ALA-accredited6 programs have no required marketing course and have limited opportunities for studying marketing (Winston and Hazlin, 2003). Studies that detail the role, impact or outcome of sophisticated marketing programs on library effectiveness are altogether limited. For libraries of all types, the role of marketing is most commonly satisfied in an ad hoc way highlighted by a process of trial and error with limited time, resources or expertise. As a result, little effort is expended to understand or achieve specific, measurable objectives or market-driven metrics delivered by library marketing programs. It would seem to logically follow that the current economic downturn should represent a significant obstacle to the enterprise of library marketing in its arguably incipient state. With resources so limited and budgets so stretched, libraries seem justified in the choice to pull back on their fledgling marketing efforts, abandon them altogether or worse, disengage from the process of even considering the role that effective marketing could play in the success of a library organization. While economic barriers to effective, strategic library marketing may be considerable, the reality is that most libraries are not at a stage that even requires a significant expenditure in terms of resources on the functional area of marketing. Currently, despite the economic downturn, the greater obstacles to meaningful library marketing are a lack of vision, strategy, expectation and expertise. Currently, most library marketing seems to confuse the process of marketing with the more identifiable, somewhat understandable, but more discrete, events that comprise it in total, such as advertising, public relations, branding, or promotion. It is true that engaging in such activities can prove beneficial in terms of increasing visibility for an information center, growing patron counts or increasing circulation statistics. There is, however, a limited return on the investment when they are executed in a vacuum or independent of a cohesive marketing strategy. Instead, most libraries need to first develop a culture of marketing along with a core set of “co-created” messages that can be delivered during all patron interaction while providing a value-driven framework for all relevant customer directed communication (Prahalad and Ramaswamy, 2004). The process of developing that culture, as well as the messages that drive it, are activities that are undoubtedly labor-intensive but not necessarily resource intensive. Specifically, such organizational endeavors are extremely cost-effective in terms of the actual financial resources required. Additionally, given the current economic climate, coupled with the emerging knowledge-based economy, the timing could not be better for a library to embark on the development and execution of an effective marketing program based upon the customers’ own articulated desires. A more sophisticated marketing program that does the following: . resonates with patrons and speaks to them in their language in an intimate way that presents the library as valuable and valued to them as a customer; . strategically focuses on the narratives of specific, common patron or customer needs and ties them to the services available;
  3. 3. . represents a roadmap, or codification for all messaging, including those that Narrative-based promote, brand or sell library services during all relevant patron interaction; and library . provides a readily available and useable compendium of narratives that marketing effectively ties users’ needs to the benefits of specific services and in doing so, clearly articulates the library’s value to them.Marketing, libraries and the recession 7As most businesses grapple with declining revenues, lost market share and erodingcustomer bases, libraries are, in many cases, experiencing a definitive resurgence inpatron interest. The current trough in our economic cycle leads many to readily graspthe usefulness in information centers and libraries of all types. While corporatelibraries may possibly be the exception, academic and public libraries are seeingincreased levels of visits and patron counts for differing reasons related to the currentrecession. Academic libraries are no doubt benefiting from the renewed interest ineducation that economic downturns typically bring about. Public libraries, with freeaccess to a wealth of information and entertainment, are being discovered bycash-strapped consumers for the first time. The current economic situation represents ahost of challenges for library organizations, but it also has a silver lining in itspropensity to deliver a brand new customer base for many libraries. Will welcomingthese new patrons with effective delivery of traditional library resources and services,however, instill loyalty and create continued patronage during the future recovery? Inother words, once the trough becomes a wave, will these users disappear? Or will theystay? With the appropriate effort turned towards developing a planned and sustainedmarketing effort, the retention of existing patrons as well as securing new ones is muchmore likely. What exactly does a planned and sustained marketing effort look like and wheredoes it begin? Any marketing program should have a strategic vision at its core, onethat clearly defines what success looks like. Furthermore, most literature indicates thatbenefit-driven marketing that moves the product or service forward by specifyingvalue in terms of the customer’s perception, represents the highest probability ofsuccess (Schultz et al., 2002). Central to that exercise is the creation or drafting of acompelling, persuasive, organizational document based upon defensible research thatclearly articulates the various segmented, identifiable customers; their needs, desiresand expectations, as well as their life-cycle with relation to the marketed product orservice. Many companies are currently toying with, and perfecting, the idea ofnarrative or story-driven marketing strategies that are clearly articulated by a definedproduct story. Libraries can benefit from this emerging trend with one significantchange based upon the fact that they primarily deliver services, not products. As aresult, libraries should embark upon their marketing efforts by first developing anddrafting a service story. The service story, drafted as an internal strategic marketingdocument for use by all staff, serves as a road-map for virtually every imaginablepatron interaction as well as efforts aimed at marketing or promoting library services.It allows library staff to effectively sell, up-sell and cross-sell the relevant libraryservices to specific sets of customers at the most appropriate time. Such a narrativewould additionally serve as the core strategy document needed to usher in a culture ofmarketing that recognizes the personality-driven component of delivering libraryservices, and how each interaction represents opportunities for developing a
  4. 4. BL user-based value notion of the library. In other words, a series or set of stories the23,1 library can share with its patron that, when told, have the power to retain users, alert them to additional relevant services, as well as encourage them to act as a supporter or champion of the library in the future. Service marketing through narratives8 Before elaborating upon the process of developing, drafting and establishing the use of a service story in the context of library marketing, it makes sense to step back and define some of the ideas that make up the process and role of marketing in organizations generically. Most marketing theory is dominated by the “marketing mix” or 4P’s of marketing: Product, price, promotion and place (Constantinides, 2006). The marketing mix represents a tactical construct for achieving success in a marketplace with a product. The traditional 4Ps approach, it should be noted, was established during a time when most companies actually produced something tangible. Marketing, when the 4Ps approach was envisioned, conceived and established was charged with developing the messages that conveyed the benefits of a product, developing the appropriate price, devising promotions and finding the places or outlets for selling and delivering that product. It was all about the process, including tactics and strategies, of bringing a tangible to market and ensuring its success there. When originally conceived, some 40 years ago, this structure was meant to provide a framework for an activity or functional area that was more art than science and oftentimes not readily understood by managers, especially in terms of actual or real value to the organization overall. Our current economy, however, is much more service-based than the economy that flourished when the traditional marketing mix was developed. Additionally, over the years, non-profits have developed a keen interest in promoting their products or services, not necessarily with an eye towards revenue, but oftentimes with a stated purpose of fundraising. Marketing theory and the literature, as a result, developed accordingly. Non-profit or public marketing evolved from the earlier paradigms to provide a framework for the inclusion of placing and promoting a product in the absence of true price or monetary exchange (Dann et al., 2007). Service marketing was further developed as an outgrowth of traditional marketing in order to bridge the gap between the then current processes and theories in an attempt to provide a cohesive set of principles for marketing in the absence of a product. Both of these areas, taken together, can provide fertile idea generation for the development of a more sophisticated notion of library marketing. Service marketing, by far, provides the best framework for engaging in the inquiry needed to support a more sophisticated foundation for library marketing overall. Finally, the current literature provides valuable insight into, as well as underpinnings with which to support, individual library market plans in terms of their envisioning, development and execution (Gupta, 2007). Arguably, most library managers are currently in a similar situation to that of corporate managers 30 or 40 years ago with regard to their perceptions of, and relationship to, the process, tactical orientation and strategy of marketing their organization. In other words, library managers could be described as not necessarily adverse to marketing, but instead as unaware of the precise or actual value of marketing as an organizational function. As stated previously, it appears as though
  5. 5. most library marketing is ad hoc and focused on specific types of discrete tactical Narrative-basedactivities like branding the library as well as promoting a service or resource within the librarylibrary’s overall offering. This is usually carried out with a generalized outcome suchas increasing patron counts or circulation statistics or web site visits. While these marketingactivities are indeed marketing based, they do not necessarily comprise an effectivemarketing strategy per se, one that encompasses the entire organization and reflects adefined vision of its relationship to its customers. A significant portion of the problem 9is certainly the general lack of organizational clarity or strategy that typifies librarymarketing. Exacerbating it, however, is the paucity of evidentiary support in the formof empirical marketing-related library studies leading information center managers todetermine what is worthwhile in terms of developing and executing marketing plansfor libraries. Simply put, there is little to no empirical evidence showing which types ofmarketing events, plans, strategies, tactics or activities produce the best or evenappropriate results for various libraries by size, type, or location. All of this leads oneto the conclusion that marketing, as a library function, is at an early stage, andtherefore is in need of developing a refined set of tools and processes that promotes aclearer, defined strategic direction while being supported by defensible data (Rowley,2003). In its most direct terms, service marketing allows organizations to model anddevelop their business despite the absence of a definable product (Mittal, 2002). Moreimportantly, and relevant to the process of adaptation to library marketing, it placesthe customer relationship in a more centralized position and encourages developmentof the business and customer relationship as similar enterprises. Transferring primacyto the role of the customer and away from the product has broad implications formarketing as well as the process of developing an effective marketing strategy.Additionally, since services are, by their very nature, highly personalized and humanresource intensive, it is not surprising that the 4Ps of product, price, place andpromotion are necessarily replaced or subverted by the ongoing interaction of thepeople representing and delivering those services. Value creation becomes dependentupon and intertwined with the customer and its perceptions of the service provided.Thus, service delivery and the marketing that drives it, becomes a very personalizedexperience when executed effectively in response to customer-created narratives(Padgett and Allen, 1997). This narrative is defined almost exclusively by customerneeds. Customer expectations and satisfying relationships with the organization are thedrivers that propel a service-oriented business forward (Rust and Chung, 2006).Harnessing that interaction in a codified way via a service story provides multiplebenefits to a business, most notably customer development, satisfaction and retention.These are three critical components of any service enterprise, public or private. Whiletraditional marketing, especially service marketing, espouses a strong element ofbenefit-driven messaging that places the customer in a context of understanding therelationship of the product or service to their needs or desired outcomes, benefit-drivenmarketing is by its nature somewhat incomplete. For service marketing to be fullyeffective there is a requirement to adopt the language, demeanor, objectives andconcerns of the customer in a narrative that resonates with their perceptions of thosebenefits and how the service directly relates to them. For services marketing to achievecredibility and in turn resonate with listeners, it must be based upon narratives and the
  6. 6. BL stories that flow from them (Stern et al., 1998). The service story becomes the narrative23,1 that informs and drives the marketing message, and is the cornerstone of value creation and dissemination throughout the organization. The application of the service story to library marketing, therefore, becomes an almost natural fit. Placing library marketing firmly within the context of service marketing has multiple benefits for developing a coherent marketing strategy for libraries.10 Understanding library marketing as service marketing allows for a clearer focus on the value that libraries commonly and predominantly represent: access and delivery of relevant information in a timely way. Service marketing is less concerned with traditional product-centric, short-term tactical marketing constructs like price and place and instead presupposes a more strategic, long-term interest in things like value, relationship loyalty and direct benefit to the user. The propensity to personalize and customize service marketing messages in turn makes for a good fit with the emerging trend to narratalogically describe service encounters along with their benefits, desired outcomes and idealized results by specific customer base. The intangibility of services demands this approach since services, unlike goods, cannot be quantifiably valued or easily demonstrated. As a result, effective service marketing sets up an expectation of direct, relevant, customized story-telling that delivers a clear framework for making individualized customer choices and eventually deriving satisfaction (Woodside et al., 2008). Simply put, effective service marketing is compelling because it speaks specifically to a customer’s self interest, in their own language. Library marketing narratives How does this all translate into a more effective model of library marketing and a resulting marketing strategy for selling a specific library’s value? And, more specifically, how does one engage in meaningful library marketing during a recession? As previously suggested, during times of economic uncertainty, for differing reasons, there is a renewed interest in virtually all library types. Individuals turn to public libraries as a cost-effective means of securing entertainment, financial information and job-hunting resources. Academic libraries see an influx in visits due to the generalized increase in educational activity. Corporate libraries represent a decision-making resource that has valuable implications for companies forced to rely less on outsourced solutions and more on bought and paid resources that are already available. Furthermore, since recessionary environments create a whole new user-base for virtually all kinds of libraries, why take the additional step of marketing its value or specific services or resources? Because marketing, combined with creating and developing a culture of value-selling by exceeding expectations, is a library’s best strategy for retaining that new influx of patrons as well as turning them into champions of library service once the recession has ended. The best way to achieve this end is through a narrative driven, patron/customer specific and targeted service story that includes a well-honed value proposition. The library leader who encourages, facilitates and manages such strategic focus on the function of marketing can expect to see an impressive return on the time invested. Developing the library service story and value proposition requires planning, research and significant expenditures of time for compiling and drafting data. In terms of real financial resources, however, very little is needed. By developing a library service story and value proposition, a library is creating a foundation for all
  7. 7. subsequent marketing efforts, including promotions, branding and relationship Narrative-basedmanagement. All of these types of “go to market” activities are more readily libraryunderstood and produce more effective, measurable and expected results whenorganized around the central tenets of a service story while being reinforced with a marketingvalue proposition. Additionally, with the presence of the service story, staff areencouraged to engage in sales-like activities that alert users to relevant usefulresources at the appropriate times. It is critical to remember, however, that both the 11value proposition and service story are meant to reflect and reinterpret the actual needsof the customer. So they are derived specifically from customer desires as they alignwith the library organization’s offerings.The value propositionThe service story correlates directly to enunciated customer needs. In other words, theservice story should be a reflection of what initially compelled an individual or set ofindividuals to seek out or use the library in order to solve a problem or meet a need.Given the current economic conditions it is not surprising that many library servicestories and value propositions would reflect the perception of economic value.Identifying the specific value of an individual library can be a thought provoking,introspective exercise, but one that is necessarily required as a first step towards aneffective marketing strategy (Holt, 2007). The process of creating and defining these two critical pieces of a narrative-drivenmarketing strategy is fairly straightforward. The value proposition comes first(Scholey, 2002). It should reflect an over-arching, all encompassing notion of what thelibrary offers its customers regardless of who they are individually or collectively. Itshould be general but not vague, broad but not imprecise. A central component of anysuccessful product story is its ability to demonstrate a keen understanding ofcustomers’ needs (Anderson et al., 2006). For example, a value proposition for a publiclibrary could be something as general as “It’s your library and it’s here for you”. Thenotion conveyed is openness, dependability, and service. An academic library couldchoose to project something as simple as “Relevant, authoritative answers are waitingfor you”. The idea highlighted here is credible, trustworthy, and definitive informationthat is readily available to those who seek it. A corporate library could highlight thevalue of saving time and money in the context of business decision-making: “Savetime, save money, and move the business forward with intelligence”. The valueproposition is the most creative portion of developing a narrative-based marketingplan and should be the product of brainstorming, customer testing or even acommunity-based contest. Once the value proposition has been defined it can be usedin marketing literature, outreach, displays and more. It is more than a slogan, though.The true value proposition should be something that resonates with customers whileproviding a promise, seemingly in their own words, of what the library will offer on apersonal level when engaged in a relationship with the organization. The valueproposition is effectively created by a customer or group of customers and is firmlyrooted in their personality, needs and desires. As stated previously, the value proposition should be the product of testing andsurveying. Unless there is customer buy-in and agreement, the value proposition, aswell as the service story, which will be discussed later, is really just a collection ofempty promises or an exercise in cheap sloganeering. For it to be a true statement of
  8. 8. BL perceived value, it must reflect the customer’s expectations, desires and idealized23,1 outcome. Using focus groups is the more common way of determining the best from a field, or the validity of a specific value proposition (Von Seggern and Young, 2003). Supplementing focus groups with surveys, patron conversations, colloquial evidence and patron involvement in the form of, perhaps, advisory boards, provides necessary additional customer input. Finally, using new interactive Web 2.0 technologies that12 allow for sustained customer interaction and the new trend towards “active listening”, highlighted by ongoing two-way communication in the service provider-customer relationship, could prove indispensable for soliciting meaningful customer input economically and efficiently (Poynter, 2008). The service story After defining the value proposition, the next step is to begin working on the true detailed narrative that will inform and direct the library’s future marketing efforts: the service story. In its simplest terms, the service story, in the context of a library, serves as a codification of the library’s offerings while defining key customer types and where they fall on the spectrum from initial user to loyal champion. It becomes a guidepost for all patron interaction and is meant to reflect an understanding of how the library’s various services and resources fit in with different customer needs as they move along a continuum of familiarity with library resources to expertise in using them and the loyalty implied by that. Stepping back a moment, it is worth considering the user perspective when encountering a new service. Considering the customer perspective and the steps by which they move from exploration to loyalty are critical components of any service story and its resulting marketing message. The process is not a complex one, but highlighted by three distinct phases: familiarity, confidence in outcomes and ultimately, expertise. In the library context these phases can be easily understood in a general sense. A new patron must first gain some sort of familiarity with the library or information center. This stage includes learning about resources, personnel, and physical set up. Once a basic level of familiarity is achieved the next step is to experience moments of confidence in achieving expected outcomes. This could be as simple as finding a specific resource, having a question answered by a librarian, or as complicated as using multiple resources and different personnel to complete a difficult project. For different customers, establishing confidence in outcomes can mean vastly different things, and therefore could take longer for one patron to achieve than another. Once confidence is firmly established the user moves on to expertise. The expertise stage is highlighted by a user achieving a level of knowledge and comfort using the library. This level of expertise includes loyalty as well as unintentional or intentional moments of acting as an advocate for the organization. Frequency of use is not nearly as important as the twin perceptions of extreme comfort and value in the service or resources used. The idea is simple, yet profound for library managers: A customer at the expertise level thinks of the library as the first and foremost place for satisfying knowledge-based needs in certain situations, and is willing to share that feeling and expand upon that loyalty with others through word of mouth and their own personalized narratives (Wong and Tjosvold, 1995). Not all users achieve this level. In reality most users get stalled or deeply rooted in the stage highlighted by confidence in outcomes. Additionally, due to moments of truth, or episodes where users have an
  9. 9. unexpected and undesirable outcome, many users could regress or fall off the spectrum Narrative-basedaltogether. For example, if familiarity is thwarted by confusion over an incomplete or libraryconfusing orientation session or tour, the user who was subjected to that tour couldhardly be considered ready to achieve the next step, confidence in outcomes. Or, marketingalternatively, someone at the expertise stage discovers that an oft-used resource hasbeen eliminated from the collection could revert to the need to establish confidence onceagain, since it has been undermined by a significant moment of truth. Moments of truth 13are not wholly preventable. A good service story, however, should anticipate the mostcommon or recurring ones and provide for contingent service narratives that minimizetheir impact. The spectrum of user loyalty behaviors from familiarity to confidence to expertise isan important data point in determining the exact content and delivery modes of theservice story. It becomes important, therefore, for the library to continually assess,through ongoing surveys and other means, where individuals as well as groups or setsof users fall on this spectrum. The next step to developing the service story is toconsider the exact nature of the organization’s customer populations and to begin tounderstand where they fall upon the user loyalty spectrum. For example, an academiclibrary might segment their users into students by year, school, or major, and byfunction such as faculty or staff. A public library could think in terms of age or lifestage. Examples include children, teen, adult, parents, singles, and seniors. In corporatelibraries viable segments can easily be defined by department or functional areas likelegal, tax, sales marketing, and product development. Once user populations aredefined, the true heavy lifting, in terms of service story creation, begins. Identifying the phases by which customers approach a new service, and potentiallybecome loyal to it, requires an overlay of the specific organization’s customersegments. Once these segments are identified, as described above, the service storydeveloper or author must define each group in a meaningful way, especially withregard to the most common desires, needs and stress points of each group. Again, focusgroups and surveys are ideal. The goal is to determine the priorities and shared stressinducers of the individual segments and where the resources of the library can helpmeet those needs or minimize that stress (Von Seggern and Young, 2003). Needs, ofcourse, can be varied. In a corporate context they might all be job performance relatedsuch as meeting deadlines more quickly or producing a higher level of work product.They could also be related to saving the corporation money. In an academicenvironment, articulated needs are most likely connected to academic success andeventual employment. Public libraries present a more complex array of possibilitiesbut the goal is the same: to determine shared desires, areas of collective concern orshared anxieties and connect them to library resources or services. The eventual goal isa coherent set of messages that can be created for each specific stage, from familiarityto expertise, and the best times to deliver those messages to specific segmented ortargeted users. The vagueness here is intentional, since each library organization willhave to identify and target users by groups that represent needs that are most relatedto their collection or strategic mission. The identified or targeted users must then betied to stages of user comfort (familiarity, confidence in outcomes or expertise) and theresulting messaging must speak to them in the language of their specific needs.Consequently, the individual narratives that make up the service story should reflect
  10. 10. BL an appreciation or understanding of such needs, as well as their direct relationship to23,1 the specific user, while recognizing where they fall on the user loyalty spectrum. For example, an academic library might decide that achieving familiarity is the goal for freshmen or new student users. The need for most freshmen students would be to understand the layout of the library, what successful university level research looks like, as well as how to achieve good grades. The service story should therefore have14 specific messaging as well as uniform service descriptions for the tools or resources that have been determined relevant to these needs. Specifically, meeting those needs could be as simple as learning a few critical locations in the library, like reference and circulation, how to find a book and how to use one or two databases. The messaging of the service story would encourage library personnel to stay on task with regard to these specific needs by providing explanations in clear, user-defined language that was benefit-driven and resonates with the customer group, in this case first year college students. The language of the service story could, in this example, highlight specific kinds of assignments or research tasks and describe the processes to achieve desired outcomes. The needs (understand university research and locate critical services in the library) are tied to real, relevant examples that highlight outcomes that are desired. The resulting story that describes library services that are meaningful becomes an effective marketing message that promotes the stated goal of achieving familiarity with basic library resources. The process is, admittedly, a bit labor-intensive in terms of precisely identifying, listing and drafting suggested, but not scripted, interaction. When completed, however, the library has a document that virtually codifies which resources are most relevant to which user segments at the most critical times they are needed. The result is clearer messaging in all customer interaction, including passive forms like signage and flyers, as well as active ones like classes, tours, research consultations and service interactions such as reference and circulation. Ultimately, customers constantly receive relevant messages that, when delivered consistently, will facilitate their move along the user loyalty spectrum with the eventual goal of achieving expertise and the loyalty implied. The service story, therefore, becomes a defined blueprint for patron or customer interaction. As a result, there is less likelihood of delivering too much, or incorrect, information too soon or at the wrong time. While many libraries tend to overwhelm users or make the library seem out of touch with their individual needs, those actively following a well-crafted service story are much less likely to engage in this type of self-destructive behavior. Furthermore, active, widespread use of a service story allows library staff to actually predict user needs when appropriate. For example, if part of the service story above included a specific notation that all freshmen need to write a research paper with citations and bibliography in a particular style, there could also be an added message encouraging attendance at a citation workshop. The service story would ideally include a short description of the benefits of the class, and allow staff members to effectively cross-sell it during events such as circulation service encounters or reference consultations. The service story, in short, becomes the idealized customer experience over a length of time with the appropriate messaging at relevant moments that creates an ongoing narrative between the library and user which can be the basis for all relevant library marketing activity. The end result is a defined, clearly enunciated marketing narrative that is compelling in its ability to relate and connect targeted users’ needs to required services and an over-arching strategic roadmap for
  11. 11. related library marketing activities that speaks to customers in their language based Narrative-basedupon their needs. library Once completed, the service story becomes a living document that requires ongoingmaintenance and fine tuning in the form of subsequent research and ongoing revision marketingin order to incorporate new resources, customer needs and potential research events.Developing the service story, as previously mentioned, is not a resource-intensiveevent. It is, however, one that requires a serious investment in time in order to meet 15with customers, listen to their needs while empathetically understanding those needsand correlating them to the library’s services and offerings. The ongoing benefits areenormous, but they mostly revolve around the notion of providing direction andefficiency for subsequent library marketing efforts. Specifically, with a service story,special events, collection additions, service promotions, outreach andrelationship-building activities can be timed appropriately and directed withtargeted focus, aimed at the users that will most benefit from them. The marketingmessage and strategic approach become more refined and sophisticated as a result. The service story, when fully executed and rolled out across the entire organization,can ultimately provide economic benefits as well. The service story represents a muchmore targeted approach to marketing the library that, when executed properly,promotes a more effective use of marketing resources than the more ad hoc, unrefinedapproach of marketing in the absence of a well-defined strategy. Another added benefitis that the service story encourages customer loyalty and ongoing patron support. Itshould be readily understood that customer loyalty is the library’s best defense againstupcoming cutbacks and provides a basis for future fund raising activities. Creating aservice story is a first step towards managing customer relationships in the context ofservice delivery. In short, it provides a basis for understanding what drives customerloyalty of those services. Identifying the process of developing that loyalty promotes amore strategic deployment of marketing resources. When the process of loyaltycreation is understood, marketing resources can be utilized to create a long-term andlasting benefit by creating loyal users that champion the library. For libraryorganizations this is a critical new step, and a vital reason, for which to engage in theact of marketing. It is reflective of a more strategic view of the purpose and value ofmarketing since it reflects a willingness to deploy the marketing function to achieve theinstitutional goal of fundraising and increased financial support. In short, by usingtargeted marketing communication tools like a value proposition and service story inorder to establish and highlight a user’s internalized and personalized perception of thevalue of the library, marketing is utilized both tactically and strategically to cultivateloyalty and ideally, financial support. Not surprisingly, those who perceive a library’svalue more strongly are the ones most likely to support the library financially (OCLC,2008). The development of a service story including a value proposition becomes ahedge against future erosion of library resources. Such tools provide the basis foreffective marketing narratives that promote the library’s value, which in turn createsan environment most conducive to cultivating library fundraising and support.ConclusionWhile libraries are currently feeling the effects, both negative and positive, of anextended recession, it is clear from even a rudimentary knowledge of economic historyand business cycles that this current one shall end. The library that uses the downturn
  12. 12. BL as an opportunity to create a service story is indeed investing in that organization’s23,1 future. Having a succinct value proposition, along with a coherent segmented service story that allows for developing customer/patron loyalty through a more focused view of library marketing, is a forward thinking strategy. The development of a service story with a value proposition, and its implementation organization-wide, creates a basis for all subsequent marketing activities that speaks to patrons in their own stories16 while reflecting their specific needs at the appropriate times. In turn, the library that markets itself this way establishes and develops a strong sense of value among its users that creates loyalty and the willingness to champion the library. In doing so, the library cultivates a cohort of loyal service champions that will defend the library in future times of need as well as provide a potential source of fundraising revenue. References Anderson, J.C., Narus, J.A. and van Rossum, W. (2006), “Customer value propositions in business markets”, Harvard Business Review, Vol. 84 No. 3, pp. 90-9. Constantinides, E. (2006), “The marketing mix revisited: towards the 21st century marketing”, Journal of Marketing Management, Vol. 22 No. 3, pp. 407-38. Dann, S., Harris, P., Mort, G.S., Fry, M. and Binney, W. (2007), “Reigniting the fire: a contemporary research agenda for social, political and nonprofit marketing”, The Journal of Public Affairs, Vol. 7 No. 3, pp. 291-304. Gupta, A.P. (2007), “Services marketing: a select bibliography”, Vision, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 91-102. Holt, G. (2007), “Communicating the value of your libraries”, The Bottom Line, Vol. 20 No. 3, pp. 119-27. Mittal, B. (2002), “Services communications: from mindless tangibilization to meaningful messages”, Journal of Services Marketing, Vol. 16 No. 5, pp. 424-31. OCLC (2008), “From awareness to funding: a study of library support in America”, available at: (accessed June 2, 2009). Padgett, D. and Allen, D. (1997), “Communicating experiences: a narrative approach to creating service brand image”, Journal of Advertising, Vol. 26 No. 4, pp. 49-62. Poynter, R. (2008), “Facebook: the future of networking with customers”, International Journal of Market Research, Vol. 50 No. 1, pp. 11-12. Prahalad, C.K. and Ramaswamy, V. (2004), “Co-creating unique value with customers”, Strategy & Leadership, Vol. 32 No. 3, pp. 4-9. Rowley, J. (2003), “Information marketing: seven questions”, Library Management, Vol. 24 Nos 1/2, pp. 13-19. Rust, R.T. and Chung, T.S. (2006), “Marketing models of service and relationships”, Marketing Science, Vol. 25 No. 6, pp. 560-80. Scholey, C. (2002), “Targeted marketing with value propositions”, CMA Management, Vol. 76 No. 7, pp. 14-16. Schultz, M., Hatch, M.J., Larsen, M.H., Knox, S., Maklan, S. and Thompson, K.E. (2002), “Building the unique organization value proposition”, in Schultz, M., Hatch, M.J. and Larsen, M.H. (Eds), The Expressive Organization, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 138-53. Stern, B.B., Thompson, C.J. and Arnould, E.J. (1998), “Narrative analysis of a marketing relationship: the consumer’s perspective”, Psychology & Marketing, Vol. 15 No. 3, pp. 195-214.
  13. 13. Von Seggern, M. and Young, N.J. (2003), “The focus group method in libraries: issues related to Narrative-based process and data analysis”, Reference Services Review, Vol. 31 No. 3, pp. 272-84.Winston, M. and Hazlin, G.E. (2003), “Leadership competencies in library and information library science: marketing as a component of LIS curricula”, Journal of Education for Library and marketing Information Science, Vol. 44 No. 2, pp. 177-87.Wong, C.L. and Tjosvold, D. (1995), “Goal interdependence and quality in services marketing”, Psychology & Marketing, Vol. 12 No. 3, pp. 189-205. 17Woodside, A.G., Sood, S. and Miller, K.E. (2008), “When consumers and brands talk: storytelling theory and research in psychology and marketing”, Psychology & Marketing, Vol. 25 No. 2, pp. 97-145.About the authorMichael A. Germano, after 15 years with LexisNexis, decided to put corporate life behind him topursue a career in academic librarianship and was recently appointed to the California StateUniversity, Los Angeles faculty, as the Business, Law and Economics Librarian. He holds a lawdegree from Temple University, the Master of Science in Information Science and Technologyfrom Simmons College, and the Master and Bachelor of Arts in English from New YorkUniversity and St Joseph’s University, respectively. Michael A. Germano can be contacted at:mgerman@calstatela.eduTo purchase reprints of this article please e-mail: reprints@emeraldinsight.comOr visit our web site for further details: