Get the latest articles and downloads sent to your inbox in a monthly newsletter.

Get the latest articles and downloads sent to your inbox in a monthly newsletter.

If they don’t know what you’re doing, then tell them: A primer on how to start marketing

Zuzana Helinsky, zh Consulting | June 01, 2011

“They don’t know what we are doing!” I hear this all over the world in different languages. If it sounds familiar, you need to consider or reconsider the vital task of internal marketing - that is, marketing to university or institutional leaders.

Of course we need to coordinate our communication and involve our colleagues in actively contributing to internal marketing. To get started, we can use some standard tools. I have tried them in my courses, and they work for many libraries. The most important thing is to go through all four stages in establishing marketing routines for the whole library and its staff: analysis, strategy, realization and feedback.


Audit the organization and its environment before starting the marketing process. One of the most well-known analyses in the library world is called SWOT, because it looks at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.


To choose the right strategy, a matrix helps to study how a market looks now and in the future. Personally, I prefer the Boston Matrix because it includes the much-needed task of finding “dogs,” or routines to eliminate (see sidebar on page 2). We suffer from keeping up all the old routines, products and services as we introduce new ones. Eliminate some, and make your colleagues do so, to help find more time for marketing and for new concepts.


We must do the legwork. Nobody else will do it for us. We cannot stop after the analysis, state that we have no time, and use that as a reason to not do anything. Sometimes our activities will fail, but we will learn from these failures. The solution is: Just do it!


We must listen to our internal customers’ needs and wishes and continually check that we are on the right road. It is too easy to assume what they want, especially if it suits us. Keep an eye on less satisfied clients or users. We can learn more from them than from friends who are satisfied with our offerings.

Our environment is changing all the time. Threats become opportunities, and weaknesses become strengths — or the other way around. (Google could be a threat or an opportunity.) So we must have routines for marketing, assess the process regularly, and:

  • Use language they understand - Consult the multitude of studies out there on calculating and reporting ROI (return on investment).
  • Repeat the message - It’s not until we almost hate what we are saying because we’ve said it so often that our stakeholders finally start listening.
  • Involve vendors - Use your vendors to assist in marketing with special events and promotions.
  • Elevate our visibility - Stop thinking that others, especially our internal customers, are automatically interested in libraries. But we can make them interested.

Library products and services are valuable and pervasive - in fact, they are indispensable. Let’s ensure we get that message out to the right people. And remember:

Marketing takes time! Don’t expect results overnight.

Marketing is fun! And it gives us the power to change our situation.