I started my Wednesday morning with a call form one of the branch managers in my system who I work with regularly. I had just put together a standard marketing package for some of their smaller adult events: a pro-bono, “Talk to a Lawyer” day and a home gardening/beekeeping seminar. The visuals looked good, it fit our brand standards, and we had it going out in digital, social media, and physical handouts. But my branch manager was worried, and after talking to her, I was too.

See, the flyers were dull. Boring. Stupor-inducing. Okay, maybe not that bad, but the copy was dreadful. And that’s because it failed to adequately take into account the people we wanted to reach.

I was reading David Meerman Scott’s The New Rules of Marketing and PR this week, and one line in there has really stuck with me all week long. It’s this (paraphrased):

The only people who care about our products (and services and classes) are us. Our patrons care about the problems we can solve in their lives.

I’ve been in a funk all week because of this line. So many of the marketing materials I have made over the years are great at explaining what our services are, how people can use them, and how easy they can be. But way too often, I can admit that I have overlooked the very simple question of “How will this help me?” I assume that our patrons will know how our services will fit into their problems once they know what the services are.

In reality, they won’t.

Some services have really obvious benefits, others have less obvious results. It’s our job as advocates and communicators around libraries to be able to express how what we do and what we offer can solve the problems that people face related to education, entertainment, employment, community involvement, and the host of other problems libraries can be partners in.

How do you solve a problem like this? Well, I don’t know all of the answers, but here’s where I’m starting:

  • Flip my internal script. Instead of marketing our services in a vacuum (here is our e-materials stuff, here is our foreign language learning software, here are our children’s books), I want to instead approach our entire collection of services from the point of view of how we can solve people’s problems from a more holistic point-of-view. For instance, instead of looking at our Flipster e-magazines and thinking that it could work for small businesses, magazine readers, children, new moms, and people on the go, I want to start with each of these customer points and put together a package on how the library can assist small businesses with a variety of services. We should do the curating, not our customers.
  • Spice up the copy. When in doubt, start with a question. I want to force people to interact or answer a question. Sure, it will remove people from the running for some of our services, but it will help us connect more deeply with people who may be interested. For instance, I changed our beekeeping flyers above from “Home Gardening Seminar” to “Get the Buzz about Bees and Gardens” with copy that starts “Do you garden? Do you want better results? Bees may be your next secret weapon.” Sure, it’s a little corny, but it beats “Join us for a seminar” any day of the week.

The only people who care about libraries as much as we do is us. But everyone is on the lookout for how to make their lives better and to make their problems go away. And that we can help with.