What do you do when you get an unsolicited email about a product, event or service that’s full of exclamation marks or threats of scarcity? I hit delete, and I’m betting you do too.
But wait, there’s more! Act now or you’ll miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! Register now, seats are filling up fast! That is old school stuff, and doesn’t communicate anything about what is actually being offered. We all learn how to market ourselves, our services and our products by watching what’s out in the marketplace …and just as managers can learn how NOT to manage (by having bad managers), we can learn now NOT to market by looking at bad marketing.
Products or services have to solve problems …and if they can’t/don’t do that, no amount of yelling (!) and threatening (Don’t miss out!) will do the job these days. If you get the language right, people will hear your message.
A basic principle of effective communication is “know your audience,” and that applies to marketing, which is after all a form of communication. Understand your users and you’ll know how to appeal to them – and who better than librarians and information specialists to research user needs and preferences?
One thing to guard against in order to communicate most powerfully is the use of jargon. Companies, departments, communities of interest and professions all have terminology that is both inclusive and exclusive. While library terminology is useful to those in the profession and helps to build a sense of identity, it’s also exclusive because clients and end users don’t understand it – and are therefore likely to tune it out.
When promoting the library or information center, it’s important to avoid library jargon and speak the language of your users, or of other departments you need to build relationships with. Doing so is related to one of the tenets of "sticky marketing" – it’s important to meet people where they are. It’s like traveling to a different country…in order to better communicate, you adopt that country’s language and customs.
Librarians agree that a strong partnership with the IT department is critical, for example, and in order to build and maintain credibility, you must learn to speak their language, and not expect them to understand yours. “IT speak” isn’t just tech talk, it’s also the language of project management, functional requirements and use cases. Another important “foreign country” is the Finance department; they are all about return on investment and return on capital. One of the best investments I ever made was to buy my own personal copy of Barron’s Finance and Investment Handbook. That’s what enabled me to have the elevator chat with my CFO and build my credibility as a business leader.
If your marketing messages are on point, well placed, and use language that is familiar to your constituency, people will listen – you don’t have to shout to be heard.
Sarah L. Nichols, Sotto Voce Communications
About Sarah Nichols
Sarah L. Nichols is an experienced knowledge manager with expertise developed in a variety of professional services and nonprofit organizations. She is skilled in research, enterprise social networking applications, marketing of library and knowledge management services, contract negotiation and vendor relationship management. Now, as a writer, editor and principal of her own consulting practice, Sotto Voce Communications, Sarah writes about issues facing librarians, knowledge managers and other information professionals.