Last week, I had the pleasure of delivering the keynote address at the annual Library Marketing & Communications Conference with LMCC President Jennifer Burke.
Jennifer and I covered a lot of topics during our keynote conversation and follow-up breakout session, but the topic that seemed to resonate with people most of all was my concept of the library marketing funnel vs. the sieve.
Most people are familiar with the traditional marketing funnel, but if you’re not, here’s a basic version:
There are many, many versions of the funnel (including one that looks like a bow tie) but the premise is basically the same. You pour all of your potential customers into the top, and as they move down, you engage with them at every level until you get them to take a desired action – in a sales organization that means they buy something, for example. The funnel gets narrower as you go down because people drop off, go to the competition, lose interest, etc. In libraries, the goal may not be sales, but the premise is the same. The library version of a sale could be checking out a book, attending a program, donating money, advocating for funding or something else.
The challenge for libraries is that there are many holes in our marketing funnel. I often say it looks more like a sieve, or colander. (Or, as one LMCC attendee said, a salad spinner!) We don’t realize how much we are undermining our own marketing efforts by allowing customers to escape – or even pushing them – out of holes that we have created. We put a lot of effort into pouring people into the top, using strategies like library card drives, new cardholder campaigns, big programs and events. But those same people we worked so hard to get in the door, we are denying them access, or making it so inconvenient to use our libraries, that they walk away. So we not only lose them as new or return customers, but as potential champions and advocates.
Here are just a few examples of holes we create:
- Multiple logins for different services – “wait, why do I need AdobeID? This is too frustrating.”
- Negative experience – “nobody spoke to me.”
- Card auto-expired – “but I just used my card last week!”
- Relevancy questions – “do I really need the library?”
- Barriers to getting a card – “why can’t I apply for an account online and get it right away? I can everywhere else.”
- Inconvenient hours or locations – “closed Sunday? But I have homework!”
- Missing or incorrect contact information – “I never hear from the Library.”
- Fines – “I don’t go back to the library because I have fines and I’m embarrassed.”
- Arcane policies – “I want to know what books I’ve checked out, but they won’t tell me.”
These are just a handful of examples I’ve experienced in my 15+ years working in public libraries. And they are real. I could tell you about the elderly woman who I watched come into a library, after navigating the parking lot in a wheelchair, and who struggled to communicate because of speech difficulties, turned away because she had fines above the limit. She had trusted a family member to return her books on CD, and that person had returned them all a week late.
I could tell you about my friend, who lived very near a library and had two kids, but wouldn’t use the library because he was ashamed about having fines. When I tried to pay them, I discovered his card was expired, his email was wrong, and a host of other issues that were keeping him from using his account.
These may not all apply at your library, and that’s good! You have plugged some holes, and retaining more customers as a result. But I do believe it will take a philosophical shift to get libraries thinking holistically about the customer journey and customer experience, while rejecting the policies and silos that have led to some of these holes. Let’s roll up our sleeves and get started!
If you’d like to find out how Cordelia can help your organization address some of the issues discussed above, click here.