Marketing Online Resources: Six Steps to Success

Last Friday I had the privilege of participating on a panel on the topic of Selling Yourself: Marketing Online Resources at the Connecticut Library Association’s annual meeting in New Haven. I presented along with two dynamic women in Connecticut’s library world, Mary Hogan, director of the Cora J. Belden Library and Maria Miranda of Miranda Creative.

Upon being invited to this panel I started thinking about the keys to a successful Tutor.com Live Homework Help program. When libraries sign up for our service, we provide them with the Tutor.com Getting Started Guide, a checklist for a successful program. Although geared toward launching Tutor.com in the library, these Six Steps can be applied to any online resource.

Step One: Assign a Program Manager
Having a staff member who is passionate about the service manage the resource ensures that someone has ownership and that information is being shared amongst staff. At Tutor.com we call these champions our Raving Fans!

  • Acts a liaison to staff and library branches
  • Monitors the success of the service
  • Champions the service
  • Point of contact for the vendor
  • Coordinates staff trainings

Step Two: Engage ALL Library Staff
Staff cannot promote or recommend a resource they are not familiar with or don’t understand. Empower staff so everyone in the library can refer patrons to your online resources.

  • Make training a priority for everyone that interacts with the public
  • Let all staff know about the service in an email or staff newsletter

Step Three: Easy Access for Your Patrons
This is the step that can make or break the success of your online resources. If patrons cannot find it they won’t use it! A New Jersey library director recently told me that her goal is to have patrons thinking about using the library from home. To her, redesigning her small library’s website was a top priority to increase traffic and usage of the library’s online resources.

  • Advertise prominently on your library website
  • Online resources should be featured prominently on the library homepage
  • Spread the links around on your research and reference pages, teen and children’s pages, everywhere patrons might go to look for these resources
  • Add links and icons to your library computer desktops

Step Four: Announce and Celebrate
In addition to your well orchestrated press campaign, celebrate with a fun launch event. Invite local dignitaries, the mayor and town council members, school administrators, teachers, and of course invite the local press to cover the event!

  • Send a Press Release to local newspapers and magazines
  • Put an ad in the paper
  • Include an article in the library newsletter
  • Contact local TV and radio stations
  • Have a party!

Step Five: Effective Outreach
Roll up your sleeves and step out into the community to spread the word about your online resources. Talk to local businesses, attend local community meetings, meet with teachers and school administrators, go to local events with information about your valuable resources! Most importantly, get savvy about cyber outreach and reach your patrons where they are…online.

  • Community Outreach to local businesses and civic organizations
  • School Outreach to teachers, principals, media specialists, PTAs/PTOs
  • Cyber Outreach using social media such as Twitter and Facebook

Step Six: Sustain Your Success
Once you have launched and promoted your online resources, you need to be thinking about your next steps. Tie information about your online resources into promotions you do throughout the year – Summer Reading, Anime Club, Story Time, Quilting Club, Book Club, National Poetry Month, Math Awareness Month. No matter what the program or event, you should always mention your online resources.

  • Promote throughout the year
  • Share success with library staff
  • Continue efforts to garner publicity
  • Use reports and statistics, as well as patron feedback, to gain support from local officials and potential financial supporters

Go the Extra Step: Be Creative and Innovative
Get your creative juices flowing, and find different ways to reach your patrons with everything from displays in the library. banners over the local highway, fun promotional items, and more.

  • Create a project to decorate the computer areas, library entrance, and bulletin boards with fun facts and information about your online resources
  • Design an online survey asking patrons for feedback about the library website and online resources
  • Dedicate one or more library computers for use with your online resources

All of these steps will help to generate buzz and getpeople in your community talking about the great resources they have available through your library website. Word of mouth is the rain and nutrients that will grow usage of your online resources.

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