Public Libraries in Smart Cities and Communities Toolbox
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Once the community is aware of your offer related to building a smart city/community, it is important that they feel compelled to take part in some of your programs and services. Knowing what you do and what is available at your library is not enough. When presenting the different components of what your library offers, it will be key that you communicate why participation in a specific program/service provides value to individuals and contributes to developing a smart citizen, why becoming a smart citizen should matter to an individual (i.e., why it is important for citizens to take advantage of your offerings), and why becoming a smart citizen adds value to the community and supports its efforts in becoming smarter.
In addition, do not forget what we already know about marketing and marketing strategies in general. For example, in order to customize the value for the citizen to participate in these programs and services, you need to have deep knowledge about your community and your different audiences. Not everything you offer may be valuable for everyone. Having segmentation, targeting, and positioning strategies will help you do so.
Segmentation, Targeting, and Positioning
Knowing your audience is an important piece of marketing. To do so, marketing segmentation is used to contribute to the effort of offering value-added services based on identified user needs and expectations and to achieve a wider understanding of users.
Marketing segmentation is not only the first but probably the most important part of the marketing planning process and helps you ensure that your programs and services meet users’ needs. It makes the marketing process easier and more efficient. It's considerably easier to address the needs of a smaller group of users, particularly when the group has key variables in common (such as similar age, income, gender).
Market segmentation also allows the library to identify underserved groups, often referred to as niche markets. Finally, market segmentation allows the library to utilize its resources in a more efficient manner, targeting relevant segments with appropriate marketing resources and services.
In this Toolbox’s programs and services section, you will find an array of programs and services that you can provide to contribute to making your community smarter. As you read through it, you will observe that different programs and services may have different audiences.
Some programs and services have clear targets: young individuals and students, previously incarcerated individuals, individuals that are recent immigrants, military veterans and others. But even with general programs, targeted to almost everyone, such as training on digital skills, you still will need to offer different types of courses and content to different users, according to their skills and specific needs.
There are three steps to implement a segmentation strategy. First, you need to segment your market according to different criteria, which traditionally have included demographics (among other, age, sex, marital status, family size, occupation, education level, income, race, nationality, and religion), users’ behavior, geography (location), and psychography (mental and emotional characteristics).
Second, you need to decide on the target that you are going to settle on: what is/are the most attractive segment/s for your library’s marketing strategy? We know this is a tough question because you do not want anyone to be left out. But try to answer it taking your resources into account, your priorities as a library, and also the content and priorities of your smart city/community strategy.
Going back to the training on digital skills example, out of the different segments you can identify (children, adults, people with disabilities, etc.), decide on which one is your priority, at least in the short term. You may take into account several variables, such as the context of your community (for example, your community may be an urban area where children are trained in technology at schools) and your role in the community (for example, you may be the only organization offering this type of training to the community) to decide on the segment/s you want to focus in general or initially.
Third, once you have decided on your segment(s), you need to get to know it/them to be able to identify their specific needs and demands. Only then you will be able to shape the programs and services that you offer to meet its/their expectations. For example, the content of the training programs and the one-on-one consultations will have to take into account the specific needs of the user group/s that you are targeting, which may translate into having different types of courses for different segments.
Having specific courses that meet the needs of specific segments is what brings value to what you do. After taking those courses, your users will determine how valuable those courses have been and therefore how useful/valuable your library is and how well it is contributing to the building of a smarter city/community. This process is called positioning. When you position your programs and services in the mind of your users, you establish their image so that your users perceive them as contributing to the development of a smart city/community.
General resources on segmentation, targeting and positioning:
Using Market Segmentation to Provide Better Public Library Services: https://www.tscpl.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/P.MLS-3368-R.pdf
The segmentation, targeting and positioning model:https://www.smartinsights.com/digital-marketing-strategy
Breakthrough Branding: Positioning Your Library to Survive and Thrive: https://doi.org/10.1080/07317131.2014.875405
Further, once you have decided about your audiences and how you are going to communicate value to each of them, it is important to communicate the cost of their participation in the activities and where, when, and how the activities will take place, among other information (See more detailed information in the marketing mix).
The marketing of library programs and services has always been a major interest to libraries. A library is expected to improve its visibility and image through marketing strategies, thus attracting more users to utilize its materials and services. Marketing library programs and services that contribute to the development of a smart city/community cannot be treated in exactly the same way that the physical products of manufacturing ﬁrms are treated.
The marketing mix is a conceptual framework that is particularly useful in structuring a marketing strategy. It is a set of decision making guidelines that include four Ps: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. When targeting your library’s programing as well as your marketing, is important to keep these four Ps in mind.
The product is the service or program that you are providing, as well as the overall value that this brings to the community. Along with the specific programs and services that you offer, in a library context, you also need to take into account their quality and user satisfaction.
Price has to do with the real cost to the customer or user, including costs than solely money. Some of your programs and services may require a fee for participation, but even if they are free, they may entail costs to the user. For example, participating in a makerspace activity may involve transportation costs, even if the activity is offered for free. Therefore, from the users’ perspective, price is often a determining factor for using services.
Further, as a library, you should also consider price as a concept of “social price”: while monetary price implies the payment of certain sum by the patron, and therefore can be analyzed through cost analysis, social price refers to the additional effort that the patron must made in order to access the library’s programs and services, and therefore it is measured with the determined need of the community.
Place refers to everywhere and every way the program or service is made available. It includes the distribution channels your organization will utilize to convey its programs and services to the public. Given your goal of contributing to the development of a smart city/community, most of your programs and services will be provided at the library location or online. Deciding on what will be offered in person and what will be offered online is key, but do not forget to make additional decisions on, for example, opening hours, balance between in person and mobile/remote programs and services, and appearance and atmosphere.
In addition, we recommend that you remember that you can take advantage of different locations for better reaching out to the community. Building a smart city/community is a collaborative endeavor and your partners may be able to provide their own in person and online channels to make your programs and services available to more members of the community.
Finally, promotion includes all the methods of communication used to reach the target users. This probably is the aspect of marketing which is most familiar to librarians, who are used to reaching out to their audience through newspaper advertisements, flyers, Facebook posts, and Twitter campaigns. Please remember that promotion and communication is a two-way process: the aim of promotion is to encourage the community to respond by, for example, either signing up to your programs and services or requesting additional information about them.
General resources on marketing in general and the marketing mix:
Marketing your Library to the Net Generation: https://www.emeraldgrouppublishing.com/archived/librarians/management/viewpoints/marketing.htm
Marketing Libraries Journal: https://journal.marketinglibraries.org/
Services Marketing Mix in Library and Information Centers: http://crl.du.ac.in/ical09/papers/index_files/ical-78_246_697_1_RV.pdf
Marketing of Library and Information Services: A Strategic Perspective: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.832.8882&rep=rep1&type=pdf
The Marketing Mix: The 4-P Recipe for Customer Satisfaction: https://www.infotoday.com/MLS/jan04/koontz.shtml
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