Preconference: Understanding the Library Market

by | Nov 6, 2018 | 0 comments

Buzzy Basch and Mike Gruenberg

Buzzy Basch(L) and Mike Gruenberg(R)

Mike Gruenberg, author of Buying and Selling Information (Information Today, 2014) began this preconference workshop on marketing to libraries by asking the attendees what they wanted to gain from it. Here are some of the responses:

  • Marketing to US libraries
  • Understanding the library world
  • Recoup lost sales
  • Purchasing habits of libraries and librarians
  • Partnering
  • What is better or worse?
  • Understand pain points
  • Improve subscription sales
  • How to do my job better
  • Better engage with customers
  • New ways to understand customers
  • Reality check
  • Understand how to market to librarians
  • How to influence librarians to buy publications
  • How to know what works and what does not

It is important to understand that everything is about the relationship, if it can be created and maintained. People buy from relationships.

Here are two recent market experiences cited by attendees:

  • Sent 250 emails to health science librarians, got no responses.
  • Offered a free lunch, but it did not work. Mike said that was not surprising; people do not have time for you. Typical response rates are low, often no more than 0.1%.  Therefore, do email introductions and follow up with phone calls.

Information professionals are very nice people, but not the best negotiators. In their views, they tend to be very liberal, but they are very conservative with finances, so it is necessary to create a partnership beneficial to both parties. The vendor and the librarian should have a unique relationship that produces results that are acceptable, reasonable, and cost-effective for both parties.

People buy from people; not companies. Library schools do not teach people how to deal with vendors. Cultivate a unique relationship with the sales people. Successful negotiations will result in more money for the library to spend.

It is important to understand the arena you are playing in. The information industry is a $721B industry $7B was spent last year by US academic libraries.  It’s a finite market; there are a limited number of vendors who fight for every dollar. But there is money out there. We are in a renewal business; every year most libraries renew their subscriptions. The renewal rate in the academic market is about 85%. But the library business is a declining market. The hardest part of what we do is creating the relationship

Creating the RelationshipYour sales people need to understand that they are in a changing market: the way you do business today is different from how you did it months ago. The worst thing for a sales person is not to feel good about their company.

Here are Mike’s top 10 rules for successful selling and marketing to libraries.

Rules for Successful Marketing to Libraries

  • Don’t underestimate the competition; it’s a jungle out there! Be in contact and find out what’s going on, especially at tradeshows.
  • Sales is 90% rejection; have ideas to improve and encourage productivity.
  • Nothing ever works the way you thought it would! Understand who you are dealing with.
  • Capitalize on your strengths; be engaging and animated.
  • Understand WIIFM (”What’s In It For Me”).
  • If marketing and sales are siloed, you will not be successful.
  • Your customers want to help you and be part of the solution so involve them in your business. Create an advisory board; people like to give advice.Use customers in beta testing.Beta Test Site
  • Transparency in the marketplace. Give out a price sheet and be able to defend your prices. Be prepared for librarians to ask for them.
  • Contract deliverables; promises should be backed up by deeds.
  • Understand professional associations.
  • Hire an industry expert to write a “white paper” about your products, services, etc. It must be written as a document of facts and best practices.
  • Communication. Schedule visits to show that you are interested in the customer.
  • Preparation and expectation: Be sure to have an agenda.
  • Listen to the customer; don’t open a laptop to show a demo within 10 minutes of your arrival for a meeting. (If that happens, the customer should tell the rep to shut the laptop). Both the sales rep and the information pro need to have a list of questions to be asked of the other. Prepare an agenda ahead of time to keep everyone focused.

Buzzy Basch offered the following advice for librarians:

  • Know what you are looking for, and know your publications.
  • Learn what every publisher should know about targeting the library market. Focus your advertising and promotion dollars on the libraries most likely to buy your publication. Identify and penetrate the market and segment it by size, type, and mission. 
  • Focus on the intermediaries: the librarians. They are not the end users of the collection.
  • Many librarians identify, evaluate, and recommend purchases. But you may need to go to the faculty to get support and funding from them. Important: be sure to ask the librarian first if that is OK . You must have different strategies for different audiences.
  • Sources used by libraries for selection include library reviews, book trade media, professional journals, publisher catalogs, book reviews, user requests, and conference exhibits.
  • Factors determining a decision to purchase are discounts, fulfillment speed, past performance, toll-free access, email address, return policy, free shipping, the sales rep (are they authorized to negotiate?), special invoicing, and the availability of standing orders. Be sure that the librarian is authorized to sign a purchase order.
  • Factors influencing purchase of recently published books: reviews, important new work, faculty requests, inclusion on a recommended list, does the book cover an emerging subject/area, user request, was it seen at exhibits, bargain price, and the reputation of the publisher.
  • Reasons for not purchasing: unaware of it, outside scope of collection, have similar title, lack of funds, out of print, out of stock, price too high, reputation of the publisher or author, reviews, availability in other libraries.
  • Learn how buying patterns can affect your publications. Understand how book jobbers and subscription agencies are positioned to sell to the library market.


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