Relationship Marketing and Embedded Librarians

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I’m teaching a course in “Marketing Libraries and Information Services” this term. Last week, we spent a little time discussing the concept of “relationship marketing”, and it struck me that relationship marketing is very near the core of embedded librarianship.

In defining, positioning, and promoting a product or service, the traditional approach is to focus on making this sale, completing this service transaction successfully. Our traditional approach to library reference service is to focus on the reference interview, and on defining and satisfying the user’s present information need.

In relationship marketing, the marketer moves beyond a single sale or a single service transaction. The focus is on building a relationship that endures over time and over many transactions. In the for-profit world, there’s a recognition that relationships are very profitable. When you buy a car nowadays, you’ll find the dealer trying lots of ways to get you to bring your car back for servicing — over time, those service visits will be lots more profitable than the single sales transaction. In the nonprofit world, the motivation is quality of service. For us librarians, if we have a relationship with our customer built on communication, mutual understanding, and trust, two things will happen (maybe more!): we’ll get requests we never would have gotten with an arm’s length, transactional orientation; and we’ll be in a position to provide a much better, customized, response.

So, is it too much to say that the embedded librarian is the ultimate library “relationship marketer”?

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One Response to “Relationship Marketing and Embedded Librarians”

  1. Another E.L. Says:

    And tiny things can help build these relationships…everyday after my morning coffee I brush my teeth in the ladies’ room. Everyone knows this, including the people on the other side of our building, who are not in my direct path to the restrooms. Now they know that they’ll see me walking the halls with my toothbrush everyday around 10 AM. I take the long way around so that I see these folks at least once a day. Sometimes people shout a random search tip question from their desk if I happen to be walking by…

    If I hadn’t incorporated this into my daily routine, I might miss out on all these relationship opportunities. I’d like to think it’s my own little “Butterfly Effect.”

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