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”?