Archive for July, 2014

Don’t Re-Design Your Website!

July 20, 2014

I worked on my first corporate intranet design and content development plan over 20 years ago, so by now I’ve witnessed and participated in multiple generations of website redesign projects in various organizations and settings. Typically these have been grand, top-down affairs that start with complaints that “nobody can find what they need” and involve wireframes, various forms of testing, and a complete overhaul of the site’s navigational structure.

A recent conversation caused me to look at website design in a new light, and to think that it’s time (past time?) for a new approach. There are two things wrong with the old top-down redesign process:

1. It bogs down in trying to address the whole site at once, rather than applying a systematic segmenting approach to address the needs of a given audience. Good marketing involves thinking through who the key audiences are, understanding the purposes and processes in how each one uses the site, and customizing to meet their needs. By taking a site-wide approach, top-down redesign projects dissipate the energy and attention paid to specific audiences.

2. It overlooks the integration of media. With the proliferation of social media and content targeted to mobile as well as stationary devices, a website is only one element in a well-developed communication strategy. By focusing only on the web piece, the traditional approach relegates media integration to an afterthought.

So, what might replace traditional website redesign? Here are a couple ideas:

1. Keep a light hand on high level navigation. Don’t get bogged down in it.

2. Instead, start by identifying and understanding the key audiences. What do they need to hear from us? What content and capabilities do we want to deliver to each one?

3. Develop and maintain the content, messages the audience needs. Pay attention to timing and incorporate a variety of media as appropriate. Keep in touch; know whether it’s working and watch for evolving needs.

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Selling and Embedded Librarians

July 3, 2014

I’m always behind in my reading. So it is that I’ve just finished an interesting article published some months ago in the Journal of Business and Finance Librarianship about the applicability of sales techniques to the work of embedded librarians. Here’s the full citation:

Finley, W. E. (2013). Using personal selling techniques in embedded librarianship. Journal of Business & Finance Librarianship, 18, 279-292.

The idea that librarianship has something to do with sales may dismay some librarians. I, on the other hand, used to think of embedded information analysts as kind of like account reps, so I welcome it as a fresh, interesting and useful perspective.

I won’t try to recap the article here; instead I encourage you to read it yourself. Instead, I’ll add two comments.

First, I think the applicability of selling techniques has its limits. For example, the object of selling is the exchange of value (money for product or service). But in most libraries, the connection between services delivered and funding received isn’t direct. As the author points out, “we don’t ask them for money to deliver a bibliographic instruction session.” There are exceptions to this, and I used to work in an organization where our embedded services were funded by the groups that benefited from them. Maybe this model should be more prevalent, but in higher education and many other organizations, it’s not going to change anytime soon. Also, I think there’s something fundamentally different when the “seller” and the “buyer” work for the same organization, because there is (or should be) a much closer alignment of goals and interests. In a commercial transaction between two separate entities, there’s an overlap of interests but not true alignment.

That leads to my second comment: I’d be interested in extending the conversation to the concept of “consultative selling”, which strives to narrow the gap between buyer and seller, and achieve more of a real alignment of interests. I’ll note here that I think the term “partner” is wildly overused in information commerce — it seems like every database vendor wants to be the library’s “partner”. But when it comes to embedded librarianship, we really do want to create partners, not customers, and “partner”, “collaborator”, “colleague” are much more accurate terms than “customer” for the type of relationship we’re trying to create. To the extent that “consultative selling” represents a more “customer”-centered application of selling principles, I think it has something to offer us.

I’m hoping to hear more on this topic. What do you think? Do selling and consultative selling have a place in the conversation about embedded librarianship?