6 February 2020
marketing plan written on notepad

So you’ve been tasked with writing a marketing plan, and I’m guessing walking on hot coals sounds more enjoyable right about now. There is just something so terrifying about having to put all of the ideas and plans floating around in your head on paper that causes the words “marketing plan” to make you want to jump out of your skin. Luckily, I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be this way. You are capable of writing a marketing plan, and it won’t even cost you your sanity! So sit back, relax and discover the secrets to writing a marketing plan.

Before we jump into how, let’s visit why for a second. A marketing plan is important for marketers of all levels because it gives your work structure and helps you manage your time. When you have a plan that clearly defines your goals, you’re more empowered to say yes to projects and tasks that feed into those goals and more empowered to say no to those that do not. This level of transparency will also help you build trust with your colleagues and possibly open the door to collaborations with different departments. When you’ve defined how your marketing resources—the most important of which is your time— are being spent, you can show actual, physical proof as to why dropping everything to promote an event is not part of the plan.

If you take one thing away from this post, please let it be this: a marketing plan does not have to be fancy or formal; it just needs to be goals and objectives written down. Say it one more time for the people in the back!  It sounds too simple to be true, but that’s all it is. I like to break down the process into three steps: gather data, write your goals, report on your efforts. 


Step 1: Gather Data

I’m going to address the elephant in the room right now: endlessly promoting programs is not a marketing plan! We’ve all been stuck in this endless cycle at times, which is why gathering data is key. For starters, take a look at your yearly door counts vs. circulation vs. program attendance for the year. I bet you’ll find that your visitor count and circulation numbers significantly surpass your program attendance. If this is the case, why do we spend so much time promoting programs? We have so much more to share with our community.

Some other quick places you can gather data from include, surveys, social media metrics, website analytics, email performance metrics, comment cards from your patrons, database usage stats and collection stats. Even doing simple counts of how many paper materials are being taken from your racks will help you track what and from where items are being taken so you can identify promotional hotspots inside your library. And above else, talk to your colleagues. Your public services are the key to understanding your community and determining where to focus your efforts for maximum results.


Step 2: Write Your Goals

The goals listed in your marketing plan should always support the goals of your library. I often find that my goals come from our strategic plan or they fall in line with my director’s priorities for the library. I personally like to make my marketing plans at the time of my annual review. That’s when my director and I sit down and map out what needs to be accomplished or the focus of the upcoming year, and I’m able to write goals that feed into those areas. If this is not typical for your library, then you may want to collaborate with other departments or committees to gage what their priorities are and to see if you can develop goals that will support them.

No matter where your goals come from, the key to goal writing is to make sure they are S.M.A.R.T. What are S.M.A.R.T. goals, you ask?

Specific: You should be able to answer who, what, where, why and when in regards to your goal.

Measurable: Ask yourself how will you measure progress and how will you know you reached your goal.

Achievable and Realistic: Your goal should make you feel challenged but defined well enough that you can actually achieve it. Make sure you have the resources, capabilities and time to achieve it, and find out if others have done it successfully before. Pro Tip: The RAILS and ILA Marketing Facebook group is an amazing place to reach out to others to see what other libraries have already done.

Timely: Goals need a start and end date. If your goals are not time constrained, there will be no sense of urgency and motivation to achieve them. If possible, give yourself one to two years to achieve your goals. This will help keep them fresh in your mind and make them more manageable, especially for beginners.


Step 3: Reporting on Your Goals

Reporting on goals regularly is key to holding yourself accountable and determining if you need to make changes along the way. Whether you’re reporting weekly, monthly or quarterly, be sure to build in time to evaluate your progress and communicate it with your staff. It’s OK if your objectives are not completed to a T; the point of a marketing plan is to give your work focus and direction. And more importantly, it’s OK if you need to change part of your plan. Things don’t always go according to plan (pun intended), but you have the power to change the plan when something isn’t working or if priorities shift. Creating a regular reporting schedule helps you build in time to evaluate your work, which is critical to your marketing plan’s performance.

That’s it—I told you it was simple. Now that you know the secrets, you can walk away from those hot coals, put pen to paper and tackle your marketing plan with ease!


Submitted by Melissa Bradley

Communications Manager, Fountaindale Public Library