Marketing 101: Lessons from Barnes/Noble

I’ve been spending a lot of time this summer (due to rain) visiting my local Barnes and Noble store.  Having just bought a few Kindles for the library, I’ve been intrigued by their marketing of their e-book reader, the Nook.

barnes-nobles-nook-book-reader-01Barnes and Noble is doing some brilliant things in marketing the Nook, something libraries could take a lesson from.  Part of what’s brilliant about it is that they are taking a device which might “steal” business away from their physical stores, and making it work in a way that actually brings customers back in the door.

1.  They have a manned booth set up at the front of the store, with pricing and an attractive display.  Covers are prominently displayed as well.  An informed attendant is there to explain features of the Nook and they have several there which you can handle and play with. (Lesson from the Apple stores?)

2.  If you buy one, you can read any book FOR FREE in the store for two hours. (Thus luring customers back into the store, where of course being book people, they may purchase something or buy some coffee.)

3.  If you buy one, they send out weekly coupons for discounts at the store or free drinks — you can bring in your Nook and get free coffee from the cafe, for example.

4.  Users can “trade” a book to another user for 2 weeks.

Even the website for the Nook has a more attractive and informative layout than the Kindle’s.  The format/logo is similar to what you see on the signage in the store’s booth, so it ties it together and all the features are prominently explained.

While the Kindle does have some advantageous features that the Nook doesn’t have and prior to seeing this marketing in the store, I wouldn’t even have considered the Nook, the marketing has convinced me that they are players in this market.  I’m even considering purchasing some for the library because I also like the touch screen menu feature as well as the sharing options.

So what can we learn from this?

1.  Think about your branding, its style, and how it identifies your program and creates a positive association.  And if you haven’t “branded” your library somehow, think about how you could do it.  Could students help create a logo?  Does your library have a “name” or is it the “library?”   How can the branding tie in all the things that you want to convey to your customers in a simple direct way?

2.  Think about how the way you market the library can draw return visits by students.  When they walk out the door, what brings them back again?   Contests, book exchanges, incentives, coupons for a free hot chocolate on a Friday, web 2.0 smackdowns…?

3.  Consider how your virtual library functions can draw students into your “physical” library.  Something on your website that directs students to come in to “retrieve” something (a coupon, contest, bookmark, assistance, tutoring, etc.?)

4. Consider how your library can facilitate students sharing with one another.  An online book forum? a library book sharing group?  Ways to share reviews, like an “I recommend” shelf?  How do you facilitate sharing beyond book resources–good or fun websites of the week, etc?

5.  Do you have a “greeter” or “information station” right when students come in the door?  Just a person there waiting to tell people more about your library? It may sound a little “silly” but just having a person standing in there in a nice booth  with Nooks on display front and center in the store waiting to talk to customers and raving about the product creates more business.  Of course with staff reductions this may be impossible, but think about what students and staff see when they come in the door.  Put your best foot forward.

6.  As your library becomes more virtual, or adds Kindles, Nooks, laptops, iPads–whatever–think about how you can connect the electronic to the physical presence.

Looking at the ways bookstores are doing things right (or wrong for that matter) can help inform our practices in our own libraries.  Other ideas that you’ve noticed about marketing and the e-book readers?  I’d love to hear them.

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