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How one library increased database usage by 1,700 users

Welcome to episode 007 of Library Figures. In each episode, we interview a new guest and hear about one of their favorite marketing strategies. In this episode, Natalie Newville will be sharing about how radio ads helped significantly increase her library’s database usage. She tells us how she decided to utilize radio ads, the type of content they promote, how they work with the radio executives to create ads that listeners love, and much more.

“If somebody’s driving to work and they hear our ad every day that week, then we’re sticking in their head.”

-Natalie Newville

Key Takeaways:

  • How libraries can take advantage of radio ads
  • How radio led to a huge increase in traffic for their online databases
  • The importance of utilizing the expertise of the radio executives to help them craft a 30-second ad.
  • How to track data and success
  • Mistakes to you avoid when trying run your own radio ads.

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Natalie Newville as a Radio show Speaker
Natalie Newville on Mediacom Newsleaders

Read the Episode Below

[00:00:00] Natalie Newville:

Hi this is Natalie Newville with Missouri River Regional Library, and this is Library Figures.

[00:00:10] Tyler Byrd:

Brought to you by Piola, the very first patron-inspired digital library branch. I’m your host, Tyler Byrd, and this is Library Figures. It’s a show about the people, data, and strategies behind some of the top-performing marketing campaigns in the library industry, and how they’re driving community engagement like we’ve never seen before.

So, Natalie, it is great to have you on the show today. We had a chance to talk beforehand and get to know a little bit about what you’re doing and what you’ve done, and the success that you’ve seen. And it’s going to be really interesting. I think that you’re taking a different route that I’ve seen any other library take as far as, well, that I have seen any other library take. So, I’m really excited to jump into this. But before we do, would you mind just kind of giving everyone an introduction to who you are and a little bit about your background?

[00:01:02] Natalie Newville:

Absolutely, and I am so excited to be here, so thank you so much for having me. And, like I said, I’m Natalie. My husband and I are both marketers. So, it kind of leads to a lot of fun conversation around the dinner table. So, my background is in marketing. It’s not in libraries, although I’ve always been an avid reader and a lover of the library. So, as we kind of talk about this stuff, I really do jump in and look at it as a business, not a library. So, I think that’s why we do things a little bit differently.

[00:01:32] Tyler Byrd:

It’s really interesting and it’s one of the things that I really wanted to bring to the show was outside ideas on how people can leverage trends and techniques that for-profit businesses and organizations are using to see success inside libraries because I think there’s a lot of great stuff out there. So, with that in mind, I mean, tell us a little bit about what your strategy has been that you’re seeing success with.

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[00:01:54] Natalie Newville:

Yeah, so, you know, we’ve done a lot of different things. When I came on at this library about a year and a half ago, we had made strides in getting background data and, like, looking at what we needed to do. But we hadn’t really started implementing a lot of those strategies. So, when I came on, we hired a full-time graphic artist as well, which is awesome. And any library that can do that, I highly recommend because it just makes things so much easier. I joke that we want to look like a library from 2018 and so it’s important for us to have graphics that kind of show that.

[00:02:32] Tyler Byrd:

Yeah, I totally agree with that. Graphics are so incredibly important. It goes back to that saying, a picture says a thousand words. It does, right? I mean, it says a thousand words about what you want to communicate, but also about who you are and what your organization does. So, it’s really important. So, what strategy is working best for you right now?

[00:02:50] Natalie Newville:

So, right now, the thing that we have seen probably the most success with and that’s really more out of the box that we’ve not seen other people do as much, is our relationship with radio stations. We started advertising with one of our local radio stations at the beginning of 2018 and we have seen just wild increases in the usage of a lot of our online resources since we started working with them.

[00:03:15] Tyler Byrd:

Alright, so you’re talking to a digital marketer here. Radio, I’m like, “What? That’s crazy.” But we’re literally talking about I get in my car and I turn on that little thing with a button that…

[00:03:28] Natalie Newville:

I know. It was really interesting because it was kind of a hard sell for me at first too because I’m the same way. Like, I embrace that, like, millennialism where I want to be completely digital with everything. And my husband is a digital marketer as well, so. But the reach that the radio has, and when you look at your audience, you know, we obviously do have a lot of, like, retirees. We have a lot of people who work in offices and still listen to the radio online. And radios are embracing 2018 as well. So, it’s not just in your car. You know, they have that online, they have apps, they have the ability to listen to them all the time. So, it’s a really great advertising opportunity.

[00:04:09] Tyler Byrd:   

So, how did you pick your radio station that you were going to work with? Is it just one or three, four? Are you doing all of them in the local area? What’s it look like?

[00:04:18] Natalie Newville:

Right now, we advertise on one main radio station. We have lots of options and we’re lucky that it’s one marketing group. And so, they have lots of radio stations in the mid-Missouri area. But our ad dollars go towards one. And basically what we did was we looked at it and we’re a two-county system. So, this one radio station covered both of those counties. And it kind of hit the demographic that we were trying to pull into the library. So, it was more of the, like, 20s, 30s, 40s. Like, we were trying to target that age group because that’s the group that isn’t using the library as much. And so, that’s how we picked them.

[00:04:57] Tyler Byrd:

Okay, so, within that, how… Are you running one ad a day? Or how many ads a day and how long are those ads?

[00:05:04] Natalie Newville:

Oh no, way more than that. We run 25 ads a week. And it’s typically Monday through Friday, sometimes they’ll do a couple on the weekends as well. But basically we choose one topic that we want to advertise. And so, I choose to do not program-based advertising, but more online resources because then we can run the ads for longer and they’re more timely. We choose that topic and then it runs for about six to eight weeks.

[00:05:35] Tyler Byrd:  

Okay, wow. So, that’s a fair amount of time. You’re really kind of saturating that topic on the airwaves then. When you’re looking at… You’re basically running, say, five ads a day on average. Are those ads evenly spread? I mean, 8 o’clock, 10 o’clock, 12 o’clock, 2 o’clock, 5 o’clock? Or are they, you know, three ads in the morning on the commute, two ads at night during the commute? What’s that look like?

[00:05:56] Natalie Newville:

The radio station places them for us, and it varies. So, they, like, one week will be on all in the morning, like, when people are driving to work. The next week will hit, like, all at lunch time, the next week it’ll be the commute home. So, that’s one area where I choose to trust the experts and they are definitely the experts at when to place ads. And it is…it does all come down to repetition. And, you know, if somebody’s driving to work and they hear our ad every day that week, then we’re sticking in their head.

[00:06:26] Tyler Byrd:

So, within that, are you looking at, and you might have said this and I could have missed it, but is it a 30-second ad spot, or is it a 60-second ad spot?

[00:06:34] Natalie Newville:  

Right now we do 30-second ads. So, with that, we’re able to place more ads for a lower rate than if we were doing 60-second.

[00:06:42] Tyler Byrd:

Now, 30-second ads, five ads a day on average, is that the same exact ad running five times a day for six weeks, or do you film or record three or four of them and just rotate through?

[00:06:54] Natalie Newville:

We do one ad for those six weeks. So, we are definitely hitting that topic hard. And we do it… It’s very timely. So, for example, in August, our ad revolves around our homework help resources. So, how parents can get help with their kids’ homework as they start back to school. Summer reading, we talk about our summer reading programming. Right now the ad that we’re running, with it being the holidays, has to do with our ebooks and our audiobooks. So, we’re really hitting, you know, you’re driving to grandma’s house, so, make sure that you have entertainment so your kids don’t fight in the back seat of the car. That kind of thing.

[00:07:31] Tyler Byrd:

Yeah, that’s perfect, that’s exactly what my kids do when we drive to grandma’s house.

[00:07:35] Natalie Newville: 

Absolutely.

[00:07:37] Tyler Byrd:

So, when you’re looking at that then, you’re going to film or you’re going to record this 30-second spot that you’re going to run for six weeks, is it you and the internal team at the library that’s sitting down and really thinking through it and writing out or scripting what that 30-second spot is? Or is the radio station doing that for you?

[00:07:53] Natalie Newville:

It’s a little bit of a mix. So, when we first started and I had never done radio advertising before, luckily, as I say, my husband is also a marketer and he had, so, he kind of helped me a little bit at the beginning. But we kind of sat down and we just talked about ideas. You know, one of the main things we did was we looked at our statistics and we said, “Okay, what numbers are down that we really feel like that should be higher? What’s not getting the attention in our library that we think should?” And so, from that we kind of talked to our ad executive at the radio. And we said, okay, so, for example, the first ad we ran had to do with New Year’s resolutions. So, we really talked about, like, our cookbooks, and our fitness DVDs, and our, like, money management resources. And so they… We just said, this is what we want to do, we think they’re important because of this, and then they put together the ad that sounded really great in 30 seconds. Now, a year into it, we kind of help a little bit more with the creative part, but they’re still, you know, they’re so good at it and I just let… Like, here’s my idea, you guys work your magic.

[00:09:02] Tyler Byrd:

Nice. So, when you said they’re doing the creative, you’re sending them the script then, and then whoever is…that’s their show, they record the voice spot for it? Or is it…they have just voice talent that’s recording it for you? What’s that?

[00:09:17] Natalie Newville:

Yeah, so, their DJs typically record the different ads. And so, we kind of lay out the basic of it and then their DJs actually write out the ad because they’re really good at it and they know how much they can say in 30 seconds that people can still retain afterwards.

[00:09:34] Tyler Byrd:

So, one of the things that I’ve always look at when it comes to traditional marketing, kind of, venues like this is that it’s really hard to track data and metrics behind. So, have you been able to track any kind of data on this, this campaign?

[00:09:48] Natalie Newville:

Yes, and that’s why, you know, we really didn’t want to focus on programs or events. For this, especially the first year, we wanted to focus on things that we were able to track. So, we basically, as most libraries do, watch our, like, online reference databases. So, our resources: how many people are accessing them with their library card? How much are they being used? That kind of thing. And we’re able to watch those numbers. So, like, when that six -week ad runs, you know, we did one around spring break time about language-learning databases. So, we were like, okay, we’re running this ad. Is the usage of our language-learning databases going up? Are more people accessing it with their library card? And so, then we see, yes it is, so, we know that the main thing that’s changed is the radio. So, we assume it’s working.

[00:10:35] Tyler Byrd:

Got it. So, you’re essentially taking a baseline for the usage of that service or that product and then you’re comparing it, the before and after for that term, to see what that difference is and what the increase or decrease is for that period of time. Is that about right?

[00:10:48] Natalie Newville:

es, absolutely. And we also look at it annually too. And our database usage has just skyrocketed. And the only thing that’s changed is we’re using the radio.

[00:10:59] Tyler Byrd:

Okay, so, what’s skyrocketed look like? Is that a 20% increase in usage or, you know?

[00:11:07] Natalie Newville:

Well, I don’t do math, I do marketing. So, percentages I cannot tell you. But I can tell you just basic numbers. So, for example, in 2015, which was before I came on as our marketing person, we had about a little over 1,800 people or library cards had accessed our databases. In 2017, which is right before we started with the radio marketing, we were up to about 3,300. And this year in 2018, which is when we started using the radio, until September, so, we’re not counting this last quarter, we don’t have those numbers pulled yet, we’re at almost 5,000.

[00:11:44] Tyler Byrd:

Oh, wow.

[00:11:44] Natalie Newville:

So, from before radio was 3,300, after radio is almost 5,000, and we still have three months left to count into that.

[00:11:51] Tyler Byrd:

Yeah, that’s a significant jump. That’s actually fantastic. Nicely done, that’s great.

[00:11:57] Natalie Newville:

I’m pretty excited about it. When I pulled all those numbers, I was like, “Ooh, it is working.”

[00:12:02] Tyler Byrd:

Hey all. I wanted to take a quick second and tell you about a project I’m really excited to launch this month. It’s called Piola. Piola is a digital library branch and it’s replacing library websites. No longer is a library website just a marketing communications portal. It really is a digital library branch where patrons are coming to find the best experience possible and really learn everything that your library has to offer, and access all of that fantastic content in a user experience just like what they get from a traditional branch. We’ve taken thousands of hours of research, including heat mapping, user surveys, video recordings, patron focus groups, AB testing and conversion rate optimization, content audits, and a whole lot more in order to figure out what patrons really want and expect from their public library website. We’ve rolled all of that into the best, most affordable website product possible. You can launch it in less than 30 days and you’re not going to find anything else like it on the market today. If you’re interested because you’re struggling with your library website today, and you might want something a little bit different, I encourage you, head on over to meetpiola.com and check it out. We look forward to seeing you there. Thanks.

So, if you were talking to another librarian that wanted to do this, what advice would you give them?

[00:13:26] Natalie Newville: 

You know, the number one thing I would say is don’t be afraid of the dollar signs because it’s not cheap to advertise on the radio. You know, it is there as a financial investment that you have to make. And it is hard. You know, again, we talk about… We try to market like a business but just because our usage goes up doesn’t mean we’re, you know, we’re not increasing our sales. Our tax dollars still stay the same at that point. But the number of people that now know about your library and come in and access your resources turns into, you know, those library ambassadors who are out in the community talking about the great things you’re doing. So, even though it’s expensive, it’s important to look into it. And don’t be afraid to negotiate. A lot of radio stations have non-profit rates and they’re willing to work with you because they recognize that you’re a really good service for the community.

[00:14:17] Tyler Byrd:  

So, did you guys negotiate pretty…with those radio stations then to get better rates than what they first offered you?

[00:14:24] Natalie Newville:

Yeah, so, we went to a training that they had, a free training. And so, because we attended that training, we got a little bit of a discount. But then our ad exec was just really great when I said, look, this is how much money I have that’s kind of extra. And that’s why we kind of, you know, we went down to the 30-second ads and we, you know, play at this time instead of that time. And they’re able to work some magic where you’re still getting really great airtime but it’s just not as expensive as if you’re a traditional company.

[00:14:53] Tyler Byrd:

Okay, alright, that makes sense. So, you made a couple sacrifices here and there but it still gets you on the radio. So, it gets this number of spots that you want. And it’s definitely getting the results that you’re looking for.

[00:15:03] Natalie Newville:

Absolutely.

[00:15:04] Tyler Byrd:

So, is there anything moving forward that you want to try with this to see if you can improve the results you’re getting?

[00:15:10] Natalie Newville:

Yeah, I’m really excited. In 2019 we are starting one of the DJs that’s on that radio station is going to start being a spokesperson for us. So, we increased a little bit what we are going to be paying to that radio station. And now, on top of our 25 ads a week, we’re also getting two or three days a week where she’s going to be talking about how she uses the library. And there’s all kinds of statistics and things that back up… I’m sure many of you who do still listen to traditional radio, or even podcasts… Again, you think about when your favorite podcast advertises a different product, I know I always go look at it. I’m like, “Oh, that sounded really cool.” And so, that’s what we’re kind of trying in 2019, is she’s going to be our spokesperson and we’re going to kind of see where our numbers go from there.

[00:15:58] Tyler Byrd:

Okay, nice. So, in the beginning of the show you mentioned that you had kind of wanted to target some of the younger demographic: the 20 to 30 years old. Going to the radio station, that’s an interesting route to me because, for me, I feel like a lot of that demographic is listening to things like iTunes or Pandora or Spotify. So, it’s great to see that you’re having good results there. Have you also considered, though, using some of the online streaming music and using the same radio ads there?

[00:16:28] Natalie Newville:

Yeah, so, it’s something we’ve looked into and we haven’t made any decisions on it yet. We kind of want to see where the spokesperson part goes in 2019. One thing, we are very much in central Missouri. So, sometimes we’re not as, like, with it as other areas of the country. We do still have, obviously, a lot of people that listen to iTunes and podcasts and that kind of stuff. So, there’s a lot of opportunities with that. It’s just something we’re still kind of exploring to see what we want to do. Because that is a group that we’re trying to target. Especially those people that are maybe young professionals, they don’t have kids yet. You know, I always joke that, like, I am a mom with a five year old. Like, I am coming to the library whether they’re marketing to me or not. But some of my friends that maybe don’t have kids yet won’t come in unless we give them a reason to.

[00:17:17] Tyler Byrd:

Alright, perfect. So, tell me this: is there anything that… Let’s say I’m a librarian, I want to do this. I have a good feel for it. Name something that you would tell me to avoid or a pitfall that you ran into that you could share with me that I could avoid.

[00:17:31] Natalie Newville:

Yeah, the number one thing that I think people need to avoid as they’re going into this is don’t focus just on programming. I think a lot of times that’s what, as marketers, that’s a very easy thing to focus on at the library. It’s easy to just look at all the cool things we’re doing every month. And so, resources sometimes, kind of, get pushed to the back, which is why numbers can be down. So, really focusing on more of that, like, evergreen content that you can just keep using over and over again. You know, those radio ads that we have, we can use those on our website and they’re always timely. You know, even if it’s not New Year’s Eve, like, people still want cookbooks and fitness DVDs and that kind of stuff. So, really nailing in on that evergreen content and looking at your statistics to see what do you need to advertise.

[00:18:20] Tyler Byrd:

Yeah, when you’re advertising and you’re doing these six-week spots, have you found that one service or product line that you’ve put out there, it really is performing better than any other?

[00:18:32] Natalie Newville:

The one we’re doing right now with our ebooks and audiobooks, that one, I think, has been the best because people just don’t think about it. When they think library, even if they know we have ebooks, they still think as our audiobooks as being something that’s, like, on CDs or cassette tapes. You know, they still call them books on tape. They don’t realize that we have apps. It’s just on your phone. Like, it’s nothing different than if you have a subscription service to another provider.

[00:18:57] Tyler Byrd:

That makes a lot of sense. I got to think that if you’re in the car and you like to listen to the radio that you just generally like to listen to things. So, having the option to listen to an audiobook or ebook, I mean, that’s something that it seems it would be a natural fit for that demographic and that they would find appealing.

[00:19:15] Natalie Newville:

Absolutely, and, you know, because we cover two counties, we have a lot of people that commute from one county to the other for work. So, they’re in the car for anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour each way because we’re located in our state capital. So, we have a lot of people from the surrounding areas that commute to our city for work. So, it’s perfect for them.

[00:19:36] Tyler Byrd:

Cool, I like it. We’re going to have to give it a shot and see how it works out. So, alright, here’s our speed round. I’ve got a couple surprise questions for you that I know I didn’t prep you for, so we’re going to see how well you do.

[00:19:47] Natalie Newville:

Awesome.

[00:19:47] Tyler Byrd:

Like having a test.

[00:19:49] Natalie Newville:

I love it.

[00:19:49] Tyler Byrd:

Alright, I’m going to ask you if you still love it afterwards.

[00:19:53] Natalie Newville:

Okay.

[00:19:55] Tyler Byrd:

Alright, what’s a book that you haven’t read yet that you want to?

[00:19:59] Natalie Newville:

Girl, Wash Your Face. I forget the author’s name, but it’s super popular right now and I haven’t read it yet.

[00:20:05] Tyler Byrd:

Alright. So, favorite library service?

[00:20:09] Natalie Newville:

Probably ebooks and audiobooks. I’m a digitarian, most definitely.

[00:20:14] Tyler Byrd:

That makes two of us. That answers my next question. It was going to be digital or print?

[00:20:19] Natalie Newville:

Oh, digital, 100%.

[00:20:21] Tyler Byrd:

Nice. How about source for marketing news and material?

[00:20:26] Natalie Newville:

I love UnMarketing, so, their podcasts and their social media and their website. It’s Scott and Alison Stratten. They’re phenomenal. I recommend it to everyone to go check them out.

[00:20:37] Tyler Byrd:

Cool. Last question: is there someone that you would like to see on the show that you think has good marketing strategies that you’d like to hear more about?

[00:20:45] Natalie Newville:

Ooh, that’s a tough one. I would love to see more people that, again, aren’t necessarily librarians. So, like, Kindra Hall is awesome. She’s a strategic storyteller and she trains people on how to use stories to market. Again, Scott and Alison Stratten are awesome, so, any of those people. Jay Acunzo is another one who’s really good. So, those are my favorite people that I follow on social media and listen to on podcast, that kind of thing.

[00:21:13] Tyler Byrd:

Perfect, thank you so much. Is there anything you want to add or wrap up with before we end the show today?

[00:21:20] Natalie Newville:

You know, I just want to encourage all libraries and all librarians and marketers to just look at it like a business. I think that’s the best thing you can do for your organization. And kind of look at outside ways to share the great things that you’re doing in your community.

[00:21:34] Tyler Byrd:

Thanks, Natalie. So, if we have any listeners out there that would like to get a hold of you, is there a source or preferred method for contacting you and reaching out to chat more?

[00:21:44] Natalie Newville:

Yeah, so if you go to our website, it’s mrrl.org, and you can go to the Contact Us and my contact information is right there.

[00:21:53] Tyler Byrd:

Okay, perfect. So, for everyone that’s listening, Natalie also sent over some the radio ads and spots that they have used and that they are finding success with. We’re going to be adding those to the show notes and to the blog. So, if you’re interested in hearing the radio ads, feel free to head on over to blog, check it out. It’s going to be episode 5 of Library Figures and you’ll be able to hear some of those episodes. All right, Natalie, thank you so much for joining us. I really appreciate it.

[00:22:19] Natalie Newville:

Thank you, I had so much fun.

[00:22:22] Tyler Byrd:

Alright, before we head out, just a couple more quick things. If you know somebody that you think would be a great guest on this podcast and you’d like to hear us interview them, I’d love the opportunity. Send me their name and their contact information at hello@meetpiola.com. That’s hello@meetpiola.com. And I’ll do all the hard work of reaching out and getting them scheduled so that all of our listeners will have the opportunity to learn more from them about the great marketing strategies that they might be using. We’re constantly looking for new guests and great guests on the show, and I would really appreciate the opportunity to meet with your connections and get them up here to learn more. Second, if you’re enjoying the podcast episodes and so far you like what you hear on Library Figures and the content, head over to iTunes. You can subscribe to the podcast to get future episodes and while you’re there, if you could give us a five-star rating that’d go a long way in letting us know that you like the content and you like the show and we should continue doing it. Alright, until next time, all, I look forward to being on air again and the next great interview we’ll have up. Take care, we’ll see you next time.

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