Creating Groupies*


SLA 2009 Conference Round-up

*How to add value, make yourself irreplaceable & beat the pants off Google

With a title like that, how could I not attend? And presenter Mary Ellen Bates came with an impeccable pedigree and recommendation by my colleague, Emma Wood.   (Emma commented on a different Bates presentation at SLA, “Painless (No, Really!) Negotiating” on the Vancouver Law Libraries Blog. For more conference highlights, check out Emma’s other posts on VLLB.)

So, what was this about? What does it mean to “create groupies”? One phrase encapsulated this session for me: Become part of the lifeblood of your organization. In other words, make yourself so valuable to your firm that they don’t make major decisions without consulting with you first.

Wow – how do you do that? Well, you start by focusing on benefits, not features. Address the “what’s in it for me” of your clients, and describe these benefits in language that your clients understand. Some specific examples:

Wrong: The library purchases several databases that you can use to find your answers.

Right: I can get you background information on the directors of that company that will help you get your foot in the door with that RFP.

Research has shown that what people say and what they choose can be totally different. Do the members of your C-suite (CEO, CFO, CIO, managing director, etc.) see you as an appendage or an essential resource? Do they go elsewhere for the services you provide?

Some of the services clients value are having information available to their desktop, the creation of a culture of knowledge sharing, and having the information necessary to make decisions available to them. At the bottom of this list is conducting research on the user’s behalf (something we usually put at the top of our lists of what we think clients value).

One interesting solution presented was to take someone to lunch. (Who doesn’t want a free lunch?!) Use the opportunity to interview them, asking open-ended questions like:

  • What do you do when you can’t find information?
  • How would you remember to contact the library?
  • Describe when you couldn’t find an answer.
  • Can I show you how to find information more efficiently?

The goal of this interview is to identify “information pain points”.

Along with my library education, I have a certificate in career coaching. As I listened to Mary Ellen, I thought how similar what she was saying is to coaching a job applicant. Write your resume focused on accomplishments, not tasks (replace with “benefits” and “features”). The “take someone to lunch” interview is the same as conducting an information interview with someone in a job you’re interested in.

Regular readers of this blog know that I’m a big believer in marketing. In a nutshell, that’s what this session was about. Mary Ellen has an engaging delivery that left me feeling energized and bubbling over with new ideas to implement. I loved her closing tag line: “We don’t make the strategic decisions, we make them better.”

Mary Ellen Bates’ presentations are available on her website,

~ Karen


One Response to “Creating Groupies*”

  1. 1 Brenda W.

    Hmm..I liked the information pain point of “describing when you couldn’t find an answer.” It opens up the conversation for information professional to suggest options in the search, or sometimes solution does not exist in the form that the user wants.

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