Value Proposition: An Unlikely Source of Strategic Inspiration

“You just saved $63.00 by using your library!”

That statement was printed at the bottom of a check out receipt for two books recently borrowed from my public library.

Credit: Morris County Library.

The focus of my last post was providing action tips for instituting a formal system to determine how your products and services stack up versus competitor choices. It’s an important part of monitoring and understanding your strategic situation analysis.

Critical outputs from such analysis can include identifying competitive differentiation opportunities and developing a value proposition. Surprisingly, the library check out receipt is a wonderful example that can provide inspiration for this type of strategic challenge.

Credit: Morris County Library (

The statement “You just saved $xx by using your library!” is brilliant.

It costs nothing to print that at the bottom of the receipt. More importantly, the message instantly and succinctly encapsulates a huge benefit of using the library, which is you don’t have to buy the books! It’s a big deal for two, key reasons.

The first benefit is for adults who no longer desire to purchase and collect books. After helping my parents declutter as part of their house downsizing process, I’m now in that category. In fact, I’ve since donated a good portion of my accumulated books. It no longer makes sense to automatically default to a book purchase, whether physical or digital.

I learned about the second benefit, which is in itself a good marketing example of strong customer understanding and targeting. Libraries provide a great service for moms and dads who want to encourage their kids’ curiosity and encourage them to read/read more. At the same time, these parents don’t want to pay (or feel like they’ve wasted) serious cash for quite limited use.

Consider this point:

“I think the biggest reaction we’ve gotten has been from parents who take out up to 30-50 picture books and easy readers for young children and see that the saving is anywhere between $250 to $500 dollars.”

Credit for this insight goes to Laurence Ross, the Department Head-Circulation Services at the Morris County Library in New Jersey, who provided written responses to my questions.

The library initiated the check out receipt communication about one and a half years ago. The objective was “to advertise the usefulness of the library as a money saver to our patrons.” Mr. Ross and his colleagues have observed that “the public has had a positive reaction to the savings listed on their receipts.”

He concluded: “It really is a great advertising and marketing tool. I’m glad we’ve added it to our check-out receipts.”

No disrespect intended, but the public library would not make a top ten list as a source of business strategy inspiration. However, contrary to a possible dinosaur perception, this taxpayer funded  institution still has as role to play in our digital, Amazon/Google/Apple download world. Libraries have adapted to leverage new technologies and continue their core mission of promoting learning and making it easy for people to enjoy reading.

Think about the library check out receipt example during your next strategy deliberations. It may provide a spark.

Harvey Chimoff is a versatile marketing and business team leader who believes good marketing sells. Contact him at StratGo Marketing, a plug-in marketing department service for company leaders.

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