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Under the Influence

For years, I have been a fan of Terry O’Reilly’s books, podcasts and, of course his great CBC radio programme, “Under the Influence”. A 40-year Canadian veteran of the advertising and marketing industry, he is also very clever, funny and full of wisdom about how companies (and libraries) can not only thrive but also delight their customers and build loyalty and powerful support.

He is especially passionate about customer service. Here are some quotes that I think will resonate with all of us in the public library world.

“People remember people, not products. Forget the old mantra about going the extra mile. Go for the extra inch”. It doesn’t have to be awesome but memorable and sometimes surprising.

“Going for the extra inch: you have to encourage a customer-centric culture at your company (or library) because a culture that celebrates customer service is untouchable. If your staff is encouraged to use creativity to build customer loyalty, your company will be utterly unique in your category”.

“Great companies (or libraries) know it’s not enough to have customers leave satisfied—the key is to have them leave happy. This is beyond service. Superb customer service creates intense loyalty and fuels referrals.”

“Build relationships that turn good marketing into great results: no matter how big or small your budget. Good marketing isn’t good email, Facebook, media releases, technology, services or products. Those are just actions. Good marketing is the focus on the customer.”

The secret is not necessarily to be great. “What matters is to be consistently good.” Surprisingly, “bland sells – be brilliantly bland.” “What does it take to delight a customer? The “wanted” but unexpected.”

“In business, persuading people to buy your ideas is a fundamental necessity. Good ideas are not enough. To communicate well, have a consistent theme to what you do. Keep it simple. Show, don’t tell. If people feel, they believe.”

“Social media has transformed both marketing and customer service. There has never been a more powerful medium than social media because it travels and moves with the customer.

But it is not just a matter of reaching out. The challenge remains in getting noticed amidst all the noise. Tell me the story of your business, tell me why you do it. I know you do—but I want to know what drives you, what your passions are and what makes your business different.”

“Know your audiences. Pain-points are often hard for proprietors and employees to spot. You need to check in with your customers frequently.”

Nurture creativity. Be different. “What do customers remember? Which of those OOOX00O stands out?”

Culture: “This is the operating system for an organization. It’s the attitude. Exceeding customers’ expectations can’t just be a marketing campaign. It has to be an operating platform.”

“Nothing – repeat, nothing—is more important than your company’s culture!”

I have only scratched the surface of Terry’s ideas. Interestingly, a number of public libraries have invited him as a speaker and one of his podcasts features creative library marketing. Find him at and on Facebook.

(From the archives: written in November 2022 by your Boundary representative, Mary)