If you’ve read my blog for any length of time you know that I believe in email marketing for libraries. At my library, we’ve used email to communicate with cardholders for more than three years and it’s the most powerful and effective tool I have at my disposal. I try to talk it up with my fellow library marketing professionals when I have the chance. Many institutions have concerns about privacy.They worry about bugging cardholders too often with emails. Those fears are unfounded, and I’ve shared why you needn’t worry in past posts like this one so I won’t rehash it here.

Many libraries have jumped on board the email marketing train and, like me, are constantly looking for ways to improve open and click-through rates. The first point of entry to a cardholder is the subject line. So I have been researching how to do a better job of grabbing the attention of cardholders as soon as my email comes into their inbox.

The subject line is the most important and most difficult part of the email to create, at least for me! But I have eight tips for writing better subject lines. I’ve used these tips to increase open and click-through rates at my library. Over time, I’ve noticed an increase in engagement from our emails–that translates to more books and other items put on hold and increased program attendance. I believe that’s result of the decision to fine tune our email subject lines.

Tip #1-Save the subject line for last. I write the rest of the email first and tackle the subject line right before I’m ready to send a test message. If you write the body of the email first, you’ll have the tone, the graphics, and the call to action decided by the time you get to the subject line. All of the technical elements of your email will determine what kind of subject line will work best for you. Wait until you’ve got the meat of the email written before you tackle the subject line. By the time you get to it, the subject line might write itself!

Tip #2-Say something to pique their curiosity. I approach each subject line in the same way I approached headlines when I was writing for TV news websites. I search for the most interesting nugget of information in my email, then make that the center of my subject line. In news, we called this “finding the tease-able element.” Find the most curious and unique portion of whatever you are promoting–books, magazines, an event, or an online class–and focus your subject line around that.

Tip #3-Say something urgent. I like to use urgent language during the Big Library Read promotions from Overdrive, when we can offer our cardholders unlimited checkouts of a particular eBook or eAudiobook. This is a limited time offer and using urgent language in the subject line is appropriate. Phrases like Hurry, Limited Time Offer, and Ending Soon are great examples. You can use urgent language to promote programs with a registration cap to create the “fear of missing out”(FOMO) effect in your emails.

Tip #4-Appeal to their desire to save money. We all know the value of library usage for our cardholders. We can’t offer sales or discounts but we can still appeal to the discount nature of our cardholders by reminding them, in the subject line, about how much dough they save using us.

Tip #5-Start with an “alert” phrase. Using words like Alert, Sneak Peek, First Look, and Hey There sounds corny (at least they did to me). You might think they’re so overused by big brands that there is no way a library cardholder will engage with that language. You’d be wrong. I think cardholders are honestly accustomed to very serious library emails which avoid alert language. So when you do use it, it grabs their attention.

Tip #6-Keep it short. Try to stay under ten words or 40 characters. That doesn’t seem like much but you want to make sure that your subject line can be seen in full on every mobile device and in desktop email preview mode. You know from using Twitter that keeping it short will force you to write your best work… so embrace it!

Tip #7-Try alliteration. It’s catchy and it will stick in your cardholders’ head.

Tip #8-Avoid spam triggers. These are words that can trip a cardholders’ automatic spam filter. There are nearly 500 such words. So, instead of listing them all here, I’ll give you a link to this compilation. It’s the best one I’ve found. I urge you to bookmark it… I did! Then do your darndest avoid using these words.

More help with emails!

How to Write an Amazing Subject Line in Six to Nine Words

Make it Damn Near Impossible to Ignore Your Emails

Four Secrets For Sending Powerful Library Emails

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedInInstagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

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