I spend the majority of my day working on email marketing for my library. Marketing your services, collection, and programs to your cardholders by email is powerful. And it’s easy. I want to be very clear–you need to be emailing your cardholders. You can do it, no matter how big or small your library is. It is more than important… it is necessary. Failing to email your cardholders is a huge mistake.

It’s taken me a long time and a lot of experimentation to learn what to do and what not to do when I email my cardholders. I want to convince you that email marketing is doable. Start with these eight easy tips to create amazing library emails. You can compete with other companies for a space in your cardholders inbox. Done well, your cardholders will even begin to look forward to your emails! Try it and watch how emails help you reach your overall marketing goals.

Don’t be afraid to email. The most common comment I receive from other libraries when we’re discussing email marketing is a fear of sending too many emails. “I don’t want to be viewed as spam.” I’ve said it before and I’m going to say it again here: you can’t send too many emails. The rules for avoiding the spam box which apply to other companies don’t apply to libraries. Our cardholders love us. They love what we offer. They want us to reach out to them. It’s the biggest advantage we have over other industries. I send tens of thousands of emails to my cardholders every week and my unsubscribe rate is zero percent. I’m not joking. Our library uses the OrangeBoy product Savannah for emailing. It divides our cardholders into clusters based on their card activity. My general rule is to send 2-3 emails every week to cardholders who use our digital services, like our eBooks and online databases. The rest of the clusters get 1-2 emails a week. And still, our unsubscribe rate remains at zero percent. Let go of the fear of becoming spam. Reach out to your cardholders. They love you, I promise.

Embrace the fear of failure. The second most common fear I hear from libraries considering email marketing is the fear of failure. It’s totally natural. And it’s easy for me to tell you not to be afraid. I don’t work for your boss and I don’t know the expectations of your library. But I truly believe that failure is a natural and necessary part of learning what works for your library. So my best advice is to tell your boss upfront that failure will be a part of the email marketing process. You’ll do your best to avoid it, but you’ll also learn from it when it happens. Be clear that you’ll keep an eye on the successes and failures of your emails, you’ll report periodically with the results of those emails, and you’ll change course once it’s clear that something isn’t working.

Planning is key. Create a planning calendar for your emails in the same way you do for your other promotions. Whenever possible, plan your emails six months in advance. Send emails to promote your programs at least three weeks before the program. Fill the rest of your calendar with your collection-based emails. Leave space for those last-minute emails you might want to add to the calendar.

Timing is everything. Think about your own email box. It gets overloaded during certain times of the year, especially around the holidays and at the beginning and end of the school year (right when most of us are launching summer reading programs). Avoid sending emails during the times when other companies are sending. That doesn’t mean you have to avoid sending emails related to the holidays but do it early. For example, I send my holiday reading book list the week before Thanksgiving to avoid getting lost in the Black Friday and holiday emails.

Write a killer subject line and keep it to seven words or less if you can. Sure, shorter subject lines are harder to write. We’re librarians–we want to make sure people have all the information! But short subject lines will inspire the curiosity of your cardholders. And, more importantly, of the biggest reasons to keep it short is technical. Most email providers have a character cutoff and beyond that, the rest of your subject line is truncated. Here’s some more advice for writing subject lines for library emails.

Be a giver. Your emails should always offer something to your cardholder. They should be as closely matched to the cardholder’s persona as possible. Market your collection, particularly your new materials. Include a short description of the item and a direct link to the catalog. Market your programs in the same way. Include a short description and a link to the event calendar or registration form.

Less text is more. Try to keep the wording of your email to a minimum. A few lines about what you’re offering with a call to action and a link to more information is your best tactic. You don’t have to worry about writing a paragraph. A few, well-crafted sentences and you’re off to the races.

Measure results. You must measure the results of your emails and adjust your strategy if necessary. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time. I wrote a whole post about how to measure results. You can read it here.

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