Photo courtesy Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

Last week, I wrote about the new email marketing data that changed the way I think about email and libraries. This week, I wanted to share more new tips to help you improve the chances your email subscribers will act.

Some of these come from Nancy Harhut, Founder and Chief Creative Officer of HMT Marketing. Nancy is an expert on behavioral science and consumer behavior. She studies how and why humans behave the way they do when they interact with marketing.

Nancy spoke at Content Marketing World. Her talk included a list of tricks to improve the effectiveness of your library promotional emails. I’ve combined her advice with new best practices I recently discovered while doing some deep research on email marketing.

And there’s a bonus in this post! Scroll down for a special free tool you can use to check the “spamminess” of your emails and get suggestions for improvement.

Tip #1: Make your community the focus of your email.

There’s a common mistake we make in library marketing. We often tell our community what we want them to hear.

But your email recipients are interested in how the library can help them. They have needs and wants that are specific to them.

@nharhut says your email recipients are not interested in everything you want to tell them. They want to know about the one thing they are looking for that will improve their lives.

Here’s a quick exercise you can do every time you create an email. Instead of making a list of items your library wants to promote, ask yourself these four questions about the person who receives your email.

  • What are their needs?
  • What’s driving their decision-making?
  • What are their goals?
  • What are they feeling?

This exercise will help you to focus on the way your library can help your community member. Once you’ve done that, you’ll want to include text in your email that makes it clear your library puts your community member first. It’s easiest to explain this using an example.

  • Library-focused readers’ advisory message: “We can recommend great books for you to read.”
  • Customer-focused readers’ advisory message: “You love to read. You’re busy. Leave the searching to us and get your reading recommendations fast.”

A few simple tweaks in wording put the patron first.

Finally, the images you choose for your email play a big part in making your community members feel that your library is focused on them. Be sure to choose images that reflect your community.

Here’s a real-life example: A library was creating an email to promote a yoga program. They chose a photo of a young, physically fit white woman in a yoga pose as their accompanying image.

But when they talked a bit about who actually comes to their yoga programs, they realized it’s attended by older, more diverse members of their population. Some of those attendees have physical challenges.

So, they found a new image that more accurately reflected their community. The image change helped drive more attendance to their yoga program!

Tip #2: Use first and second-person pronouns in your call-to- action button.

In all your library marketing text, you must connect with your community and make them feel seen, welcome, and invited. Using first and second-person pronouns like “me” and “my” or “you” and “yours” will help your email recipients to imagine themselves using your library.

In fact, using a first- or second-person pronoun for your CTA can result in as much as a 90 percent increase in clicks, according to market research conducted by two content marketing companies, Unbounce and ContentVerve.

Again, this is a simple tweak in wording that can lead to big results. Some pronoun-centered CTAs are:

  • Download my book
  • Claim your seat
  • Reserve your spot
  • Get my library card
  • Make your donation

Tip #3: Pair your calls-to-action.

Library emails tend to include many offers. But, according to Harhut, we should put our calls-to-action together, in pairs!

Why? Giving your email recipients a choice between two options will increase the likelihood that your subscriber will take an action, according to Harhut. In fact, she told us that researchers at Tulane University found pairing calls to action will quadruple the chance that someone will make a choice between the two options at the moment.

Here’s an easy example. Let’s say you are sending an email to promote new books in your collection. Simply pair them together, like this:

Pair book covers together to improve the chances that someone will click on a jacket and place a hold.

If you are promoting databases or events, use the same pairing trick. Put two options side-by-side. Doing this will create a “this or that” decision for your email recipient and increase the chances that they will choose one of the two options.

Tip #4: Try a tiny dose of negativity.

Our library promotional emails almost always emphasize the benefits or advantages of using the library. But Harhut says people are twice as motivated to avoid the pain of loss as they are to reap the benefits of gains. 

This happens because of the Loss Aversion Theory. It was formulated by Nobel Prize-winning psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky.

Their research found that people value a loss more than an equivalent gain. Losses are unpleasant and evoke emotions like fear, guilt, regret, and anger. People will do pretty much anything to avoid those negative emotions.

We can take that fear of losing and use it to strengthen our library. How exactly does this work?

Let’s say your library is creating an email to promote your graduate school test preparation resources. You might try some text that says, “More than 50 percent of the students who don’t study for the LSAT can’t get into law school.” (A fact I looked up for this example… feel free to steal!)

Or, for your next ticketed event, emphasize the need to register before all the seats are taken.

These are just two examples of the way you can work a subtle hint of negative emotion into your marketing. For more ideas, I recommend this well-written research article from the Open Journal of Social Science: When and Why Negative Emotional Appeals Work in Advertising.

Tip #5: Include a good testimonial.

Your library emails shouldn’t just include promotions for products and services. Testimonials can help people to make decisions about whether to use your library. They help people to imagine themselves using your services.

Harhut says we should always be collecting and sorting testimonials so that we can use the best of them in our emails. It’s another great way to show that your library is focused on your community.

Use this list to help you pick your best testimonials.

  • Does the testimonial include details?
  • Is the testimonial focused?
  • Is the language natural and conversational?
An example of a great testimonial courtesy of the Oregon Public Library.

Include a few lines from the testimonial in your email. Try putting it at the top of the email, before your promotions. This is especially effective if the testimonial is from someone who benefited from the program, service, or collection item you are promoting in your email.

Tip #6: Proofread. Then do it again. And again.

Spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors will damage the trust your community puts into your library.

Have a process in place for proofing your emails.

  • Use Grammarly.
  • Copy and paste your email text into Word, then run the editorial review.
  • Ask your co-workers to read through your email.
  • Read your email out loud. You’ll be surprised how many mistakes your brain will gloss over when you read silently.

Bonus: Free email testing tool.

There’s a new free tool I just learned about that can help your email. It’s called Mail Tester.

It was designed by software engineers who wanted a way to test the quality of their own email newsletters. So, they built their own tool and made it free to anyone who wanted to use it.

Here’s how it works.

Take an email that you plan on sending to your community and send it to Mail Tester first. They generate a random email address every time you go to their website.

Next, you click on the “check your score” button and wait for your results. You can see your results for up to 7 days.

I tried it using an example email I created for a presentation. Here are my results:

Pretty cool, right?

Now read this: LOTS of new tips on how to make your email subject line irresistible!


You May Want to Read These Posts

Try These Two Fun Tests To Improve the Effectiveness of Your Library Promotional Emails!

There is NO SUCH THING as Too Many Library Marketing Emails! Why Libraries are the Exception to the Rule.

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