Super Library Marketing! Great marketing ideas for libraries everywhere.

Search results

"email marketing"

You’re Doing Marketing Wrong: Why Targeted Emails Make Your Cardholders Happy


I’m going to make a statement. You can agree or disagree. But if there is one thing that I know about marketing a library, it’s this:

If your library is not sending regular, targeted email messages to your cardholders, you are doing marketing wrong.

This isn’t just my personal belief–it is a method which has worked with impressive results at my library. It wasn’t an easy process. It took us a good year to get into the groove. We made a lot of mistakes in the beginning. But we found our niche in collection marketing–sending regular emails with links to new materials in our catalog that are of interest to our cardholders, based on their way they use their card. This method increased circulation. It helped us maintain visits to our physical branches. We even used these emails to convince occasional and inactive cardholders to start using the library again.

We’re not perfect at it, by any means. We’re still experimenting. But what I can tell you after a year of emailing and tracking email results is this: it works.

It pains me to see so many libraries shying away from email marketing. I know there’s a long-standing fear among libraries that cardholders will view library emails as spam. Many libraries worry that cardholders will resent getting emails from the library, will unsubscribe, and stop using the library in protest. It’s simply not true. Our unsubscribe rate is near 0 percent. You read that correctly. Zero percent. Last month (March 2016), we had an average open rate of 32 percent and an average click-thru rate of five percent. Our cardholders want to hear from us and when we get it right, they are engaged with our collection and with our locations.

There are three big fears keeping libraries from gaining cardholders, visits, and circulation through targeted email message.

Libraries are worried about asking cardholders for their email addresses. Your cardholders won’t be put out by the request. The average consumer is accustomed to giving out their email address in exchange for marketing messages targeted specifically to them. I did this when I went shopping at Yankee Candle a couple of years ago and now I buy candles several times a year because I get messages based on the kind of fragrances I purchase and the sales I like to shop. It’s convenient for me and it’s beneficial to Yankee Candle, I’m sure! The same thing happened with my local grocery store–I signed up for their rewards system and regularly get emails for deals based on items I purchase. I expect to be marketed to–so do your cardholders.

Libraries worry that segmenting cardholders into clusters is an invasion of privacy.  There are software systems which allow you to segment cardholders without actually seeing what they’re checking out. At my library, we are only able to see that a customer checked out an eBook from Overdrive or borrowed a song from Hoopla… we can’t actually see the title of either checkout. I admit that seeing the title would be nice and would help us to target our cardholders even more effectively. Think about the marketing potential you’d have if you knew that a particular person checked out a dozen cookbooks every time the holidays rolled around… or that they are a mega-fan of Stephen King! In any case, I can’t see the titles and therefore, I cannot breach the privacy of any of my cardholders.

Libraries worry that by sending targeted messages to segmented audiences, they will miss out on the chance to get their message to all their cardholders. Many libraries are sending the same message to every cardholder, sometimes hundreds of thousands of people in one burst. It feels like the natural thing to do. “Everyone needs to know about this!” The problem with that approach is that your cardholders are individuals. One message never fits them all. This is particularly true if your service area covers a range of incomes and demographics. The needs and interests of your cardholders vary greatly. By targeting your message, you are more likely to say something that matters significantly to your cardholders, which makes them more likely to take an action, which makes it more likely that your email will be successful. Some of my most successful marketing emails were sent to less than 2000 cardholders.

In addition to cardholder usage, most email software systems will allow you to target emails by location. We did this for a recent branch anniversary celebration, sending notice of the party only to people who had listed that branch library as their home location–which amounted to 14,000 cardholders or 2.3 percent of the total number of cardholders in our system. The branch manager thought 250 people might show up for the celebration. She was surprised when 400 eager cardholders came to the party! That’s success, my friends.

Do not let your fears about email set you up for failure. Your cardholders want to hear from you. There are not very many industries who can say that their customers are begging to be marketed to… let’s take advantage of it and give the people what they want!


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 LinkedIn, Slideshare,  Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.


How to Reach Cardholders Without Emails 

I spoke recently to a fellow library marketer who faced a frustrating problem. His library does not have an email marketing strategy and he believes there are no plans to adopt one. He knows I’m a fan of email marketing. And he was wondering if I had any library marketing ideas that are as effective as emails.

In my opinion, nothing works as well as a great email marketing strategy. But there are four tactics that will give you better results than the traditional poster-flier-press release marketing strategy.  I use these in addition to emails and they are effective.

Market to your social audience. You’ve likely built an audience on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. And you’re probably already using organic messages with a strategy. But in place of an email marketing initiative, you can take it a step further in social, particularly on Facebook. For as little as $20, you can create a target audience and promote posts in a specific way. I’m a huge fan of promoted posts because they’re so cheap, they get your message in front of the right audience, and they end up giving your organic posts a boost as well. You can also do a Facebook live! For 15 minutes, offer to answer any question your audience has using the comments function. When questions aren’t coming in, fill the time by talking about your collection, your services, and any big events coming up. When you do a Facebook live, all of your followers get a notification as soon as you start broadcasting. It sounds silly but that notification is really compelling–people will click on your live just to see what you are doing! Do a Facebook live on a consistent basis–at the same time every week–and you’ll build expectation in your audience like must-see TV!

Speak at events in your community. Approach civic and community groups in your area and offer to do a ten minute talk to highlight the services and collection items. Ask schools to let your librarians come in to talk about summer reading or other child-focused events. Demonstrate how to use your digital services, databases, or genealogical archives to groups. Make sure your talks target your audience. Take questions. And create a simple handout for attendees listing your website and recapping the things you’ve discussed.

Write columns in your community newspaper or blog. Many publications will be grateful for the offer of free content and your message will get in front of a new audience. Again, try to target your column to the particular audience or community the publication serves.

Start a podcast. The barrier to entry for podcasting has never been easier. I won’t go through all the steps for actually recording, uploading, and distributing the podcast. Instead, I have bookmarked this great guide that lays out how to do everything.  Once you’ve got all your technical ducks in a row, the easy part starts. Libraries already have a niche subject and audience! I would suggest making your podcast less than 20 minutes long, the average commute time for most people. You can have a host do all the talking, but it’s more interesting if you have guests. Talk about the collection. Talk about upcoming classes and events. Talk about literary news. Interview authors! Podcasts are great marketing tools because they feel personal to the listener–for 20 minutes, you are talking directly into their ear. You have their full attention. You can’t get that with any other marketing tool!

Do you have other ideas for marketing without emails? Leave a message and your Twitter handle in the comments and I’ll post it on Twitter.

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 LinkedIn, Slideshare, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.



Video and Libraries Make The Perfect Marketing Marriage

I have some homework for you.

Sometime in the next seven days, I want you to go to the New York Public Library’s Facebook page and watch some of the video marketing they’ve done over the past few months. Specifically, I want you to check out their live book recommendations with Lynn and Gwen (Gwen also co-hosts the NYPL Podcast The Librarian is In which is a MUST LISTEN for library marketers.) About once a month for half an hour, these two librarians from NYPL get on Facebook live and give book recommendations to people who give them information via the comments. It’s genius. And it’s free. And you should be doing this–or something like it–too!

Most library marketers are afraid to try video marketing. (I will be looking at the results of the poll at the beginning of this post to gauge if I’m right about that!) I can understand that fear. But I come from a TV background, so video marketing and live video isn’t as foreign to me as it might be to you. So this post is all about lifting the veil, so to speak. I’ve got a secret for you. Video is not as hard as you think. I hope I can give you the confidence to do video marketing!

Video, whether live or recorded and edited, is an easy and relatively inexpensive way to market your library. But the most important point I want to make is that IT IS NOW NECESSARY TO PRODUCE VIDEO FOR YOUR LIBRARY. There is data to prove that but, rather than list it here, I’ll give you this beautiful infographic with statistics on video marketing for 2017 from Hubspot.

The social media platform with the most power to amplify and engage library users is Facebook. And Facebook is rewarding and boosting posts that include video. If you want to reach more people with whatever message your library is trying to send, you must use video.

But many libraries still think video marketing is only something for large libraries with a huge staff. Let me show you why you can do it, no matter your size or budget.

It’s no longer expensive. In the past, producing video was expensive and difficult.  The “barrier to entry” was high. You needed a ton of heavy and complicated equipment. But that is no longer the case. My library produces videos using our regular DSLR camera, which we also use to take still photos of library events. We have two wired lavalier microphones which we purchased for about $75 each. We have a set of lights donated to us by a former TV news photographer. And we have a Go Pro camera purchased several years ago. But you don’t even need any of this equipment to do your videos. We have also shot video on our iPhones! And that has worked perfectly well. Your library likely has an Adobe Creative Suite license already, which will allow you to edit. You can also use iMovie or a host of other online editing software pieces, many of which are free. Here’s a great list.

You can learn how to shoot and edit online. If you’ve never worked with video before, has a host of video production courses which you can take at your desk for free if your library has a subscription! You can also subscribe to this YouTube channel by Amy Schmittauer. She’s got all kinds of tips about video marketing using all kinds of equipment, including a DSLR camera and smartphones, plus tips on how to set up a background for your video and how to “act” on camera! She’s just fun to watch and really down to Earth.

You have the tools to distribute your videos. You no longer have to send your produced videos to a television station and pay top dollar to have them broadcast. Social media has changed all that. Upload your video to Facebook. Upload your video to YouTube. Upload your video to your website. Then promote it and watch your message get across to new people.

Perfection is no longer required. Honestly, I think this is the biggest reason many libraries are hesitant to get started with video marketing. We all have this idea that the video has to be narrated by the perfect person with the perfect hair in front of the perfect background. That’s old school TV thinking and it’s no longer necessary. In fact, the best videos are the ones that show your authentic self. You don’t have to be scripted. If you’re doing a live video, it’s okay to pause and look something up when someone asks you a question. It’s good to show that you’re human and those human moments make videos more interesting and exciting. So please don’t worry about getting every little hair to lie in place, having the right clothes, or always saying the right thing. You’re talking to real people, even if they are on the other end of a video screen. And they’ll forgive you–and love you–if you aren’t robotic. Everyone loves a librarian and you will find fans just for being you!

To see some of the work my library has done with video, here’s a link to our YouTube channel. Have you seen great instances of video marketing by libraries? Please share with me in the comments so I can check them out!

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 LinkedIn, Slideshare, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

Warning: Your Library is NOT Ready For Virtual Reality Marketing!

Everywhere I look these days, people are talking about virtual reality and augmented reality marketing. It’s the shiny new toy in the marketing world and people get super excited when they talk about it. It’s cool and hip and, unlike a lot of marketing tactics, it sounds like great fun. Who wouldn’t want to be the first to reap the benefits of this technology as a marketing tool?

VR marketing came up this week in a meeting of non-marketing library professionals in my system. It’s been the subject of nearly a quarter of the tweets I see in my marketing list on Tweetdeck. And I read more than one article a day on the subject without even searching for it. It’s literally the talk of the town.

But I think we all need to take a step back and contain ourselves. VR and AR would be awesome but I’m going to burst your bubble. Your library is not ready to do VR or AR marketing. No library is ready. In fact, I want you to join me on the sidelines and watch for a bit as our for-profit brethren take this shiny new car for a spin a few times. Because that’s the best way to learn something about a new technology without having to put ourselves at risk.

I want to make sure we’re clear about what VR and AR really is. There is a lot of confusion and it can be hard to envision. Virtual Reality (VR) is the use of computer technology to create a simulated environment, one where the user is immersed and able to interact with 3D worlds. Augmented reality (AR) is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics, or GPS data. VR and AR marketing is NOT a live event or scavenger hunt. It specifically involves the use of technology on both the customer and brand side.

Now, I’m sure your head is spinning with many thoughts about how to put this to use in a library marketing application. What if customers could go into a virtual library, browse shelves and items and borrow materials using a computer program without ever having to leave their home? What if we could show our customers how to use services without having to bring them into a branch? What if people could attend our programs in an immersive experience from the comfort of their own homes? A whole world of possibilities and challenges opens up before you like a vast, unexplored universe of library marketing potential.

Here’s the thing. Very few profit-driven companies are ready to implement VR and AR marketing successfully. Some of the big brands you know and love–Coca-Cola, GM, Kraft, Red Bull–companies that are on the forefront of other marketing practices like content marketing, have not yet jumped onto the VR and AR band wagons yet. Why?

It’s expensive. Software and hardware on the customer’s side can run into the thousands of dollars. How many library customers can afford that kind of dough? Development of the VR programs on the brand side run anywhere between $30,000 and $100,000. That’s a lot of money for libraries facing budget cuts.

It’s an uncertainty. No one, not even the greatest thought-leaders in the marketing world, knows yet how to tie it to strategy and how to correctly distribute VR products yet. No one really knows when consumers will be willing to purchase the technology or how long it will take them to adapt to using it.

If the big guns haven’t been able to get their strategy and budget around VR and AR yet, then neither can we. But that’s okay. Let’s take this opportunity to learn more about the practice. I’ve created a little online starter guide for you!

Here is a slideshow explaining how VR and AR marketing work and showing you some of the technology pieces now available.

Here is a great article from Forbes about the six best examples of VR marketing to date.

Here is an interesting take from Content Marketing Institute on how VR could change the marketing landscape.

And I particularly loved this article about the pitfalls of VR marketing as experienced by three well-known brands.

Libraries are notoriously behind the curve for embracing marketing trends. In this case, I think the Library industry is eager, but we lack the budget and the ability. And I feel that in the end, that lag may end up working to our advantage. We have a chance to watch the big guns try, fail, and succeed, and we can learn from their experience. So take this time to study and learn. And let’s meet again in 5-10 years when the library industry will be ready to embrace VR and AR. We’ll do it right.

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 LinkedIn, Slideshare, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

How to Know When To Say No To More Library Marketing

I have a problem saying “no”.

It’s a common problem for anyone working in a library. Or in marketing. Or in life, if we’re being honest. We are all weirdly programmed to say yes, to take on more, to squeeze as much out of life as we possibly can. Yes, I can bake 100 cookies for my kid’s holiday party tomorrow! Yes, I can write a 1500 word blog in a day! Yes, I can promote that service or event or circulation item in every single channel in every single conceivable way RIGHT NOW.

Stop the madness, ya’ll.

The word “no”, while it may be very small, is liberating.  It’s good for you and for your marketing strategy.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I’m writing this particular blog post because I came to the realization this week that my marketing schedule is TOO DAMN FULL. We have two press releases and five-six eblasts scheduled per week for the next three months… not to mention graphics on the website, digital screen graphics, social media posts, videos, and so forth. It’s a rare day when my library doesn’t do a big promotion.

Wow, you may be saying to yourself. That’s awesome! You’re rockin’ it, Angela. Well, thank you. Sometimes I think so too. But it’s also tiring. And noisy. And a sure recipe for burnout for you and your staff.

Busyness feels wonderful. We’re doing something! Stuff is happening! Progress is being made! But without spaces for creative thought, it’s a recipe for disaster. Mistakes are going to happen. My writing isn’t what it could or should be. My head is so muddled with all the messages, it’s a wonder I’ll be able to say anything coherent or engaging to my cardholders.

And that’s where we are. We are all burned out… leading into the busiest time of the year: summer reading. And it has to stop. We are going to do a horrible job at promoting summer reading unless I weed out all the noise.

So that’s going to be my job over the next week. I’ve got four rules for weeding the promotions.

If it’s not giving us more than a ten percent bump in circulation, program attendance, or usage, it gets cut.

If we’re promoting a service that is difficult for the cardholder to use, it gets cut.

If the presenter isn’t paid, it gets cut.

If it’s not tied directly to the library’s overall strategy, it gets cut.

Weeding your marketing content periodically to cut anything that falls into these four categories will allow you to do a better job and be more creative with the promotions you have left.  Do this evaluation twice a year to make sure you keep your marketing lean and don’t tax your staff or yourself.

Cleaning out your marketing schedule is kind of like cleaning a closet. We tend to just keep stuffing things in there, in the hopes that it will work for us someday. But eventually, the closet is so packed you can’t fit anything else in there and every time you open the door, everything falls out. You need to cart some stuff off to the dumpster.

Set your own ground rules if you like but weed your promotions before you head into summer reading. It will make you a better marketer by giving you more time to devote the promotions that are left–the ones that really matter.

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 LinkedIn, Slideshare, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.


The Most Effective Library Marketing Tactic Ever: “I Understand”

I listened last week to White House officials explain a recent round of proposed budget cuts by President Trump. Soon after its release, I noticed a backlash on social media by people who believe the decisions in this budget proposal show a lack of empathy on the part of the administration. The message their budget proposal is sending to a group of angry and emotionally charged constituents is that they lack empathy. Maybe they are very empathetic… but they’re not marketing that emotion very well.

Watching the backlash made me worry about the way my library is viewed by the public. We are in the business of serving the under-served. Our industry is driven forward by empathy–by a desire to educate, inspire, and empower people. But, like the President’s staff, we don’t always do a very good job of marketing that emotion.

First, let’s define empathy because it’s often confused with sympathy. Empathy is when you can recognize another person’s emotions and share them. Sympathy doesn’t involve the sharing of emotions—it is simply recognizing what another person is feeling.

Empathy in marketing means you are able to communicate to your customers that you understand and share the emotions they feel. Showing your cardholders that you empathize with them will move them to action. It’s the most nebulous of marketing tactics but also the most effective. If you can get people to understand that you feel the way they feel, that your library is the key to turning their emotions into action, and that their action can lead to change in their community, you will have moved them toward whatever goal you’ve established for your library marketing. People are motivated to action by four main emotions: greed, fear, love, and the chance to grow. Communicating to your cardholders that your library is in tune with them… that you crave, fear, love, and desire the same things they do, will be the difference between meeting your marketing and strategic goals and staying stagnant. People will rally behind an organization that understands them and shares their goals.

I’ll give you an example of this from my library. We know that people in our community are worried about jobs. They want to improve their career prospects and they aren’t many programs in our area aimed at giving people the basic coaching they need to put together a resume, ace an interview, or even to sort through prospective jobs openings to find the right fit for their life and their family. So over the past six months, we’ve partnered with another organization to put on a series of free workshops aimed at improving the job prospects of members of our community. The emotion we’ve used to market that program is hope… a sense of hope for the betterment of our community and a sense of hope for those who thought their chances of getting a better paying, more fulfilling job was pretty hopeless. The workshops are filling up and we’re starting to get media coverage.

Empathy should be infused in every marketing piece we create. That’s because emotions rule consumer behavior… they are the “why” behind the actions we take. Empathy is at the heart of every good novel ever written. The author makes you care about what happens to the characters. Without that, you don’t really want to read the book! Let’s use the same concept in our library marketing.

The best way to market empathy is tell stories about how your library and your staff is impacting the lives of others. Don’t script it. Let the librarians and the customers share in their own words. Share those stories in your newsletters, on your blog, in your press releases, and in videos. Choose small segments of your population, think about the core ideals and values that drive their lives, and connect those ideals to the work of your library. Ask your interviewees questions about how they feel. And let their words inspire other cardholders to action.

For more ways to inspire your cardholders to feel all the feels, read this.

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 LinkedIn, Slideshare, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

This is NOT What Your Library Marketing Should Focus On

I write a lot of posts filled with advice about what you should do to better market your library. Today, I’m writing one about what you shouldn’t do.

This stems from a frustration over a lot of bad advice I see from marketing experts. In some cases, they’re just making your average snake oil promise of big returns on investment doing one simple thing. Other times, it is aggressively touting techniques that are either too expensive for libraries or just don’t work in our industry.

So when you hear someone tell you to do these four things at your library, ignore them.

You need to go viral. Let me be really clear because this one is a pet peeve of mine. You DO NOT need to go viral. Going viral is a fluke, not a real goal. It’s kind of like winning the lottery. There is no secret to going viral. No one can ever predict when or if it will happen. In fact, when I hear others make promises that “doing this will make you go viral”, I just have to cringe.

Do this instead. Create engaging content that speaks to YOUR audience and forget the rest of the world. If, by chance, you ever do something that does go viral, enjoy it, bask in it, promote it for all it’s worth. Then go back to your normal life with your documented marketing strategy and content goals. You are not a global company. Going viral will bring you fame and brand recognition in markets outside of your service area, but that won’t increase your circulation or program attendance. And I’ve seen a lot of libraries do some cringe-worthy stuff in the name of fame. Don’t waste your energy.

Use growth hacks to increase your social media audience.  It doesn’t matter how many followers your library has on social media. It matters more WHO those followers are. You want people who are within your community and who are engaged with your brand–which means they like, comment, and share your posts.

Do this instead. Be deliberate in your social media. Post meaningful and relevant content. DO NOT BUY followers on any social media platform, ever. Spend your money boosting the posts that will connect with your cardholders and deepen their emotional connection to your library.

Posting on Facebook comes first. Many libraries have a huge following on Facebook and so they concentrate all of their efforts on that one platform. That’s the wrong approach. Facebook is rented land–you don’t own the platform and they have no allegiance to you. They can change their site however they want, anytime they want. Why do we keep rewarding a site that constantly changes its algorithm and makes it more difficult for libraries to hit their target audiences by spending so much time on posting content there?

Do this instead. Diversify your social media strategy. Pick one or two other platforms where you typically see engagement with followers. For most of us, this will be Twitter and Instagram. Create a strategy around those and increase the number and quality of posts you put there. Social media is a moving target and the popularity of social media sites waxes and wanes. Don’t go all in on one platform… that’s like putting all your money in one company in the stock market.

If you write it, they will come. Most of the time, we write a great piece of content and stick it out there in the world on our blog or in a newsletter and we hope or expect people to find it. And then we wonder why our posts get no traction. Writing the post is only half the battle.

Do this instead. Create a strategy for distribution when you fill out your editorial calendar. I do this in a spreadsheet. I decide how I’ll promote each piece of content and then schedule of promotion. It’s not complicated as long as you’re willing to invest time in planning. Marketing expert Andrew Davis advises a tiered strategy–which means that you publish content and then promote it one area at a time, overlapping your amplification efforts. So for instance, you write and publish a blog. You promote it on Facebook. A few days later, you promote it on Twitter. A few days later, you include a blurb and a link in your email newsletter… and so on. If you’re willing to invest a little time in the planning, the execution will run smoothly and you’ll get a longer shelf life, a wider audience, and more engagement from each piece of content.

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 LinkedIn, Slideshare, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.


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


First impressions are important. This is true whether you are meeting someone in person for the first time or if you’re sending them communication via email. It’s particularly true for libraries entering the targeted email marketing space (and I really wish you would!) You have between six and eight words to capture the attention of your card holder and get them to open the email or its game over. Which means you have to choose those six to eight words very carefully. And I mean VERY CAREFULLY.

To help drive home my point, I want to share this data from Convince and Convert, via CoScheduler:

35 percent of email recipients open emails based on the subject line alone.

69 percent of people will report an email as spam based on the subject line alone.

When I craft an email, I spend a lot of time thinking about the subject line–sometimes I think about it for days. I test it and get feedback from others in my office before I send it out. I use a couple of online headline analyzers (mainly CoScheduler’s and this one from the Advance Marketing Institute) to decide how well it will play. Arguably, the subject line is the most important piece of your email and you need to get it right. But the longer you do targeted email messaging, the better you’ll get at crafting them.

There are words and phrases you should avoid, and conversely,  things you can do to really make a subject line work for you. I have these pointers printed out and taped to the wall above my desk. I reference them nearly every time I create an email.  I want to share them with you!

Words You Should Not Use

  1. Your library’s formal name, as in the full name of your system. Why leave your library’s formal name out of the subject line? Mainly because it makes you sound too pushy or sales-like. You want to engage your cardholder with something interesting or emotional–not with your brand.
  2. Re, Fw, Regarding, or In Reference To. It’s too formal and it sounds spammy.
  3. Library jargon like periodicals, database, interlibrary loan, reference, serial, audiovisual, abstract, or resource. Use words that regular people understand–magazines, music, online classes, and helpful information.
  4. Any reference to a vendor service like Overdrive, Hoopla, Freegal, BookFlix, Zinio, etc. As far as your cardholders are concerned, all material comes from the Library. Your cardholders are smart. When they click on the link and they land in the Overdrive section of your website, they’ll be able to figure out how to check stuff out.
  5. Free, Cheap, Save, or Help. I know it’s a great selling point for libraries–there isn’t any other business where you can say that literally everything is free! But unfortunately, these words trigger many email services to mark your message as spam. Include these words in your subject line and your email message will likely land automatically in the junk folder before anyone ever gets the chance to read it. Even without the use of email filters, these words trigger a psychological response from many email receivers that makes them think of spam (thanks for ruining it, big brands!)
  6. Never use ALL CAPS. I don’t think I have to explain why.
  7. Vague greetings like Hi!, What’s Up?, Miss You! and the like. Again, it’s a spam trigger for email filters. And it sounds like you’re not human.

Ways to Make Your Email Subject Line Rock

  1. When you send targeted program emails, try to fit the specific name of the branch or neighborhood in which the program is happening into the subject line. For example, “Play with robots at the Lincoln Park Branch Library” or “Coding classes for adults now at the library in Knotting Hill.”
  2. Keep it short. CoScheduler recommends a word count of about six to nine words or 55 characters in length for greatest impact. Most of your cardholders will look at their email on a mobile device, so a short subject line means they’ll be able to see all of it in the preview window.
  3. Add emotion, particularly positive or encouraging words. People are more likely to respond to a subject line when it conveys a message of positivity and helpfulness. Email recipients also respond to subject lines that convey urgency, curiosity, excitement, and joy.
  4. Use power words like amazing, ultimate, important, challenging, surprising, best, secret and exact.
  5. Use emojis. A report by Experion shows emojis actually increase the likelihood that your email will be opened. They save space on mobile device small screens and they convey emotion. Confession: I have not yet had the guts to do it! But if you do, test your emails to make sure they emojis show up properly on all major devices, and make sure they are in line with the tone and style of your library.

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 LinkedIn, Slideshare, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.


The Most Important Post: You Need a Marketing Strategy–Now!


Time for some real talk.

Most library marketing is an afterthought. A library will schedule programs, create exhibits, plan events, or buy services first, then decide how they’re going to promote it. And that, my friends, is backwards thinking.

When you put product before marketing, you are essentially putting the wants and needs of the library ahead of the cardholders. And that’s just wrong.

Why do libraries forget about marketing strategy? Because doing something feels better than thinking about doing something. Doing something seems productive. The results are immediate and obvious. Thinking about doing something seems like a bad use of time. Creating a strategy requires institutional knowledge, research, critical thinking, and the ability to look at the long view. It seems like a slow, difficult, meaningless step.

But it’s not. It’s not!!!

I want you to stop whatever it is you are doing right now and create a marketing strategy for your library. I’m serious! I don’t care if you’re reading this in June and you’re halfway through your promotional year. I don’t care if you’re knee-deep in summer reading with half your budget spent. I don’t care if you’re not fully staffed. Your 12-month library marketing strategy starts now–no excuses!

I’ve broken it down in seven easy steps. Using this method, it should take you anywhere from 3-8 hours to create a marketing strategy. That’s not a lot of time. I’m not a PhD. I’m not super intelligent. If I can do this stuff, so can you.

The first time you create a marketing strategy, it’s going to be uncomfortable and you might second-guess yourself about 500 time. You might feel like you’re a total fraud. Lean into it. Do the steps. Squirm your way through the first twelve months if you have to. Keep reminding yourself that a library marketing strategy is essential and if you don’t have one yet, you could be putting your whole library in jeopardy.

Here we go!

STEP ONE. Name the library’s overall goals–no more than three. What are the three big things your library wants to accomplish in the next 12 months? This is a conversation you’ll need to have with your director. Prepare to be fascinated. Most library directors have a big picture image of where they want their library to move in the next year. And most are not good at communicating that with employees. So when you sit down and ask your director what they want the library to do in the next year, it’s bound to be an eye-opening conversation.

Write those big goals on a paper and stick them up everywhere in your marketing office. Repeat them. Eat, breathe, and sleep them. Those are your goalposts for the year. Those are your big concerns. What your director wants to accomplish is what you want to accomplish. Everything you do needs to be in service of reaching these goals. If it isn’t, you have my permission to say “no.”

STEP TWO. Look at your current data and write what you know about your current cardholders and the residents of the community you serve right now.  Marketers call this a “situation analysis.” This will give you a starting point for your strategy–a defined beginning as you move through the next 12 months. What does your typical cardholder do with their card? Where do they live?  How do they view your competitors? How does your library currently fulfill a unique position in your community?

STEP THREE. Create a list of all your tactics and assets. Write down all the stuff you use to promote your library. It should include every social media platform you use, every website your library owns, every print publication you send out, plus emails, print collateral, influencers, in-person events, press releases, podcasts, and videos… every single thing you do to communicate with cardholders.

STEP FOUR. Broadly describe how you can leverage the above-listed tactics or assets to move your library toward accomplishing your strategic goals. If you can’t see a way to make any one piece work for your overall marketing goals, drop it. Seriously. I don’t care if you’ve done it for 20 years. Use only the things that can help you to achieve your goals and cut the rest.

Here’s an example of what I mean. You know all those mannequin challenge videos that libraries were releasing toward the end of 2016? They were cute and fun… and they drove me nuts. Creating cute and fun videos is a waste of valuable library marketing time. Those videos did nothing to fulfill the strategic goals of the libraries for which they were made–unless the goal was brand awareness (I’ll argue that that’s a fluffy and non-essential marketing goal for libraries in a future post). The most popular of the videos, done by the New York Public Library, only received about 20,000 views. That’s not very many at all, considering the NYPL’s reach. All the mannequin challenge videos were good, which means they took an enormous amount of planning and production time. And it was a waste. If you have that much time to invest in a video, create one that meets a strategic goal, like virtual story times to enhance early childhood literacy, or how-to videos for people looking to advance their careers. Those types of videos can be fun, engaging, and popular if you put the same amount of energy and planning into them as you would a mannequin challenge.

Okay, rant over.

STEP FIVE. Give a detailed description how each tactic and asset will be used to bring your library’s overall strategic vision to life. Here’s an example. For my print publication, I would write “We will use our quarterly print publication to emphasize the role of the library in helping job seekers find a new, more lucrative, more fulfilling career. We will do this by featuring a cardholder in each issue who used our library’s services to advance their own career, such as by taking our GED course or using our online job resume builder. We’ll do at least one story on a library work as a career. Every quarter, we’ll highlight a service or program that will help our cardholders reach their career goals.”

STEP SIX. Measure success and failure. Accurately document the results of every promotion you do. This will help you to adjust your strategy next year. Failure is okay, by the way. Marketing is an experiment. Sometimes the stuff you do will work, sometimes it won’t. Don’t repeat the things that don’t work! Spend more energy on the things that do work. It’s really that easy, but sometimes you won’t have a clear understanding of what’s working and what’s not working until you see the actual results in numbers on a paper in front of your nose.

STEP SEVEN. Just do it. In my opinion, libraries are too cautious. We wonder why we have a reputation of being traditional and old-fashioned. It’s partly due to the fact that any change is so slow in coming. I fully believe that the time has come for libraries to undertake grand gestures, to take leaps of faith, to be brave and bold. So don’t spend too much time obsessing over every little detail of your strategy. You can refine it as you move through the first twelve months, using the data you gather. It’s never going to be perfect, so once you’ve got a plan in place, just do it!

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 LinkedIn, Slideshare, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

Constraints Are Your Strengths: The Hidden Secret to Life-Changing Library Marketing


It’s no secret that I’m a super fan of Jay Acunzo. This guy is smart and ambitious, yet he’s truly dedicated to making the marketing world a more creative place. He’s got credentials. He’s a former employee of Google and Hubspot. His current job is as VP of Platform at Nextview Ventures, an investment firm for entrepreneurs.

But I really connect with Jay’s ideas about how to be creative. On Jay’s podcast Unthinkable, he shares inspiring stories of craft-driven creators who decide one day to do something for fun. These side projects end up growing into something big and “unthinkable.”  If you’re not a listener, you need to.

What the heck does all this have to do with library marketing? One of Jay’s core ideas is that constraints in your job or side project can be a source of strength for you. And my gosh, how many constraints do we face in our jobs as library marketers? About a gazillion. We face budget constraints, staffing constraints, creative constraints, legal constraints… the list goes on and on. It’s a wonder we get anything creative and engaging done. It frustrates the heck out of me. Doesn’t it frustrate you? Wouldn’t you like to break free and do something amazing? Aren’t you tired of doing the same old thing, year after year? Why do we do that anyway?

I’ve had a couple of speaking gigs this year and that gave me the chance to meet a lot of library marketers. Most of them have a hard time pushing the boundaries because they’re scared of breaking tradition and they’re worried the bureaucracy of the library won’t be welcoming to creative ideas.

But I have also talked with fellow library marketers who are ready to push open the door of creativity and try new things. I think the time is ripe for some truly inspiring stuff to happen in library marketing. Our industry depends on it, now more than ever.

Step one, according to Jay, is to stop being a slave to best practices. Everywhere you turn, there is someone telling you how to do your job. Most of the time, these constraints come to us in the form of a tidy document called “best practices.” How many best practices do you adhere to at your library? At mine, we have social media best practices, website content best practices, and a host of best practices for dealing with our “clients” in other departments.

Jay says best practices have one flaw: They create one truth we feel we need to embrace. Good marketers follow best practices, but great marketers craft their own. Best practices tell you what you’re supposed to do. But what if your intuition is urging you to try something else?

So how about we begin the year by examining our best practices and seeing if we can rework them to allow more creativity, or better yet just throw them out and use creativity, intuition, and data to drive our marketing efforts. Give your team (or yourself) room to be creative and do creative work. That’s when the magic is going to happen.

When you make the leap away from best practices and toward pushing boundaries, Jay says you stop playing in the market and start shaping it. Are we proactively marketing what we firmly believe, or constantly reacting to the trend? Jay says no one buys a better pillow… they buy a better night’s sleep.This is so applicable to libraries. No one checks out books. They are borrowing an experience, a fantasy, a chance to get away from daily life or to learn something new about themselves or the world.

This year, I’m starting a creativity initiative in my marketing team. I ask them to meet once a month and do whatever creative thing they want to do. I don’t attend the meeting and I don’t prescribe how they conduct the meeting or even where they meet. I only ask that they pass on one great idea from each creative session that we can use in practical marketing purposes. Sometimes the group plays games. Sometimes they walk around the library taking photos. Sometimes they just talk through ideas. The point is that they set aside time every month to be creative.

But there are constraints. They only have an hour or two to work on creativity. And they have to come up with one actionable idea for our library marketing that won’t cost us any budget to implement. I can’t wait to see what they come up with!

Here’s another idea from Jay. Find 30 minutes each week to study one piece of marketing done by another library or company. Ask yourself … what emotion does it evoke in you? Why does it make you feel that way? How can you replicate that feeling in your own library cardholders?

Library marketing isn’t brain surgery. If you screw up, no one dies. Stop letting fear hold you back. Start putting creative ideas into practice. Use data to figure out if they work or not. What have you got to lose? If something doesn’t work, you just stop doing it and move on to the next creative idea. We used to do this all the time when I worked in TV news. When an idea didn’t work, we just called it “an error of enthusiasm” and we learned from it. No one took failure as a life or death outcome. Try stuff. There will be duds. That’s okay. When you find a creative marketing gem, it’ll be awesome.

So let’s lead the charge into creative territory for libraries. Let’s look at our constraints and find ways to work within them. The challenge to create within the constraints of regular library life might lead us to do something really innovative and cool. What a great way to start a new year!

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 LinkedIn, Slideshare,  Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.


A Website.

Up ↑