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

Target

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.

 

The Best Ways to Find the Right Keywords For Your Library Marketing

The internet is a giant swirling vortex of blog posts, featured articles, and videos. Social media feeds are packed with all kinds of content on every topic imaginable. We know that when you write for your library website, blog, or other content site, you should always be focused on the needs of your cardholders and potential library customers. But how do you make sure your words reach the people who need it most? How does your library cut through the noise and get noticed?

Keywords are the key.

Libraries have a tendency to release content that is not keyword friendly. Libraries are institutions of precision. Library staff believes in using the correct words in the correct context, even if it’s clunky or uncommon. Library staff creates lots of terms and phrases to help us to track down information for our customers. But we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about how those terms and phrases might be confusing to cardholders who are not standing with a library staff member.  When a cardholder is online, trying to find the source that will help them to write a research paper, add branches to their family tree, or make a decision about whether to purchase a car, they need us to speak their language.

That’s where keywords come into play. Using the right keywords makes it more likely that the content you write, in whatever format it is in, will end up on the computer screen in front of the person who needs it most.

There are three tools library marketing experts can use to help find keywords to weave into your content. I use the three sites when I write for this blog and they’re reliable and efficient. And all the search engines in this post are free!

Keyword Tool

I first learned about this keyword search tool about a year ago at a conference. It’s my favorite.  Type your subject or starting phrase into the box and it will tell you what terms people are using to search in Google, YouTube, Bing, Amazon, eBay, and the App Store. This tool is the reason I write about the subjects I do. For instance, I have learned that people who type library marketing into the search bar are looking for conferences, plans, and ideas.  So, if you are wondering, that’s why most of my posts focus on those three subjects. It works! My conference based stories are among the most popular of the blog and anytime I write about marketing plans or strategies, I get a huge response.

There is a fee-based option that allows you to look up search volume, cost per conversion, and AdWords competition but frankly, I don’t think you need them unless you are creating marketing for a huge and very expensive library campaign.

Google

Using the plain old Google search bar allows you to see what content is rising to the top of Google’s algorithm and what keywords or phrases those top-performing content pieces are using to catch the attention of readers. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery–whatever those articles are using should be what you use too! Don’t forget to scroll to the bottom to see “related searches,” which I find to be extremely valuable as a source of more keywords.

Pinterest

My guess is that you hadn’t thought of using Pinterest as a keyword tool. But I typed “buy a new car” into the Pinterest box and got all kinds of articles and graphics with tips and tricks for buying a new car. I could use this information to create content around how to use our free Consumer Reports Database or our Chilton Auto Repair database, but with words that I know people are using and language they’ll understand. It also helps me to decide what parts of the car-buying or car repair process my cardholders might be most concerned about.

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

Three Marketing Lessons Learned at the Jane Austen Festival

I am a fan of Jane Austen. I don’t have to extol the virtues of the Regency-era authoress to you–you work in a library. But I do want to share an experience I had this weekend and the marketing lessons I learned from it.

For the fourth year, my daughter and I attended the Jane Austen Festival in Louisville, Kentucky. This is the largest Jane Austen festival in North America and it is amazing for many reasons. The dresses, the food, and the vendors are all amazing and period-authentic. But this year, I found that I was hyper-aware of the marketing aspects of the festival. This is the 9th year for the festival and they are doing everything right, in my opinion. Here are the three big marketing lessons I learned.

Build your fan base over time and don’t discount the wonderful ways they can market for you. They might not be “influencers” in the traditional marketing sense, but your loyal, adamant, and devoted fans are a powerful marketing tool. A group of people who love you and your products will do more free marketing for you than any ad you can ever buy.

The Jane Austen festival boasts thousands of attendees every year and although they do some promotional media on local newspapers, TV, and radio stations, I haven’t ever seen a single ad buy. They don’t need to. The event grew quickly through word-of-mouth. Jane fans tell other Jane fans, in person and online. At the afternoon tea, I spent half an hour giving a new attendee from Indiana the lowdown on what to see, which vendor tents to visit, and where to get a Regency-style outfit for next year. No one paid me! There’s just an excitement that’s contagious and that loyal fans want to share.

The Jane Austen Society of Louisville has a Facebook page with more than 1200 members, including myself. Only about 10 percent of those members belong to the society but everyone who likes the page will share news about the festival with friends across the world. And fans will share recommendations for costumers, tea merchants, and other vendors, providing business even after the three-day festival has ended.

In addition, festival organizers give a place online for fans to talk and post photos and videos after the event. The festival organizers and the smart vendors like and comment on those photos, making festival goers feel valued and special.

Creating an immersive experience leaves a lasting impression. From the moment you step onto the grounds of Locust Grove, you feel like you’ve been transported to Jane’s era. Many attendees dress in authentic Regency wear. People bring picnic baskets and full tea sets and eat on the lawn using authentic place settings and utensils–no plastic sandwich bags or paper napkins here. In a sea of brightly colored frocks, parasols, fichus, and top hats, you can’t help but feel like you’re part of Jane’s world and that leaves a lasting impression.

The festival organizers go out of their way to complete the immersive experience by handing out programs and putting up signs in hand drawn authentic regency font. I know it’s just a font but it sure does a lot to capture the mood! All the vendors set up their wares inside beautiful white tents and many will use signs that say “Bills of Credit Accepted” instead of the more modern credit card signs. It may sound insignificant but it’s those little touches that extend the mood of the festival and make it an enjoyable and memorable experience for all.

Content marketing works. The entire customer journey for the Jane Austen festival only lasts a month. Tickets don’t go on sale until about 45 days before the event. But the society spends the whole of the year prepping Jane fans by posting articles about Jane, talking about Austen spin-off books, sharing photos and videos about Jane Austen and the Regency era, and holding smaller events with the Jane Austen theme. All this Jane talk serves to educate potential festival goers about the era and the author and builds excitement for the main event.

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.

Make Your Library Marketing Explode with Success for Very Little Money

Fact: customers hate ads.

Researchers at IPG Mediabrands Media Lab asked 11,000 consumers about their ad-watching habits and published the results earlier this year. 65 percent of respondents told the surveyors they skip online video ads. The most recent survey I can find on static digital ads is from the research firm Lumen, which found only 35 percent of digital ads receive any views at all and only nine percent hold the attention of viewers for more than a second. I couldn’t find solid, current numbers on newspaper ad effectiveness but I did this fascinating study focused solely on people who admit to ignoring newspaper ads. Those respondents told researchers they see too many print ads that are not relevant or interesting to them, and that many ads focus on the needs of the company, not on the needs of the consumer. I didn’t find any reliable data on radio, but there is a reason Pandora and Spotify exist and are doing so well. I couldn’t find any study on billboards that wasn’t conducted by a billboard-sales company but, from my experience, they’re expensive and not very effective.

Yet there are times when your library will need to do some kind of advertising. I get that. I would hate for you to spend big money and get no results. So I want to share the four most effective ways we’ve advertised at my library. They’re all cheap, easy, and effective.

Buy targeted social media advertising. I beat this drum regularly but it’s cheap and effective. Facebook ads are so easy to make, my teenagers can do it. You can create very specific audience targets and watch results in real-time, adjusting the ad as needed. I always put this at the top of my list because it’s really the best way for libraries, or any budget-strapped organization to advertise.

Ask your local TV stations to run your ad for free. My library did this for our summer reading program this year. We created an English and a Spanish version of the same 15 second ad, shot it on an iPhone, and edited it in Adobe Creative Suite. It literally took us a day, and our ad runs at least once a day on a top-rated station. The only thing I had to do in return was add the station’s logo to the list of our summer reading sponsors! I found that all I had to do was ask for the time. Sometimes, you’ll get a yes! Then your biggest problem will be figuring out how to get the ad produced… but that’s a good problem to have!

Be super thoughtful with signage.  My library has permanent signage holders at the entrances, on the second and third floors, and in the elevators. For a long time, these extra sign spaces were not what I would consider to be prime advertising opportunities. Then, one day, I hung out where those signs are located, watching our customers come in and out of the library. I noticed whether they glanced at the signs, and where they went next. I took those observations back to my office and gave careful thought to the messages contained in those signs. For instance, I started using the signs at the library entrances to direct customers to our amazing exhibits, which are in an obscure space on the third floor. Lo and behold, as I watched customers after those signs were installed, they would glance at them and then head for the elevators or ask staff for specific directions to make sure they were headed to the right area or to get more information about the exhibit. Sometimes I stalked around the exhibit space and would approach customers, politely asking them how they found out about the exhibit.

I took the same approach in the elevators. We have three banks, and there are three very different sets of library customers using each bank. I rode up and down for a while, trying to notice who looked at the sign and whether they would comment on it or take action. I try to gear the signs in each bank of elevators to be relevant to the customer. It only took a few hours of my time, but it made a world of difference in how effective those sign spaces are and it changed my mind about whether that space was valuable. The best part? Those signs are free!!

Enlist the help of library staff.  Your staff can also be a huge help when it comes to marketing. When your library unveils a new service, educate your staff about how it works and encourage them to strike up personal conversations with customers. Make buttons that staff can wear that say “Ask me about (insert service name here)” to help get the conversation going and give them talking points to help them feel more comfortable answering questions. Talking to your cardholders is the best way to get a message across. They’ll retain what you say if it’s part of a personal conversation, as opposed to a potentially unwanted advertisement pushed into their face.

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, Lynda.com has a host of video production courses which you can take at your desk for free if your library has a Lynda.com 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.

 

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