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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.

 

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Frustrated with Your Library Marketing Newsletter? Here’s Why You’re Not Getting the Results You Want AND How to Fix It

I hold a controversial opinion. Newsletters are an ineffective tool for library marketing.

I totally understand why libraries create them. Our customers are a wide and diverse audience and our budget is limited. Newsletters are an easy and efficient way to get information to our audience.

But many libraries are frustrated by the lack of demonstrable results from their newsletters, both the print and email versions. And there’s a reason you can’t get good results from a newsletter.

The mistake is: You’re sending the same message to all of your cardholders.

It’s understandable. It feels like the natural thing to do. Your library has great stuff and you want everyone to know about everything.

The problem with that approach is that your cardholders are individuals. One message never fits them all. The needs and interests of your cardholders vary greatly.

I’m not suggesting you ditch your newsletter. By transforming the way you approach your current print and e-newsletter, you can make it actually work! The trick is to make changes that increase your newsletter’s value by refining the message.

Tips that work for both print and e-newsletters

Give your cardholders LOTS more of what THEY want. I know you’ve been keeping track of attendance at events and holds or checkouts of books you promoted in your previous newsletters. If you notice that your newsletter audience turns out for a particular type of event or that they like a particular genre of books or collection items, put MORE of those in your newsletters.

Library marketers are often pressured to promote what their co-workers or bosses think is interesting. Or worse, what their co-workers think the audience NEEDS to hear.

I’ve actually had to gently explain to my colleagues that, while reading classic authors like Ernest Hemingway and Jane Austen are good for the brain, most people are not looking for an intellectual challenge when they reach for a book. It’s like getting kids to eat their vegetables. Veggies are healthy, but if your child doesn’t like them, they’ll clamp their mouth shut and refuse to take a bite.

The newsletter audience is the same. You can’t make people attend events or read books because they’re healthy or intellectual. Library marketers sometimes have to be an advocate for their audience; you have to be persistent in your defense of what your cardholders want.

At my library, we pivoted our newsletter to focus more on our the parts of our collection that our cardholders like. We had the data to back it up. We know that our cardholders really love content about coding and coding classes. We know they love mystery books. We know they love workshops about writing and publishing their own books. We learned all of these nuanced preferences by carefully measuring our audience’s response to marketing in all areas. Patterns emerge. And now, we do a lot of promotion around these areas because we know, for a fact, that our cardholders love this kind of content.

Make your content helpful, not promotional. Your cardholders are regularly bombarded with offers, sales, and promotions, both in their inbox and in your mailbox. To get people to read your newsletter, the content needs to be interesting, useful, or helpful.

Hundreds of studies and surveys about consumer behavior show us that content that is educational or entertaining gets better results that content that is promotional. So how can you promote something while being entertaining or informative? Content marketing in the answer.

Content marketing is a strategic approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience–ultimately, to drive profitable consumer action.

Content marketing breaks through the noise and the clutter by providing compelling, useful information for your cardholder–any type of information. It addresses whatever pain points your cardholders have. It positions your library as the go-to place for information. It builds trust.

And through content marketing, your library gets a better and deeper understanding of your cardholders. You can use that understanding to do a better job of addressing your cardholders’ needs. It’s a constant circle of giving and it carries more weight for a longer period than a traditional newsletter promotion.

Stop thinking of your publication as a newsletter. Start creating news magazines. Most library newsletters that come to my inbox or mailbox are long and contain a ton of text and images. There isn’t much white space and scanning them is difficult, because there is so much to scan.

At my library, we increased the effectiveness of our print newsletter by transforming it into a magazine. We trimmed it from 16 to 12 pages. My graphic artists started to give the publication a magazine feel in layout, using bolder visuals and shorter, more engaging articles. We left some white space. We changed the balance of the articles from 100 percent promotional to 50 percent informational and 50 percent promotional (even I have to fight the battle with my library to be less overtly promotional!).

What happened when we made these changes? Our news magazine became a must-read. People started asking when the next issue would be out. We had to order more copies. Library staff and outside partners vie for space in the publication. The news magazine is popular!

Tips specific to e-newsletters

Keep the text short and scannable. Your e-newsletter is a touch point, not the end of a conversation. Readers should get enough to be left with the feeling of wanting to know more about a particular subject. Drive your recipients to your website or another platform where they can get more information with compelling text and enticing calls to action.

Make it easy to share your e-newsletter. Include social share buttons that link directly to your library’s social pages.

Segment your e-newsletters. You can segment your e-newsletter in a number of ways… by age, by interest, and by location. This means you’ll need to create more than one e-newsletter. But each one will be targeted to a specific audience, which increases effectiveness. This step will be more work for you but it’s worth it for better results.

By targeting your message, you are more likely to say something that matters significantly to your cardholders. That individualized message makes them more likely to take an action, which makes it more likely that your newsletter will be successful.

More help for library marketers

How the Best Newsletters Get-and Keep-Reader’s Attention from Content Marketing Institute

NoveList’s Guide to Best Practices for Library Newsletters

7 Tips for Creating Engaging Newsletters from Mailjet

Great examples of targeted library newsletters

Dallas Public Library’s Young Black Readers Newsletter

Indian Prairie Public Library’s DVD Preview

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

 

The Step-by-Step Method for Figuring Out the Best Time to Send Library Marketing Emails and Why You Should Never Stop Experimenting!

I spend a good portion of my day as a library marketer trying to figure out how my cardholders live their lives. What do they do? When to they do it? What parts of their life are difficult? What parts are enjoyable? When do they have free time?

We do know a lot about the people who use the library, thanks to our own library surveys and great organizations like Pew Research Center. But you can also figure out what your cardholders are doing by email marketing experimentation. And your findings can increase the effectiveness of your marketing.

On the Library Marketing Live Instagram show, Dari from Cook Memorial Public Library District wanted to know how to figure out the best time to schedule marketing email to different audiences. The answer, in general terms, is between 6 p.m. and midnight. But I want to dive a little deeper into how I came to this conclusion and why this might NOT be the case for the people using your library!

If you’re just starting out with email marketing, check with the experts. There are a lot of companies (mostly email marketing software companies) which publish research on the best time of day and the best day of the week to send marketing emails, plus a bunch of other data points. So, start by gathering the latest research from these companies. Some of my favorites are Hubspot, AWeber, and Convertful.

Think about the daily life of your cardholder. If you are sending an email to a group of people who use a particular branch, or who are in a particular age group, try to imagine what they do all day. This generalization method will help you identify points in the day in which your target audience might have time to check their email.

Here’s an example: When I’m sending emails to parents of school-age children, I avoid 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., when parents are usually racing to get their kids ready to go to school. I also avoid 2:30 p.m. to dinner time, because many parents are picking up their kids, running them to extra-curriculars, and tackling homework.  I send marketing emails very early in the morning, like 5 a.m., so they are sitting in their inbox when they wake up but before their kids are up. I also send them after 8 p.m. when most school-age kids are in bed.

When I send emails to teenagers, I never, ever, ever send them in the morning. I exclusively email teenagers at night, and the later the better. That’s because most teens don’t have time to relax until 9:30 p.m. or later, after homework and after-school activities. They will likely check their email right before they fall to sleep at night, and they’re more likely to act on email in the late evenings.

Experiment. Send emails for a 3-6 months period of time. If you’re just starting out, try all hours of the day and night. Keep meticulous records of the results including open, click through, and conversion rates on all your emails.

After your allotted experimentation time, comb through the data and figure out which times of day resulted in the most click-throughs and conversions. Those are your optimum times to send emails! Focus most of your email scheduling on your proven best time of day.

And never stop experimenting. Start another experimentation period of 3-6 months, and then re-analyze data. If you notice a decline in click-through and conversion rates, go back to the drawing board.

My latest six-month analysis shows the best time to send email is between 6 p.m. and midnight, for all age categories and for all card types. This was not always the case. Two years ago, I could send my emails any time of the day EXCEPT between 7 a.m. and noon. But, at the end of 2018, that changed and the only emails that did well were the ones I sent at night.

Why did the effective time change? Because people’s lives change. Your cardholder base changes. The way that email gets delivered by various email providers changes. All of these factors mean that you’ll need to be in a constant state of experimentation. Don’t get married to any one time of day. Have an open mind and be ready to change your email scheduling strategy when the data tells you it’s time to change.

The most important thing is to have good content. If your emails contain stuff that your email audience wants to know about, they will engage with them, no matter what time of day it is. Try and keep your emails short. Focus on a few lines of really compelling text and one or two clear calls to action.

Bonus controversial opinion: I am not a fan of email newsletters. They usually contain too much information and too many calls to action. Their subject matter is usually too broad for their audience. I know a lot of us have to send them because senior leaders love them. But they aren’t an efficient use of email marketing. It would be better to take each section of your newsletter and send it separately to a targeted audience.

Don’t forget to join us for the LIVE LIBRARY MARKETING TALK ON INSTAGRAM every Tuesday at noon ET. We’ll talk about library marketing topics for about 20 minutes each week. My handle is Webmastergirl. You can email questions and topic suggestions ahead of time. Just fill out this form.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.  

Five Reasons Why You Should Stop Ignoring LinkedIn for Library Marketing Plus Tips to Get Started on Posts

NEW LIVE LIBRARY MARKETING TALK ON INSTAGRAM! Be sure to join me for my first live Instagram Q&A about Library Marketing. The live discussion happens every Tuesday at noon ET (11 a.m. Central and 9 a.m. Pacific) beginning this Tuesday, June 25. Join me to talk about library marketing topics for about 20 minutes each week. My handle is Webmastergirl. You can email questions and topic suggestions ahead of time. Just fill out this form below. See you there!

Whenever I talk to library marketers about social media success, the conversation usually centers on Facebook and Instagram. Most libraries worry about decreasing organic engagement on Facebook. They’re trying to master stories on Instagram and attract younger users.

I’ll be honest… these conversations frustrate me. That’s because libraries are battling a social media system that’s stacked against us. Facebook and Instagram and both focused on monetization. The truth is they don’t care if nonprofits can’t compete with brands. They only care that they’re making money and gathering data for their advertisers. And I, for one, have had enough.

That’s part of the reason behind a decision we made at our Library to focus a good portion of our efforts for organic social media reach on another platform: LinkedIn. And I want more libraries to use this platform to promote themselves.

 

More and more people are using LinkedIn. In a report released by the platform’s owner Microsoft, the company reported that engagement grew 24 percent in the last quarter. That’s huge.

LinkedIn is great for sharing content marketing and making personal connections with your cardholders. The audience on this social platform is smaller and more focused. Users are interested in career development, higher education, workplace issues, self-help ideas, and personal growth.

It’s also a largely positive place. There’s no toxic talk. Users comment in courteous and supportive way. There are also limited ads. It’s a happy place! I’m on LinkedIn several times a day and there are zero trolls.

LinkedIn is a great place for libraries to post content because competition for attention on the platform is small. Most libraries, educational institutions, and government agencies only post job openings on their LinkedIn page. But the platform is the number one choice for content among professionals. If you start posting today, you can grow your followers, create brand awareness, tailor targeted messages, and connect with cardholders without much competition from anyone else.

I know libraries struggle to keep up with all the social media changes but I really, really, really want you to embrace LinkedIn, even if it means you have to drop back your posting on another platform.

Here’s another reason to make the switch: LinkedIn recently improved its analytics tool. They’ll give you a ton of data about the people coming to your page. Next to Google Analytics, I think their metrics are the most in-depth. That’s a huge help to marketers. LinkedIn will tell you the kinds of people who are looking at your library’s content. You can see their industry and location. You can see their job seniority, from unpaid to training to managers and CEOs. You can even see their company size. You can use that information to program your content.

And LinkedIn is now leading the social media platforms with very specific and transparent metrics for content. They’ll tell you how many people look at your content for a specific amount of time or the number of people who click on your links.

My Library posts at least once a day during the week (Monday-Friday) on LinkedIn. We share a variety of content from our own events and collection as well as curated content from other sources. This steady stream of sharing introduces the library and its services to a new audience of people. And we’ve seen exactly the same kind of growth that the platform reports. We began our real push this past April. In that first month,  our posts received 24 percent more engagement that they did the previous month, when we still weren’t posting with regularity. Our unique visitors were up an average of 16 percent a month. And the more we posted, the better it got. This month (June 2019) we saw a 44 percent increase in visitors to our page. Post impressions were up seven percent. It’s not a huge number but a little bit of growth every month is going to add up.

A study by OkDork, which analyzed more than 3,000 LinkedIn posts, found that “how-to” and list posts performed best. It also revealed that long-form content (articles between 1,900-2,000 words) performed the best, as well as content with eight images.

Of course, you should always match your content on social with your library’s overall strategy goals. But here are some other ideas for content to share on LinkedIn.

Share collection items, services, and events that focus on self-help, career advancement, personal wellness, diversity, literacy, architecture, and entrepreneurship. For more ideas about the kinds of content your particular followers will find interesting, check your page’s analytics. The visitors tab will show you which industries your followers are working in. Then you can post content that matches those industries and offer value to your specific followers.

Search trending articles about libraries and the industries your followers work in. Pick your favorite, add a few lines that talk about how the article affects your community or library, and re-share the article.

Post original articles by thought leaders at your library, like your director.

Highlight library staff and give your followers an inside look at what it’s like to work in a library. My library likes to ask the highlighted worker what their favorite Library service or collection item is and then we link to it. It gives us a chance to promote something the library offers in addition to our amazing staff!

Give your partners and the media some love. Whenever one of your partner organizations does something wonderful, you can share their news on LinkedIn just as you would on any other social media platform. Most companies and nonprofit organizations have a LinkedIn page. Likewise, when you get good press, share the stories on LinkedIn just as you would on Twitter or Facebook!

Post your video marketing on LinkedIn. Just as with Instagram and Facebook, video marketing is a big deal on LinkedIn. I recommend uploading the video straight to LinkedIn, rather than linking to your YouTube channel or your website. LinkedIn will give you more organic reach if you post straight to their platform, rather than driving people to another social media site.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.  

How to Hook New Cardholders and Make Them Loyal with Email

We talk a lot about emailing our cardholders with information about new products, services, and collection items. But you can also use your email list in a powerful way to reach people who have just signed up for a library card.

Most libraries take a minimalist approach to “on-boarding” a new cardholder.  Once a person fills out a library card application, we hand them a card, a welcome brochure, and send them on their way. We’re friendly and we’re genuinely excited to welcome them to our system. But we make a mistake that’s common for a lot of businesses and organizations. We know our system inside and out and we often forget that our new cardholders know nothing about what we offer. We assume they can find their way to the things they need.

It’s important to help those cardholders learn to navigate the behemoth number of resources and items available at the library. A solid on-boarding campaign retains new cardholders and turns them into lifelong loyal users of the library. The first 90 days of a new library cardholder’s experience is crucial to determining their feelings of connection and loyalty to the library.

It also makes good business sense. Studies show it costs five times as much to gain a new customer than it does to retain them. A library marketer practicing good stewardship will want to do their best to keep new cardholders coming back to use the library.

The most effective way to on-board a new cardholder is through email marketing. Many libraries create a campaign with specific emails sent to new cardholders at a pre-determined pace. Those emails slowly introduce them to new features and inspire them to try out all the library has to offer. It’s easy to do this using some mail systems, like OrangeBoy and MailChimp.

My library has a 90 day on-boarding campaign set to run automatically through OrangeBoy. Creating it was a bit of process. But the effort was worth it. In addition to retaining customers, the on-boarding emails reduce unsubscribes for future targeted promotional emails. Here’s how we did it and what we learned about doing it well.

First, make a list of the services, events, and collection types that get the most use at your library. You’ll want to include information about the most popular features you offer in your emails to new cardholders.

Then, make a list of the services, events, and collection types that are interesting or unique to your library but don’t get a lot of use. These are the gold nuggets of your on-boarding campaign. You’ll have the attention of your new cardholder. The relationship is fresh. Why not use that to showcase the hidden treasures at your library.

Finally, create an outline of your campaign, mapping out each message, when it will be sent, and what it will say. Look at the two lists you’ve created and narrow your focus. Try to promote no more than four things per on-boarding message. You don’t want to overwhelm your new cardholder. Rather, you’ll want to introduce people to the library in small doses. Pick a theme for each message with a specific call to action. Keep the language simple, conversational, and free of industry jargon.

Create, test, and release the messages. This part took me nearly as long as creating the plan did! But you’re almost there.

Track results. Of course, you’ll want to use a Google URL tracker or Bitly link to see which services and items get the most interest from your new cardholders. You can also track unsubscribe rates, and if you have the ability to divide cardholders into clusters, you can see where your new cardholders land after they finish the on-boarding process.

Here are a couple of examples of my library’s on-boarding emails so you can see what we do.

How do new cardholders react to these messages? They definitely don’t hate them. Our unsubscribe rate is 0%. We’re a large system and we’ve sent these for several years to thousands of new cardholders. Over the course of our campaign, we’ve had a couple of hundred people unsubscribe.

We send six emails over 90 days. The first email gets a lot of engagement, which is not a surprise.  The fifth email about using your neighborhood branch (see the image above) is the second most engaging email for us. Overall, about half of the new cardholders we sign up end up becoming loyal library customers. Most use our computers but the rest are checking out physical and digital items or using our MakerSpace.

If your library is doing something to on-board cardholders, I’d love to hear about it. Please take this poll and tell me about what you are doing in the comments.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms!

 

This Advice Will Boost Your Library Marketing Email Click-Thru Rates

A few months ago, I wrote a post about email vanity metrics. Those are the statistics like open rates that make us feel good. But if we’re being honest, they’re relatively meaningless.

The meaningful metrics like click-thru and conversion rates are harder to obtain and must be tied to your library’s overall strategy to provide any meaning. Humans naturally like doing the easy stuff! But it’s the hard metrics that make our work valuable and worthwhile.

So, I want to spend the next two posts sharing some of my strategies for improving your library email click-thru and conversion rates. I learned most of these tips through trial and error and a lot of failures. Remember that failure is okay! It teaches us lessons that lead to success.

This week we’ll focus on improving your click-thru rates. The click-thru rate is the percentage of people who, after opening your email, will click on a link. Here’s what I’ve learned about how to improve that rate.

Promote the best possible content. Don’t send an email to promote every program or service your library carries. Choose your promotions strategically. Put the best content into your emails to make it more likely that your cardholders will click on your links.

For collection-based marketing, make sure the books you choose to promote in your email are buzz-worthy, newer, have a great cover (you’d be surprised how much the cover art affects click-thru rates!). For program promotions, of course you’ll choose events that are fun and interesting. But the programs you promote through email should either in demand by your cardholders or unavailable at any other organization or community group in your area. If you are asked to promote new or existing services like databases, movie streaming platforms, or reading recommendation services, pick the best of parts of those services to promote. For example, I recently did a three-month series of emails promoting the Great Courses section of the Kanopy video platform. Instead of trying to promote the entire Great Courses section, I promoted three specific video series–yoga, family history research, and weight loss. Promoting parts of a service makes it easier to target your message. Speaking of which…

Target your message. Click-thru rates skyrocket when the message you send is targeted to the audience most likely to be interested in it. Sounds like common sense, yes? But I still hear from lots of libraries who are afraid to stop sending emails to all their cardholders. If you have the technology to segment your audience, you should do so. Try to target your email messages to about ten percent or less of your existing email list. Don’t worry if that number seems small. If that audience is getting an email about something they’re interested in. you’ll see results in big click thru rates and engagement.

Here’s my strongest example. A few months ago, my library started a short, monthly eNewsletter targeted specifically at young professionals. This newsletter goes to about 300 people once a month. For my library, an email sent to just 300 people is really tiny… that’s only about .10 percent of our total email list. But it pays off! This email gets huge engagement numbers because those 300 people are really, really interested in the contents of the email. In October, the click-thru rate was 37 percent. I wish all my emails were that successful.

Give yourself time to create and revise your emails. This is the maybe the most important step. Plan your email schedule as far in advance as possible. Set aside time to write the copy. Then, walk away.  Come back later-preferably another day-and look over your work. Revise it. Walk away again. Repeat this process until the copy and structure of your email is as good as it possibly can be. Too many of us (myself included) rush through the creative process.

If you recognize that you are the kind of creative person who feels like he or she can never release anything into the word because it’s never perfect enough, set some boundaries. Give yourself a deadline for when you’ll send the email up the chain for approval and tell your supervisor when to expect it so he or she can hold you accountable. That will help you break the endless cycle of revision!

Write like a Buzzfeed blogger, not like a librarian. Write to entice. Make the text interesting. Use conversational language within your emails. Write short sentences. And don’t write too much! Less copy is better. Make your cardholders curious to find out more and then give them the means to do it by doing this next step, which is…

Embed clickable links in more than one location within the email. My personal rule of thumb is to include a link to the book, program, or service about three times in varying places within the email. This gives your cardholder the chance to act at various points as their eyes or mouse or thumbs roam your message. It also increases the chance that they’ll be able to act, if they so choose, by making it super easy for them.

Next read: How to improve your library email marketing conversion rate!

Finally, would you be so kind as to answer a question for me?

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms!

Avoid Email Vanity! Here Are the Results You Should Measure

I love email marketing. It’s one of the most effective tools in the modern library marketer’s toolbox. Emails are a direct way to interact with your cardholders and your community. They are easy to create. You can share stories, collection items, explain new services, and promote events directly with your audience. And library cardholders love getting emails from us. We don’t have to worry about unsubscribe rates the way other industries do.

Many libraries are now emailing their cardholders. And they’re reporting success with those campaigns. I’m so happy! But I’m also worried about something I hear often in conversation with other library marketers. I’m worried that we’re focused on the wrong measure of success–open rates. I’ve attended two events with other library marketers this summer. At both, there were deep and interesting discussions about success in email marketing. But at both events, the conversation about success centered on how to raise open rates.

Now, I have a confession to make. When I started targeted email marketing back in January of 2015, I was obsessed with my email open rates. And so were thousands of marketers in industries across the world. During my first trip to Content Marketing World, I attended several sessions on email marketing and every speaker mentioned open rates as a measure of success.

Open rates do mean something. They are a sign of customer loyalty. A high open rate means that your cardholders are eager to see what you’ve sent them. And that’s good. But it’s kind of like buying a house because it’s got a beautiful exterior. You may sign all the paperwork, open the front door and find all the walls are unfinished! Open rate is a vanity metric. It makes you feel good. But it’s what happens AFTER your cardholders open your email that counts.

I’m not suggesting you ignore open rates. They do give you information you can use to improve your emails. If your open rates are high, and your click-thru rates are low, you can be certain that you are writing compelling email subject lines (Good job, you!). You have a loyal and eager audience. But the content you are sending to your cardholders isn’t what they want. Now you can fix that problem!

Keep tabs on your open rate. But you should focus on two other valuable ways to really measure the success of your emails.

Click-through rates: The higher this number is, the more excited I get. It means that my cardholders opened an email, saw something they liked, and took an action! Most of the time, my library emails direct cardholders to do one of two things: click a link for a specific item in our collection or go to the event calendar where they can register or put an upcoming event on their calendar. Convincing a cardholder to take one of those actions is a huge victory. It also gives me data about what that particular cardholder is interested in. And I can use that information to craft future emails that are also compelling for that cardholder.

Conversion rates: A conversion rate is the most accurate way to measure email effectiveness. It is the percentage of people who take an action after clicking through an email. For example, let’s say 100 people click-through to look at a book I’ve promoted by email. If 50 of those 100 people put the book on hold, my conversion rate is 50 percent. Once I know what my average conversion rate is for a certain type of email, I can set goals to raise that conversion rate. I can  accurately compare my emails to one another.  I might see a high conversion rate for a certain genre of book and look for similar books to market to that cardholder. I might notice a spike in registration rates for a particular kind of program coming from an email and look for similar kinds of programs to market to my cardholders. Conversion rate is the most accurate measurement for determining the likes and dislikes of your cardholders.

For more on tracking the success of your email marketing, you can also read this article. And if you want to learn more about targeted email marketing and get more secrets for library email success, don’t forget the free webinar 

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms!

How to Pick Books and More for Collection Marketing

I am not a librarian but sometimes I play one at work sometimes.

One of my favorite parts of the marketing my public library is choosing books, eBooks, audiobooks, movies, and magazines to promote to our cardholders. Collection marketing is a successful part of the marketing strategy at our library. About three years ago, we started to do these targeted emails and social media posts to drive circulation numbers. And it worked! Collection marketing is something every library should do.

How do I actually choose the items we promote? It’s not as easy as it sounds. Most people who work in library marketing are not librarians. My degree is in communication, not library science. But I’ve been picking items to promote for four years and, after picking a few duds, I’ve got a system figured out. So let me share my tips with you.

Pick new stuff. Several years of promotional data tell me that cardholders want the new items entering your collection. We may want to promote older items for re-circulation, but that’s not what our users want to check out. And your biggest competitors are not other libraries. You are competing with Amazon and your local bookstore, where your cardholders can get their hands on the latest books. Most people don’t even think about the library when their favorite author releases a new book. A concentrated collection marketing effort will change that attitude over time. Your cardholders will learn that they can come to you for new books when they are released.

My library sends an email once a month to several cardholder clusters-lovers of print books, lover of eBooks, lovers of audiobooks, lovers of kids’ books, and lovers of downloadable magazines. I pick three new items to promote in each email. It takes me about 20 minutes total to create each message from start to finish. The emails drive a circulation increase for those titles on average anywhere from 125 percent to 375 percent.

The question I get from most libraries when we talk about our new items strategy is this: “Don’t you worry that you’ll create a long holds list. You’ll make people angry because they have to wait.” I was worried about this when I began collection marketing. But the data tells me it doesn’t matter how long the holds list is. Truly. People will wait for a new book for a couple of weeks, at least. Most public libraries have a system for putting a new book or item into the online catalog a few weeks before the item is actually available in the building. That’s the perfect moment to start promoting it, particularly if you include a line in your promotion telling your cardholders that they are getting a jump on the holds list. Your most avid cardholders will pounce at the chance to get in line for holds on a new item.

Pay attention to book pop culture and promote items getting media or critical buzz. I listen to podcasts to learn new books headed to shelves, including the New York Public Library’s podcast The Librarian is In and Overdrive’s Professional Book Nerds Podcast. There are YouTube channels where librarians review advanced reader copies. You can also find advance reviews on Goodreads. And publishing houses like Penguin will often do Facebook live streams with reviewers who talk about their latest releases. If an avid reader of any kind is super excited about an upcoming book release, it’s a title you should promote.

Pick books with interesting covers. This sounds super vain but I swear to you it works. Whenever I send an email to my cardholders, I try to pick good books that meet the previous two guidelines but that also have a bright, colorful, or interesting cover. The better the cover, the higher the circulation numbers will be. Publishers understand the psychological impact of a good book cover. They spend a ton of money and research to pick the most engaging cover and we can use that to our advantage when we choose items to promote.

Pick something for everyone. The decision to market three items in each email is very intentional. I don’t have a lot of data about the exact reading preferences of the cardholders in each cluster I target with my collection emails, due to library privacy concerns. I don’t know exactly what kinds of books each of those cardholders like (mysteries, literary fiction, memoirs, etc.), so I try to pick something for everyone. I usually choose one literary fiction title, one nonfiction, and one thriller/mystery title. I make sure that I don’t pick three female or three male authors. I try to make sure there is something to interest as many people as possible in each email.

Don’t actually pick the items. That’s right! The easiest thing to do is to delegate the selection of items to the people who know what they’re doing–your collection or materials selection department. Contact the department. Set some guidelines for the kind of books you think your cardholders will love. And let them do the work.

I also periodically ask the general staff of my library for recommendations. Librarians love it when you ask them for their recommendations! At this moment, I’m scrolling through a list of more than 50 eBook suggestions from librarians all over my system for National Read an eBook Day. If you ask for recommendations from staff, I guarantee your biggest problem will be whittling down the answers!

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms! 

How to Get Over Fear and Other Big Challenges to Library Marketing

When I was in first grade, I wanted to be famous. My big break arrived in the form of a school contest. The winner got to read a public service announcement about education on the radio. “IT HAS TO BE ME!!!” I exclaimed to my bewildered mother when I learned of the contest. She gently explained that I couldn’t win. She knew I faced a huge obstacle. I did not know (yet) how to read! The time between the contest announcement and the audition was short. How would I ever learn to read well enough to do it on the air? My mother is a very practical person. This was an insurmountable obstacle in her eyes.

I proved my mother wrong through sheer determination, and with a little help from the “Dick and Jane” series. I learned to read and won the contest! That was likely the first time I realized this powerful fact: there really isn’t any problem out there that can’t be solved.

20 years later, I found myself in a similar situation at my job as TV producer. The station suffered a huge power failure. The generators died. We had no way to get on the air. But failure was not an option and with airtime fast approaching, we came up with a plan. We would broadcast live from the parking lot using our live truck. It worked. We felt like heroes. Once again, I realized there was no problem that could not be solved.

We all face obstacles every day. Library marketing is not an easy job. You deal with deadlines, staffing issues, tiny budgets, and bureaucracy. Despite these obstacles, you make it work, day after day.  Your attitude plays a huge role in determining whether you overcome obstacles. Many of our problems are unique to this industry. Do. Not. Fear. You can find ways around anything. Here are some ideas to help.

The obstacle: there is never enough time. The library year is like the “lazy river” at my local YMCA; a constant, swirling flow of events that keeps pushing us forward. It takes some force to break free. When you’re under pressure to promote each big event, you may feel like you never have enough time to do anything well. All the emphasis is on the result and most people don’t give too much thought to the process.

The solution: Create a marketing strategy and STICK TO IT. The strategy must be clear, with expectations and goals set in writing. Get it approved by your supervisor and administrators. Explain it to staff. A strategy will help you stay laser-focused. Your marketing can be consistent. Library users will start to recognize the strategy of your organization without reading the mission statement. You’ll be able to accurately measure results. And, most important, you’ll be able to say “no” to promotions that don’t serve to drive your library’s overall strategic mission.

The obstacle: there is never enough money.  Budgets are a pain. Nothing can make you feel like you can’t reach your goals like facing the cold, hard reality of zero cash flow.

The solution: start small and partner up. Ask your administration for money to fund social media advertising. It’s cheaper than traditional ad buys. Your administrators might not realize how effective targeted social media ads can be. You can easily prove that you can make a good return on their investment. Look for partnership opportunities to promote more than the big programs. Create a standard agreement for media sponsorships of major programs, listing the action items your potential sponsors will fulfill and what benefits you can offer them in return. For every big program or marketing push, brainstorm partnership opportunities. For instance, my library uses partnerships for author events and to promote our collection.

The obstacle: too much work, too few people. Trying to take on a concerted, strategic marketing initiative can be overwhelming when you work alone. It’s a struggle just to keep up with the day-to-day stresses of social media, press, and meetings.

The solution: Ask for more help. You’ll find librarians who have an interest and skill in social media, writing, video, and design. Ask around and recruit those staff members to help you create content, with their supervisor’s permission of course. Ask for permission to engage an intern or two. Every organization has people with hidden talents!

The obstacle: There is never enough data about customers. This one sounds like the most difficult of the problems to solve but it’s actually one of the easiest. If your library isn’t already collecting data about your current customers, it should. I know libraries have a long and proud tradition of protecting the data and privacy of users and I respect that. I think there is a balance that can be struck. We can’t serve our cardholders well and point them in the direction of the items and services they need and want unless we know something about them. Collecting data on their card use preferences isn’t intrusive and I bet if you ask your cardholders, they’d confirm my assertion as long as we don’t share the data or lose it.

The solution: Ask, ask, and ask again. When people come to programs, hand them a three-question survey: How did you find out about this program? Do you have a library card already? What other kinds of things would you like to see at this library?  Create a new cardholder survey to gauge the interests of people just entering your library system. A yearly satisfaction survey for all cardholders is also necessary, particularly when you can take the results and split them into your different persona groups.

There are a number of software companies that can help you sort through cardholder use while masking the names of the actual items checked out by your cardholders, like Savannah by Orangeboy. From there, you can map your customer’s journey: When they get a card, how long does it take them to use it? Are they checking out books or using your digital collection or computers? Do they simply let it languish? Do you have some customers who got a card years ago, used it a specific way, and then stopped altogether? Do you have some customers who are making the transition from print items to digital materials? Do you have some customers who are only interested in one particular kind of item–DVDs, audio books, or computers? Break your customers into groups based on what they do with the card. Start creating pieces of content that target those groups.

The obstacle: fear. After five years of sharing library marketing information, this is still the biggest problem we face. Libraries are afraid of change AND afraid of failure. How many times have you heard someone in your library say, “But that’s the way we’ve always done it!” It’s the phrase I dread. It takes an enormous amount of effort and energy to change the minds of our fellow library staff members and our administration. It seems like it would just be easier to stay the course.

The solution: no one will die if you try something and it doesn’t work. It’s just marketing. Try stuff. Just try!  We have to remember our main goal–to get customers to move through the cardholder journey and engage with the library. Without that engagement, the people who argue that libraries are obsolete will win! We can’t have that. Do not be afraid. Marketing works best when you start small. Think of it like a staircase. On the bottom step, you make a small argument and you try a new thing. You see results. You report the results and chances are you’ll get to climb to the next step. If you fail, it’s just failure. No one dies. You stay on that step and you try something else! You’ll never get to the top of the stairs unless you try.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button in the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms! 

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