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Email Marketing

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!

 

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Teens Read Emails. Here’s How To Make Sure They Notice Yours!

I live with two teenagers. They love their mobile devices. They are avid users of social media. They also check their email often.

You might think that’s a fluke. For a long time, I did! I thought that my nagging insistence that was necessary to check their email accounts was paying off. I was a parenting genius! But over the course of the past year, I’ve discovered that most teens are reading their emails… even the teens who aren’t living in my house. So, I’m not a parenting genius. But I can see a huge opportunity for library marketing.

Research backs up my observation. The Pew Institute 2018 study of teens, social media, and technology found that 95 percent of teenagers have access to a smart phone. About 45 percent report they’re using that phone nearly all the time. Email marketing agency Adestra surveyed teens and found that 78 percent use email, while nearly 53 percent admit they buy things from marketing emails! Adestra’s survey also found that more than 67 percent of teens prefer communications from brands to come in email form, especially from a brand they love.

I’m not surprised by this statistic, because it bears out in my work. Every month for the past year, I’ve sent a librarian-recommended book title to teens in an email. Adults get one too. In 2018, the average click-thru rate for the adult email was five percent. But our teen cardholder email had a consistent click-thru rate average of 35 percent.  Even more exciting, the teen title increased in circulation between 300 and 400 percent during most months in 2018. In comparison, the adult title increased in circulation by 150 to 200 percent.

You can make emails work for your teen audience too. I understand it’s intimidating, particularly if you don’t live with teenagers. They can seem like otherworldly creatures. But they are just people, too. Here’s what I’ve learned about emails and teenage cardholders.

Send consistently good content to teens. Your teen cardholders are some of the most dedicated library users in your service population. They love you, and they want to hear from you. Use that to your advantage!

Teen cardholders typically are readers, so send them a monthly email to give them a heads-up about the newest items in your collection. Ask one of your teen librarians to pick out some titles, if you’re not comfortable doing it (I’m certainly not!).

You can also email teens to promote events but be picky. My experience is that teens respond to emails about events like coding classes, free summer camps, and anything involving food. They ignore emails about recurring programs, movie nights, crafting events, or homework or test prep sessions.

Don’t send too many emails. Resist the temptation to send email messages several times a week to your teen audience. I try to only send two or three emails a month to my teen cardholders, no more. So, when they see an email from my library, they know it’s important.

Watch formatting and check every email on a mobile device. Don’t include a bunch of links in your teen emails–to them, it looks like spam. Adestra’s survey of teens and email found that teenagers are more likely to unsubscribe when they see badly formatted text, broken links, or emails that just don’t look clean on their mobile devices. Include no more than three links in each email. Keep the text short. And check every message on your mobile device, because that’s where most teenagers will read their email.

Use emojis, texting language, and puns sparingly–or not at all. This advice feels counter-intuitive. Don’t we want to write in teen’s language? My answer is… no. Teens want to be treated like adults. Frankly, they find it “cringey” when an adult tries to sound like a teenager by using slang or texting language. Resist the urge.

You can appeal to teens by helping to relieve their pain points. For instance, I recently sent an email promoting a new book in our collection that was getting a lot of buzz on the YA reading lists. As I was constructing the email, I overheard one of my daughter’s friends complaining about assigned reading in her English class. So, in my email, I said, “When you’re done reading your assigned book, wouldn’t it be great to finally read something that you actually like?”  It was an effective message. It was clear. And it spoke to my teen cardholders by appealing to their emotional frustrations over assigned reading, without using emojis or hashtags or trying to be cool.

Send email later in the evening. In my three years of email marketing experience, I have noticed that messages sent to teens after 9 p.m. get the best engagement. I started sending my emails late in the evening after a conversation with one of my daughter’s friends. He was sharing his daily schedule with me. He told me about his after-school activities and job and mentioned that he doesn’t get to his homework until 9 p.m. or later. So, I started sending email late in the evening. And it worked!

Adestra’s study says teens will randomly check their email throughout the day and will save emails that seem interesting to them. You may want to test sending emails to teens at different times of the day. But in all my testing, late night emails work best… and I suspect they will for you too!

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!

 

Powerful Things You Can Do to Convert Cardholders

This is the second in a two-part series on how to improve the metrics that really matter for library marketing emails. To read the first part on how to improve your library email click-thru rate, click here.

The other important metric to measure for email library marketing is the conversion rate. Conversion rate refers to the percentage of people who received the email AND end up taking an action, such as checking out an item, registering for or attending a program, or using an online service.

Conversion rate really is the gold standard for the success of any email campaign. Your goal should always be to get people to act!  For every email you send, you should be able to state in one sentence what it is you want email receivers to do when they read your email. Then you need to follow-up and track the results to see if your email led to the desired action. If it doesn’t, you need to adjust your email strategy.

Here are the tips I’ve discovered, through years of email marketing success and failure, that work to drive up the conversion rate.

Do deep research to find the right target audience. Sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint the best audience for your email. It takes a lot of research. But this is an incredibly important step.

My library recently sent an email to promote a service we’ve had for many years called Career Online High School. COHS is a course that helps people who never finished high school to get their diploma and career certification. Finding the right target audience for this message is problematic. My library doesn’t ask cardholders if they also have a high school diploma, a job, or any kind of career skills. My library also doesn’t keep anything more than superficial demographic statistics on the people who already graduated from the COHS program. I don’t really know who my prime audience would be. I can’t say with accuracy what motivates a person to take this 18-month course. So, I had to do some deeper research.

I found some local studies that laid out the high school diploma concentration in geographic regions inside my library’s service area. This helped me narrow the email audience down to a few neighborhoods within my county. I also asked staff to help me create a subjective profile of past COHS students. I asked the staff to guess at the COHS program applicants ages. I asked if the applicants identified the part of the city they live in. I asked if the applicants typically have a library card when they sign up, or if they have to get one (the service requires you to be a cardholder). Finally, I asked staff if the applicants ever talked about how they first heard about COHS. The staff helped me craft a cluster that I thought *might* work.

We sent this message to about 18 percent of our cardholder base. That’s a wide net. But it worked in this instance. Five percent of the people who opened and clicked on the message are now in the process of filling out applications and completing paperwork to join the class. I consider that a huge success! The staff who run the COHS program told me they were incredibly pleased with the number of new applicants.

Sometimes, your targeted email audience will be obvious. And sometimes you’ll have to ask some questions and dig around to determine your audience. Try not to guess. Base your decisions on the information available and you’ll find success.

Experiment to determine your goal conversion rate. When I started sending emails to my cardholders, I had no idea what success looked like. Through experimentation, I set a goal. Each email must create a ten percent or higher bump in circulation, program attendance, or usage. If the email falls short of these goals, it’s not worth my time or my cardholders’ time.

This isn’t an arbitrary number. It’s a number I’ve landed on after many emails and lots of calculations. For my library system, a ten percent increase in any one of these numbers is significant enough to warrant the effort it takes to create and send an eblast.

You’ll set your own optimum conversion rate. Your optimum rate will depend on the size of your cardholder base, your staff’s capacity to handle increased circulation, program attendance, and library visits, and your overall library goals. But you must have a goal.

Make your call to action clear and persuasive. You’ll notice the call to action on the Career Online High School email is very direct. When you create a call to action (CTA), say the words “I want to…” before the CTA. In the COHS email above, that sentence ends up being, “I want to apply to Career Online High School.”  If that sentence is short, direct, and easy to follow through on, you’ve got a good call to action. Some other good CTA’s are:

Register for this program.

Put this event on my calendar.

Place a hold on this book.

Get reading recommendations.

I think you get the picture. In my emails, I put the CTA inside a button or box so it draws the eye and is intuitive for clicking.

Change focus of your email from the library to your cardholder. To persuade cardholders to act on your emails, stop talking about how great the library service is and to instead talk about how it will change or improve the life of your customer. You can do this even with a simple collection-based email.

We do this with our book recommendation service. We might be tempted to say, “Our Librarians are book experts. We give the best reading recommendations anywhere!” And we do! But by slightly pivoting our message, we show how this service helps our cardholders. Our re-focused sentence is: “You’ve got a lot to do. Let us help you pick out a good book to read.”

See how subtle it is? But it really works. You’re just changing all the “we’s” in your copy to “you’s.” By pivoting the focus of the message from how great your library is to how much you can help the cardholders, you increase the chances that cardholder will take an action.

Include humans in your emails. When you create your email, using a photo that includes a human face or faces expressing an emotion. Your cardholders will look at the faces and identify with one. That face will humanize your message. They’ll be more likely to take an action. We use one or two human faces in most of our email marketing campaigns.

Now, there is some science to suggest that human faces negatively affect conversion rates, particularly if the faces don’t align with the email’s target audience. So, you must choose the photos carefully. For instance, this email promoting our Memory Cafe accurately represents the audience and the activities at the cafe (there is often dancing!). And it worked to drive people to this recurring program. If you make a thoughtful photo choice, you’ll see good results.

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!

One Gigantic Library Email Marketing Mistake To Avoid

This post is a short. That’s because I want to share just one tip this week. No need to blow up the wheel or create a whole new strategy or have a bunch of meetings. This week, there is just one thing I’m asking you to do. But this one thing will completely, utterly, and totally change your library’s email marketing effectiveness for the better. Are you ready? Here it is.

Change your marketing emails from opt-in to opt-out. That means every cardholder who gives your library their email address, in the past or in the future, is on your marketing list. They need to start receiving your marketing emails… immediately. If they want to opt-out, they can (but they won’t!).

Now, I know many libraries will find this to be a radical shift. I’ve been in conversations with libraries as they evaluate the pros and cons of opt-in versus opt-out. It’s clear that many library marketers, particularly those who come from a library science background, are deeply concerned about creating the best experience for their cardholders. They worry about angering their cardholders by sending them emails. They are convinced that library marketing emails are spam and they don’t want to be one of the “bad brands” that sends spam.

I do understand. I don’t blame them for their fears. But I know for a fact that those fears are unfounded.

A library is NOT a normal company. The rules about spam do not apply to you. I don’t mean legally. I mean that your cardholders want your emails.

People love the library. They love what you offer them. They want to know to know what’s going on at the library. They want to know when you have new books. They want to know when you add new services. They want to know when you’re improving buildings. They love watching stories about library workers. They want to know when you publish a podcast. They want to buy tickets when you bring a big author to town. They’ll come to community events where the library has a presence. THEY LOVE YOU.

You are not going to spam people or make them mad by sending them emails. Unwavering cardholder loyalty is the one, big advantage libraries have over their competitors in the profit world. And we should use it!

My argument for opt-out emails comes from lots of experience. My library is fortunate to have a good-sized staff in our marketing department. We send marketing emails nearly every day of the week. These emails do not go to all cardholders. We segment our cardholders based on several factors, including how they use their card, where they live, their age, and more We have a rather large service area. So, most weeks, I send tens of thousands of my cardholders. And my library’s unsubscribe rate is ZERO percent.

No kidding.  I see about 10-15 unsubscribes for every 10-thousand emails I send. Across the non-profit world, the average unsubscribe rate is about .19 percent, according to Smart Insights.

I worked the library outreach table at a book festival last week. Without prompting, customers asked about the library’s marketing emails. One lady said she heard her friends talking about them and wondered why she wasn’t receiving them! Several others mentioned they learned about new books and services from our emails. I had people GIVING ME their email addresses to check their status.

Do you think customers of other companies ask about their emails or talk about them with fondness to other customers?  I never have, and I sign up for A LOT of marketing emails from other companies.

Change that one thing and start sending your emails to every customer. They want to hear from you!

Now, I need your help. I want to write a post about self-care for the library marketer. What do you do to make sure you don’t lose your mind when you market your library? Please fill out this form to share your tips for other library marketers. What do you do at work and at home to maintain your sanity? If you don’t wish to share your name or where you work, just say so in the appropriate lines. Thanks!

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! 

Eight Easy Secrets to Create Competitive Emails For Your Library

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. I talk about library marketing on all those platforms! 

Subject Line Secrets: Get Emails Opened Now!

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time you know that I believe in email marketing for libraries. At my library, we’ve used email to communicate with cardholders for more than three years and it’s the most powerful and effective tool I have at my disposal. I try to talk it up with my fellow library marketing professionals when I have the chance. Many institutions have concerns about privacy.They worry about bugging cardholders too often with emails. Those fears are unfounded, and I’ve shared why you needn’t worry in past posts like this one so I won’t rehash it here.

Many libraries have jumped on board the email marketing train and, like me, are constantly looking for ways to improve open and click-through rates. The first point of entry to a cardholder is the subject line. So I have been researching how to do a better job of grabbing the attention of cardholders as soon as my email comes into their inbox.

The subject line is the most important and most difficult part of the email to create, at least for me! But I have eight tips for writing better subject lines. I’ve used these tips to increase open and click-through rates at my library. Over time, I’ve noticed an increase in engagement from our emails–that translates to more books and other items put on hold and increased program attendance. I believe that’s result of the decision to fine tune our email subject lines.

Tip #1-Save the subject line for last. I write the rest of the email first and tackle the subject line right before I’m ready to send a test message. If you write the body of the email first, you’ll have the tone, the graphics, and the call to action decided by the time you get to the subject line. All of the technical elements of your email will determine what kind of subject line will work best for you. Wait until you’ve got the meat of the email written before you tackle the subject line. By the time you get to it, the subject line might write itself!

Tip #2-Say something to pique their curiosity. I approach each subject line in the same way I approached headlines when I was writing for TV news websites. I search for the most interesting nugget of information in my email, then make that the center of my subject line. In news, we called this “finding the tease-able element.” Find the most curious and unique portion of whatever you are promoting–books, magazines, an event, or an online class–and focus your subject line around that.

Tip #3-Say something urgent. I like to use urgent language during the Big Library Read promotions from Overdrive, when we can offer our cardholders unlimited checkouts of a particular eBook or eAudiobook. This is a limited time offer and using urgent language in the subject line is appropriate. Phrases like Hurry, Limited Time Offer, and Ending Soon are great examples. You can use urgent language to promote programs with a registration cap to create the “fear of missing out”(FOMO) effect in your emails.

Tip #4-Appeal to their desire to save money. We all know the value of library usage for our cardholders. We can’t offer sales or discounts but we can still appeal to the discount nature of our cardholders by reminding them, in the subject line, about how much dough they save using us.

Tip #5-Start with an “alert” phrase. Using words like Alert, Sneak Peek, First Look, and Hey There sounds corny (at least they did to me). You might think they’re so overused by big brands that there is no way a library cardholder will engage with that language. You’d be wrong. I think cardholders are honestly accustomed to very serious library emails which avoid alert language. So when you do use it, it grabs their attention.

Tip #6-Keep it short. Try to stay under ten words or 40 characters. That doesn’t seem like much but you want to make sure that your subject line can be seen in full on every mobile device and in desktop email preview mode. You know from using Twitter that keeping it short will force you to write your best work… so embrace it!

Tip #7-Try alliteration. It’s catchy and it will stick in your cardholders’ head.

Tip #8-Avoid spam triggers. These are words that can trip a cardholders’ automatic spam filter. There are nearly 500 such words. So, instead of listing them all here, I’ll give you a link to this compilation. It’s the best one I’ve found. I urge you to bookmark it… I did! Then do your darndest avoid using these words.

More help with emails!

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

Make it Damn Near Impossible to Ignore Your Emails

Four Secrets For Sending Powerful Library Emails

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

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