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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!

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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!

The Best Thing You Can Do is Leave the Safety of Your Desk

I had an amazingly and scary experience this week.

My library is in the very first stages of comprehensive facilities plan. With money from a levy passed by our county voters in May, we’re going to renovate or rebuild ALL 41 library locations.

I’m trying hard not to not have a panic attack reading that sentence back to myself.

When complete, these projects will likely change the course of our library forever. As a first step in that massive undertaking, our board of trustees hired an architectural consulting firm to gather ideas and insight from our cardholders. As part of this opinion-gathering process, our library is holding community forums and structured question-and-answer meetings at each branch over the course of the next year. If you’re counting, that’s 80 plus chances for us to interact with the public and ask them directly what they want their library to be. MY GOSH, what a gift. Am I right? It’s a huge task but it’s also a huge opportunity!

I volunteered to work the forum boards during the first of our community meetings, and to help with logistics at the second one. Both opportunities gave me the chance to get out of my basement office and actually talk face to face with the people who receive, consume, and respond to my marketing messages. And it was amazing.

I’m serious. I learned all kinds of interesting stuff just from talking to people. I found out what they think about the layout of libraries, the frequency of email messages, the reasons they got a library card, their favorite parts of the collection, their impression of our staff, and their dreams for the services they want us to provide. It was gold mine of information.

Honestly, I’ve never actually done drugs, but I felt high was I left my first shift. I ran into one of my good friends who works as front-line staff and I gushed to her about how amazing it was to actually talk to people. She said, “Hey, you should just come hang out at the desk with me. People will tell you exactly what they think of our marketing if you ask them, and you’ll learn so much about our cardholders.”

And I realized in that moment, for all the research and thinking and strategic planning and data analysis that I do, I might be missing one of the most important aspects of library marketing–my cardholders. I *think* I know what they want and need. I’ve got survey results and conversion data and social media engagement statistics that tell me about the people our library serves. But, before last week, I cannot remember the last time I actually talked to a customer about the library.

That changes now.

I don’t really have to worry about forcing myself outside my comfort zone over the next year. All I must do is sign up to be a part of each of those community forums as they are scheduled. But after that, I’m going to have to make sure that I get out and talk to people. I have learned that direct interaction with customers is exceedingly valuable.

I hope you are better at this than I have been. Maybe you’re reading this and saying, “Duh, Angela.” If so, my hat goes off to you. I’m learning this lesson late. But I thought it was important to share it with you.

Don’t be a dummy like me and stay locked in your basement office, separated from your cardholders. Get out of your comfort zone and talk to your cardholders. Set up a regular calendar reminder and spend an hour with your front-line staff. You could just observe. Or you could ask questions. You’ll learn so much. You’ll make the cardholders feel valued. And you’ll be demonstrating your commitment to customers to your fellow staff members. You can’t be any more engaged than that!

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!

Be the Best Library Marketer! Take These Free Courses

I love to learn. I’m lucky that my library ties performance management goals to learning. So, I am professionally rewarded for doing something I love. But the real value is seen by my cardholders. When I learn new ways to do my job, I do a better job of connecting with my audience. There is also a value for my staff members. When I learn new marketing techniques, I can pass that knowledge on to my direct reports. Learning has a ripple effect–everyone benefits!

Most library marketers face two major obstacles to continuous learning. The first, of course, is time. We’re all so busy that we can’t setting aside the time to take an online or in-person course. Also, most libraries don’t have a budget for professional growth and development (unless you want to get your Library Science degree.) But continued professional learning opportunities are a priority. If your library is going to stay competitive and creative, you need to be a continuous learner.

Time and money are no problem with this seven websites I’ve discovered. Each contains free classes where you can learn new marketing skills. Almost all take about an hour a session. So now, you have no reason not to keep up to date with changes in the industry, become a better writer, improve your email skills, and practice content marketing strategies!

Lynda.com. My favorite website for professional development courses, because you can basically learn anything you need to do a better job at library marketing. There are courses on social media, GDPR, photography, graphic design, ideation, time management, generational marketing, using Excel… etc. Thousands of libraries across the country offer Lynda.com for free to their cardholders. Your library, or one near you, probably offers access. It’s under-utilized. USE IT!! Courses are well-constructed. Skill levels are marked so you can gauge whether the course is right for your needs. Most classes run about an hour and a half. If you only watch one a month, that’s more than 12 hours of training you’ll get over a year!

Hubspot Academy. I’ve completed two courses in the Hubspot Academy–Inbound Marketing and Content Marketing. They were free. Each class is about 45 minutes and comes with free downloads to supplement the online portion. At the end of each class, you take a practice quiz to test your skills. At the end of the course, you take a test and if you pass, you receive a certification that you can put on your resume, social media accounts, and LinkedIn profiles.

Copyblogger’s Internet Marketing for Smart People. I just learned about this! It’s a free, 20-part course that covers four areas of digital marketing: relationships, content marketing, copywriting, and product marketing. I’m planning to take this course in a few months and I’m super excited. It comes with weekly newsletters. And I’m familiar with Copyblogger from their blog and social media presence, so I know their expertise will add value to my library marketing.

edX: I also love this site, which offers free online courses from top universities around the world. Their marketing course offerings are impressive! You can take classes in market segmentation, data analysis, and social media. There’s even a public library marketing course offered by the University of Michigan. Most classes are free, but you can pay about $50 and work toward a certification, which is great for your resume! Courses take about two to three hours a week for about a month to complete.

Udemy: Here’s another site I just stumbled across. Filter the search options to show you free marketing classes. There are pages and pages of options, from evaluating digital marketing statistics to how to write your own social media strategy.

Facebook Blueprint: That’s right. Facebook offers a whole host of free courses to help you figure out the best way to use their product. They’ll teach you pretty much anything you want to know about Facebook and Instagram, including how to use Messenger, build awareness, and promote your Library’s app. I know it’s easy to be cynical about anything Facebook offers for free. But this is legit, and it makes sense for them from a business perspective. The better you are at using their platform, the better the experience will be for your user. So take advantage!

Skillshare: I like the “trending marketing courses” section, which contains new and popular course. If you want to see what’s changing in the industry and be current on your skills, start with that section first.  Courses take about an hour and are easy to follow with beautiful graphics. Some courses are taught by well-known marketing professionals, like Gary Vaynerchuk and Rand Fishkin.

For more ideas about how to improve your marketing skills, read this post about How to Become a Better Library Marketer.

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!

Call It What It Is: Toledo Public Library Explains Their New Brand Strategy

A couple of weeks ago, a Tweet from the deputy director of the Toledo Public Library caught my eye.

Our marketing manager here at the library is leading a charge to “call things what they are” to reduce confusion for customers. We should be doing more of this in libraries and resist the urge for cutesy branding.

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Jason went on to explain, “When I joined the library three plus years ago, we had just launched a kind of umbrella branding for all of our making activities at the library. We called it Make U. It was clever, had a nice logo, and generally served a purpose… for us. Three years later, it’s still a confusing ‘second brand’ for our library (one of many tertiary brands, actually). Terri Carroll (our marketing manager) is working really hard to make the library’s brand the key identifier for all things library. Every time we roll out a new program or service, we have the urge to give it cute or clever branding. It’s just more education we have to do with our customers. So rather than trying to constantly educate people about our new brands, services, and programs, we focus on the library’s brand: a welcoming and accessible space where anyone has access to resources they need to make their lives, their communities, and their futures better. Now we call Make U what it is…tech tools. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from Terri in the short time she’s been with us about how we cut through a very noisy marketplace to reach people where they are when they need us.”

This is a major hurdle for my team and library marketer’s across the country! At my Library, I’ve counted no less than TEN branded services. And each one requires education for the staff and public. The names are cute but their meaning is obtuse.

Library marketers struggle with branding. We need to do a better job of defining who we are. We must create a consistent emotional connection with our cardholders if we’re going to compete with the likes of Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Netflix, and Google.

Jason’s co-worker, Toledo Public Library Marketing Manager Terri Carroll, graciously agreed to share her insights on the process.

So many libraries have a set of tertiary brands for their various programs and services. Why is that a problem? Each day, our current and potential customers are bombarded with media messages from well-funded and sophisticated retail, fast food, snack food, entertainment, sports, news, and service companies. While these organizations aren’t competing with us to provide library services, they are competing with libraries for people’s time and attention. If libraries hope to have people notice our message in a noisy marketplace, it is imperative we have one clear brand that makes it easy for people to know who we are and what value we provide. Tertiary brands dilute our message and make it more challenging to connect with customers.

Before the redesign, the Toledo Public Library struggled to bring a host of tertiary brands together to create one cohesive brand.

What prompted you to decide to focus less on giving everything a cutesy name and instead develop and nurture an umbrella brand? I started working at the Library in November and was struck by the fact that each program had its own look and message. The emphasis was on program names and unique graphics, rather than the Library as a whole. For example, a great deal of energy was spent on “logos” for programs such as Kindergarten Kickstart, Ready to Read, and Make U instead of thinking about messaging that clearly connects a valuable service (early literacy or access to technology) with the Library. This approach puts the burden of connecting the dots about the Library’s value and relevance on our customers. It also keeps the Marketing team from thinking strategically as they instead spend energy making everything look different. This is an unfortunate use of resources. Having things look similar within a brand compliance strategy makes it easier for customers to identify Library materials and messaging.

Terri laid out brand elements to create a clear and consistent message that can be understood by staff and library cardholders.

Have you seen positive results from this type of strategy yet?  We’ve been working on implementing this strategy since December, so it is tough to extrapolate data yet. For now, positive anecdotal comments to Library staff and leadership such as, “The Library is doing so much,” (when in fact we are doing a similar amount of work) and increased earned media attention are indicators of success. Ultimately, we should realize increases in circulation, door count, and program attendance as well as community and regional stakeholder invitations to be at the table on important issues, speaking opportunities, organizational partnership creations, and election results.

How can other library marketers make the case to their stakeholders, like their board of trustees, the senior leaders, and their staff, that developing a strong brand sense is more productive than creating brands individually as services are unveiled? Stakeholders repeatedly express interest in making sure the community knows about everything the Library does. I have invested a lot of time meeting with all of our internal stakeholders to show them how strong brand management is necessary to meet that goal.

My staff and I also work to keep a focus on making sure all materials and messages are customer-focused. We ask ourselves and our colleagues if our materials and messaging are giving customers all the information they need to engage with the Library. Focusing on how customers understand our Marketing keeps everyone externally (brand) focused and not internally (tertiary brand) focused.

A clear, consistent look helps Toledo Public Library create a connection and makes it easier for their cardholders to recognize their messages.

Do you have any other advice for library marketers looking to strengthen their own brands? It is essential to have senior leadership support for strong brand management. If people are used to the tertiary brands and have enjoyed the creative process (either working with Marketing and/or doing their own design work at the department or branch level), moving to brand compliance can be painful. If those concerns/complaints are taken to senior leadership and exceptions are granted, then the entire brand strategy is compromised.

It is also important to expect some resistance and be willing to talk with people about their questions and concerns. In these conversations, something that seems to really resonate is when I say that we don’t want to re-educate people every time they see something from the Library. We want people to immediately identify a Library program or service. And while staff sees all the materials and, may in fact get a bit tired of the same colors and fonts, this easy identification and brand recognition is essential for customers who are wading through a marketplace of messages and materials.

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!

Seven Ways to Do the Best Library Promotions

This is part two of a series from a presentation my boss and I gave at the 2018 OrangeBoy Idea Exchange. Read part one here.

Now comes the fun part: deciding what, how, and when to promote specific library events, services, and collection items. Here are seven rules to live by when figuring out the best channel for your library marketing.

Learn to say no

Let’s start with the big problem facing everyone who works in library marketing. We are treated like short order cooks. Promotional requests come in from various coworkers, and we are expected to fill them. That sucks. It’s not effective and I think it’s the reason why we suffer a lot of failure in library marketing. The first step in library marketing is to say “no”. It’s good for you and for your marketing strategy.

Busyness feels wonderful. We’re doing something! Stuff is happening! Progress is being made! But if your promotional schedule gets too busy, three things are going to happen. Your staff won’t have time for creative thought. You’ll make mistakes. And your cardholders will feel like the only thing coming from your library is noise. A constant stream of promotions starts to feel like static. So I urge you to practice saying “no.” That’s easier when you have a strategy which aligns with your library’s overall goals.

Determine your benchmarks

I measure every promotional request against four basic rules. These are my benchmarks. They give me a framework for saying “no” to projects. I suggest you create something similar. Use past data to predict future results with promotions.

My basic rules are:
If the promotion will not give us more than a ten percent bump in circulation, program attendance, or usage, we don’t do it.
If it’s a service that’s difficult for the cardholder to use, we don’t promote it.
If the program presenter is free, we don’t promote them.
If it’s not tied directly to the library’s overall strategy, it gets cut.

My version is simple. This past week, I visited with Chuck Duritsch, manager of External Relations for the Dayton Metro Library System. He has a whole color-coded chart that he uses to say “yes” and “no” to various promotions. Use whatever works for you!

Here’s an example of something we cut from our promotional schedule after an experiment failed to reach the benchmarks. In 2017, my marketing team conducted a year-long experiment to see if we could drive attendance at events. We hypothesized that emails sent to targeted cardholders would result in higher attendance. We were wrong. We did 118 branch promotional emails in 2017 and only half were effective in boosting attendance AT ALL. With that data, we decided to cut way back on branch promotions this year. As of June 2018, we’ve done 34 branch promotions and our effectiveness level is up to 68 percent. More than half of the programs saw a significant increase in attendance–at least ten percent–after their cardholders received an email. We cut the fat and were able to create messages that did a better job of resonating with people.

Weed your marketing content and cut out the stuff that doesn’t help your library reach its overall goals so you can be more creative with the promotions you have left. Evaluate your promotional schedule twice a year to keep your marketing lean. Your benchmarks might change over time. It’s important to always evaluate your results and re-think your strategy.

Don’t feast at the buffet of tactics

Once a promotion passes the test and gets into your schedule, it’s time to start figuring out how to promote it. You don’t have to use every tactic available to you. Choose which ones will work best for each promotion. It’s a smarter use of your time and energy.

In April of each year, our library holds a Teen Poetry Contest. Teens are typically considered to be a really hard audience to reach. This year, I decided to promote it on our teen website, in social media, on the digital signs in branches, with posters, and with email. Notice all the categories I didn’t use! I didn’t send a press release because teens don’t typically read the news. Their parents do, but I don’t have any data from past years to show that promoting this contest in the news will get us more entries. So, I weeded that tactic. In addition, I didn’t create a video, although teens respond to video. I just don’t have the resources to create a video they would like and I decided it wasn’t worth the effort.  I also didn’t use some signage options available to me because teens don’t pay attention to signs. And I didn’t include the contest in our content marketing publication Library Links because the average reader of that publication is an older empty-nester. It’s just not the right audience for that promotion.

Timing is everything

The “when” part is just as critical as the “how” part of promotional planning. Use past data to make future decisions when you determine the timing of promotions. When I started at my library, we released a promotion in one day on all channels. We’d send out the email, the press release, put up the homepage graphic, and do social all in one day. But I’ve embraced a new timing concept with success over the last year and a half. It’s called the tiered distribution approach.

I was at a conference where I heard marketing expert named Andrew Davis talk about tiered distribution. The approach takes advantage of a consumer cycle of excitement. You release one or two promotional tactics at the beginning of your promotional cycle.  The promotion gets some play, and excitement builds in the consumer base. Maybe it gets shared and people talk about it… and then the excitement dies out. Then, you release the second tactic, like an email, and the people who see the email get excited and start talking about it and sharing it, and then their excitement dies out. Then you release a video, and that builds excitement and gets shared, and the excitement then dies out. Do you see the pattern? Keep releasing tactics over time and not all at once. When you use the tiered distribution approach, you get a longer promotional thread. Your promotions will be more successful because the excitement around them builds over time, not in one big burst.

My library used a tiered-distribution approach for this year’s Summer Reading program. Our summer reading, which we branded as Summer Adventure, runs from June 1-July 31. For years, we’ve done the same promotional schedule. We started the excitement building portion around May 1. And our registration numbers and check-in numbers have been flat for the past few years. I don’t have a survey to tell me this for sure, but my gut says that by the time we got to June 1, our audience was already tired of hearing about Summer Adventure. We used up all their excitement before we even got to the event.

This year, we took a tiered approach. By June 30, registrations were up 18 percent from 2017 and weekly check-ins increased by nearly 67 percent. And while there are a lot of factors for that, one is that we didn’t spend all our promotional energy at one time. We did a better job of building excitement.

Measure and share

You must make sure that you accurately document the results of every promotion you do. This will help you to adjust your promotions month to month, and year to year. Keep meticulous records of data as it comes in.

Failure is okay, by the way. Marketing is an experiment. Sometimes the stuff you do will work, sometimes it won’t. Don’t repeat the things that don’t work! Spend more energy on the things that do work. Don’t spend too much time obsessing over every little detail of your strategy. You can refine it as you gather data. It’s never going to be perfect, so once you’ve got a plan in place, just do it!

Talk about the results with your colleagues and share your results with other departments. Transparency in marketing is a good thing. It helps your co-workers and administrators have a clearer understanding of what you do in your marketing department! And they may look at the results and find some new insight that you missed.

Focus more on the content and less on the container

Focus MORE on the content of your message and LESS on how you deliver it. When you focus first on the content, you put your customer first, not your own promotional needs. Think more about the insides of your message, not the way it will be delivered. That’s how we differentiate ourselves from the competition.

Leave room to market on the fly

Your library promotional schedule should leave room for Drop-in Marketing Campaigns–those pushes that come at the last-minute and are sent to your audience in a few days–or less! Maybe you’re seizing on an opportunity from a vendor or a partner organization. Maybe you’ve got a connection to an event in pop culture. Maybe you find a piece of user-generated content that’s so fun and engaging that you don’t want to wait to promote it. If it makes sense and the timing is right, get it out there in front of your audience. The key lies in purposeful planning. When you’re laying out your regular marketing campaigns, including your email messages, be sure to deliberately leave holes where you might be able to drop-in promotions. Keep in mind which promotions have drop-dead dates and which ones could be shuffled and released to the public later. Then… go for it!

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 Do You Decide What and How to Promote?

Last week, my boss and I were honored to present at the OrangeBoy Ideas Exchange, a small conference and gathering of OrangeBoy users. Presenters talk about all kinds of issues related to library marketing including email, customer privacy, and analytics. It is valuable, particularly because the small group of attendees leads to big discussions and the sharing of ideas. It’s also a great networking opportunity. There’s nothing like being in a room with other library marketers to make you understand that you are not alone in your struggles. If you’re an OrangeBoy client, you should definitely go!

My boss is Chris Rice, Marketing Team Manager for the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. We spoke about choosing the right channel for your marketing efforts. And let’s face it, that’s not always an easy choice. There are so many ways to market your library! But that also opens the potential for your team to work themselves to death trying to check off all the boxes. So Chris and I tried to explain the framework we use at our library. It guides us to make decisions about exactly how we promote events, services, and collection items. It gives us the freedom to say “no” and keep ourselves sane.

I have taken my portion of the presentation and turned it into two blog posts. This week, I’ll explain the process I use before I actually start programming my editorial calendar. I run through a series of three exercises to help me get ready to make those big decisions. These exercises give me a clear idea of who I’m marketing to. They also force me to define how I’ll use assets and tactics to achieve the library’s goals. I do this about once every six months. It sounds tedious but it is really valuable. I always feel more confident about the decisions I make afterward. I think you will too!

QUESTION ONE: What are your library’s three main overall goals? What are the three big things your library wants to accomplish in the next 12 months? Write those big goals on paper and stick them up everywhere in your marketing office. Repeat them. Eat, breathe, and sleep them. Those are your goalposts for the year. Those are your big concerns. Whatever your director or your board wants to accomplish is what you want to accomplish. Everything you do needs to be in service of reaching these goals. Every decision you make about promotion is going to be laser-focused on making sure those goals are reached. They are the reason you come to work every morning.

QUESTION TWO: What do you know about your current cardholders and the people who live in your community? This is a classic marketing situation analysis. It’s a tedious exercise. But it will help you to clearly imagine the person who will consume your marketing messages. That will help you to do a better job of marketing to them. Where do these cardholders live? How do they engage with your competitors like Amazon and other bookstores? Where do they get their news? Do they have access to Wi-Fi? Do they have children? What is their living situation like? Do they work? What is their transportation situation? Every piece of data you can get about your cardholders is a guidepost that will help you make the best decisions.

QUESTION THREE: What promotional assets do you have at your disposal? Write down all the stuff you use to promote your library. It should include every social media platform you use, every website your library owns, every print publication you send out, emails, in-person events, press releases, podcasts, and videos… every single thing you do to communicate with cardholders. Then, create a description of how you’ll use each asset to bring your library’s overall strategic vision to life.

For example, my library produces a quarterly content marketing publication called Library Links. One of our overall library goals this year is to help job seekers find a new, more lucrative, more fulfilling career. I think Links can help us achieve that goal. So, I wrote a description of how that would work. “We will use our quarterly print publication to emphasize the role of the library in helping job seekers find a new, more lucrative, more fulfilling career. We will do this by featuring a cardholder in each issue who used our library’s services to advance their own career, such as by taking our GED course or using our online job resume builder. Every quarter, we’ll highlight a service or program that will help our cardholders reach their career goals.” This keeps me accountable and reminds me, every time I go to put Links together, that I need to include these kinds of stories in each issue.

If you start this process and you realize there is an asset that just doesn’t seem to work for your overall marketing goals, drop it. I don’t care if you’ve done it for 20 years. Use only the things that can help you to achieve your goals and cut the rest.

For example, for a while, my library was all in on Slideshare. We had an editorial calendar and we were churning out Slideshares every six weeks to promote services. It took a considerable amount of time to create the graphics. But we weren’t getting the results we wanted. When I do any marketing, I am looking for action. I want consumers of our message to click on a link and use something at the library.  But our Slideshares were not producing action, or at least not in any number that I could be proud of. So, in mid-2017, we decided to drop Slideshare. It’s okay to drop something that’s not working for you. Don’t waste your energy!

Now that you’ve laid out all the stuff available to you, it’s time to decide what to promote, how to promote, and when to promote. That’s the fun part! Next week, I’ll share tips on how to manage that part of your job.

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!

Four Reasons Why Library Marketing Is the Most Patriotic Profession

Here in the United States, we’re celebrating the birth of our country this week. July 4th is a big deal in America. We hold parades. We eat a lot of food. We set off fireworks. We wave the flag, wear the flag, and sing about the flag. We generally make fools of ourselves as we declare our love of the U.S. and list all the things that make America the best country ever.

But you may have noticed, even if you don’t live in the United States, that there’s been a bit of a shift in the collective patriotic mindset over the past 18 months. We are in a bit of a rough patch politically, ideologically, and culturally, you might say. There are some days when I find myself wondering if it was even worth celebrating the 4th of July this year.

Whenever I feel like my country is not living up to its ideals, it helps to think about my work. I work in a public library, with some of the most giving and noble people in existence. They do patriotic work every day. Libraries are the home of civility, which receives so much discussion of late. They are important public institutions. And no matter what country you call home, your work in library marketing is a patriotic duty. Here are four reasons why that is true.

Good Library Marketing keeps the building open. Good library marketing compels people to come to programs, check out items, and give to your library. Without fulfilling those three objectives, your library would fail to thrive. Cuts would be made to hours and staff. Services would be eliminated. A cut in any of those areas would mean the people in your community who need the library the most would suffer. When you do your job well, you are helping to raise up the underprivileged. You put much-needed services into their hands.

Good Library Marketing creates jobs. When you do a good job of keeping the collection in circulation or getting people into your buildings, you are creating employment opportunities for your fellow staff members and beyond. Publishing houses stay open. Authors have monetary incentive to keep writing. Program presenters get a paycheck for sharing their knowledge with your community. You help sustain employment for hundreds of thousands of workers outside of your community, including custodians, security staff, computer and technology service workers, and so much more.

Good Library Marketing connects people to their communities. When you do a good job of marketing your library to your public, you make people feel connected to each other. You give people a vested interest in their fellow human. When you help young children to learn to read, you improve the lives of everyone. A good library marketer can make that case, even to people who don’t have young children. They can make people care about one another. A well-publicized book club brings together a group of people who may not have otherwise met each other. Those people can talk to one another about subjects that never would come up in unregulated conversation. They learn about each other. They learn to disagree respectfully! Sometimes, a discussion that begins in a library can lead to social change. You help to make that happen!

Good Library Marketing supports the arts. I’ll bet your library hosts art exhibitions, musical and theater performances, and other arts-related programming and services throughout the year. When you do a good job of marketing those programs, you are supporting the arts in your community. You are enriching the lives of the people you serve. Many of them may not have the money to attend ticketed events. You are bringing beauty, philosophy, and creativity into their lives.

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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