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The Tiny Little Mistakes That Ruin Your Library Marketing Emails AND How to Fix Them!

NEW LIVE LIBRARY MARKETING SHOW ON INSTAGRAM! I’ve decided to try a new thing! I’ll be doing a live Instagram Q&A and discussion about Library Marketing. The sessions will be every Tuesday at noon ET (10 a.m. Central and 9 a.m. Pacific) beginning Tuesday, June 25. Join me to talk about library marketing topics for about 20 minutes each week. My handle is Webmastergirl. You can email questions and topic suggestions ahead of time. Just fill out this form below. See you there!

I get a lot of library marketing emails. I love to see what other systems are doing. So, I go to their websites and I see if I can get on their mailing lists! It’s fun and it helps me to find new things to promote and new ways to communicate with my audience.

I also get a first-hand look at some of the small boo-boos that other library marketers make in their emails. Email is hard. I’ve been doing email marketing for so long (feels like forever!) that I have made all of these mistakes myself! And I love email marketing, so I’m weirdly obsessed with learning about it. Some of the positive text and design choices that work for library marketing in other promotional pieces, like posters, flyers, websites, and blogs, do not work in email marketing.

The good news is that these little problems are easily fixed! Tiny adjustments in the text and design of your email can improve your click-through rates and effectiveness. Check this list against what you’re doing now and start reaping the benefits of improved email design!

Problem: too many images: A clean design is crucial to engagement. Too many images or too much text is off-putting to your email recipient.

The most common email programs like Yahoo and Outlook will NOT automatically download images. In fact, only Gmail downloads images automatically. With all other providers, the email recipient receiver must consciously click a prompt in order to download an image. That means if your image is conveying most of the key message in your email, your receiver likely won’t see it.  They will miss the information and the call to action, and your email is useless.

Solution: Create an email that is mainly text-based. I have found an 80-20 mix works best: 80 percent of my email is text, 20 percent is image-based. The image I use compliments the text. Its purpose is to create emotion or set the mood of the email. It’s there to inspire. It doesn’t convey key messages and it doesn’t contain the call to action.

Problem: too much text. An email that contains several long paragraphs of information is off-putting to recipients. It gives the impression that your email will take a long time to read.

The email scheduling platform Boomerang studied results of about 20 million emails sent using their software. They found that the optimal length of a marketing email is between 50 and 125 words. A study by Constant Contact of more than 2.1 million customers found emails with approximately 20 lines of text or 200 or so words had the highest click-through rates.

Excessive text can also send negative signals to spam filters. Too much text added to excessive punctuation or large images could keep your emails from ever arriving in an inbox.

Solution: Limit your email text to 200 words or less. The recipient should be able to read all the information in your email in about 15 seconds. If you have more information to share, use your call to action to indicate that there’s more to know about your subject. Then send your recipient to a landing page where they can get all the information they need.

Problem: Text that is too small. Keep in mind the growing number of people who will read your email on a mobile device. You want to make sure they can actually see your words. An 11 or 12 point font size is too small to be seen clearly on a screen.

Solution: Increase your text size.  Email font should never be below 18 point in size.  You should also use the bold option to make the most important information stand out.

Problem: Wishy-washy calls to action.  A compelling call to action is one of the best ways to increase the click-through rates of your library marketing. Some library marketing emails also contain too many CTAs.

Solution: Use positive, active language in your CTA. “Register” “Read This Book”, “Learn More”, “Join Us”, “Donate”, and “Get Started” are some of my favorites. I put my CTAs in a square red box that looks like a button to compel my recipients to click on them. I embed the CTA in my image as well and use the “alt text” to convey the CTA in case someone’s eye skims the email. I try to keep my CTAs to one per email.

One image, with the main text in bold at 18 point found. A few sentences and a clear call to action.

Problem: Ignoring mobile responsiveness.  Mobile opens accounted for 46 percent of all email opens according to the latest research from Litmus. If your emails aren’t optimized for mobile, you are missing a huge potential audience, particularly women and young people.

Solution: Optimize your emails for mobile to make them responsive. Most email marketing programs offer mobile responsive templates. My library uses Savannah by OrangeBoy. We switched to all responsive templates in January of this year. I’ve seen a nine percent increase in click-through rates. I count that as a win!

Problem: No system for proofing your emails in different kinds of email boxes. Your email design might look great in your creation software. But if you send it without testing it, you may find that your email becomes a kind of monster creature! It may show up a a jumbled mess of images and text. This happens because every email inbox will convert your email differently.

Solution: Test your email to make sure your message displays correctly for your recipients. Find people that you trust you have different providers… someone with Gmail, someone on Outlook, someone on Yahoo, and so on. Send them the message and ask them to check for warped images, font problems, and extra spaces.

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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!

 

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!

Four Secrets For Sending Powerful Library Emails

EMAIL

There’s no arguing this point: next to the face-to-face, daily interaction between librarians and customers, a card holder email list is your most effective library marketing tactic. If your library isn’t already collecting, tracking, and sorting card holder email addresses, please start… now.

How do your cardholders learn about new services? How do they find the book they didn’t know they should read? How do they figure out how to use parts of the collection they didn’t even know existed, like video streaming or eAudiobooks? Tell them all about your library’s awesome resources by talking to them through their inbox.

Here are four secrets that I’ve learned in the process of creating email messages for my library. These key points have led to higher circulation rates and card holder usage stats for us. They’ll work for you too!

Be super-targeted.   Start by picking one customer persona and creating an email which specifically targets that one group of people. Don’t worry that you’ll only be sending the email to a few hundred or a scant thousand cardholders. This is not a waste of time. The more targeted your email is, the more relevant and effective it will be. Your click rates will actually go up when your emails are extremely focused. I promise!

Give your cardholders something of value. Everything in your library’s collection has a monetary value. Make sure your cardholders know this. Show them how they can save money or time by using their library card. Write the copy text in clear and simple terms and lay out the value of your offer in a prominent way.

Harness the power of a great subject line.  The subject line is the first thing your cardholders will see. For me, it’s the most important part of the email. Make it the best copy. Spend time crafting it. Don’t be corny and don’t use cliché’s. Use clear, simple language and stay away from passive words. Use a headline analyzer (this one or maybe this one) to help you create a subject line full of powerful, emotional language while maintaining the proper character length.

Make it easy for your cardholders to take action. Include multiple calls to action within your email, in various places including the header text, in the body of the email, and in the footer.  Within the body of the email, place your call to action within a box or a circle resembling a button, with the words in a large, clear font: “Place a Hold on Charlotte’s Web Readalikes” or “Watch Streaming Movies Now.” When you write this button, use the words “I want to…” in your head and imagine your card holder has seen your email and is saying to him or herself, “I want to do that!” What is the “do that”? That’s your CTA button!

Now it’s time to decide on the perfect time to send those emails. I can help with that too!

Are you actively sending emails to your cardholders? What has worked for you–and what hasn’t? Please share in the comments section!

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Connect with me on Twitter. I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn,  Instagram and Pinterest.

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

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