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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!

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!

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.

The Bloody Hell of Library Marketing Data and How to Stay Sane

Let’s be real. When you work at a library, the process of collecting and analyzing data on your marketing initiatives can be messy, tedious, time-consuming, and boring as hell. I speak from experience. I am a data-collection freak but I just spent three weeks analyzing the numbers from six months of email marketing. I’m tired. My eyes are crossed. If I have to do any more math, I’m going to lose my mind.

I do this long-view analysis twice each year and about halfway through, I find myself caught in a serious case of what I call “dashboard envy.” I wish I had a program to do the calculations for me, like big brand companies. I go to one big conference every year–Content Marketing World. Their expo hall is filled with an amazing variety of marketing technology companies, peddling a number of products to make everything easier for marketers, including data collection. I almost never go to any of the booths to talk to the reps, but I do sometimes stand off to the side and watch them pitch to big companies. They’ve all got solutions for easy data collection and analysis and I am very envious of anyone who can afford them. Sigh.

It would be SO EASY to just chuck the analysis. I am so dang busy. I’m running email promotions, creating a strategy, writing for publications, taking phone calls, running meetings… etc. And I hate math. I mean, I really hate math.

But I do it. I make myself sit down and I go through all the data points, carefully and thoroughly, to analyze everything we’ve done with our email marketing, which is our most effective and most wide-ranging marketing tactic. I do it because it’s necessary and because the results always reveal something that guides my strategy for the next six months. It is so important to take a long-view look at what you are doing. Without data analysis, I am blind to the trends that emerge in my cardholders’ behavior. For instance, this round I’ve discovered:

I can send emails any time of day EXCEPT 7 a.m. to noon. We’re getting horrible engagement on emails.

Emails sent on Friday and Saturday TANK so no more sending on those days. When I discovered this fact, I immediately went into our library’s email calendar and changed the dates on five upcoming messages to avoid sending on Friday and Saturday.

About a year ago, we were really focused on sending messages to tiny audiences–less than 1,000 cardholders. The data showed that smaller audiences led to better the engagement. Now, we’re noticing that we get the best engagement with audiences of about 10,000 cardholders! That’s quite a shift and my theory is that we’re doing more promotion of services in our emails, which is of more interest to a wider range of cardholders. I also think I’m doing a better job at creating segments or clusters and matching their interests to the email (practice makes perfect!)

There are a couple of branches in our system that I won’t be sending email to anymore on a regular basis because their cardholders do not open, click, or act on anything… even special offers. We’ll be working on different ways to engage those cardholders.

Knowing how my cardholders are reacting to messages and how those reactions change over time makes the work we do more efficient. That’s why data collection and analysis, no matter how painful, is totally worth it. So now, I want to share with you some pointers for making it through the data-analysis process without losing your ever-loving mind.

Keep meticulous records of data as it comes in. If you start documenting rudimentary data after every campaign, as soon as the campaign ends, you won’t have to spend a bunch of time going back into your email system or into your social media platform dashboard or whatever you use for insights. I have a Word document for every email I send where I record the date, time, and number of cardholders who receive the email as well as the results–if it’s a circulation-based email, I record the number of books put on hold or checked out and if it’s a program promotion email, I record the number of attendees at the event.

Clear your schedule and set manageable time expectations for yourself. I calculate results of individual email campaigns monthly and then I schedule a six-month trend analysis. I schedule both of these tasks in my calendar like I would a regular meeting. That ensures that time won’t get taken away from me and that I won’t be tempted to give it up for other tasks. I make sure that six-month analysis happens during a slow time of year and I give myself 2-3 weeks to complete it. I set aside time each day to do my calculations–maybe an hour a day over a week (or three, if you’re slow at math like me). I shut the door of my office and hunker down. It takes discipline but it’s really worth it.

Keep records of everything you calculate. I literally wrote out the formulas for calculating the results the first time I did it so I could replicate it six months later. I write out all my results in case someone wants to take me to task later over a decision I make based on those results.

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. More eyes are better, honestly.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

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

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First impressions are important. This is true whether you are meeting someone in person for the first time or if you’re sending them communication via email. It’s particularly true for libraries entering the targeted email marketing space (and I really wish you would!) You have between six and eight words to capture the attention of your card holder and get them to open the email or its game over. Which means you have to choose those six to eight words very carefully. And I mean VERY CAREFULLY.

To help drive home my point, I want to share this data from Convince and Convert, via CoScheduler:

35 percent of email recipients open emails based on the subject line alone.

69 percent of people will report an email as spam based on the subject line alone.

When I craft an email, I spend a lot of time thinking about the subject line–sometimes I think about it for days. I test it and get feedback from others in my office before I send it out. I use a couple of online headline analyzers (mainly CoScheduler’s and this one from the Advance Marketing Institute) to decide how well it will play. Arguably, the subject line is the most important piece of your email and you need to get it right. But the longer you do targeted email messaging, the better you’ll get at crafting them.

There are words and phrases you should avoid, and conversely,  things you can do to really make a subject line work for you. I have these pointers printed out and taped to the wall above my desk. I reference them nearly every time I create an email.  I want to share them with you!

Words You Should Not Use

  1. Your library’s formal name, as in the full name of your system. Why leave your library’s formal name out of the subject line? Mainly because it makes you sound too pushy or sales-like. You want to engage your cardholder with something interesting or emotional–not with your brand.
  2. Re, Fw, Regarding, or In Reference To. It’s too formal and it sounds spammy.
  3. Library jargon like periodicals, database, interlibrary loan, reference, serial, audiovisual, abstract, or resource. Use words that regular people understand–magazines, music, online classes, and helpful information.
  4. Any reference to a vendor service like Overdrive, Hoopla, Freegal, BookFlix, Zinio, etc. As far as your cardholders are concerned, all material comes from the Library. Your cardholders are smart. When they click on the link and they land in the Overdrive section of your website, they’ll be able to figure out how to check stuff out.
  5. Free, Cheap, Save, or Help. I know it’s a great selling point for libraries–there isn’t any other business where you can say that literally everything is free! But unfortunately, these words trigger many email services to mark your message as spam. Include these words in your subject line and your email message will likely land automatically in the junk folder before anyone ever gets the chance to read it. Even without the use of email filters, these words trigger a psychological response from many email receivers that makes them think of spam (thanks for ruining it, big brands!)
  6. Never use ALL CAPS. I don’t think I have to explain why.
  7. Vague greetings like Hi!, What’s Up?, Miss You! and the like. Again, it’s a spam trigger for email filters. And it sounds like you’re not human.

Ways to Make Your Email Subject Line Rock

  1. When you send targeted program emails, try to fit the specific name of the branch or neighborhood in which the program is happening into the subject line. For example, “Play with robots at the Lincoln Park Branch Library” or “Coding classes for adults now at the library in Knotting Hill.”
  2. Keep it short. CoScheduler recommends a word count of about six to nine words or 55 characters in length for greatest impact. Most of your cardholders will look at their email on a mobile device, so a short subject line means they’ll be able to see all of it in the preview window.
  3. Add emotion, particularly positive or encouraging words. People are more likely to respond to a subject line when it conveys a message of positivity and helpfulness. Email recipients also respond to subject lines that convey urgency, curiosity, excitement, and joy.
  4. Use power words like amazing, ultimate, important, challenging, surprising, best, secret and exact.
  5. Use emojis. A report by Experion shows emojis actually increase the likelihood that your email will be opened. They save space on mobile device small screens and they convey emotion. Confession: I have not yet had the guts to do it! But if you do, test your emails to make sure they emojis show up properly on all major devices, and make sure they are in line with the tone and style of your library.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare, Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

 

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

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I’m going to make a statement. You can agree or disagree. But if there is one thing that I know about marketing a library, it’s this:

If your library is not sending regular, targeted email messages to your cardholders, you are doing marketing wrong.

This isn’t just my personal belief–it is a method which has worked with impressive results at my library. It wasn’t an easy process. It took us a good year to get into the groove. We made a lot of mistakes in the beginning. But we found our niche in collection marketing–sending regular emails with links to new materials in our catalog that are of interest to our cardholders, based on their way they use their card. This method increased circulation. It helped us maintain visits to our physical branches. We even used these emails to convince occasional and inactive cardholders to start using the library again.

We’re not perfect at it, by any means. We’re still experimenting. But what I can tell you after a year of emailing and tracking email results is this: it works.

It pains me to see so many libraries shying away from email marketing. I know there’s a long-standing fear among libraries that cardholders will view library emails as spam. Many libraries worry that cardholders will resent getting emails from the library, will unsubscribe, and stop using the library in protest. It’s simply not true. Our unsubscribe rate is near 0 percent. You read that correctly. Zero percent. Last month (March 2016), we had an average open rate of 32 percent and an average click-thru rate of five percent. Our cardholders want to hear from us and when we get it right, they are engaged with our collection and with our locations.

There are three big fears keeping libraries from gaining cardholders, visits, and circulation through targeted email message.

Libraries are worried about asking cardholders for their email addresses. Your cardholders won’t be put out by the request. The average consumer is accustomed to giving out their email address in exchange for marketing messages targeted specifically to them. I did this when I went shopping at Yankee Candle a couple of years ago and now I buy candles several times a year because I get messages based on the kind of fragrances I purchase and the sales I like to shop. It’s convenient for me and it’s beneficial to Yankee Candle, I’m sure! The same thing happened with my local grocery store–I signed up for their rewards system and regularly get emails for deals based on items I purchase. I expect to be marketed to–so do your cardholders.

Libraries worry that segmenting cardholders into clusters is an invasion of privacy.  There are software systems which allow you to segment cardholders without actually seeing what they’re checking out. At my library, we are only able to see that a customer checked out an eBook from Overdrive or borrowed a song from Hoopla… we can’t actually see the title of either checkout. I admit that seeing the title would be nice and would help us to target our cardholders even more effectively. Think about the marketing potential you’d have if you knew that a particular person checked out a dozen cookbooks every time the holidays rolled around… or that they are a mega-fan of Stephen King! In any case, I can’t see the titles and therefore, I cannot breach the privacy of any of my cardholders.

Libraries worry that by sending targeted messages to segmented audiences, they will miss out on the chance to get their message to all their cardholders. Many libraries are sending the same message to every cardholder, sometimes hundreds of thousands of people in one burst. It feels like the natural thing to do. “Everyone needs to know about this!” The problem with that approach is that your cardholders are individuals. One message never fits them all. This is particularly true if your service area covers a range of incomes and demographics. The needs and interests of your cardholders vary greatly. By targeting your message, you are more likely to say something that matters significantly to your cardholders, which makes them more likely to take an action, which makes it more likely that your email will be successful. Some of my most successful marketing emails were sent to less than 2000 cardholders.

In addition to cardholder usage, most email software systems will allow you to target emails by location. We did this for a recent branch anniversary celebration, sending notice of the party only to people who had listed that branch library as their home location–which amounted to 14,000 cardholders or 2.3 percent of the total number of cardholders in our system. The branch manager thought 250 people might show up for the celebration. She was surprised when 400 eager cardholders came to the party! That’s success, my friends.

Do not let your fears about email set you up for failure. Your cardholders want to hear from you. There are not very many industries who can say that their customers are begging to be marketed to… let’s take advantage of it and give the people what they want!

 

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare,  Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

 

The Most Important Marketing Tool Libraries Need To Start Using Right Now

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So you’ve written or are in the process of writing a strategy for your library content marketing. Now what?

You need to build an audience. Without someone to actually listen/read/respond to your marketing, what’s the point?

The easiest, quickest way to do this is to use the most effective, most underutilized marketing tool in the library world–the email list. Libraries have been collecting email addresses along with new card applications or card renewals for years. Are you doing anything with those email addresses? You should be.

But fear is holding us back. That includes fear of increased workload:  adding an email messaging tactic to our overstuffed to-do list feels like self-sabotage. Some library marketers also fear the process of writing a great, engaging email. We’ve all received more than our fair share of spammy, uninteresting, or obnoxious emails from brands or institutions, and we fear making the same mistake.There is also a fear of alienating customers. Many library marketers worry that customers will be turned off by email messaging–that they’ll think worse of the library which sends them messages.

I totally get it. I was there once. I’d never done planned, targeted email messaging before I came to my current position. It’s a science… but it’s not brain surgery and if I can do it, and do it well, so can you! The key is to be focused, targeted, and simple. Here’s how to start.

Divide your cardholders into segments based on usage. There are some great companies that will help you do this. Orangeboy has a program built specifically for libraries, but your library could also buy services at a relatively inexpensive rate from Constant Contact and MailChimp.  All three services have great analytic dashboards for easy comparison of data after you start sending messages. You can monitor the results of each email campaign and adjust your tactics as you learn more about how your cardholders respond to your messages.

Start simple. Segment your email list by how the cardholder most often uses their card. Are they a lover of print books? Do they mostly check out DVDs or CDs? Do you they download exclusively? Are they a fan of audiobooks? Do they have kids?  Are they over the age of 65? Are they in college? There are about 100 ways you can segment your audience. Look at your strategy and then decide how you want to divide up your existing pot of users.

Pick one or two segments and start creating messages targeted specifically to them. Why am I encouraging you to focus on 10-20 percent of your cardholders and ignore the others? Because, to work effectively and avoid our fear of alienating customers, email marketing needs to be specifically targeted to a niche audience.  Get a good handle on one specific segment of your users and get really, really good at talking to them before you move on to the next segment. To decide which segment to focus on first, identify the most important part of your library strategy and align the cardholder segment to match that goal.

Schedule three months of emails to this segment, one email per week. Align your email schedule to your blog editorial schedule. Create emails to support your blog and to entice the recipients to go to your blog for more information on a particular topic. You should also try collection-based action emails, driving customers to your catalog to check-out or place holds on items you know will be of interest to them. This is a great route for any library looking to increase circulation. It’s worked at my library!

Keep your email text short and make your email visually appealing. Use bright, primary colors and bold graphics-I am a huge fan of Canva for any library without a professional graphic artist on staff. Keep your message simple and direct. Don’t include every single bit of information you want the recipient to know about the particular topic. Write a few lines that will spark the curiosity of the recipient and then give them an easy way to get more information–like a link to your blog.

Put your call to action in more than one place in the email. I put a call to action in the text area above the graphic, in the graphic, and again in the footer of the email. My recipients are sure to see and understand what I want them to do next.

Test your emails both on desktop and mobile. My library has about a 50% mobile open rate. That’s pretty standard for any industry. Make sure your emails look and react as well on a mobile device as they do on the desktop.

Keep track of the really important metrics. Open and click thru rates are good to watch and they can help you understand how inviting your email is, but focus on the results of the call to action of your email. If you want people to go to your blog, track the number of people who read the page to which you linked, how much time they spend on the page, and whether they bounce to another page on your site. If you’re sending collection-based emails, track how many items are put on hold or checked out as a result of your email. I use Google’s url tracker to embed trackable links to the collection in my emails so I can see exactly how many people click on an item and match that to the number of check-outs or holds that happen in the 24-48 hours after I send the email.

Once you’re ready, learn more about when to send your email messages.

Subscribe to this blog and you’ll receive an email every time I post. To do that, click on “Follow” button on the bottom left-hand corner of the page. Connect with me on Twitter and Snapchat–it’s where I talk about library marketing! I’m @Webmastergirl. I’m also on LinkedIn, Slideshare,  Instagram and Pinterest. Views in this post are my own and do not represent those of my employer.

 

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