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Be Quietly Relentless! A Guide for How to Win Senior Leadership Support for Your Library Marketing Ideas

At a recent conference I attended, one of the big topics of discussion centered on senior library leadership. My new friends were wondering about how to get support for their marketing ideas and initiatives from the folks that run their libraries.

That’s one of the main areas of angst for library marketers at nearly every event I attend. How do you convince the people with all the power to give the okay for your marketing ideas?

It happens at every library. For five years, I lobbied our library’s senior leadership for a customer-facing blog. Five years is a long time.  And the thing I learned is that you must have patience. I also learned how to live with frustration. That doesn’t sound ideal. But its reality.

And I learned that you can ask for something, but to make a good case, you must craft a clear message that demonstrates how your idea will work. Basically, you have to market your idea to your senior leaders! Here are some tips on that process.

Understand your leadership’s priorities. What top-line problems are your director and senior leadership trying to solve at your library?  What is your library’s strategy? If you can clearly identify the pain points of your library leaders, you can show how your marketing ideas can help solve those problems.

Pick one marketing idea to pitch. What is the one marketing tactic you believe will give your library the best result? Do you want to start email marketing? Do you want more budget for advertising? Do you want to start a print content marketing magazine? Pick the tactic that you believe will have the most benefit for your library. Focus is key when pitching ideas to library leadership.

Create a complete plan. Plan your pitch in as much detail as possible. You’ll want to educate your senior leaders about what the tactic is and how it works in marketing.

I started my pitch by creating a document outlining the reasons why a blog is an effective marketing tool. To beef up my pitch document, I addressed these areas.

  • Supporting data and research. Include testimonies from other library marketers already using the tactic. Outline their positive experiences and the benefits. These first-hand experiences go a long way in strengthening your case. I asked other library marketers about the benefits of a blog. I also asked about the problems they encountered and how they solved those problems so I would have clear answers if senior leaders brought up these potential pitfalls.
  • Go over how you’ll use already existing resources to make this tactic work. If there will be a cost, be clear about that. But also show why spending money on the tactic will bring your library a clear return on investment or even save your library money in the long run. For my example, I talked about how the blog would increase SEO and allow us to reach new audiences. I argued that it would save us money in advertising, build brand support and recognition, and increase cardholder awareness of everything the library has to offer. I also created an editorial calendar to help the senior leaders envision the kinds of stories we would tell and the cadence at which we would write and release those stories. I did a time study with my staff and identified staff members who would be able to devote time to writing posts or soliciting content from other staff members and outside organizations. Finally, I created examples of promotions so the senior leaders could see how we would promote the blog.
  • Be sure to include clear information about how you will measure the success of the tactic. I included data about views and time spent on the website from successful blogs in similar industries.
  • Include a few lines about what may happen to your library if you don’t adopt the marketing tactic you propose. Talk about what your competitors are doing and how your tactic will help you compete in an increasingly crowded market.

Consider just doing it and asking for forgiveness later. When I started at the Library, I wanted to change our quarterly newsletter into a content marketing magazine. At the time, it was just a list of programs and events happening at the Library. I knew that if I asked outright, my leaders would say “no”. A change in the content of the newsletter would be too scary to consider.

So… I took the initiative. I took out some events and added in a few content marketing articles. You better believe that I was nervous when I sent the proof up the chain for approval. But it worked. In fact, the senior leaders commented on how much they liked the pivot. It was a gamble, but it paid off.

If you have confidence that your idea is worth merit, you might consider just moving forward without asking permission, particularly if there is no outright cost to the tactic. Sometimes, it just takes seeing your idea in action for a senior leader to realize its value and potential.

I don’t want to be the cause of a library marketing rebellion. But I also want us to assert ourselves more. We were hired because we are capable. Use your confidence and stand firm in your convictions in the workplace.

Remember the senior leaders have a boss too. Even the director has someone who he or she answers to… the board, the community, the city manager, etc. This may be why your most senior leaders seem to be afraid to take risks or try new things. The fear of failure may be holding your leaders back. That’s normal. But it’s also an opportunity for you, particularly if it seems like your library is stuck in a pattern of failure or if you’re facing major opposition from community groups. If you can show that the fear of change is holding your library back, you may be able to convince your leaders that it’s worth the risk of trying.

Don’t give up. Look, it took me five years to get a blog. It was frustrating. There were many moments when I thought I should just give up. But I kept asking. A change in senior leadership, or in priorities or a random conversation between your senior leaders and someone at another library is all it takes to do the trick. Don’t be annoying. But be quietly relentless!!

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

 

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Want More Media Coverage for Your Library? Here’s How to Fix Your Press Release!

It’s ironic that a former broadcast journalist can find herself without a good plan for getting more positive news coverage for her library.

And yet, that was the situation I found myself in last year. I run the content marketing team for a thriving library with high circulation numbers. We win awards. We are constantly looking for ways to improve the customer experience. And yet, the only times we found ourselves in the news, the coverage was for negative developments–an increase in drug overdoses, a fight over the sale of a library building, or the arrest of patrons.

I had worked a news desk. I remember getting off the phone with organizations asking for coverage of positive news. I would respond politely. But I knew the score. After I hung up, I would often shake my head and say, “Unless someone dies in your building, we won’t ever cover that.”

And now I found myself on the other side of that unspoken rule. I found it frustrating and humiliating. So, I decided that my team was going to do something about it.

The process of creating more positive news coverage for our library was a long one. It’s taken about a year. It involved changing our methods in some areas. But one of the big changes we made was also one of the most basic: we fixed our press release. We changed both the look and the content.

It worked. At my recent performance review, senior leadership acknowledged an increase in positive news coverage for the library. I want to share what we did so you can get the same results.

Simplify the look. We changed our press release template. Our past template was pretty and branded. But it was hard for my content specialists to use. The header and footer design made it difficult to type more than one page. It looked messy. It also took too much time to load on newsroom computers or smartphones.

Our preview releases looked messy and were difficult to format.

So, while it may seem counter-intuitive to transition to a template with less branding, it’s turned out to be a good move. Our new template has a cleaner design. It loads faster. We can fit more on the page. And it’s easier for the media to copy and paste the text to use in their stories.

Our new format has a cleaner look. It’s still branded but it’s easier to read.

Stop embedding photos. I don’t know why this was a thing but the library marketing team embedded their accompanying photos into press releases long before I got there. The photos made it difficult to format text correctly and required captioning in teeny tiny text, which is difficult to read. The photos were also incredibly small and were never used by the media. Reporters had to email us to ask for the high-resolution version. That adds to the workload of my team and it’s a barrier to news coverage. So, we’ve changed our policy. Now we just attach the high-resolution photos to the email we send with the press release. The media can easily download and use the photos.

Write better headlines. I noticed our headlines were long. We tried to convey the entirety of the information in the headline. And we used a lot of puns. I asked my team to write shorter, engaging headlines. We use action verbs if possible. We eliminated subheads. And NO MORE PUNS.

Write clean, conversational sentences and shorten paragraphs. The media is an audience, just like the audience for our other customer-facing content. They are pressed for time. They need a clear lead and information. And, like customers, they are not well-versed in library-industry terminology.

Now we write shorter paragraphs. We explain any library term in clear, concise language.

Less manufactured quotes. I never, ever used the provided quotes from news releases when I worked in news. I’m sorry, guys. That’s the truth. If it doesn’t sound like something a real human would say, it’s not a real quote. They know you’re making it up.

However, I know that this small portion of the news release is not always something you have control over. Fight for quotes that sound more like a real human. And if you lose that fight, it’s okay. A manufactured quote won’t disqualify your library from getting coverage if you’ve done the rest of these steps.

Include contact information for the people who can actually answer the media’s questions in a timely fashion. This was a pet peeve of mind when I worked in journalism. A press release without contact information forced me to do extra work, and that makes it less likely I’d cover the story.

Many marketing and public relations professionals fail to add contact info. It’s amazing how many times I’d contact the person listed on the release, only to learn that I needed to make more calls to other people within the same organization to find the answers I need.

The contact info you provide must be the most direct line to the information the press needs. We include contact info for my content specialist who is in charge of public relations. She takes the media’s information and question and finds the answers. The media only has to make one phone call. They’re more likely to cover your story if your organization has a reputation for finding their answers in a timely manner with few hassles.

Don’t mass send your release. We used to send one mass email with the press release to all available media. That wasn’t working. It sounds silly, but it makes your news feel less exclusive. Newsrooms will make decisions about whether to cover something based on what their competitors are doing. And by mass sending the news release, we were also sending information to media outlets that had no interest in our content.

Now, my content specialist matches the promotion to the media she feels would have the most interest in the event. Then she sends separate emails to those media members. It’s more time-consuming, but it’s more effective. She can personalize the email with the media contacts name. She can tell them exactly why our new information is relevant or interesting to their audience. She can also offer up interviews or video and audio opportunities to radio and TV stations that are specific to their show schedule. It makes our work with the media feel more like a partnership and less like we’re constantly trying to “sell” them on our stories. And it works.

More ideas for improving your library press relations:

How to Get Media Coverage Without a Press Release

Lessons From The Greatest Press Release Ever Written!

It’s Not Personal: What to Do When Your Library Gets Bad Press

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!

Five Totally Doable Things That Make Your Library Content More Shareable

Every content creator fears no one will read their work. By contrast, the most exhilarating thing you can do in marketing is to write something that people read, share, and comment on. I speak from experience. There is no better compliment.

Last week, I told you about the upcoming keynote I’m giving on content marketing and shared some reasons why your library should be creating content. The more I write for this blog, the more I learn about the kinds of content my audience will read AND share. That second part is important. You want to reach new people and make them library fans. But what makes your content shareable?

I have five simple ideas for you. Each of these increase the likelihood that your content gets shared.

Write longer, compelling pieces. Seriously, the whole thing about how your audience only has the attention of a goldfish is bunk. They will read a 2,000-word post from you if it’s compelling.  People read whole books with 50,000 plus words! I don’t know why this myth of the “too-long content piece” exists when there is literally hundreds of years’ worth of proof that it’s not true.

If you tell a story in long form, with authentic quotes, an emotional arch with conflict and resolution, and a clear beginning, middle, and end, it will not feel like a long read. And a piece of content with all of those characteristics is also likely to be memorable. Great stories stick in our minds long after we read them. And memorable posts get shared!

Long form content is also better for your library’s search results. Back in 2012, serpIQ conducted a study involving more than 20,000 keywords. The results showed that the average content length of the top 10 search results was more than 2,000 words.

I have some evidence that this works personally. In 2018, I purposefully started writing longer blog posts here. Most of my posts land at around 1,000 words… not quite up to serpIQ’s standards but about 200-300 more words per post than I wrote in 2017. And guess what happened? My engagement stats increased by nearly 215 percent over 2017!

My library just started a blog two weeks ago. We will experiment with post length. And you can bet that I’ll push our writers to put out longer and more compelling stories, even if that means we have to publish fewer total posts. Write longer, more interesting posts and people will respond.

Be emotional. According to research from the journal Psychological Science, our emotional responses to content play a huge role in our decision to share that content. But all emotions are not created equal. The study shows people will share content that makes them feel fearful, angry, or amused. There is also a ton of evidence to suggest that people like to share content that inspires or contains a surprise.

Conversely, you should avoid creating content with negative emotions like sadness or even contentment, which tend to cause inaction. We don’t want that!

Insert images in your content. You may have noticed I’ve started inserting more images into my posts on this blog. That’s because adding images to your content is proven to increase the likelihood that it is seen and shared. My post popular post ever is this one, which contains three images. Those three images are strategically placed to emphasis the meaning of the words. They also break up the text for a visually pleasing read.

You must also use images on social media when promoting your content. This rule applies to all platforms. Your audience is visual and they want to see images in addition to your important words. The right image–one that evokes emotions or really serves to succinctly illustrate whatever you are saying in your content–will also make your content more shareable.

Write simply and conversationally. The more your audience understands what you’re trying to say, the most likely they are to share your posts. Define unfamiliar or difficult words, titles, or services. Go through the draft of your material and highlight words or terms that may confuse your audience. Then, find a better way to say or explain those words.

Never take it for granted that your reader has been a lifelong user or follower of the library. Words used by librarians to describe services, programs, catalogs, and databases may seem common to you and your staff. They are not common to your reader. Always explain. Then, ask a non-library employee to read your work. I often take my stuff home and ask my husband or my teenage daughter to read it. If they find anything to be confusing or convoluted, I know I need to change it.

Shorten your sentences and paragraphs. Shorter sentences will make it easier for your reader to understand and absorb what you are saying. The same is true with paragraphs. A piece of material with lots of long paragraphs looks thick and off-putting. Readers will skip lengthy paragraphs, according to British grammarian H. W. Fowler. In addition, the Poynter Institute’s Eyetrack Study shows people are more likely to read an entire web page when the paragraphs are short. And if you can get the reader to look at the entire post, it’s more likely that they’ll share the content.

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 Major Reasons To Add Content To Your Library Marketing {Infographic}

I’m so excited to be the keynote speaker for the Illinois Library Association Marketing Forum Mini-Conference in Chicago in a few weeks. My brain is entirely engulfed in content marketing as I formulate the talk. There are also some big content changes afoot at my library. I’ll talk more about those when we have our campaigns up and running. But, let’s just say that most of my marketing focus in my professional life is on content–why we should do it, how to make it work better, and how to be efficient in our content creation.

The most important part of the speech I’ll give next month is the “why.” Why is content marketing important to libraries? This was actually the focus of one of my early posts here on blog. The argument for content marketing hasn’t changed. You can make all the posters and fliers you want. People don’t pay attention to those push promotional tactics. That’s why marketing seems frustrating.

You want desperately to break through the noise of life and become a subconscious part of your cardholders’ thought process. You want them to think of you every time they face a problem. You want them to remember they can come to you for pretty much anything they need. This is the common struggle for libraries everywhere, no matter their size, staffing, or service area. Honest to goodness, the only way to achieve that is through content marketing. I know this from experience.

There is now a lot of data to back up the assertion that content works. I want to share some of that with you. I’m hoping that, if you are hesitant or nervous about working content marketing into your overall library marketing strategy, these stats will convince you. I truly believe this is an opportunity for libraries that cannot be missed. If we are to survive and thrive as an industry, we need to do more content marketing.

Here are the facts for why content is key to library marketing.

Why Content is Key to Library Marketing

80 percent of people prefer to get information about your library from a series of articles versus an advertisement.

71 percent of people are turned off by content that seems like a sales pitch. Which means, if you are doing mostly traditional promotional marketing, it’s not working.

75 percent of people who find local, helpful information in search results are more likely to visit a physical building. We want to get more bodies inside our libraries. Content is the key.

Only 45 percent of marketers are using storytelling to create a relationship with their audience. Most big brands are still running ads and push promotion. This is our open door. It’s a huge opportunity for libraries. This is how we sneak in and take away audience share… by telling stories. And who doesn’t love a good positive story about a library?

95 percent of people only look at the first page of search results. Optimized content (that’s content that uses keywords that are likely to be picked up by Google and other search engines) is incredibly helpful. If your library’s content appears on the second page or later, people won’t see it.

Blog posts are the content that get the most shares. And if your post is helpful to others, it’s more likely to be shared. 94 percent of readers share a blog post because they think it can be useful to someone they know. And the more often you publish blog content, the more often your content will show up in search, which increases the likelihood that people will find your library while doing a search. Amazing, right?

90 percent of the most successful marketers prioritize educating their audience over promotion their company’s promotional messages. Education is our main industry. Libraries are perfectly aligned to make this work for us.

But here’s a stat that really surprised me. 78 percent of effective content marketers use press releases as part of their strategy. Yep, press releases can be content marketing too. Use your releases to be informative but to really pitch amazing story ideas to the media. If you have a great story and you can make all the elements available to the media, you can let them tell it and take advantage of their built-in audience to spread the word about your library.

These stats come from a variety of great blogs including Impact, Marketing Profs, OptinMonster, Elite Copywriter, Cision, and Forbes. I hope they’ve convinced you to do content marketing at your library.

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 Latest Data on the Biggest Video Library Marketing Questions

Regular readers of this blog know that I love video marketing. So do most marketers. And so do our cardholders.

A study released by Hubspot on video marketing found that video marketing has not yet reached its saturation point. More brands and libraries are creating videos. 87 percent of organizations use video as a marketing tool. That’s because it’s getting easier to convince our senior leaders that video is an effective and vital part of any marketing strategy. 87 percent of consumers say they like seeing videos from brands. It’s interesting, because that number matches the percentage of  brands using videos for marketing! You can read the full report here.

Videos are getting easier and cheaper to shoot, thanks to smartphones. So, you may find that your biggest video marketing problem right now is figuring out what kind of video to create, how long your video should be, and how to make sure your finished video is seen by your cardholders. Those are my biggest issues! I researched the answers to those questions. Here’s what I found.

What kind of video should we create? 

Consumers want to see short, educational videos. That’s a big opportunity for libraries.

To narrow down the most relevant topics for your library marketing educational videos, find out what questions your cardholders are asking of staff. To do that, check the inquiries you get on social media accounts. Talk to front-line staff. And, if your library website users an after-hours chat service or has a help line, ask those employees to give you the top five questions they are asked. Then create a video to answer each of those questions.

Here’s a great example from the Denver Public Library. It’s a short video explaining how to use their self-check-out machines.

If you have the time and equipment, invest in serialized video content designed to educate your community in a new skill, like languages. I love how the Boone County Public Library did this with their “Word of the Week” video series. The series is tied to use of the Mango Languages service.

And I also love this video from the J. Willard Marriott Library which offers a seven minute tour of their building!


Here are some more ideas for library marketing videos.

How long should our videos be?

This answer is a bit more complicated because it really depends on where you are going to post the video. Each of the social media platforms has an optimum video length, according to the latest data.  Here are the bottom line stats:

Instagram: A study by Hubspot revealed that the Instagram videos with the most engagement were those that were less than 30 seconds long.

Facebook: That same Hubspot study says engagement on this platform is highest for videos that run around 60 seconds.

YouTube: Hubspot says engagement is highest for videos that are about two minutes. However, there is a ton of other research that suggests YouTube audiences will watch longer videos if the content of the video is excellent.

LinkedIn: Many thought leaders in the social media space suggest this platform has the most potential for video growth. LinkedIn suggests marketers keep videos between 30 seconds and five minutes for optimum performance on their site. Essentially, that means they’re not sure which length is best because most brands aren’t posting videos on LinkedIn. And that leaves the door wide open for libraries to experiment and take the lead in getting brand awareness and action from LinkedIn users.

Given these varied recommendations, you may consider making several versions of a video to get the most performance out of your videos. My library recently did this for a video we created called Library Love, where we had librarians read notes of thanks and gratitude written by cardholders. The main video runs four minutes and is housed on our YouTube channel.

Now, you’ll notice that’s a bit longer than the recommended two minutes. But the content is good and we have gotten a lot of engagement. We created shorter versions for the different social media platforms.

How should we promote our videos?

It isn’t enough to post your video on YouTube or your website and forget about it. No matter how short your video is, it still took time and effort to create. You’ll want to make sure people see it. The most effective way to promote your videos, in my opinion, is through emails. Send an email to your cardholders with a link to your video. You might also consider playing your videos at an event. We did this with this same Library Love video. We played it our most recent board meeting, at staff meetings, and for legislators at a recent event. And of course, we’ve already talked about how to optimize video for social media. But if you have the budget and ability, putting a little money behind promotion of your video on social media can help tremendously.

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 Podcasts that Will Make You a Better Library Marketer

An exciting thing happened this week! The library marketing profession is now the subject of a podcast. It’s called Library Figures. It’s produced by Piola, a company which designs library websites.

Many smart and strategic library marketing professionals including Kimberly Crowder of the Indianapolis Public Library (featured in this Super Library Marketing post last year) are guests on the pod. Each episode focuses on a successful library marketing strategy. The host and guest dissect the implementation, tools, success measurements, and results. I amhonored to be featured on episodes one and four. Maybe it’s silly, but I’m just beyond thrilled that we’ve got our own podcast corner where we can share and learn.

I’m a huge podcast fan. My podcast player is overflowing with episodes. I’d love to share my list with you and explain a bit about why listening to these shows will make you a better library marketer.

The Science of Social Media

This is a new discovery for me. This show, produced by Buffer, focuses on data, insight, trends, tips, and more. Anyone who works on social media for any library will find value in listening to these episodes, which cover subjects for everyone from beginners to those with advanced social media skills.

Marketing School

I just discovered this podcast last month and I’m catching up on back episodes (there are more than 900!) but I really love it. The creators release one ten-minute episode every day focused on one nugget of great marketing wisdom. Past subjects include blogs, event marketing, crisis communications, and generating great content ideas.

Brand Newsroom

This show, produced by a content marketing agency in Australia, bills itself as “the show for anyone who has a say in how companies are communicating.” The hosts use a round-table discussion format to dissect topics like crisis communications, branding, and networking.  The most interesting episodes involve disagreement between the hosts. They all have a different perceptive on marketing, and I find that they help me to consider issues from different angles. They also have a fun segment at the end of each episode called “On my Desk” where they share something they’re really excited about, from apps to software to new books.

Marketing over Coffee

As its name implies, each weekly show is recorded in a coffee shop. The two hosts talk casually about all kinds of marketing topics including writing, influencer marketing, SEO, and other relevant marketing problems and solutions. They also take listener questions, which I really love. And the episodes are short, so they’re easy to listen to during a typical 20-minute commute.

Social Media Marketing Podcast

Michael Stelzner, who runs the Social Media Examiner website, is the host of this show. His guests have a range of backgrounds and answer questions about all kinds of social media topics and tactics. Mike is really good about digging down and getting the basics about each topic. He also shares a new app at the beginning of each show. Most of his discoveries are free or very inexpensive and they’re all designed to help make marketing easier and more fun.

Unpodcast

I’m going to end in an unconventional spot by recommending this podcast, hosted by husband and wife team Scott Stratten and Alison Kramer. I have seen Scott speak at Content Marketing World several times. He’s hilarious and brutally honest about the faults and triumphs of marketing. Alison is his partner in crime and besides being the cutest couple in marketing,  their observations are always spot on. Some episodes dissect customer service, some talk about marketing mistakes, and sometimes they talk about innovation and entrepreneurship. They really make me think. Just trust me and subscribe.

And of course, we support our fellow library marketers producing podcasts. Read the back stories about how those shows are produced and then subscribe to the library podcasts on this list.

And if you have a podcast you want to recommend, please let me know 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!

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!

 

How to Manage Your Marketing Without Losing Your Ever-Loving Mind

A library marketer is really a project manager.

That phrase is the best description of our job. We are all planning and managing projects. We are scheduling and executing campaigns. We’re delegating. We manage multiple people who contribute to blog and social media posts. And unless you’re a super organized genius, all that coordination can cause you to lose your sanity.

I sometimes walk into my office in the morning feeling fantastic, and by the time I open my email and see a 30-message thread between departments about a piece of content I need for marketing, I can feel the steam rolling out of my ears.

Project management is like waiting tables. You have multiple customers who all want different things from you. They order at different times and their food comes out at unpredictable intervals. In the meantime, you must keep checking back and making sure they have everything they need for the moment. You must also keep them informed about how their meal is progressing.

It’s the same when for library marketing. We are working on multiple campaigns and we have lots of different customers, internally and externally. So how do you make sure you get all your work done without losing track of projects, content, and posts? It’s not easy.

Many of you have said that project management causes you grief and stress. Many of you don’t have a staff. You are doing this job solo. You’re doing branch work in addition to marketing. Your job is hard.

I have a system, developed over five years of trial and error. I thought I’d share it with you. I hope my tips relieve you of some stress.

Train other library staff to plan. I make it a point to stop by once every month or two to talk to all the departments that contribute to my marketing schedule. I ask them to tell me what is coming up in the next one to three months. At the end of each of those meetings, I make it a point to tell them to let me know if they start planning anything at any point. These “touch-base meetings” sometimes only last 15 minutes but they are incredibly valuable.

To be honest, it took me about a year of doing this to get my coworkers trained to let me in on their plans early. I realized later that most of them thought it best to wait to tell me about an event until they had all the details worked out. Now, they’ll give me a heads-up even if they only know the general subject of the event and the date. That way, I can work it into my schedule ahead of time and plan.

Share your schedule. I noticed that when I shared my promotional schedule with my coworkers, they got a good sense of the kind of work involved in creating a campaign. They started sharing more info with me because they could see the work involved. Don’t be precious with your schedule. Share it… and let everyone see how much work and planning goes into each piece.

Set deadlines and enforce them. I do this for lots of my content, but especially when it comes time for our summer reading program. It’s a massive marketing campaign, the biggest we do all year. I create a schedule by the first week of February. In it, I share the deadlines for each piece of the marketing with everyone involved. This sets clear expectations. I also do this for those who contribute to our quarterly content marketing magazine. I send reminders one month and one week before the submission deadline so it’s clear what I need and when I need it.

Use your calendar. I  put appointment reminders in my Outlook calendar to check on the status of certain projects.  I can look at my calendar each day and remember that I need to check up on certain things. I even put calendar reminders in for things like changing signs or updating content.

Don’t respond immediately to requests. This habit was hard to form but it’s the best discipline I’ve set for myself. When someone comes to be to tell me they need marketing for an event or service, I generally do not drop everything to plan out the marketing. I will put it on my to-do list for the next day, or even the next week. That gives me time to think about the best way to market each request.

Set aside time each week for planning. I have a designated planning day. I set aside a couple of hours on that day to purposefully think through my marketing. I make lists and set deadlines. It makes me more focused and helps me to know I have that time to think about what’s coming down the road.

Say no sometimes. Listen, I know it’s an uncomfortable conversation. I know you want to help everyone. You may feel pressured to do it all. I hate saying no. But sometimes, it is necessary. If the request doesn’t align with the library’s overall strategy, I say no.

Your time is limited. If you try to do everything for everyone, you won’t do anything well. Sometimes, you must say no. It may not make your friends, but it will make you better at your job. You were hired to do what’s best for the library.

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

Powerful Things You Can Do to Convert Cardholders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Register for this program.

Put this event on my calendar.

Place a hold on this book.

Get reading recommendations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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