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targeted email marketing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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The Million-Dollar Reason You Need to Market Your Library’s Collection

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$250,000 vs. $8 million.

That’s the spread between the amount my library spends on programming and the amount they spend on collections.

I bet if you checked your library, you’d find a similar story. So why, my dear friends, do library marketers spend the majority of their time and effort promoting programs?

$275,000

Please understand me. I’m not saying that library programming isn’t important or worth promoting. Library programs nourish the soul of our community and offer cultural and educational opportunities for those who might not otherwise have access to them. Most library programs are a valuable and important part of the library’s mission to serve the community. And they deserve to be marketed!

But most library marketing teams spend their energy and resources promoting those programs. And they miss an undeniably important fact about library usage. Library cardholders want the books. They’re checking out books. That’s why they signed up for a library card!

A study by the Pew Research Center published in September 2015 shows 66 percent of library cardholders use their card to borrow books. Only 17 percent attend a library program, class, or lecture. Think about what people say when they sign up a library card. Most are going to tell you they are excited to check stuff out! We take it for granted that people know we have circulation items–books, magazines, music, and more. We need to stop that.

If we want to compete with Amazon and other bookstores, we have to promote our main asset–the collection. People are hungry for information about new stuff in the collection. And every time I talk to someone about the library and I mention that we loan eBooks, eAudiobooks and downloadable music, they look at me like I have two heads. We’re spending a ton of money to build our collection and our customers don’t really know it’s there. When they want a newly released book, who do your cardholders think of first–you or Amazon?

Before I was a library marketer, I worked as a television news producer. That means I put together each night’s newscast, decided which stories were told, in what order, and how they were told. Every year, our news director would bring in a consulting firm whose job it was to help us improve our shows and increase our viewership. I was proud of my work as a journalist. But when I was presented with the feedback from focus groups, it was clear that most viewers were watching my show for the weather. Hearing what was going on in the world was nice, but what they really wanted to know was whether it would rain the next day.

In television news, weather is king. In libraries, the collection is king. Collection marketing is a valuable investment for every library. The best way to market the collection is through targeted emails. In the next few blog posts, I’ll be sharing some secrets for targeted email messaging–things I’ve learned in the 18 months that we’ve done so at my library.

But you can start collections marketing right now through social media–especially Twitter and Pinterest– and by featuring books on the front page of your website.  Create themed book lists–you can enlist your collections development department for help with that task. Talk about new books and popular books in your podcast or on your blog.

For a few minutes every day, spend some time marketing your collection. It will increase circulation and will help reinforce the image of your library as a place of vast resources in the eyes of your cardholders.

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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