by Melanie A. Lyttle and Shawn D. Walsh
When you’re a small library, there isn’t always a person or department that has been trained to craft newsletters and other messages for the public; however, there are some simple tips to consider when you are acting as the marketer for your library.
Credibility is crucial. The true art of email marketing is knowing when and how often a person should be contacted by email. Too little and they forget that you are there; too much, and off to the spam blacklist you go. Think of emails as a commodity or a natural resource to help your frame of mind. If it took your library several months to years to build up your list, it is in your library’s best interest to make this expendable resource last for future generations.
Your email address and subject line must be credible. Have the address include the library’s name, or something identifiable. Don’t use any free email account. It could look like spam. Make your message subject clear, concise, and context-specific. Most people triage their mail by the subject line, and a poorly worded subject is very likely to be skipped, recycled, or spammed. Make sure you use separate email addresses for marketing versus circulation information. Patrons have a habit of marking overdue notices as spam. Never use your personal email library address (the only exception to this rule may be the library director).
When you use an email address that can receive responses to your mailings, make sure you check it regularly and respond promptly.
Write compelling copy. This cannot be stressed enough. Many people mark things as spam because they just don’t understand why they received the message or what it has to say. Make the email or newsletter short and sweet so that it can be scanned easily; remember, many of your patrons are reading on the go from a mobile device. Use links judiciously. A poorly designed email begets poor results.
Be judicious with email attachments. Most email readers regard attachments with suspicion anyway, and the attachment may trigger spam filters set up to screen unwanted material. Many of your readers may have limited inbox space; by avoiding attachments, you won’t give them an extra reason to delete your newsletter unread.
If at all possible, preview your email communications in an email client, like Outlook, as well as on a mobile device. Don’t let your email presentation turn people off because something has gone awry in their viewing environment.
Spam and blacklists were mentioned in our last blog entry. Bulk mailings, like library newsletters, can get caught, and library emails can end up on the blacklists. As you write and then send your newsletter, work with either the library’s IT departments or whomever handles your email to stay current with any messages received about bad email addresses or anything else that is received. Finally, keep working and keep trying. Newsletters will only get better with practice.