Friday, December 30, 2011

Email Marketing for Librarians—Made Simple

In an era in which most of us are practically buried alive on a daily basis by email and other electronic communications, many libraries send few if any emails to their constituents. It turns out that there are three main aspects to this trend: 1) many libraries do not have their own opt-in email lists; 2) at some corporate and academic libraries, use of the organization’s email list is either restricted or librarians are simply reluctant to use it to promote library services; and 3) librarians are laboring under a common misconception that email marketing is far too difficult or time consuming for them to handle.
At its best, email marketing is exceptionally helpful—it has the ability to connect consumers with just the information they are looking for at little to no cost. To make the prospect of email marketing less daunting, I decided to share a few simple ways librarians can start building or enhancing their own opt-in email marketing lists.
My favorite approach is to form a library users group. Assuming your library has a core group of users that already are relatively aware of your services, invite these users to join your new library users group. Be sure to come up with a good name for the group and give them a few good reasons to join, like “Get email updates on NEW Arrivals, including fiction, science fiction and DVD. Plus, get special screening and online training invitations!” And then make it really easy to sign up. You can create simple online sign-up forms using free email marketing tools, like Mail Chimp, that make it easy to build and manage email lists (complete with opt-in/out functionality).

Another more low-tech approach is simply to send the same type email invitation to any list(s) you have permission to use and close the email by writing something like: “To join all you need to do is reply to this email and write ‘Accept/Join’ in the subject line. Don’t worry, we won’t share your information with anyone and you can unsubscribe at any time.” Take the same simple idea to the next level by starting to segment your audience by interest. Just ask them to indicate which service they are interested in. Do this by a few simple check boxes to your form or simply ask them to place an “x” next to all that apply:  [   ] New arrivals, [   ] Popular fiction, [   ] Computer training, [   ] Special events. True, managing lists manually can be slow and tedious, so start small and as you demonstrate success, you might uncover resources you didn’t know about out.


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