Market research

Yesterday I sent out 200 emails asking patrons for their opinion on our electronic newsletter. I created a database in Access and  used the mailmerge function of Word/Outlook to make this a little easier, but it was still a several hour job. Of the 200, 7 came back as undeliverable and one is delayed in delivery, so I’m considering that one gone too. That’s 4% undelivered.

As of this morning I had 4 responses to my email. I am unreasonably pleased that I got any, especially this soon 🙂

In case anyone is curious, this is the email my patrons got. The mail merge let me address them personally, and of course I signed my name, as opposed to an anonymous “Library” signature:

Change is good!

We’re thinking of changing our library newsletter, and we’re reaching out to a few subscribers to ask them what they think.

This isn’t a long, formal survey – just drop us a note with your impressions.

  • Do you read the newletter, or delete it without opening it?
  • What would you like to see more of?
  • What don’t you care so much about?
  • What do you think of the look of the newsletter?
  • What works? What doesn’t?

Give us your opinion on the layout, the design, the colors, the header, the content – anything you want to say is fine.

Be kind or be brutal, but be honest! You’re our focus group and we need your help. You can just answer the questions up top or elaborate

If you could send your feedback by October 15 we’d really appreciate it, but we’d like to hear from you even after that date.

Thanks very much for your help.


It’s now been four months since we began our electronic newsletter promotion – asking folks when they register or re-register if they want our electronic newsletter.

In four months we’ve gone from around 60 subscribers to over 500, so in terms of raw numbers, I’m happy. As I’ve said before, however, I can’t budge the percentage of newsletters opened from it’s 30% mark. I’m happy that this means we’ve grown from 20 viewers a month to 150, but we can do better.

We put the newsletter together quickly when we subscribed to nextReads a year or so ago. It’s time for a change, and I think the best way to make that change successful is to reach out to our users.

Here’s the plan: in early October, we’ll send a personalized email to about a third of our subscribers (yes, about 200 of them!) asking for their opinions about our newsletter’s look and content. Not a real survey, nothing structured, I just want impressions. Then our PR person, our head of reference, one of our staff with a great visual eye, and I will sit down and brainstorm, with the help of those impressions, what story we’re trying to tell with this newsletter. We’ll select new images for the header and rethink the formatting. After we’ve come up with two or three prototypes, I’ll go back to our subscribers and see if there’s any consensus on what users like best. Then we’ll revamp and see what happens!

This will be interesting for a number of reasons: I’m interested in seeing what percentage response a personal email asking for opinions will receive. I didn’t do very well recently when I asked our downloadable audiobooks users about their impressions, but I have in the past, so I’m not giving up hope. I’m interested in what people have to say, most of all. And I’ll be interested in seeing if a revamp based on user opinions actually improves readership rates.

I’ll be sending my email in early October, and giving people until mid-October to respond. More then….

Just another comment…of the 26 individuals who registered to use downloadable audiobooks from April – July 2008 who stopped using the service, 24 of them (92%) were active, in-person library users during the same period. WOW.

Of the 12 patrons who are registered for downloadable books and who are either active users or who have registered within the last 30 days,  10 or them (83%) are active users. I can’t determine the status of two others because their names don’t match what’s in our files.

So what does this mean? It seems trying or using downloadable books is an extension of the services already used by our active user base. The service doesn’t seem to be connecting with the theoretical “people who want to use their library a different way.” And while most of our marketing has been pitched to people who come in to the library (Electronic bulletin board slides and postcards handed out to advertise June’s classes) there’s also a notice on our home page, so it is accessible to people who never set foot in here.


I’m interested in knowing about any market research projects you all know about or are involved in:

What kind of research did you do? (Focus groups, surveys – web-based, paper, other? – patron observation, environmental scanning, etc.)

Did you make any changes in offerings or service based on the results?

What was the result of those changes, positive or negative? (increased circ of a collection, increased support of the library or a service, etc.)

Post a comment or email me, and if you email me privately, let me know if I can reference your email in a future post. Thanks!