Your email list gives you access unlike any other form of media. If you can convince the recipient to open the email (1 click) then you have complete control over what is communicated.
Your website gives you complete control of your content, but often takes multiple clicks, or typing in the address bar to get them from a blank browser to your information.
Social media could mean that people see your information without any additional clicks if it shows up in their timeline, but you have very little control over who will see it and when – you’re at the mercy of Twitter or Instagram’s never-ending timeline, or Facebook ever-changing algorithms.
Think about it, how often do you wake up, grab your phone and go through your inbox? This is a direct way to reach people, and if someone has a habit of checking later, your email is still in that inbox.
So knowing that email gives you the best combination of control and content, how can you make the most of your email list?
1) Use a program intended for mass emails:
I recommend a free account from Mailchimp (affiliate link) but there are some other great options like Constant Contact, or Sendee or some that would integrate with your CRM.
An email newsletter program is important for a few reason:
- It will manage ‘unsubscribed’ addresses – if you’re making a habit of copying and pasting in your BCC field, someone is going to ask to be taken off the list, you’re going to forget, and that’s going to be annoying for them, and discouraging when you get the “I’ve asked you to take me off your list 3 times…” email.
- You can send images and text setup like a web page with buttons to click, images and text – way more engaging than just text, and will automatically format for mobile screens.
- You can track open rates, how many people click and how many people unsubscribe to learn what works and what you can adjust.
- It will allow you to schedule an email in advance… you don’t want to wake up every Saturday morning and write your church’s email newsletter, so you can write it during the week, then schedule it for a certain day at a certain time.
- You can use merge tags (like inserting each recipient’s first name into the email newsletter)
2) Make a habit of sending a regular email newsletter:
This could be weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, but get people in the habit of looking for and opening your email. Ours goes out on Saturdays – fewer business emails, higher open rates. (According to this impromptu trial with unseminary, 57% of churches who moved their emails to Saturday saw an increase in attendance.)
3) Send out emails outside of your usual schedule:
We do an email usually once a month called “Coffee with Pastor Ryan” where we take a 3-4 minute video of our Lead Pastor sitting at starbucks and drinking a coffee while talking about what’s going on and coming up at Life Church. We put a screenshot in Mailchimp, then link it to the video on Facebook or youtube.
I use the subject link “Would you be able to have coffee with Pastor Ryan today?” or “Do you have 5 minutes for coffee with Pastor Ryan?”
Last week, I created an online survey, and then sent it out from our email newsletter. I used a merge tag to say “Hey , can you help me with a couple of questions?” and made my email the ‘from’ address.
I’ve found that changing things up keeps people curious as to what the content will be, though they know that the Saturday emails are a list of what’s happening on our calendar in the following week.
4) Have a clear goal for your email newsletter:
What is the purpose of your email newsletter? Who is likely to read it? What information are they looking for? What itch does it scratch?
For us, we found that fewer and fewer people were taking a bulletin (even if handed to them) and then of the ones that were taken, a high portion of them were being left behind when people went home. Based on the cost of printing, the time it takes to organize the info, design, proof, print, cut, fold and the waste, I started exploring other options.
It was about 18 months ago that I sent our first email newsletter and built it into my weekly schedule. The purpose of the email newsletter was to let people know everything that was public coming up in the next 7 days – for example, it includes every Life Group happening that week with date and time, but doesn’t include worship rehearsal because that’s not open invite. It would include the “Join the Ushers” party but doesn’t include staff meetings.
I would then include “Big Picture” items coming up – baptisms, new members classes, a new series, or an upcoming event as the header of the email.
Slowly we found that even fewer bulletins were being handed out, and more people would notice when we missed an email newsletter (yep, it happened. I actually had a neighbor come to me that week and ask if I could resend it because he “couldn’t find his” and it’s his reminder for his Life Group that happens every-other week.)
My goal was to eventually create dependance on the weekly email newsletter and remove dependance on the bulletin. Last week I sent out a communications survey and asked 6 questions about how people find out about events and where they look for more information – one of the questions included the respondent’s age bracket.. We found that over 60% find out what’s coming up from our email newsletter, and another 20 said they use it as a secondary source to find information. Only 2% said they find out from the bulletin.
In light of the time involved, we decided last week (after 18 months of the newsletter) to stop printing the bulletin and once a month create a paper handout to talk about that one “Big Picture” item.
5) Create a system to collect email addresses:
We started out by creating a list of people who have been involved at our church in the last 6 months (attended, given or served) as a starting point for our email newsletter. Whenever someone interacts with us in a way that involves their email, they email gets added to our mailchimp list. This includes if they sign up for an event, visit youth, fill out a connection card, sign up to join our kids team, register their kids for class, etc.
We also have a spot on the iPads on our welcome center where people can subscribe, and we talk about it at least once a month in our service announcements, not only to invite people who haven’t yet subscribed, but also to remind people who have subscribed to watch for it.
Overall, we’ve found that email is one of the most effective ways for us to communicate. I’m confident if you include these 5 ways, you’ll find the same.
This article was originally published on That Church Conference Blog