By Joy Gendusa
With American church attendance falling below the majority for the first time in eight decades, community churches are turning to marketing to keep congregation numbers up.
Marketing to potential parishioners is becoming increasingly essential if you want to create a flourishing community of worship. You need to be proactive to accomplish any goal, and building a supportive church congregation is no different!
Direct mail can help reach your community’s faithful and remind them of the benefits that come with being a part of a church community — here’s how:
Recruit Your Community’s Faithful with Mailing Lists
One of direct mail’s biggest benefits is its ability to target people selectively based on their location or characteristics. I recommend you try recruiting people who reflect your current congregation, as they’re more likely to be responsive to your message.
Take a look around your church — is it diverse? Would a particular kind of person feel more at home than another? Do they hold similar jobs or education levels? Is the majority from a certain neighborhood? Do they live nearby? How far do most of them drive? Nail down your target parishioner and find a mailing list that reflects them.
With an Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) or Resident/Occupant mailing list, you can target specific areas near your church. You can focus on proximity (people living within a certain radius), zip codes or even specific mail carrier routes that weave through certain neighborhoods. These mailing lists emphasize saturation over targeting, so the postage for each piece is lower. These are great choices if you want to reach a lot of people nearby for a lower cost.
If your congregation is more niche, a focused mailing list might be a better option. You can target residents living nearby according to their demographics (age, gender, income, etc.) and even psychographics (values or interests) with a consumer mailing list. Your list can be modified to reflect your current congregation — you can even microtarget things like specific religions, liberal or conservative mindsets, certain moral stances or values, and much, much more. However, more selective targeting can get expensive, so keep that in mind.
Lastly, you should know that churches qualify for a highly reduced postage rate, a nonprofit pricing classification, which can offer a huge savings on a direct mail campaign, since the bulk of the cost goes straight to postage. If you plan on dipping your toes into direct mail, I highly encourage you to apply for nonprofit status with the United States Postal Service (USPS).
Integrate Direct Mail with Digital Advertising to Reach Prospective Parishioners Where They Spend Time
There are people in need of your help out there. Let them know your church is there for them with a multi-channel marketing campaign, aka a campaign that appears on multiple marketing channels (like Facebook, Google, and your mailbox) simultaneously.
After spending about $70 million on my own advertising and serving over 100,000 small and independent business clients, I’ve nailed down the ideal multi-channel marketing sequence that takes someone from completely unaware of your church to aware, interested and finally converted and ready to partake.
Here’s how it works:
- Your postcard or letter reaches the mailboxes of your potential parishioners.
- Those interested will probably visit your website to see if your church is a good fit for them and their family.
- After leaving your website, they’ll start to see coordinated follow-up ads in these places:
- Across the Internet, specifically the Google Display Network, which has millions of member websites.
- Facebook and Instagram, where ads for your church will appear on their news feeds.
- Their Gmail account, near the top of their inbox
- Or a YouTube video they check out, which might have your banner ad at the bottom or on the side menu.
If this sounds like too much, remember that, as consumers, we see thousands of other ads per day. Just think of the last time you logged on yourself; how many ads do you see in a manner of minutes? We’re accustomed to blocking them out, so you really do need to market more than you think you might to actually make an impact and create an impression.
Each time a prospect sees your message, it further increases the chance they’ll remember you and eventually choose your congregation if they do decide to take action. Consider the last time you invited a friend to your church — usually, it takes some persistence to get them to give it a try. It’s the same when it comes to marketing and advertising. Someone may not be ready to commit when they first receive your postcard, but, by continuing to reach them with your message online, you’re increasing the odds in your favor that they’ll eventually attend a service.
While digital advertising can be effective on its own, coupling it with direct mail helps focus your marketing budget on those most likely to have a favorable view of your church and those who have already shown some interest by visiting your website.
Consistent exposure across several channels keeps your congregation top-of-mind whenever someone is looking for a new church or wants to join a supportive community.
Mail Consistently to Fill Your Church Halls
To give your church a big advantage over your competition, mail regularly. This consistency brings a level of legitimacy to your institution and shows potential parishioners that your congregation is one they can depend on for life.
Your mailing schedule should minimally be four times a year, or at the very least around major religious holidays. To figure out the most optimal times to mail for your church, get out a calendar and mark all of the most significant events and dates. Then, go back six to eight weeks before that date and put a reminder that you need to start marketing for that event. This communicates that your church extends open arms welcoming anyone wanting to participate in your active calendar.
Joy Gendusa is the founder/CEO of PostcardMania. If you’re interested in seeing for yourself the designs that other churches across the country are mailing to increase their congregation numbers, visit www.postcardmania.com/churches.