Last week during lunch, an interesting idea was proposed: can inbound marketing services be used for churches? The methodology has been helping businesses find success for a while, now, but could a church grow from implementing the same tools and strategies? The answer is a resounding yes.
In 2012 more than 17 million non-churchgoers visited the websites of a local places of worship, according to a study by Grey Matter Research. They visited the church websites for a variety of reasons such as checking the times of services (43%), streaming video (26%), streaming audio (26%), finding out the church’s beliefs (22%) and sending a message to church leaders (12%).
In the past, churches have mostly relied on outbound marketing techniques for growth. Ads, billboards, events, referrals and door-to-door evangelism have been some of the most used techniques. But, there is clearly an opportunity for the church to benefit from the methodologies that can be gleaned from inbound marketing services. People are already searching for churches online, so it’s up to the church to harness the power of search, social and web to meet them. To accomplish this, church leaders must understand the inbound methodology:
The first thing your church needs to do is determine the personas you are going to target. These personas are characterized by the demographics that are best suited for your church. Perhaps, one of these personas might be millennials. Maybe they are already religious or maybe they are new to faith. The personas a church targets will affect the type of content it publishes, so it is important to be clear on the target audiences before doing anything. A challenge for churches will be balancing their strategy to help both non-churchgoer personas and personas who are already members. A website should be useful for every persona.
Of the inbound marketing services, SEO and social media are the most important to attract visitors. Having your church web pages optimized for identified search terms will help you become found in the search results. When your personas reach your site, it is important to have relevant content waiting for them. Of course, you can also promote your church’s content on social media platforms. Platforms such as Twitter and Facebook can let members share and spread information and content to others in the local community. Google+ and Google Business is also important for SEO and showing up on maps in search results.
Speaking of content, your church should consider a variety of content strategies. Blogging has been a successful tactic for attracting visitors to businesses, and your church blog can be an opportunity to share relevant and helpful information for members and nonmembers alike. Other things for a church might consider sharing include video or sermon audio. This content gives the visitors a taste of what they will get by attending on Sundays.
Once visitors have been attracted to your church via your website, they will need to be converted into first-time visitors. The “convert” stage of an inbound marketing strategy is crucial — without it, the web traffic you generate will never become foot traffic. The entire web experience should be about them and their spiritual journey. The church website should not only let web visitors know when services are and provide directions to the church, but introduce them to the culture of the congregation.
A powerful tool for converting your web traffic into foot traffic is the strategic uses of calls to action, or CTAs. A CTA for a church can be very similar to one for a business. It can give them the chance to subscribe to your email list and learn about an upcoming event. It could even present opportunities to serve or give financially.
The wording on CTAs are important. A subscription form might contain the value proposition, “Subscribe and Receive Our Newest eBook Free” or “The First One Hundred People to Sign Up for VBS Will Get 50% Off”. It’s a simple formula; just make sure there’s an incentive for converting. Use action words such as start, stop, build, get, learn, join, discover or save.
Every CTA your church creates should take users to a landing page with a conversion form. On landing pages, you should never ask for more information than necessary. An email address and a name is the most important — and is likely the only content you’ll be able to receive from web visitors that are only slightly interested in visiting the church. But, with this information, you can begin converting invisible web traffic into leads that can be nurtured and converted into a church members.
How does an online visitor become a church member? It is no small feat. With a steady stream of web leads in hand, however, it becomes much easier to create new opportunities to close the gap between web visitor and church visitor.
Of the many inbound marketing services offered, email automation will help the most in this stage. In a basic inbound marketing strategy, email automation presents a wonderful opportunity to keep your organization top of mind by sending new resources to potential church goers. Email automation begins by creating a succession of email campaigns that are triggered after a visitor completes a landing form. Perhaps the first email campaign offers a free eBook from your church. Maybe the second campaign invites them to join your church’s “first time visitor” meeting. It might even include a letter from the pastor with a direct line to ask questions about the church.
Inbound marketing services only work for businesses when they are focused on the user’s experience, and the same is true for churches. I think any pastor or church leader would agree that it’s not enough to get people to come to church, they need to have a desire to continue going. “Delight” is the final step of any inbound marketing strategy, and when you delight churchgoers, you are focused on retaining their attention throughout the week.
Delighting members is about integrating your Sunday morning services into your web and social presence Monday through Saturday. This integrated approach to church retension pairs the Sunday morning experience with substantive, poignant content that provides mileage to the message. It is about giving everyone a reason to continue communicating on social media or using the website and remain active within the church. When you delight your members, they will be more loyal and faithful to your organization.
Inbound marketing services can be tailored for practically any business model, from the fortune 500 to the car dealership and worship hall. Brandcave can help you with any and all aspects of developing a strategy. Give us a call.