Some of my campus pastors had a debate last spring: Is sending a postcard for your Fall Outreach series worth the money, or is it better to do doorhangers, or advertise by social media?
What do you think, Pastor?
The Law of Invitation
My answer to them was and is do all three. The Law of Invitation says that, on average, people need to receive six invitations before attending your church, party or event. Using all three forms of mass marketing can accelerate their response by providing three invitations in a short period of time.
Add a Personal Invitation
Better still, add a fourth means of invitation. A personal invitation from a friend is by far the most powerful form of inviting. You can help your members with their invitations by printing business card sized invitations they can carry in their wallets. These cards are so inexpensive (about $20 per thousand) that you might consider printing up a new invitation for every series.
Start With a Postcard
As you create your plan to build top-of-the-mind awareness of your church in your city, start with a postcard. Direct mail postcards remain the most cost-effective means of mass marketing today. Compared to some other means, mailers can be expensive, but done correctly, every mailer pays for itself.
The key is the content, purpose and design of your mailer. I’ll explain how to craft a winning postcard—and why you want to send a postcard, not a letter—in next week’s post.
Like the time management illustration of filling your jar with rocks first, then pebbles, then sand, when it comes to an outreach campaign strategy, your postcards are your big rocks. They cost more than doorhangers or social media ads, so start your outreach budget with them, then fit the less costly tools around them.
It’s cheaper to mail to an entire carrier route than to buy a targeted mailing list to mail to select homes. So as you formulate your community-invite strategy, order a demographic study to determine which mail-routes contain the highest concentration of the type of people your church is likely to reach. You can purchase an in-depth study from Percept, or if you’re ordering your postcards through Outreach, Inc., they will give you a study as part of your order.
Mail Postcards Regularly
Once you’ve determined the carrier routes you want to reach, mail to those neighborhoods at least three times, but preferably five times a year.
Here’s a tip: Don’t waste your money on a single postcard. The virtue of postcards is the name recognition and credibility they will bring you over time. A single postcard won’t bring you either. A series of postcards over time will bring you both.
Here’s how it works: When I get a postcard in the mail from an investment broker, unless I’m actually looking for an investment broker, I glance at the card, think to myself, “I’ve never heard of this guy,” and throw it in the trash. When I get a second card from him a few months later, I glance at it and think, “Oh yeah, I got a card from him a while ago,” and toss it in the trash too. When I get the third card I think, “Ah, I’ve seen these before. This guy must be working my neighborhood, and it must be working for him or he wouldn’t continue to send these things. If I’m ever in need of an investment broker, I might give him a call.”
Church postcards work similarly. The first time you send a card, everyone will throw it in the trash. Everyone, except the family that is looking for a church. If your postcard is done well, there’s a good chance that family will visit you within the next two to three weeks.
The Value of Postcards Builds Over Time
Churches that spend $2,000 on a mailer and only see one family show up usually decide not to “waste” any more money on future mailers. There are two reasons that would be a big mistake.
The first is, if your mailer brings one family that becomes contributing members of your church, that one family will pay for your whole mailer in less than a year.
The second reason a single mailer is a mistake is because it has introduced you to your neighbors, and if you’ll follow-up with a few more cards, many of them will consider coming to your church. Yes, they’re likely to throw away the second card too. But with that second card they’ll say, “Oh yeah, I’ve heard of this church before.” And with the third card they’ll say, “Oh yeah, I’ve seen a few of these, there might just be something worthwhile going on at that church.”
This is why I encourage brand new church plants to mail three postcards in the three weeks leading up to their launch. Pretty much everyone will toss the first card, and the second card.
But when the third card hits their mailbox five days before your church’s Grand Opening, some recipients will say, “I’ve heard of these guys. Their Opening seems to be a big deal, maybe we should check it out.”
Church planters, I encourage you to send a fourth card a month or so later, inviting them to a brand new series, with some fun children’s activities and food trucks during the series.
Fill in With Doorhangers
Printing a few thousand doorhangers is inexpensive. The cost involved in doorhangers is a time cost. Someone in your church has to put a fair amount of time into identifying walk routes for your volunteers, and then even more time recruiting volunteers, orienting and praying with them, sending them out and celebrating with them afterward.
The return for a doorhanger can be greater than the return for a postcard because postcards come in a stack of mail, whereas doorhangers hang alone on the doorknob or gate handle of each home. It’s possible to chuck a postcard without really seeing it. On average, recipients spend 1.5 seconds glancing at each piece of “junk mail.”
With a doorhanger, it’s the only piece of paper the recipient picks up, and while they’re carrying it to the trashcan, they’re likely to skim it and think about your church.
Pour Social Media Throughout
Facebook has become so sophisticated that you can purchase an ad that targets only a specific area, and can even be focused only on a specific type of person of your choosing. Facebook ads are very inexpensive, and are therefore worth adding into your invitational strategy mix. They have the potential to be seen by a lot of eyes, and a lot of eyes means that at least a few may respond.
But I have found that there is little or no long-term memory that comes with these ads, so they should be supplemental to the rest of your approach rather than the primary means for building awareness of your church.
The Holy Spirit is at work in your target community. His eyes are ranging the earth to find those who are fully committed to Him, and to find those who are seeking Him at any given time. If you will keep the name of your church in the minds of your community, the Spirit can use that to nudge lost and wayward people to your doors and to Himself.
Use any and every means to draw people to your church and to the Savior! For maximum effect, use these four means (invite cards, postcards, doorhangers and social media) on a regular basis.
And if you can find other means, use them too!