Most people think that a website is an end goal for any online effort. But it’s not. The final goal is to let people know they will find Jesus in the Church, and we want them to come and meet Him there.
There are other reasons why the website isn’t the final goal when trying to draw people to your church.
- Do you remember every website you’ve visited?
- Do you visit every church whose website you’ve perused?
- Does the website always give you all the information you need?
Of course not. That’s why your website isn’t the goal of your church promotion efforts. You need to have the means to keep reaching people who might be interested in you.
You Want Their Email Addresses
Once you have someone’s email address—with their permission, of course—you can continue the conversation with a welcome sequence and other emails that show congregation’s daily life. Your welcome sequence can do these things:
- Share what you believe
- Explain your worship practices
- Tell your congregation’s story
- Send out the church’s weekly or monthly calendar and newsletter
- Educate about your church’s mercy programs and other ways the church serves Christ in the community
- Share the Gospel
Invite them to answer back through replying or completing surveys. Start a conversation.
How to Get Their Email Addresses through Opt-Ins
The first rule of thumb for using the internet as a relationship-building tool is to be generous and give more than what you are asking for.
An opt-in is a gift you give people for sharing their email addresses with you. That gift can be a PDF document, a video, a course, an e-book, or an MP3 file. What would interest someone visiting your site? Give it some thought.
Various media formats let you highlight the topics your visitors are interested in. Here are some possible topics to focus those gifts on:
- Key theological issues like forgiveness, Law and Gospel, mercy, or the Means of Grace
- Practical issues that affect people who need encouragement, are raising children in the faith, or want help praying with a spouse
- Studying a particular topic, the catechism, or a book of the Bible
- Special insights into hymnody or worship
You can even create an opt-in for a particular blog post that takes the information to another level. This is called a content upgrade. For example, if you have a blog post about how to study Scripture, the content upgrade could be a checklist. Put a form inside the blog post so readers can sign up to receive the checklist. If you have a video about how to pray, the content upgrade can be an e-book that expounds on the topic.
How to Connect Forms with Marketing Emails
If you are using Church360° Unite, Wix, or SquareSpace for your website, this will work differently; the process I’m about to describe is for a WordPress website, but the principles are the same. Most email providers give the option of embedding forms on any website.
Step 1: Get an Email Marketing Provider
Previously, we discussed the benefits of an email marketing provider. MailChimp is a common choice because it’s free until you have more than two thousand people on your email list. You get a lot of features for that free price. So let’s assume you’re using MailChimp.
With MailChimp, you can set up various email lists for different purposes—you can have a members list for regular communication and a separate list for visitors. You can also choose to create a list segment; when a visitor is added to this, they’ll start receiving regular church communications after they complete the opt-in and welcome sequences.
Step 2: Make it Easy to Subscribe from Your Website
MailChimp’s form-creation option is rather clunky, so I recommend using a WordPress plugin instead. The free versions limit your form choices to 2–3, but the premium versions provide more options. The WordPress plugin I lean toward is MailMunch. (There is one called “MailMunch for MailChimp,” but don’t use that one.) MailMunch gives you several templates for forms and landing pages.
Place forms in various places on your website. You can put them in the sidebar of your blog, at the bottom of your web pages, on the top bar, or even embedded in the middle of the blog post so there are multiple opportunities on each page. Some people sign up right away for something, but others may want to explore the site and then sign up if they see something they connect with. Each page should provide two or so options for signing up.
But don’t use popup forms. Popup forms are effective at getting people to sign up, but we’ve all had the experience of being confronted with a popup form before we can even look at the page. Remember, it’s all about the relationship. You can set a popup to appear on a timer—after people have had a chance to look around. Popup forms can also be set to show up when the reader scrolls to a certain point of the page. Popups don’t have to bombard your visitors the moment they arrive. Popups also can be set to show up when the person does something that indicates they are ready to leave the page. Forms like this are less invasive and can be a gracious way to say goodbye while inviting people to continue the relationship through email.
Step 3: Connect the Form to Your Mail Program
MailMunch and other plugins will walk you through a process. First, you design your form. You can add pictures, change fonts, and adjust colors.
MailMunch doesn’t give you the option to put a checkbox on your form asking if people want to subscribe to your email list. With the Canadian spam laws and the GDPR laws in Europe, it is a good idea to say something like “sign up for our newsletter and get our Bible study about God’s grace” so your readers know what they are signing up for. Honesty is important for good relationships.
MailMunch will let you sign up with whatever email marketing software you are using, then it will let you choose which list to connect your form to.
Then you can publish the form.
How to Set Up Email Marketing for an Opt-In
Set your email program to send an introductory email welcoming people to the list. I prefer this email to be a thank-you with a button that loads the opt-in gift.
It’s also a great idea to create a welcome sequence and familiarize new subscribers with your congregation before they start receiving regular emails. You don’t want to bombard people with two campaigns at once.
What About Getting People to Subscribe through Social Media?
You can ask people to subscribe or to get the opt-in gift from any social media channel. If you have a particularly great opt-in offer, like a new Bible study or video, you can advertise it on Facebook or other channels.
When you draw people to opt in from a social-media channel, you should create a landing page. A landing page is a web page on your church’s website that has only one purpose—to give people the information they need to sign up. There should be no sidebar or menus; you don’t want to distract people from their purpose. MailMunch also has an easy landing-page creator that you can access from your WordPress dashboard. It even says “Landing Pages” on your dashboard once you’ve installed MailMunch.
In your social media post, link to the landing page. The landing page should connect with your email marketing provider just like a form would—just think of landing pages as big forms.
Continue to Build the Relationship
Christianity is about relationships—with Christ and our neighbors. When we market our church, we are reaching out to share Christ with our neighbors. When we provide articles and other items that share the Gospel, we are educating, strengthening, and building trust with online visitors. The more we offer, the more we show who our churches are.
Don’t hesitate to offer an opt-in to people who are curious about your website. Use content upgrades to take people deeper. These upgrades can serve as an invitation to an even deeper relationship—building knowledge and building trust.
Your turn to share. Have you tried using opt-ins and content upgrades for reaching out to those who visit your site? What did you do? What kind of responses did you receive? I’d love to hear about your experiences.
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