By Vince Williams
February 3, 2009
Although churches define their success in ministry many different ways, attendance is almost always near the top of the list. It is, after all, a fair indicator as to the health of a local church. More people in your sanctuary each weekend means more people hearing God’s word and connecting with a community of faith.
If we want to see new faces walking through our doors each weekend, we must invite members of our community on a regular basis. While personal invitation is far and away the most effective method, postal mailings is another popular tool for building awareness of your church. Last month, Larry offered “10 Commandments of Church Mailings.” This month, I’d like to give an overview of the three foundational components of any mailing: the list, the offer, and the creative. These three parts make up the foundation of your mailing, whether you’re sending a postcard, a letter, or a folded mailer.
Before you do anything else, you need to stop and think about who you are trying to reach. Previously in our Church Marketing series, we explored the concept of targeting your message. When preparing a mailing, keep your target in mind as you develop each of these components.
The first step in any mailing is to acquire a quality list of recipients. List acquisition is easily the most overlooked component of the mailing process, and yet experts say that as much as 40% of the success of a campaign comes from the list. Sending your postcard to the wrong house potentially wastes money. Mailing outside your ministry area, having incorrect names and addresses, or sending to people who cannot utilize your offer (a subject we’ll get too momentarily) are good examples of the importance of a qualified list. For example, if you are promoting vacation Bible school, then you want to mail to people who most likely have children.
Getting a qualified list can be done by using a respectable list source and reviewing a demographic report that will help you assess the best place to send your postcard. Narrowing down a list based on demographic criteria will increase the cost per address, but may save costs overall because you’re sending to people more likely to be interested in what you’re offering.
On the other hand, mailing to every address is a carrier route (called a “saturation” mailing) offers the lowest postal rates, which can be as much as 84% off the price of a first class stamp. The postage savings will often compensate for the reduced response rate. Because of these factors, you will want to work with an experienced direct mail professional to determine the most cost-effective mailing pattern for your area that will yield the highest results.
The second element to a successful outreach postcard is the offer. Don’t let the business-like tone of that word put you off. The offer, simply put, is asking the recipient to take some specific action. Every time you reach out to someone in your community, you should ask them to respond in some way. With VBS, ask them to bring their kids to your event. For a marriage seminar, ask them to sign-up early to participate. For Easter, invite them to attend at a specific time. The clearer and more focused the offer is the more effective your postcard will be.
Additionally, using enticements to sweeten your offer may seem like an old business trick, but it has merits at attracting more response. We’ve seen churches offer a welcome pack, a bag of fresh ground coffee, a free Bible, or some other book. And of course, food is always well received, and you might have success inviting people to a pancake breakfast prior to your Easter service, or to a pizza feed after an event. Whatever it is, be sure to mention it in the offer.
The final element of your mailing is what we call the creative. Creative refers the tone, look and feel of your postcard or other mailpiece. It is important for churches to assess their strengths and make sure that their creative is an honest look at who God has designed them to be as a church. If you are a fun church, go with a fun theme. If your average age is 55+, then showing a bunch of young people may be a misrepresentation of who you are today. If you want more young people at your services, then find a way to invite them without representing yourself as that “hip” church down the street. Whatever you do, you need to have integrity between your message and the reality of your church, so that when people respond and walk through your doors they experience what they expected.
Also, make sure your creative takes into account the focus of the offer. If you’re sending out a postcard that includes childcare in the offer, then the creative should appeal to parents.
The three parts to a mailing interweave with each other, and help you be more effective in reaching your target group. Using these elements as the building blocks to your next outreach mailing, you’ll end up with a more effective mailing and achieve better success. And as a result, you’ll see more new people walking into your church, ready to meet Jesus through your community of faith.