Does this sound familiar? You rushed to promote a major event or the kick-off of a new sermon series. The big day came and went and it seems your marketing efforts fell flat. Not only was the initial turnout small, but the hope of church guests returning has faded like the money you spent on the billboard.
As a pastor with experience planting churches, helping church leaders market their plants, and organizing countless community outreach events, I have seen the ups and downs of church marketing. And if you find yourself in the above scenario, you likely went for a quick splash instead of a slow-drip.
While quick splashes rarely work the way we hope, slow drip marketing can work magic.
A well-intentioned charity event
Our church once planned a “fill-the-trailer” event for a local school. We rented an 8×10 trailer and hoped to fill it with school supplies for underprivileged students in the community. We advertised in the local paper, on the radio, and via announcements to our parishioners during services. We thought we did an amazing job getting the word out, and expected over 1,000 people to stop by to donate supplies. But the turnout filled less than half our trailer.
So, what did we do wrong?
For starters, we put the information out there just a week before the event, and focused on the event itself, instead of the benefit of helping children and families in need. In the local paper, we listed key details in the events section, but in retrospect, an editorial piece about the need in the community would have received more attention. On the radio, we called in a favor to a DJ friend who mentioned the event on-air. Great press, but without a context, it got lost in the noise. And for our parishioners? We mentioned it during weekly announcements, right alongside every other announcement we made.
Is it really surprising the turnout was less than stellar?
The quick splash is popular for a reason
Many make the same mistakes we made with our trailer event, and often for the same reasons: lack of planning and falsely-held beliefs that there isn’t enough time or money to do more than a quick splash.
Unfortunately, this means many missed opportunities to make the message about the mission and engage people long-term in a more meaningful way. Isn’t it time for something new?
How slow drip marketing is different (and why it works)
While the quick splash focuses on immediate details like who, what, when, and where, it leaves out the all-important “why.” It is the “why” that makes people connect, and is best explored over a period of time to let the message sink in. Exploring the “why” using slow drip marketing will give you room to promote the benefits of your event and give people a meaningful reason to attend.
In the case of our trailer event, we only advertised what we were doing, and with not nearly enough notice. If we had accentuated the “why” of helping needy students and done it more than a week in advance, we would have given people a chance to connect from the heart, make a mindful decision to attend, and walk away engaged with a stronger connection to our community and church.
Five ways to leverage slow drip marketing for your holiday events and sermon series
After our unsuccessful fill-the-trailer event, my church did some soul searching and realized we failed by promoting last-minute and ignoring the all-important “why.” We decided to try a new approach, one that would give us more time to promote the event and focus on our church’s greater mission.
The result was more impressive than we could have imagined. Using the five ideas below, not only did we double attendance at last year’s Easter event, we increased retention by a whopping 25% as well.
Because what’s the point of packing the house if no one returns?
Read on for five tips on how to maximize your next event or sermon series with a focus on the benefits, repetition, and time. With the holiday season nearly here, it’s the perfect time for your next big push!
1. Slow drip your event using save the date postcards
Save the date postcards are excellent for keeping what you need people to know in front of them for an extended period of time. Distribute these 5×7 postcards to attendees and parishioners at least a month ahead of time during your services and ask them to place the card somewhere they will see it often.
Design Tip: Use large type size and striking colors to help your cards stand out.
2. Use yard signs throughout the community
Yard signs are a great way to reach different areas of your community when promoting your church, event, or sermon series. Ask parishioners to place signs in their neighborhoods at least four weeks before the event at busy intersections where they will be clearly visible. Always be sure to pick up the signs up as soon as your event is over, too – you don’t want to junk up your community with out of date signage.
Design Tip: Make yard signs readable from a distance. People will see these in their cars, so less copy is better. Don’t worry about event details, but include your website so people can learn more online. Finally, try to vary your messaging slightly on the yard signs so they don’t blend in with your other pieces to the point of being ignored; doing so will make your entire promotion more memorable.
Ask parishioners to place door hangers in their neighborhood to help you get the word out. Though more time-intensive than mailers, door hangers are more cost efficient as postage is not required. This also gives parishioners an opportunity to meet and invite their neighbors to your church. Distribute your door hangers no earlier than four weeks in advance and do another push one week before. This timeline helps you stay top of mind in the community.
You can extend the power of this slow drip method by arming parishioners with business cards used as invites. Invite cards are easily kept in wallets, purses, and cars, and rounded corners make them pop.
Finally, to really personalize your efforts, print 5×7 folded cards as well. Place design elements on the front and inside cover but leave the opposite inside panel blank so parishioners can personalize the card with a special message. It will stand out to the recipient, and feel more like a heartfelt gesture.
Design Tip: Because door hangers are so cost efficient, focus on design. Make them simple, colorful, and engaging, and include a map of your location to orient your invitees. Add your social media contact info to demonstrate you want to connect and encourage people to contact you online.
Given their size, banners are highly effective. Place a banner outside your meeting place and in busy intersections to raise awareness five weeks before the event, and no less than three. Tasteful banners get noticed, so keep things clutter-free, and use fewer words to make your point. Easily set up inside your church, banner stands can reinforce your message. Place banner stands on opposite sides of the entrance to your main meeting area to make a strong impact, and add a stand outside each restroom to build excitement.
Design Tip: Be savvy, and advertise the benefits of your event as well as the features. Features include name, location, and time, but benefits provide context. If you are hosting a dinner to raise money for a mission trip, avoid writing “Mission Trip Fundraiser Dinner.” All that says is that you want my money. Instead, try something like “Make an Impact and Get a Great Meal. Sunday at 6pm @ Community Church.” Those are benefits I’d show up for. Finally, make your website easy to read with bold text.
5. Leverage local cafes and coffee shops with circle die cuts
Just like in nature, humans are drawn to places we can get a satisfying drink. Coffee shops and restaurants are great places to market your next sermon series or event. Ask a local coffee shop or restaurant manager if you can place circle die cuts out as coasters and you’d be surprised who obliges. Be sure to put them out at least 3 weeks in advance and possibly more if the event is a major one.
Design Tip: To maximize the slow drip, design your circle die cuts to focus on your church instead of the event. This makes it more likely your die cuts live on after the event and patrons take them home as reminders. (Come on. We’ve all kept a coaster or three!) Also, creating interest around your church can raise the impact of other pieces in your campaign. When vying for attention, repetition counts!
Ready to try the slow drip method for your next big event or sermon series? Check out some of the display products mentioned in this article now — and receive 10% off ANY products mentioned in this article using the coupon codes below!*
*Offer expires 12/31/2014 at 11:59 PM. Use coupon code CHURCHMARKETING to get 10% off your purchase of any of the following product categories: Business Cards, Folded Cards, Postcards, Doorhangers, or Die Cuts. Use coupon code CHURCHMARKETINGLF to get 10% off your purchase of Banners, Banner Stands, or Yard Signs. Discount excludes custom quote requests and all add-on options and services. Offer cannot be applied to previous purchases and cannot be redeemed for cash or used in combination with any other offer. Please view our full Terms & Conditions.