In my last blog I presented the BHAG of redefining engagement. Not just looking at it through a different lens, but seeing it through the power of technology - a Virtual Reality headset. Online giving has done it for Stewardship. Web integration & workflow automation can do the same for engagement.
I break engagement into three parts: Outreach, Follow-up and Connection. I compare them to the business processes of Marketing, Sales and On-boarding. Today we're talking about Outreach, the Marketing side of engagement.
About 50% of our business comes from personal referrals. That's why the best thing you can do to grow a business (or a church) is to make sure you are producing something that's worth talking about. A church that is clear on what a disciple looks like and how to achieve the commission to make one is already half-way there when it comes to outreach. But, the other half is the church's presence and reputation in their community.
Typically, church outreach looks like community service or event invitations. Community service might be helping out at a shelter, property cleanup, back to school supplies, and a myriad of other amazing ways churches love their community. Invitations open the building for meetings, concerts, celebrations and other events designed to welcome those who aren't yet a part.
Here's the VR headset. Imagine a church where the building is no longer the center point for its outreach ministry. It has been replaced by a virtual building architected to meet people along their normal online journey. It has been built as an online reminder that we're here for you. We care.
The central property of this virtual building is the church's website. But the website doesn't stand on its own. There are streets that lead to the website. There might be a steeple and signs on the main thoroughfares. There are indicators of the church's presence everywhere: stickers on people's car, t-shirts, adopt-a-highway indicators, yard signs, pens in shops, and more.
Today's inbound marketing strategies use environments like Google and Facebook to place ads which work like signs, car stickers and t-shirts to raise awareness of your presence in your community and direct them to a (landing) page on your website. Google and Facebook are the big two and both have great tools to help you create and place your ad(s). You even choose how much you want to spend. Try it for 3-6 months. Experiment with it. You won't get it right the first time. Just keep trying.
The other great and free way to promote your presence is by having the people in your church and friends of your church Like your Facebook page and link to specific content they found helpful on your website.
The whole purpose of this virtual outreach strategy is to get people somewhere to learn more about or try something. Looking at lots of really good church websites I see churches calling people to register to do things like:
- Find a small group
- Join a discipleship class
- Fill out a connection card
- Submit a prayer request
- Register for a service opportunity
These are great topics for people who search specifically for your church or even more generally for a church in your area. Pushing a little further out in the pipeline some churches today and a lot of the churches in the future will be presenting content focused more on people interested in things like:
- I'm pregnant and don't know what to do
- My marriage sucks
- Is pornography bad
- I hate my job
- How to be a parent
One approach is to have specific web pages designed to address questions like these. Then link your ads on Facebook or Google to these pages. On these pages, start with a powerful image and text that identifies their hell. Next, give a very short, powerful, helpful insight (text or short video) that gives them hope. Now you can offer to email them more information or a link to the message from which the powerful insight was drawn. Below this embed a Churchteams form that they can fill out on the spot. Last week we released this code inside the Registration Settings for any event you create. It looks like this.
This registration puts the person in a group that starts a workflow designed for people interested in learning more about marriage. It has accomplished our first task in the engagement process - outreach. Now that we have their information, we're ready for the next step - follow-up. In business terms, our marketing has done its job, now we hand the prospect over to sales.