Over the past two years, I’ve used three different email marketing programs: Constant Contact, VerticalResponse, and MailChimp. Don’t get me wrong, they’re all good programs. If you’re using any of them already, congrats! You’ve have one leg up on the majority of your peers. If you’re not using any of these or not really sure why a church should be using an email marketing program, please read on.
Why Every Church Should Be Using an Email Marketing Program
As much as I like Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, the hands down, dominant communication tool on the Internet is email and its going to remain email for the foreseeable future. If people have a computer, they have email. That’s pretty much a fact and you can’t say that with any other online communication tool. Email should be an integral part of your parish’s communication strategy. Its a way to reach out to your parishioners and both promote and remind them of upcoming events and news.
So if you get the importance of email, why do you still need an email marketing program? Can’t you just use Outlook, Gmail, or whatever email tool your staff currently uses. While you can try, tools like MailChimp make it so much easier and offer some important benefits as you scale your email communication program. Here’s a few of top reasons why you need an email marketing program:
- Email List Size – Ever try sending an email to a few hundred people? MS Outlook and other personal mail tools really don’t do this well.
- Email List Management – Group email lists generate a few headaches. If you send out an email to 25 parishioners lets say on your Adult Faith Formation list, chances are you’ll get a couple of responses like, “please remove me from your list” or “you forgot to include so and so”. Email Marketing Programs handle all the Opt out, Opt in, and Refer a Friend functions for you.
- I’m Not Sending Spam! – Of course your not, but chances are at some point one of more of your email recipients will press the spam button. Email Marketing programs go to great lengths to make sure you have a clean, valid list of subscribers and encourage you to use the double-opt in process so your recipients know they’re getting emails from you. Once or twice a year I have to help an organization who inadvertently got labeled as a source of spam and one or more ISPs now won’t accept email from them. Its an annoying and temporarily painful process to try and resolve.
- Share the Work – Email enables you to spread your message and email marketing programs enable you to share the work. Now, you can have any church leader who’s sending email communication within your church accessing the same email list.
- Parishioner Opt-In – Look to the right of this article you’re reading on the Catholic Tech Talk website. You see the “Join Our Mailing List” prompt? Now your parishioners can choose to opt-in. If you provide them content they’re interested, they’ll readily join your mailing list and the double opt-in process ensures they really want your emails and you have their accurate email address. Adding this signup box to your church website is simple for most web administrators to do in a few minutes.
- Professional Looking Emails – Make your emails look like they’re professionally done and branded by your church. With these tools you can easily add in headers and footers to all your emails, brand your emails with your logo, or if you’re willing to spend a few hours of time, you can create a cool email template that makes all your emails look rather professional and clearly from your church.
Again, you really can’t go wrong with any of email marketing tools I listed and I’m sure there’s others out there as well. I picked MailChimp for a few reasons:
- Its Free – All these tools offer free trials, but MailChimp is free to anyone with an email list of under 2500. If you have more than 2500 email addresses, you will have to pay, but for the majority of the churches out there, this rather high bar means using this tool will be ‘forever free’ as MailChimp likes to say.
- Help and Training – They have a great help system and regular host getting started webinars that within 40 minutes will get you up and running.
- API Integration – If you don’t know what this is, don’t worry. If you do and want to use it, there’s is really solid, well documented, and easy to interface.
- The Chimp is so Darn Cute – There’s a branding lesson here. They try to make sending emails fun and a little whimsical. Some of the comments the chimp makes occasionally brightens my day.
Where to Start
If you really haven’t started an email communication program yet and are looking fora place to start, my recommendation would be to start with a signup on your webpage to receive a weekly copy of your church’s bulletin. The bulletin remains the staple of church communication and there will be a segment of your parishioners that want to receive the bulletin weekly via email. Don’t worry, it won’t change whether they attend mass or not, but now when they can’t or when they’re vacationing in Florida for the winter they’ll still stay connected to your parish and its community. Start with a simple weekly email with a link to the bulletin hosted on your website (or MailChimp will host the bulletin file for you). After you have that routine down, start including news and events directly in the email including the bulletin.
Email marketing programs are a great way to begin to engage your parishioners online. If you haven’t tried one of these yet, I would strongly recommend that you do and MailChimp is a simple and free tool to get started.