The Golden Rules of Email Marketing for Churches

Developing an email marketing plan for your church is a lot of work! It requires time to do it right, and it can become overwhelming. It can become a drain on limited church personnel resources and cause volunteers to quit.

Why in the world would you even think about doing an email newsletter for your church?

Because it works!

When done right, email newsletters and email marketing make a tremendous impact on your communication plan for your church. You have to create and build an email strategy.

Email outperforms social media in just about every category. Research from ExactTarget reports that 91% of users are actively engaged on email every day, compared to 57% for Facebook and 14% for Twitter. The majority of users are going to check email first thing in the morning, before doing anything else online. It turns out that 77% of users prefer email to social media for permission-based messages.

According to the Adobe Consumer Email Survey (2017), Millennials are obsessed with email. And the research by SendGrid indicates that email is still king for Gen Z. Across every generation, there is an overwhelming preference for email than any other form of communication from businesses, including churches.

The fact is that email is a better investment of time and resources than social media for permission-based marketing.

The Transaction

Before you begin thinking about some of the guidelines or rules for effective email marketing, you need to understand the one key principle.

Email marketing is a transaction. A users inbox is a highly protected space. When you are permitted to enter that space, you must honor the implied agreement. When a user signs up for your newsletter, subscribes to your blog, or enters their email in exchange information, they are expecting the content you will send them is valuable and will be helpful to them. Don’t take this exchange for granted.

The Three Golden Rules

When you begin developing your strategy for email, here are three golden rules you must always keep in mind.

  1. Establish a regular delivery schedule for your newsletter. By having a system in place, your users will begin to anticipate getting your email. Set a day of the week and a time and develop a strict policy on delivery. CoSchedule looked at 14 email studies to discover a trend for best day and time to send emails. The analysis indicates that Tuesday mornings at 10:00 am tend to be optimal open and click rates. Do some testing of your audience and let the data dictate your best send and then stick to it. Establish your regular delivery schedule and hold to the standard.
  2. The content must be important and relevant to the user. If your email newsletter is filled with youth or senior adult information and the people receiving the email do not have children or are not senior adults, your users will begin losing interest. Your email newsletter should be a treat. It should contain information that is targeted to your audience and should give a positive reward for opening the email. Use positive reinforcement principles, and you will see higher opens and clicks than industry averages.
  3. Make sure the email is well designed. Most email services have beautiful templates you can use without having to be a designer.  But a poorly designed newsletter is guaranteed to turn off your readers. According to Adobe, 73% of Millennials and 62% of Gen X are more likely to engage with your content if it is beautifully designed. If you spend all the time and effort to create a newsletter and it is poorly designed, your message will not be received. Make sure your newsletter looks beautiful and is designed well.

The Benefits

But what are the benefits? If you’re going to move into doing email marketing for your church, you need to understand some of the key benefits of the medium. There is a positive return on the investment, but more importantly, it has a Gospel value.

  • Low Cost: Some email services offer a free tier for a small list. When you consider that the content being produced is digital and the platform is free, the cost to create an email newsletter is much lower than print. There is no postage required for mail, no inserts for print, no magazine ads to purchase when using email.
  • Reach an engaged audience: The people that join your email list have indicated they want to receive the content and information you are creating. They have an invested interest in opening and engaging with your content. As long as you obey the Golden Rules, you have an audience that is more engaged and active than social media.
  • Targeted message: Most email platforms allow users to select the type of content they are interested. This is helpful for a church that has ministries and departments across a wide range of interest. When parents can target information about the programs and activities for their kids, their bible study groups, and church activities, while avoiding the information that is not relevant to them, everyone wins.
  • Measure results: Most email platforms allow you to keep track of opens, clicks, and conversions. This allows you to make educated decisions about the kind of content your audience wants and is engaging with. You can use the data from the analytics to make your newsletter more valuable to your church.
  • Gospel conversations: Because your email list can be open to a global audience, you have the opportunity to engage people with the Gospel who may never come to your church. By taking excerpts from a sermon or a testimony from a member and including the Gospel, you can move people along the discipleship path. This is a continued investment worth the effort.

Get Started

Email marketing and newsletters are such a valuable communication tool for your church. They have a higher engagement rate than any other communication tool at your disposal. Emails are measurable, so you can test ideas and make adjustments. You can target your audience and engage people with the Gospel. If you’re not using email, you’re missing opportunities.

How are you using email in your church? What are some ways you’ve seen people engage? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments.

Published December 13, 2018