Bart Blair: Hey, welcome to season 3 episode 22 of the Missional Marketing Podcast. My name is Bart Blair, I am the co-host of the show. I am solo today, my usual co-hosting partner, Jason Hamrock, our CEO of Missional Marketing, honestly, he had such a busy schedule this week with meetings with churches that I couldn’t find a time on his calendar that matched with my calendar so that we could record this episode, so I’m flying solo today. But even though I’m on my own, the purpose of the podcast remains the same, our goal is to help your church grow by leveraging digital marketing and effective communications.
Bart Blair: And I’m going to give you four tips today, four things that I think will help you as you go into 2023. In fact, I’ve titled this podcast episode Four Things You Must Do to Improve your Church Comms in 2023. If you will do these four things, if you will do them here right at the beginning of the year, maybe you’re listening to this in January or February, shortly after the episode drops, if you will do these things, it will set you up for a more productive communications year the rest of the year. And hey, maybe you’re listening to this retroactively, you didn’t download it until July or until September, you can still, and you probably still should, do these four things. Are you ready? All right. Here are four things that you must do to improve your church comes in 2023.
Bart Blair: The first one is this, scrub your Google Business Profile. That’s right, scrub your Google Business Profile. What do I mean when I say scrub your Google Business Profile? Well, what I mean is go through it, look at all the images that are uploaded to your Google Business Profile and make sure that they are all up to date and current and that they are communicating visually what you want communicated about your church. When I’m doing coaching calls with churches, we will frequently look at the church’s Google Business Profile and we’ll look at photos. And it never seems to fail that the comms director looks at the photos and they’re like, wow, those are really old pictures, or wow, where did those pictures come from? Well, Google tries to help your business by taking photos that other people post online and geotagging them to your location, and oftentimes you will find some unflattering or maybe irrelevant photos on your Google Business Profile that don’t really put your best foot forward as a church. You can go in and you can flag those and ask them to be removed, and Google will eventually take those down.
Bart Blair: The other thing that you want to do is make sure that you have updated the photos with new and the most recent photos that you can post onto your Google Business Profile. Remember, you might have a lot of website traffic every month, but I bet you have twice, three times, five times as much traffic to your Google Business Profile as you do to your website. That might come as a surprise to you, but it is a fact. We used to say that your church website was the front door for your church, it is no longer the front door for your church, your Google Business Profile is typically going to be the first impression that you make with your website visitors. So make sure that you scrub it, that you take a look at all those photos, and get those photos up to date. Oh, and by the way, if you don’t have a regular or consistent strategy in place to actually update your Google Business Profile with posts and events, and new photos, make sure that you plan that out for this year. You’ll benefit from that with more local SEO juice, Google will reward you with higher search rankings when people are looking for a church in your area. So that’s the first thing that you need to do Scrub your Google Business Profile.
Bart Blair: The second thing that you need to do is develop a game plan for getting more reviews of your church. I just had a call with a church yesterday that added two reviews in 2022, they started the year with 86, and they finished the year with 88. And I asked the communications director of this church how many people were on staff at the church. They have more than 20 people on the staff of the church, I can pretty much guarantee you that I bet less than half of the people that are on the staff of the church have even left a review of the church. Make sure that you’re asking people on your staff, your key leaders, your ministry leaders, and people that know and love your church, ask them to leave a review for your church on Google. Why? Because when they do that, it helps more people find your church online. I mean, you’re being digital missionaries. When people in your church are willing to leave a review for your church, a five star rating for your church, it will help more people find your church online.
Bart Blair: Now, I created another video that’s on the Missional Marketing YouTube channel, we will link to that in the show notes of this podcast episode, but it talks about why reviews are so important for your Google Business Profile for your church. I won’t go into the details of that in this particular podcast episode, but you do need to know that having reviews on a regular, consistent basis, and having good reviews is really important. By the way, the best way to bury a bad review is more good reviews. So if you look at your profile today and maybe say you have a 4.7 or a 4.8, or maybe you’re blessed with a 4.9 rating in Google, but you only have like 27 or 37 or 52 reviews, it only takes one or two bad reviews to bring your overall rating down. But the more good reviews you have, obviously the better you’re able to outweigh any bad reviews that you might possibly get. I know that your church doesn’t deserve bad reviews, but from time to time they come. And so you can outweigh those bad reviews by getting more new reviews. So set a goal, come up with a strategy, and watch the other video that we have in the show notes, which actually shows you a strategy on how you can do that so that you can get more reviews on your Google Business Profile in 2023.
Bart Blair: All right, the third thing that you must do to improve your church communications in 2023 is to scrub your church email list. That’s right, you need to actually go through your church email list and wherever you’re sending it, maybe you’re using MailChimp, or maybe you’re using your church database, the higher the open rate in your platform, the more likely your emails are to be delivered. That’s just simply a fact, especially if you’re using a platform like MailChimp, or I can’t remember the names of any of the others off the top of my head, Constant Contact, that’s another one. They’re looking, those platforms are looking at your open rates and you want to make sure that you’re monitoring your open rates. If you have 800 people on your email list, and you’re only consistently getting 200 or 250 of those 800 people to open your emails, go through the list and identify the people who are not opening them on a regular basis, you may find that you have people who haven’t opened your email in years. Maybe there’s a reason for that, maybe, number one, they’re really no longer interested in receiving emails from you. Or two, maybe your emails are going to their junk or to their promotions tab in their Google mail, their Gmail, that’s what we called Google Mail, we call it Gmail, and they don’t even know that you’re sending them emails. I would create a list or send out a unique email to all the people who are not actively reading your email and give them an opportunity to unsubscribe or resubscribe and make that clear for them. Because you really want to be sending emails that are going to be of interest to the people who are actually reading them, and that also helps, you know, what kind of content that you can and should be putting in there. So you’re checking your open rates, you’re checking your click-throughs, and you want to see what kind of content people are consuming when they’re opening your emails so that you can better provide emails that are adding value.
Bart Blair: That’s a question, I think I learned that from Carey Nieuwhof years ago, who said, before you press send on your email, ask the question, am I adding value? Well, if you’ve got a 20 or 25% open rate, there’s 70, 75, 80% of the people who are on your list that are not finding any value in what you’re doing. Maybe you need to change what you’re doing, or maybe you just need to scrub the list and remove those people from the list, that’s something that I would consider doing.
Bart Blair: Oh, and by the way, here’s a lesson that I recently learned. If your emails, maybe you’re using MailChimp, are going to a person’s promotions or social bucket in their Gmail, one thing that they can do, you have to teach them how to do this maybe in a video or maybe on social media, how ever you want to do this, maybe in person on a Sunday. If they drag that email from the promotions folder in their Gmail into the inbox, it will train Gmail to send all of those emails into the inbox. Did you know that? I just learned that recently, so maybe those emails are going to promotions and people don’t see them because they’re coming in there with all their Designer Shoe Warehouse and whatever all the stuff is they’ve subscribed to. Did I just give up too much? I get Designer Shoe Warehouse emails in my promotions because they give you a coupon on your birthday, and I have good intentions about buying new shoes on my birthday every year, although I never actually do, but I still get the emails. Anyway, if they take that email from their promotions folder and drag it into the inbox, they will then start to get those emails in their inbox. Tidy little tip there, hopefully, that is helpful for you. So go through your church email list, give people an opportunity to resubscribe or unsubscribe, and send emails to people who really find value in them, and continue to experiment with the content that you’re putting in your emails, so that you make sure that you are adding value.
Bart Blair: We’re going to do an episode here sometime in the first quarter of this year on talking about story-based emails. I’m going to bring one of our team members, Maddie Hall, who oversees our communications consulting teams, and she’s going to help us understand what story-based emails for churches are because I think that’s really going to help your open rate go up. But one thing that’ll help your open rate go up is to remove the people from your list who don’t really want to be on your list.
Bart Blair: The fourth and final thing that you must do to improve your church comms in 2023 is plan your marketing for the entire year. Now, some of you I know are going, well, I just can’t do that, my pastor doesn’t work that far ahead. Yep, yep, yep, yep, yeah, whatever, guess what? Your pastor doesn’t get to decide when Easter happens. Your pastor doesn’t get to decide when Christmas happens. Your pastor might have a say in when VBS happens, or when you’re going to do a fall kickoff, or when you might be doing some new and creative series or event. If you do a fall harvest, it’s unlikely that your pastor gets to decide when that happens because it typically happens right around Halloween, right? There are certain things that are within your control because they’re already on the calendar, maybe they’re on the calendar every year.
Bart Blair: Now, you may answer the question by simply saying, well, I can’t plan for my year because I don’t know what my budget is, or I don’t really know what the theme is going to be for Easter. Guess what? You don’t need to know what the theme of Easter is going to be to plan today, in January, what your marketing budget is going to be, and how you’re actually going to market. Are you going to do Facebook and Instagram ads, are you going to do Google Display, or are you going to do YouTube, or are you going to order a billboard, are you going to put ads in the newspaper, or are you going to print postcards and mail them? You know, you don’t have to wait until your staff has your Easter planning meeting to start thinking through those ideas, in fact, it might be better for you to have those ideas already mapped out so that you can present them to your entire team.
Bart Blair: And I would recommend that you go ahead and look at all the major events and activities that you have on your calendar for the entire year, and go ahead and sketch out a marketing strategy for each one of those and mark out a possible budget for how you would allocate your financial resources to market those events. One thing that I see that churches regularly fail to include in their marketing and their outreach budgets is promoting things like Financial Peace University, or Divorce Care, or Grief Share, or something of that nature.
Bart Blair: I had a church just last year who was running Alpha on like five out of six campuses they had, and they completely whiffed on running any ads for Alpha. You’re doing it, and it’s a great outreach opportunity, throw a few hundred dollars behind a Facebook ad campaign or a Google Display ad campaign and promote that Alpha so that more people can get to know Jesus. But plan your marketing out for the year.
Bart Blair: Now, if that’s something that you’ve never done before, maybe you’re unfamiliar with how to do that, Jason and I can help you with that. You can click over to our website, there’s a contacts link, you can schedule a meeting with Jason or me or one of our other very capable coaches and we can actually help you look at your annual calendar and your annual budget and help you map out a strategy for how to use your resources to make maximum impact in your outreach based communications, your digital marketing or digital outreach, how ever you want to frame that. So I hope you’ll do that, I hope you’ll take that initiative here right at the beginning of the year, and plan it out for the entire year. You might have to flex, and you might have to make some changes somewhere along the way, but you’ll really benefit from being that much further ahead of the game. I talk to communications directors all the time who sometimes find themselves frustrated because their senior pastors don’t like to plan far enough out in advance for them, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t or you shouldn’t be planning in advance. In fact, go ahead and set the example, set the example for your team, so unto others as you would have them do unto you. I heard that once before, a smart guy said it. Maybe he was God? Yes, I think so.
Bart Blair: Anyway, four things that you need to do to improve your church comms in 2023. Number one, scrub your Google Business Profile. Two, develop a game plan for getting more reviews on your Google Business Profile. Three, Scrub your church email list. And four, plan your marketing for the entire year. Thanks for tuning in to this week’s episode of the Missional Marketing Podcast. Again, we hope that it will help your church grow and that you will better leverage digital marketing and communications for your church. And if you haven’t yet subscribed wherever you’re listening or watching, if you’re watching on YouTube, subscribe to our YouTube channel, ring the bell so that you don’t miss any future episodes. And if you’re listening on a podcast app, make sure that you subscribe wherever you’re listening so you don’t miss any of our future episodes. And if you would leave us a five-star review, which will help offset all those one and two-star reviews that we’re getting. I’m kidding, we’re not getting really any reviews, if I’m to be perfectly honest with you. So we hope that what we’re doing is making an impact for you, our downloads and our views tell us that that we are, that it is helpful, but we don’t get many reviews. So if you want to leave a review, and maybe we’ll give you a shout-out on one of our podcast episodes in the upcoming months. Thanks again for tuning in, I’m Bart Blair, and I’m out.