Jason Hamrock: [00:00:09] Well, Hey, Colt, welcome to the show. How are you doing today?
Colt Straub: [00:00:12] I’m doing tremendous. How are you?
Jason Hamrock: [00:00:14] Oh, couldn’t be better, couldn’t be better. So glad to have you here, I’m really excited about our topic today. It’s going to be a good one, and I love talking about what we’re going to talk about. But before we get into the subject matter, why don’t you give our audience just kind of an update on who you are, where you’re serving, and how you’re leading in your church?
Colt Straub: [00:00:35] Absolutely. Well, my name is Colt Straub, and my wife and I serve as the Worship and Creative Pastors for Cornerstone Church here in Midwest City, Oklahoma. And we’ve been here for the last eight years, loving that. We started out just as the worship and creative arts pastors, but just like so many small and mid-sized churches, you wear multiple hats. And so I kind of dove into marketing from being the worship and creative arts pastor just because there were no clear policies about in-service announcements, and our social media was kind of weak. And so I started learning social media, and then all these different areas of communications, and kind of eventually became the communications director and the systems kind of maintenance guy across the entire church. And again, been doing that for the last eight years, loving it here in Midwest City, Oklahoma.
Colt Straub: [00:01:27] Before that, my wife and I moved from Branson, Missouri, and I was an entertainer out there for ten years. For those who don’t know, Branson is a tourist town in southwest Missouri that, you know, throughout the Midwest, people travel there and their shows and there are theme parks and all sorts of fun activities. And I produced shows in that area for ten years, and so I was kind of more on the creative and entertainment side of things. But at the same time, I was getting my degree, didn’t completely finish, but getting my degree from Oral Roberts University in Ministry. And so kind of working in both facets of creative ministry, and, you know, developing the academic side of just understanding theology and everything throughout my 20s, and that kind of brings us up to today.
Jason Hamrock: [00:02:12] There you go. All right, that’s a good story. So okay, let’s dive in, because I’m really curious about some of the, in your role at your church, some of the marketing strategies that you guys have tried. You know, you always want to try stuff, you might fail, but you keep getting better at it. So what are some of the things that you tried over the years, and the ones that have been most effective?
Colt Straub: [00:02:34] Absolutely. Well, you know, from the beginning, we’ve been working on Facebook ads, although I didn’t really know what I was doing with it, we always ran some Facebook marketing ads for Easter and Christmas, very small amounts of marketing here and there. And sometimes it usually wasn’t very effective, but at the same time, when I first got here and I apologize, my browser is going crazy at the moment. Can you guys still see me?
Jason Hamrock: [00:03:02] Yep.
Bart Blair: [00:03:03] We can see you and hear you.
Colt Straub: [00:03:04] I can’t see you, but that’s okay. So at the same time, we were trying things when I first got here, we were on the back of every telephone book in the area and they were spending like $3,000 a month to have that place in the back of telephone books. And I kind of walked in and was like, you know what? The second I get these on my driveway, I throw them away, and I think the majority of people do. And so I was really excited about getting the church into more of a digital marketing strategy. And so, yeah, we did some basic Facebook marketing, but it wasn’t until about 2020 when our worship team started promoting an album called Ovation Worship, that’s what we call our worship team. And I really started learning about music marketing. I have a lot of friends from the Branson area who were kind of helping me through that, but that’s where I really learned about the funnel system of marketing, about moving an audience or a customer or a congregant from being a stranger to a friend to an ambassador for you and the value of an email marketing campaign.
Colt Straub: [00:04:06] And then whenever I came in contact with Bart, with Missional Marketing, everything kind of made sense to me from a lead’s perspective, from lead generating, and we’ve been working with you guys since, I believe it was August of 2021. And since then we’ve seen our digital numbers just go up and up every single time we do one of our campaigns, they just build one on top of another with the lead generating. And I just can’t say enough great things about what you guys are doing for us, and what I’m sure you’re doing for churches all across America. The lead-generating campaigns that we started doing now just over a year ago between Easter, and we did a general fall activities campaign that we wanted to just draw attention to the church, and then we did a major one at Christmas. And then we’ve recently just finished doing two, one for our church just moved from doing two services a Sunday to three, so we did a massive marketing campaign with that, and also with Easter that we just finished, all of those were lead-generating campaigns. And also campaigns that promoted, you know, visit our website, visit our church, we want to invite you to come to be a part of what we’re doing. And I feel like they’re being very successful if we look at our numbers and the kind of analytic data behind it.
Colt Straub: [00:05:26] As I mentioned, we were at first just doing social media digitally. And with social media, it’s like 3 to 5% of the people who you want to see your ads or, you know, your posts are actually seeing it; only 3 to 5%. With the lead generation, we’ve been able to build up an email campaign and an email list that now is like 360 people who would have otherwise been a cold audience, who are now receiving our emails. And every time we send out an email, those get like a 30%, 30 to 35% open rate, which is obviously significantly better than social media. And the beautiful thing about it is that without getting too political, you know, at any point with social media because these are corporations, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, you know, they could have a bad day and turn off social media or limit access to who sees your posts. You know, I have now, 366 people on a CSV that can be easily exported, I have this great list of people who are interested in our content.
Colt Straub: [00:06:29] And sometimes that content isn’t always just come visit our church. A lot of time we do email marketing campaigns that like if somebody sees our ad on Facebook saying, hey, for example, right now, Moms, Mother’s Day is coming up, here’s some incredible activities for your kids to do to participate in Mother’s Day with you. And then they click on that, and we have a thing called Leads Bridge, which makes everything automated from Facebook to MailChimp so that we don’t have to keep up to date with it on the day-to-day. And those people are automatically being put into an email campaign, where we’re able to not only talk about our church but also give some incredible ideas of activities, of things happening in our area that kids can go take their moms to. Particularly in our, in our case, we found a prayer journal guide for moms that we’re giving away. So like on our email campaign, it’s like, fill out this form and we’ll send you this booklet, it’s a free gift, something we can put in their hands. And it also gives us a better way to track exactly how many people are opening these emails and interacting with them.
Jason Hamrock: [00:07:41] I’m sorry, let me ask you real quick. You mentioned leads, and some of our people might be going, what are you talking about, leads? How are you gaining leads? So kind of take a second and explain to the audience what you mean by that. What’s a lead, and how did that happen?
Colt Straub: [00:07:56] Yeah, absolutely. Well, a lead, and I wouldn’t know the like, specific marketing definition behind it. But for me, like a lead is something that, if you think of like a cold audience, somebody who has no idea about, in my case, Cornerstone Church and they’re just scrolling their Facebook feed and they come across this random ad that says, Do you want to know more about Easter? Or do you want to know more about Jesus? Or we have some fun activity guides. There are some great ways to spend time with your family this spring, this fall, this Christmas, this Easter, or whatever season it is. And that cold audience that has no idea who you are, are now engaged in your content. And so then consider that what’s called a lead, so then we can follow up with those people, give them specific content, be it gated content or open content so that they can find out more about our church. It’s just another way to reach people who otherwise would have no idea who you are.
Jason Hamrock: [00:08:57] Yeah, it’s really cool because, you know, I think Facebook’s really about the only one doing this, although, I think Google is kind of coming up with this, but I love that, right? You can show an ad, somebody clicks on it, and then they literally have to just click a couple of times because their full name and email from their Facebook profile are already populated, and so they just click and they land on your website, right, to get that kid or whatever it is they’re offering. They’re now on your website, but over on Facebook, we’ve generated their name and their email. Right? Is that what you’re talking about?
Colt Straub: [00:09:32] Absolutely. And the beautiful thing is…I’m sorry.
Jason Hamrock: [00:09:35] No, go ahead, go ahead.
Colt Straub: [00:09:37] I was just going to say, the beautiful thing is that we can generate a landing page when they click to get that content. And on the landing page, not only do they immediately get that content, but directly beneath that button, there’s information about our church, about our services. And so we can put the information right in front of them, even before they have to get into the email campaign.
Jason Hamrock: [00:09:57] Yeah, I love that. Okay, so that’s pretty cool. We’re using Facebook to generate these semi-warm leads, right? They, you know, they’re like, oh, I’ll take that free Easter kit, right, or whatever it is you’re doing, Mom’s Day kit. Now you’ve got this name and email, what have you been doing with those emails to try and cultivate? And have you seen any results where, you know, where people have actually, I mean, the whole point of this is that we want to make Jesus famous, but we really want people to show up to church?
Colt Straub: [00:10:29] Absolutely.
Jason Hamrock: [00:10:29] Tell me a little bit about what that looks like.
Colt Straub: [00:10:32] Okay. Well, we actually just ran the numbers, and, you know, when we do our lead generating campaign, you know, say if we’ve got estimated about $100, we usually put about $40 of that towards lead generation, versus $60 of standard promotion. And just using 40% of what we’ve done, I think we’ve invested in the last three months about $1,000 in our lead generation campaigns. And we did the numbers, and without even being able to see every single person who walked through the doors, we just looked at one data point and that was our kid’s check-in, and we cross-referenced our numbers between those who were on our email marketing campaign and those who checked in for the first time. And we had, just in that point, we had ten families in the last three weeks that have walked through our doors because of this campaign. And so if you think about that, I mean, it’s hard to put a dollar amount of what is a successful dollar amount per family, but it’s worth it if we have ten families now who have been introduced, who have walked through our doors, and who are hearing God’s word, who otherwise would have not come in at all.
Jason Hamrock: [00:11:46] Okay, I love this. Okay, I know we’re not in it for money, but it takes money to run a church and we’re definitely in it to help them connect with Jesus, so praise God for that. But that’s amazing, you invested $1,000, and you got at least, that you were tracking, ten families to show up to church. And I bet if you crunched the numbers, and this is for our audience if you figured out your overall church giving over the course of a year and you divided that by the number of giving units, you’re going to come up with a number. And that might be, you know, most churches, like $1,500, the average family gives about $1,500 a year. Again, we’re not in this for money, but you just have to do the math here. So what you’re saying is you spent $1,000 and got ten families to show up, now, that’s pretty amazing because some of those families are going to stick. Right? And they’re going to make Cornerstone their home church. And so that just that ROI is priceless. Not not only just from the money standpoint, putting the money standpoint aside, but just from the fact that these people maybe didn’t know Jesus, and now they’re coming to church. How amazing is that? That’s exciting, that’s really cool stuff.
Bart Blair: [00:13:02] Let me jump in here for a second, because, you know, we have run bazillions of ad campaigns for thousands of churches. And the question that we always get asked over and over again is, well, if I spend this amount of money and I get this much traffic to my website, how many people can I expect to show up on Sunday? And what I want to highlight, and what I want you to kind of dive into a little bit here, Colt, is that it was not the ad that got people through the door, it was not even the piece of content that they downloaded the activity kit or whatever resource it was that was you were providing them that got them to the door, it was your follow up that probably got them through the door. It’s nurturing the relationship, right? I call those email campaigns, you’re plugging people into these journeys. You’re using MailChimp, right, so you’re using Journeys. And maybe here in just a second to get you to explain what that looks like, how many emails are going out, how often you’re sending emails, what kind of content you’re including in those, you’ve already highlighted that a little bit. But this is what Jason and I are emphasizing all the time, it’s not the ad, and it’s not necessarily the piece of content, it’s the follow-up that genuinely makes the difference because you have an opportunity to build a relationship with someone before they’ve ever actually had an opportunity to walk through your door on a Sunday morning. So talk to us a little bit about your follow-up strategy. Have there been things that you have specifically noted that maybe have worked better than others? Or just give us an overview of how the follow-up actually works?
Colt Straub: [00:14:32] Absolutely. Well, particularly with the most recent campaign, and typically we have like between 3 and 5 emails on a Journey through MailChimp. And so as I mentioned, Facebook automatically gives us the information, and then we use a third-party software to upload that to MailChimp. So we’re not having to do anything to get these people started on the journey, they get 3 to 5 emails and typically I try to start from the outside in, so I want to give them content that connects directly to their family first. If it’s about mothers, I want to give them, as I mentioned, maybe a prayer guide, something I can put in their hands. We also, if you know what Right Now Mediasign-up is, our church pays for everybody who comes to our church to have access to Right Now Media, which is like a streaming platform for Bible studies. And we offer free access to that, and parents can get on there and their kids can watch VeggieTales or all sorts of great Christian cartoons and entertainment, and so we offer a free sign-up for that in that email. So we’re trying to give them things to help their family, to help them better experience life together as a family and grow towards Christ.
Colt Straub: [00:15:46] And then as we get further down the list, like with the second email, particularly with our Mother’s Day campaign, we have three emails. So the first one, we want to get something into their hand, and we want to find ways to connect with them. With many of our other campaigns, that’s the one where I’ve said it’s springtime, here are some of the incredible events that you can take your family to. Maybe we have car shows, maybe there’s some sort of big fall festival down in Oklahoma City, so we want to talk about our community, talk about ways that you can engage with your family and just ways that outside of just spreading the gospel, ways that people can be better fathers, better mothers, and just have fun experiences making memories with their families because that’s really what they clicked on when they wanted the activity guide. So we want to give them more of that, to begin with, and at the bottom we say, and by the way, we want to invite you to our church. And then like our second email, which might be going out five days later, 5 to 6 days later, the second one is one where we still give them some of that family activity, but we give them a lot more information about our church, particularly about our kid’s ministry, about our youth ministry, about ways their family can get involved. And then by the third one, in this case, we give them specific information about we want to invite you back to our Mother’s Day service. This is what we’re doing, we’re talking about, you know, X, Y, and Z. And so it gives them a very specific directive and instructions on, you can click this button to find out more about how to get involved, how to pre-register your kids to have the best experience. This is who we are as Cornerstone, come be a part of what we’re doing.
Jason Hamrock: [00:17:26] Wow! So I love that funnel, and that’s what we’re talking about here, it’s a funnel, right? And so you don’t want to be shy of, you know, inviting people to church. But I think your strategy is spot on, you don’t want that to be the very first thing because, hey, they didn’t really show interest to come to your church, they’re just downloading something of value for them. Right? And so you’ve reached them where they are, but you sort of cultivated them to set that stage, to invite them to something at the church. What’s been your unsubscribe rate? Do you know what that is?
Colt Straub: [00:18:00] Let me see here, right now we have 360 people throughout the last five funnels that we’ve done, and I think we’ve only had 30 people unsubscribe. I don’t know the percentage breakdown, but it’s not too bad.
Jason Hamrock: [00:18:19] That’s not bad. I think that’s a big fear for people, right? It’s like everyone’s going to unsubscribe. No, no, not necessarily.
Bart Blair: [00:18:24] Let me share on that, I was actually on a call with a church this morning, and we were talking about this. I’ve got a church that did two different things to generate leads. So this is going back a year, to a year and a half ago. But they did a fall event where they collected names and email addresses from people at, it was sort of like a trunk or treat type of event, and the goal was to take these names and these email addresses and then do a drawing for some Amazon gift cards. And so they did a Facebook Live thing where they, you know, drew the numbers and people could claim their prizes. And so they collected 120, 150 email addresses, and names and email addresses from people from their community with that. Six months later, they did an Easter activity kit and collected, I think, about 70 or so email addresses with the Easter activity kit. And in both cases, we actually built follow-up emails, email sequences, and journeys, for both of those groups. For those that had signed up for the Amazon card for the fall thing, the trunk or treat the unsubscribe rate was like 75%, almost everybody unsubscribed immediately when they got the first email, inviting them sort of, or, you know, promoting sort of the next thing or directing them towards the next activity of the church. We have so far had zero people from that Easter activity kit list of the 72 or so they got, none have unsubscribed. And I think the difference is, the difference is that you know, you talk about a funnel, the funnel language that I like to use, is you need to move people from knowing you, to liking you, to trusting you. And when they know you like you and trust you, they’re more likely to walk through the front door. And I think that the people who downloaded the Easter activity kit, not only was it a moment of knowledge, I now know you. I didn’t know you before, but now I know you. But you’ve also given me something that is of value to my family, and so I like you. I know you and I like you, and since I know you and I like you and you’re actually offering me other resources and other things that might be helpful for me and my family, I’m going to stay on your list and hopefully, eventually that knowledge moves towards trust because you’ve demonstrated that you’re actually here to help me, to serve me, to provide me something, not just get me to your church. Right? You’re not asking me for money. You’re not asking me, it’s not okay, exchange this, now come to church; exchange this, now come to church. It’s, we really do want to resource you, we are going to provide you with some parenting resources, some books you might read, or some blog posts that might be of interest, or activities in the community that you can do with your family. So love your strategy there, and I would say that, you know, in this particular case that I was looking at, that was the biggest difference in those two campaigns, is that one was simply, hey, give us your name and email address for a drawing. Which a lot of churches do, and don’t think there’s anything wrong with doing that. But when you’re actually exchanging that name and that email address on day one for something that has perceived value to it, they’re more likely to stay on your email list.
Colt Straub: [00:21:22] Absolutely. And we’ve tried that, too, you know, when we did the expansion from two services to three services, we did a large marketing campaign. And not only did we try to do digital leads from Facebook, but just like you’re saying, we did an event where we gave away an Xbox 360 and all sorts of fun things that people could sign up for, and we got their names and their email addresses. And this is like at community skate nights, and fun events, and we got some great names. I think that a very large percentage of those 30 people who have unsubscribed, did come from that event because they were trying to get a tangible thing at that moment. And the second they got their email, they unsubscribed. But that’s why I really do, again, just pinpointing your point there or emphasizing your point there, that…I’m sorry. I literally just lost my train of thought.
Jason Hamrock: [00:22:15] I think what you’re saying is…We can go back, and we can always edit this, but I think what you’re saying is something of value, right? And it’s not like you’re looking for a free thing and you’re going to run. But if you put something in their hands that helps them with life, you’ve just built a little bit of knowing and trust, right? Versus, you know, get a free Xbox kind of thing. It’s like, I don’t really you know, there’s no relationship building at that point. Right?
Colt Straub: [00:22:42] Absolutely. And when you give them that sort of content, as you said, they feel like they know you, like you care about them, like you’re not just trying to get them to a church so that they can start tithing. As you said, you actually want to resource them with material that can be a blessing to their family.
Jason Hamrock: [00:22:59] Yeah, it’s huge. I love that.
Bart Blair: [00:23:01] Colt, let me ask you another question. So what we’re doing here in terms of marketing is a little bit unconventional. You know, you’re using, for the majority, you’re using content that Missional Marketing has created. And so these Christmas kits, activity kits, Mother’s Day kits, you know, they’re not spiritual in nature, there is some spiritual content in them, but for the most part, they’re designed to be able to go into any family’s hands, whether they have a faith or not, and be utilized. How have you communicated with your leadership team about the type of advertising that you’re doing and the marketing that you’re doing? And what kind of conversations have you had with your leaders? Have they just like trusted you, you know, blindly to go and do what they’ve given you money and say, you know, Colt, go do whatever you want to do? What kind of conversations have you had internally with your leaders and the other staff in your church?
Colt Straub: [00:23:50] Well, they very much do trust me. But it did take, it took some time. You know, our first campaign that we did, it was a very small campaign. I think our first funnel marketing campaign was for promoting a Revelation series over a year and a half ago, and I think we only put like, as far as ad buy, maybe $400 or something behind it and we just wanted to experiment with it and just see how it worked. And so I was able to track the analytics after the fact, presented the pastor, and say, okay, well it worked there like this. And so now it’s Easter time, can have a little bit more money? Then it’s Christmas. And then, hey, we’re going to three services, I really want to put this to the test. And Easter and it’s just kind of increased each time, but it’s proving itself.
Bart Blair: [00:24:37] Numbers don’t lie, do they?
Colt Straub: [00:24:39] They don’t.
Bart Blair: [00:24:40] The numbers don’t lie.
Jason Hamrock: [00:24:41] And that’s just numbers we count. I mean, you know that people show up and they don’t necessarily raise their hand or they’re watching online that you don’t really necessarily know. So there’s a lot more, I guess you say juice to squeeze out of the investment you made. You’re able just to track the ones you do know, the amount of ones you don’t know is hard to track, but it’s there.
Colt Straub: [00:25:04] Right. Well, as I mentioned, we can only track at the moment, like we’re working on digital connect cards and kind of integrating that more into our system, but at the moment, the only number we could track was from check-ins. And so if there were ten families with kids who checked in, there’s probably, you know, 2 or 3 more, you know, single units, or parent, or just a couple, just coming to experience the church. It’s hard to tell, but yeah, a lot more than what you can actually track and follow up.
Jason Hamrock: [00:25:31] All right. Listen, we probably have to land this plane, it’s been a fantastic conversation. Is there anything else that you’re doing that you’d want to speak up that we didn’t ask? You know, if there’s anything marketing-wise, strategy-wise, that you guys are implementing.
Colt Straub: [00:25:46] You know, apart from that, we still do a little bit of mailers, you know, get print things to our neighborhoods. We used to see a lot more return from that, it gets less and less as the years go by. I think people start to get a lot of print in their mailbox, and just throw it away. We’re starting to put, again, more and more of our dollars towards digital marketing. I would just say if, you know, for pastors who are still new to this, still new to digital marketing, it works. It works. If you’re skittish about it, if you’re hesitant about it, just try it out. Your people are on Facebook, your people are on Instagram, they’re on YouTube, they’re on Google, and we want them to be able to see your church front and center wherever they are. This is the marketplace, this is going out into the highways and the byways and telling people about Jesus, this is just putting yourself out there where the people are. And it’s a way that you can actually track, it’s not just putting something on a billboard that maybe a lot of people look at and maybe they’ll follow up. We are putting it right in front of them, and we can track who’s looking at it, and we can we can put them in an email campaign where we can give them a direct invitation to the church, direct follow-up actions. I mean, it’s an incredible way to tell people about the good news of Jesus, and particularly about what is happening in your church.
Jason Hamrock: [00:27:11] Yeah. Awesome.
Bart Blair: [00:27:12] Colt, a big part of the reason, you know, you and I have been working together for a little over a year and a half or two and a half, two and a half years? Yeah, almost. Yeah, whatever it’s been, it feels like I’ve known you for a really long time. And by the way, for those of you who are watching on YouTube, you realize as you look at these three faces, that one of them is not like the other. Right?
Colt Straub: [00:27:31] That’s true.
Bart Blair: [00:27:31] Bearded, bald and beautiful, and Jason doesn’t fit into, he doesn’t fit into that category. But one of the reasons I thought it was important to get you onto the show is because you are taking a very holistic approach to the lead-generating marketing campaigns. We, honestly, I’m not calling out any of my dear friends at any of the other churches that we get to work with, but we’re generating lots and lots of leads for lots and lots of churches. I had a call with a church yesterday who literally said, oh yeah, I forgot that those leads were in there. And I’m like, that was the whole point. The whole point of the campaign was to generate the leads. And so, you know, Missional Marketing, Jason and I have been singing this song for the better part of the last couple of years, which is, you know, real connections with real people in your community, a name and an email address attached, and that’s somebody that you can start doing ministry with. And I think our own perspective on it has matured and we’ve, you know, streamlined a lot of the language that we’re using and the way that we’re doing it. But I really appreciate and celebrate you and what you’re doing because you have taken the holistic approach to do the whole thing, not just run the ads, not just collect the names and the email addresses, but now you’ve gone so far as to develop systems and processes to communicate to those people, post ad click, and now you’re actually able to even track who’s showing up at your services on Sunday morning. And that’s what churches are asking us questions about every single day, and you’re demonstrating that. And so, you know, I think you can share this podcast episode with your leaders, go ask for a raise. Have them call Jason and me, and we’ll be happy to tell them that you’re knocking it out of the park and that we really appreciate you.
Jason Hamrock: [00:29:12] Well, how do you call Colt? If you want to get a hold of Colt, how do we get a hold of Colt?
Colt Straub: [00:29:16] Well, you can visit cornerstone.tv, that’s our church website. I don’t know if you guys want me to give out my personal email address, but you can always contact me through the church website of Cornerstone.
Bart Blair: [00:29:27] It’s totally up to you, I tell you what, if you want people to have your personal email address or phone number or whatever, we can put it in the show notes and people connect with there, or they can just go to the church website. I’m sure there’s a form or a way that they can contact you, but I’m confident that somebody out there has some questions and needs a little coaching. And I’m not offering, you know, your services to everyone in the world for free. But hey, that’s actually just what happened. So, sorry if you get inundated with phone calls and emails from people needing your help. But again, appreciate you. Thanks so much for hanging out with us and being on the show today.
Colt Straub: [00:30:01] Absolutely. It’s my pleasure. Thank you.