Email marketing is one of the most ubiquitous digital platforms. There are approximately 3.7 billion email users worldwide, and that number is expected to continue growing.1 Stated as a percentage, 92% of online adults have an email account, and most use it daily.2 There are also 205 billion e-mails sent everyday.3 The big takeaway is that there is a communication channel that your people are already using; they don’t have to sign up for it, it’s personal, and they check it almost daily.
Everyone knows the basics of e-mail communication on a personal level, but the playing field changes slightly once it becomes organizational or commercial. Organizations have to get permission to e-mail individuals; this is why so many companies and churches have “opt-in” forms on their websites. Mass e-mail services, like Mailchimp and Constant Contact, even require permission verification for each contact added to a mailing list. This prevents users from being spammed by companies and groups they’re not interested in.
The main benefit to using a mass e-mail provider is this: analytics. E-mailing everyone you know BCC with the latest calendar update leaves you flying blind, but those bigger platforms were made for this and can give excellent insights into how your e-mail performed. The most useful pieces of data are opens, bounces, and clicks. Opens show how many people interacted with your e-mail; bounces show how many never made it to the inbox; and clicks refer to the activity around any links found in the content of the e-mail itself.
Golden Rule: Do Not Spam. Your subscribers have trusted you with direct contact information, and spamming is a surefire way they remove themselves from your list and never sign up for it again.
E-mail should be a regular part of your communication strategy, and one of the first three you tackle. It’s a great way to communicate all sorts of content directly to your congregation. Some e-mail platforms allows for graphics, but several media voices advocate using just plain text e-mails; we say test run both formats and see how well each does for your particular setting. If plain-text e-mails are opened more frequently, then use them! Don’t include graphics just because they can be included and lose traction with people.
The best foundation for an e-mail strategy is this: a weekly newsletter. A regular bulletin keeps the most important upcoming events and information in front of your congregation as they need it. Newsletters provide the perfect opportunity for learning balance; the balance between giving enough details and far too many is crucial in this medium. There are some restaurants that have a very limited, specific, and intentional menu, then there establishments that have an exhaustive catalogue without direction.
Flooding people with information is never the way to go, but an e-mail is particularly geared for quick information. If there’s more to say, feel free to introduce the topic and provide a link to a webpage dedicated to the event, class, conference, camp, etc.
“A regular bulletin keeps the most important upcoming events and information in front of your congregation as they need it.”
Two more potential elements to add to an e-mail strategy are the social media recap and a reminder e-mail. There are some ministries that have implemented the practice of e-mailing social media highlights from that week. This is especially helpful if there’s a large demographic in your church that does not engage on social media. It also serves to reconnect those who might have missed something posted. Reminders are great for big events or sign-up deadlines. These shouldn’t be a regular part of a church’s communication strategy but should be used strategically, i.e. countdowns or reminders for a regular Sunday service aren’t necessary.
There are a few options for building your mailing list and getting permission to e-mail individuals. The easiest is to make asking for it a normal part of Sunday morning announcements and the guest card your church uses on a weekly basis. Another is making it part of the membership process; this doesn’t mean forcing people to receive e-mails but creating another opportunity for them to sign up. The last is an actual opt-in form on your website.