Church Marketing Tips - What Kind of Response Should You Expect From Your Direct Mail Postcard
What Kind of Response Should You Expect From Your Direct Mail Postcard?
The number 1 question we get asked by pastors is, “What kind of response will I get from my direct mail campaign”? Why did church (X) receive 80-100 visitors from their last direct mail campaign, and church (Y) only 2 or 3?”
Before we get into the dynamics of ROI or (Return on Investment), we need to clarify a few things that have been a pet peeve of mine for years.
1. If a sales rep from a company tells you, “You should get X or Y percentage of response”, they are generally stretching the truth to make a sale.
2. If someone from my company tells you this, let me know and they will get a serious talking to about the dynamics of advertising and marketing.
3. Direct Mail Postcards are not a “Magic Bullet”. If ALL churches could get a 1% response rate from direct mail, then the 1% math indicates that if a church did 100,000 cards, they would get 1,000 people. If this was really the case, then we could make every church a Mega Church overnight. While I wish we could do this, the simple fact is we cannot.
So why do you hear people in the industry say you will generally get a 1-2% return rate? Read the latest statistics from the Direct Mail Association below.
Direct Mail Response Rate Trends
According to the DMA (Direct Marketing Association), direct mail response rates took a tremendous leap in 2016 with a 5.3% response rate to house lists and 2.9% to prospect lists. These are the highest levels the DMA has tracked since 2003. For comparison, in 2015 the rates were 3.7% and 1.0% respectively. In 2010 it was 3.4% and 1.4%.
Just like our previous recap of the DMA’s 2015 findings, direct mail response rates blow digital channels out of the water, with no other channel cracking 1%. The other channels ranked in order of highest to lowest were Online Display (0.9%), Email (0.6% house/3% prospect), Social Media (0.6%), and Paid Search (0.5%)
Not to discount the DMA in any way, shape or form, but let’s take a look at the numbers a little closer.
1. What are we classifying as a response? A person visiting a location as a result of a direct mailer? A person visiting a website? A person using a coupon? There is a great deal of variables that go into these numbers.
2. What type of businesses are these? Surely a pizza place offering a free pizza will generate a higher response rate than say, a flooring company, or a church for that matter.
3. What was the offer? When I was in secular advertising for many years, people would always ask me if they will get a 1-2% response rate. My answer was always simple. “Sure,” I would say, “You let me write your offer and I will guarantee your response rate. You are a car dealership, we are going to give away a free car to everyone who brings in your direct mail card Saturday.” They would quickly say they could not do that, and my point would be made. Your response rate correlates to your offer.
4. What is your reputation and where are you located? How long have you been in business? What is your size? Do people know anything about you and is it good or bad? Where do you meet? Surely, you would agree with me that if Saddleback Church does a direct mail campaign, they will yield a higher return rate than the small local church down the street that meets in a shopping complex.
So, to clarify my earlier point, anyone who tells you should get a certain percentage response rate from your direct mail campaign without asking the questions above, is in the worst-case scenario lying to you, or at best doesn’t really understand marketing.
A Quick Lesson in Marketing:
Whether you are selling shoes or offering salvation, the principles are the same, and the response you will receive depends greatly on your ability to use them correctly. Make no mistake about it, if you think people are going to come to your church because it is the right thing to do on Sunday, you are dreadfully mistaken. The competition for the unchurched is great. Unfortunately, your greatest competition is not the church down the street, but rather all the other activities and things to do on Sunday morning. Even sleeping in, places high on the reasons your potentially unchurched person will not attend your service on a Sunday morning.
As pastors, you have spent years learning the biblical interpretations of the various biblical passages. But all that knowledge is useless unless you have someone to preach it to. You continue to read books on preaching, teaching, illustrations, etc. How many books have you read recently on marketing? Pastors must see themselves as more than teachers. To be effective evangelists in 2017, churches must use the principles of marketing correctly to grow the Kingdom. In fact, we are called by the Great Commission to do just that.
When a prospect receives your card, a few people will come to your church just because you’re there. The majority of people will treat your card with skepticism. They are going to want to know how long you’ve been around, what you’re all about, what programs you have for the kids, men, women, teenagers, etc. You, as pastors and church administrators, must step back from your pulpit and put yourself in the unchurched person’s shoes for a moment, and ask yourself: “Why would someone want to come to our church? What do we have to offer them?”
Once we begin to see things from the unchurched person’s point of view, only then can we begin to “get it”, and to begin to understand what drives the unchurched. Most people aren’t opposed to attending church. In a society where 90% of the population call themselves “Christians”, there will be a large number of people in your neighborhood, looking for a reason to come to church on Sunday morning. Your job as a church is to give them that reason.
Below are 6 key ingredients that will determine the response to your next marketing campaign. Take an objective look at these and see for yourself what your response to your last marketing campaign should have been.
R – Reputation:
Your response to a particular direct mail piece will be determined by your church’s reputation. If you are a new church and no one has ever heard of you before, then your response might not be as great, until you’ve created some “buzz” in the community. Just like a new restaurant in your home town, you drive by it, you receive coupons to try it, but until someone you know says it is a great place to eat, you probably won’t try it out. By the same standpoint, if everyone in town is raving about how good the food is, people are going to be more willing to try it out.
The best-case scenario is for your church to create a positive “buzz” about yourself that will resonate with people when they see your advertisement. For instance, “I’ve heard of that church, that’s the church that has the rocking band”. The marketing term for this is called “branding” or “USP” – “Unique Selling Position”. It is what separates you from the rest. Examples would be: “The church where no perfect people are allowed”. One way to boost your response to any marketing effort is to get yourself a “USP” making your church uniquely different from all the rest. Then use it in all of your marketing efforts. The key in marketing, is to get people to say. “I’ve heard of that church – That’s the church that….”.
E – Environment:
Where you are located will directly affect your response rate. This not only means your physical location (where you meet), but also your geographical location (what area of the country or city you may be in). For instance, if you are a new church starting out, and you are meeting in a daycare, hotel, chamber of commerce, etc., that will directly affect your response. Many people, like it or not, will still want to attend in a typical church building. If this is the case, you will need to hold on until you can move to a more advantageous location. A school is a great place to meet as a start for a new church. It is more appealing than a hotel, storefront, etc. Another aspect might be the area of town you are in. If your location is in a typically older area of town, it may be hard to draw new members from the newer neighborhoods across town. Another important factor in your response rate is the area of the country you are in. Certain areas in the bible belt are prone to higher rates of return than, say, typically liberal areas of the county. This just means your church simply needs to work harder and smarter at attracting new members.
S – Services:
What you offer a typical family in the way of services has a huge impact on your response. What do you have that might be appealing to the family in your neighborhood? Do you have programs for the kids, teenagers, men’s groups, women’s bible studies, etc.? What do you offer in the way of classes for the new Christian, the rocky marriage, the financially challenged? I hear it said way too many times: “When we get bigger, we will add these services”. Ask yourself this question: if you’re sick, do you want to go to a doctor that only specializes in one area, or do you want a full-service doctor, that can help you, your kids and your wife in all areas of your medical needs?
P – Prior Marketing:
This is simply how much marketing, door-knocking, phone-calling etc. you have done in the past. If you have never informed or educated your local area about your church, how can you expect people to want to come and try you out? Obviously, you need to start somewhere. If you are a new church, the rule of thumb is, the more marketing you do; i.e. phone calls, direct mail, door-knocking etc., the more response you will get. Each and every mailer you do, should increase your response rate. To put it simply: The sowing and reaping principle.
O – OFFER:
Which sounds more appealing of the 2 headlines: “4 Weeks to a more satisfying sex life with your spouse.” Or – “Reason number 79 why people don’t attend church. They will ask me for money.” We are shocked at some of the direct mail advertising churches spend their money on that offer no real value or benefit in attending their church. Just like secular companies, churches need to offer messages with REAL value.
N – Need:
Have you developed a need for your church? “Why should I go?” “What’s in it for me?” “What do you have to offer that I haven’t heard already or that I don’t already know?” You must create a need in your market for your church. Show them how you can make their lives, families, children, or their finances better. Everyone wants a more enjoyable life. Show people how the church can do that. The need can be the season. According to The Barna Group, an average of 45% more people will attend church on Christmas and Easter. So, the need for marketing during the holiday period is huge.
S – Supporting Media:
Do you have a website, and is it any good? Your website is very important when you do a direct mail campaign. A huge majority of people will look at your website first, before they make a decision to attend your church.
E – Evaluation:
You must track and identify not only what forms of advertising work for you, but also what types of sermon series have worked well in the past. If you have done a series on money and it has produced little or no response, don’t market a financial series. You can and should preach on this, but save the marketing dollars for sermons with a little more meat. By the same token, if every time you run a marriage series in your community the seats are full, then concentrate your marketing efforts when you do a message series on marriage.
Return on Investment vs Response on Investment.
Remember in the beginning of this newsletter I told you – The #1 question we get asked by pastors is “What kind of response will I get from my direct mail campaign”? In all the marketing books that exist today, there really is not such a term as “Response on Investment”. As I stated earlier, that question is really too vague. It could mean website hits, phone calls, Facebook looks, etc. And measuring all this is virtually impossible.
What you really want is for people to visit your church. The question you should be asking is… “What kind of return on investment will I get with my direct mail campaign?”
If your church currently spends money on any form church marketing or church advertising, or is contemplating spending money on church marketing or church advertising, you should become aware of a critical aspect of advertising and marketing – Measuring Return on Investment.
Please don’t imagine that because you are a “church”, that you don’t need to focus on ROI.
Part of being good stewards of your finances is measuring the return you get on your investments, including church marketing and church advertising.
Return on Investment
Return on Investment (abbreviated ROI) is simply the value your church receives in return for the money it spends on a given advertising medium or campaign. As a church, you could measure that value in several ways.
One philosophy many churches adopt is to view their advertising efforts as simply a way of sowing seed and increasing their name recognition and community profile. Certainly, there is a value to that. However, it is not a measure we at Truth Advertising recommend you adopt.
You probably are aware that TA has its roots in the secular advertising and marketing arena. In fact, TA is a ministry that has grown out of a much larger publishing enterprise with various divisions of magazines and solo direct mail products. Our secular clients spend huge amounts of money and they expect a rate of return that justifies those investments. In other words, they compare the investment they give us to what we give to them in terms of new customers, repeat business, and overall dollars.
The church should be no different when it comes to investing its advertising dollars. You should demand that it works in a clearly measurable manner. Unfortunately, a great number of churches we speak with have no idea how well their advertising and marketing works. Mostly, I believe this is because previous marketing efforts have been so unsuccessful and so unmemorable in terms of impact. Because of this, the church gets lulled into a mediocre mindset that causes them to expect little, if any tangible results. Your church can do better – don’t settle. Whether it is Direct Mail, Newspaper Ads, Billboards, Cable Television, Social Media or Pay-per-Click marketing, you should demand that you receive commensurate value for your advertising dollars.
Truth Advertising can help you unlock that value and teach you to measure how well you are spending your advertising budget.
How to measure Return on Investment?
In our minds, there is but one measure of marketing success, which is bringing new visitors to your church. Yes, there may be residual benefits, but listen, the fields are ripe and ready for harvest! There will always be people in your community ready to visit your church – saved and unsaved alike. You can count on the residual benefits of advertising, but you need to also get the new visitors in your doors or you are squandering your advertising dollars.
How much response is enough?
So, what is a “good response” and how can I justify to my Church body an advertising investment? First of all, if your advertising leads to the direct salvation of just one person… how great is that? It would be hard to put a price on that, wouldn’t it? Yet, I believe you can do better and want to show you how to fiscally justify a direct mail postcard – aside from the obvious spiritual value.
Here are 3 formulas and an “extra special kicker” you need to include in your analysis of a mailer’s success.
1. The Direct Response Ratio Formula
This is perhaps the simplest: Your Church mails 1000 pieces – 10 new family units visit your church over a 3-week period of time. 10 (new family units) divided by 1000 (number of pieces mailed) 10/1000 =.01%. So, the return on your investment would be 1%.
2. The Cost-Per-Lead Formula
Using the response rate of 10 new family units
Assume that the cost of your marketing campaign was $1000
10 new family units visited the church. $1000 (the cost of your campaign) divided by 10 (new units) 1000/10 = 100. So, the average cost for your church to bring in 1 new family unit was $100.
3. The Residual Profit Ratio
Using the response of 10 new family units
Assume the cost of your marketing campaign was $1000. You received 10 new family units as a result. Out of the 10 new units, 5 become members of your church. Out of the 5 new units (using national church tithing estimates) you receive an average of $2000 per year per new family. Your residual profit ratio would be $2000 x 5 = $10,000.
Minus the cost of your marketing campaign of $1000, the residual profit ratio would be $9,000.
The Final “Extra Special Kicker”
Most churches miss this, but along with your 5 new families, you also receive access to their circle of friends, neighbors, and relatives. This is huge! This alone can be a tremendous boost.
The #1 advertising medium for your church (if you have a healthy church) should always be “word of mouth”. If these new people are happy, they will invite and bring their friends and relatives.
These ways to measure ROI can be used for a variety of marketing campaigns. Once we begin to look a little more closely at the formulas, we begin to see just how effective or ineffective our marketing campaigns are. A 1% return on a marketing campaign may seem to some like a small return, but once we begin using the residual profit ratio, we can see how easy it is to “cost justify” a direct mail campaign.
By the same token, if your church is spending even just $300 a month on a little 2 x 2 box in the local newspaper, and you are getting zero new visitors, then your $300 is not being used in the most effective manner possible.
What’s important is that your church knows where it is spending its “evangelism
budget” and to know how effective each area is. The only way to determine this is to use the return on investment formulas.
We’d like to help you maximize your advertising dollars and reach more people for Christ! Call us today! 1-888-359-1370
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