On Sunday, a brand new family came to your church for the first time - a young couple with two children under the age of 10. They were greeted warmly and the Hospitality team executed the Guest Reception Process to perfection. The kids loved Sunday School, and mom and dad really enjoyed the service. They filled out a Connection Card with their names, phone number, email, and street address. They left with a smile on their face, a gift in their hand, and a sense that there was "something different" about your church.
Now that it's Monday, what do you do?
You hope and pray that they'll return, of course. However, when it comes to getting that very important second visit, hope and prayer alone is not an effective strategy. You must have a guest follow-up plan.
I'm not of the opinion that there is a one-size-fits-all process for guest follow-up. However, the most effective follow-up plans utilize multiple forms of communication, take place over the course of multiple weeks, and are consistent.
A Quick Note About Guest Contact Information
Before we look at utilizing multiple forms of communication, let’s talk about guest contact information. It is virtually impossible to follow-up with a guest if you do not obtain and collect their contact information. This may seem obvious, but it cannot be stressed enough. You must have a way for guests to give you their information. The most common way is a card that the guest can fill out while in service.
After the guest provides their information, there must be a method of collection. Whether the cards are left at their seat, collected by the ushers, or brought to the welcome center after service is less important than making sure that the guest does not leave with their card (believe me, it happens).
Training Tip: Impress upon your hospitality team that guest information is a form of currency. If guests take the time to attend and then willingly give their information, we should be just as conscientious in our handling of that information as we are with money.
Multiple Forms of Communication
The ability to communicate in some form or another has never been more readily available than today. Therefore, it is beneficial to utilize more than one avenue to follow-up with your guests. The remainder of this post will discuss ways that you can use multiple forms of communication to follow-up with your guests.
Like it or not, when it comes to communication, texting is the new king. Texts have a whopping 98% open rate! Compare that to email's 20% open rate and the fact that phone calls are seen almost as an act of aggression, especially to young people, and you see why texting wears the crown. You should definitely utilize text in your follow-up plan. There are several services that specialize in church text communication such as www.pastorsline.com that help automate the process.
As social distancing guidelines continue in some form for most churches, texting is a great way to engage with online audiences. With the use of a dedicated phone number and a keyword, you can have a digital Connection Card sent to your online guests' phone, allowing you to obtain their contact information easily. I will be writing more about this in the near future, but if you would like to hear more about how to engage with online guests, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Though less efficient than text messages, emails are still a good way to reach out. You are less likely to receive a direct response from an email than you are from a text, but that's okay. I find that emails are best for giving information or reminders. However, you increase your chances of receiving a response if you personalize message and give a call to action or ask a direct question. Something like this:
This is Steven from LeadRidge. It was a pleasure meeting you and your family this past Sunday and I hope to see you again this coming Sunday. As a reminder, we have service at 11am and there will be Super Church for the kids. If you'd like to pre-register your children you can go to www.leadridge.org/register. Would you like me to reserve a parking space for you in the morning?
Steven Guttridge Founder, LeadRidge
As you can see, the idea is to give them something to respond to. This helps create a connection and lets you know if and when they're planning to return. You can also use this as an opportunity to offer them a Home Bible Study, invite them to a small group, or other non-service related events.
While text should be your primary method of initial follow-up, and email is a good secondary choice, there's still room for a good old-fashioned phone call. Yes, people are answering their phone less and less, especially from unrecognized numbers, but it doesn't make phone calls irrelevant. If they do answer, guests will generally be appreciative of a brief greeting and an offer to answer any questions that they have about the church.
Tip: Use an initial text message greeting to ask if they would be available for a brief phone call at a later date. "Hello, this is Steven from LeadRidge. Thank you for worshipping with us this past Sunday! I'd love an opportunity to get better acquainted through a brief phone call. Is there a time you are free this week to talk?"
When it comes to phone calls, keep in mind that there may be generational differences. Someone over the age of 65 may actually prefer and welcome a phone call more readily than someone 45 or younger. Somewhat related to this, if you are unable to get a response to a text, it may not hurt to make a phone call.
As digital communication becomes the norm, hand-written notes become somewhat of a special treasure. In a world where clicking "like" constitutes an adequate response, someone taking the time to write a brief but heartfelt message by hand makes a major impact. Especially when it comes from someone on the pastoral/ministerial staff. As far as content, a simple greeting, thank you, and expression of your hope to see them again soon is enough.
This one could be a little more time-consuming, but also very effective. Record a personalized video greeting to be sent to a guest via text and/or email. Keep the video under 30-seconds, both for sake of time and ability to send, especially via email. Services like www.bonjorno.com specialize in these personalized videos for a fee.
Bonus: Social Media
Social media is a great way to connect with your guests, whether as a church or individual. However, be cautious about sending friend requests to people without having made a strong personal connection or, preferably, getting permission to connect on social accounts. Some may find using their contact information to search and connect with them on social media awkward or too aggressive if they did not consent to it. You could consider adding a check box on your Connection Card saying something like “Would you like to connect with us on Facebook/Twitter/etc.”
In Creating an Effective Guest Follow-Up Plan (Part 2) we'll talk about why multiple weeks of follow-up is best, how consistency and commitment are key, and how automated processes make effective follow-up plans significantly easier to manage.
In the meantime, if you would like to discuss more about utilizing multiple forms of communication in your guest follow-up plan, message me at email@example.com.