Updated: Jan 22, 2021
In Creating an Effective Guest Follow-Up Plan (Part 1) I discussed the importance of using multiple forms of communication – or what I refer to as “multi-touch” - in Guest Follow-Up Plans. Using text, email, phone calls, and even handwritten notes raise the chances of your guests returning. However, not only should you take advantage of different forms of communication, your Guest Follow-Up Plan should continue for 3-6 weeks after the initial visit. This multi-touch, multi-week component makes for a strong guest follow-up system.
Now, you may think to yourself “If we text, email, and call a guest over the course of several weeks, won’t that come off as too pushy? I would hate to make our guests feel like we’re harassing them. That might cause them to avoid us althogether!” In fact, I used to struggle with this same concern. However, I believe this mindset is more hindering that it is helpful.
Consider this: What would happen if, instead of coming to your church, a potential guest chose to go to a new gym for the first time this Sunday morning? The gym would do whatever they had to do to obtain contact information. Then they would send texts, emails, postcards, promotions, and even make phone calls for weeks, maybe even months. The gym would not give up - at least not for a while - until they either made a committed member or are told to cease and desist.
The gym - as well as local businesses, the entertainment industry, social media influencers, and online marketers - weigh the risks versus the rewards of ample follow-up and communication to those who have willingly given their information. They realize that it might be too much for some, but they are willing to take that chance in order to reach out and make customers. They do this with follow-up communication that takes place over the course of weeks.
Bottom line: When someone gives their email address and phone number to a business or online marketer, they fully expect to be followed-up with multiple times and in multiple ways.
If the local gym will go that far to win a customer, home much more should the Church do to win a soul? I’m not suggesting that you harass your guests, nor am I saying that every individual or family will appreciate this level of follow-up. However, if you are not engaging in continual follow-up, you are likely missing easy opportunities for greater retention.
Allow me to say it a little stronger: When it comes to guest follow-up, churches could stand to be more competitive than they typically are.
I am not talking about competing with other churches. The competition should be for the time and attention of the people in your community. Obviously, there are scriptural, ethical, and sensical lines that we should not cross that other organizations can and will. However, there is nothing wrong with matching the marketing and communication efforts of the local businesses in your town or city. After all, what your church has to offer is more valuable than any product or service available!
When it comes to a multiple week guest follow-up plan, here are some things to consider.
Assume That Guests Want to Come Back
If you are doing the hard work of making your church a place where guests want to be, you should operate from the assumption that guests who attend a service at your church will want to come back. Why not?! After all, pessimism never makes anything better. It only makes us feel less disappointed when what we hoped for fails to come to fruition.
Assuming that guests want to come back to your church is important because tt helps you to view extensive follow-up as a service to them, not as an obligation or a necessity for the church to grow.
Imagine if the first-time gym guest really intended to join that gym, but things kept coming up that made it difficult to return. Maybe they were unsure if they would fit-in at that gym. Or maybe they just needed to know that they were really wanted at that gym. In this case, using multiple methods of communication for multiple weeks is exactly what the gym guest needed.
Now replace “gym” with “church” and you get the picture. In a culture of oversaturation, your guests may need you to continue following up in order for them to do what they already would like to do, which is make your church their church.
Example of a Multi-touch, Multi-week Follow-Up Plan
At The Pentecostals of Cooper City, the church at which I serve as Associate Pastor, our baseline 2021 Guest Follow-Up Plan will look like this:
(John Doe visits on January 31st. Follow-up will begin on February 1st and continue for 4 weeks. For sake of clarity, John does not visit again or respond to communication over the course of those 4 weeks in this scenario. If he visits or responds, there would be additional contact. For example, if he visited a second time, there would likely be another text or phone call attempt.)
Some may think this is too much, while others will say a week or two should be added. At LeadRidge we realize that every church is different, and that’s okay! Nonetheless, while the specifics may differ, a multi-touch, multi-week follow-up plan gives you a greater opportunity for high guest retention.
Automated Systems Help Carry the Load
It would be understandable if you looked at the calendar above and thought “How on earth am I supposed to keep track of something like that for one guest, let alone all the guests I have visit?! If you’re a pastor or minister you have your hands full with preaching, teaching Bible studies, counseling, hospital visits, managing church finances, maintaining spiritual disciplines, and leading your family. This is even more true if you are bi-vocational.
In reality, managing a multi-touch, multi-week Guest Follow-Up Plan is not simple. The more guests you have per week, the more complex it can become. Remembering who to follow-up with, when, and how can become quite the task, even with as few as 5 guests each month.
This is where automation comes in.
Automation takes place when a system is setup by a user to automatically move guests through your process. In other words, you use a computer to help you to remember and perform the tasks of your follow-up plan. Automation helps make otherwise complicated systems much easier. If you have Church Management Software (ChMS) such as Church Community Builder, Servant Keeper, or Breeze you likely have automation capability already.
If you do not have ChMS, it is possible to create a DIY automated Guest Follow-Up System by using software like Microsoft Excel, calendars, and/or automation websites used for sales and marketing such as www.sendinblue.com. It may not have the power and simplicity that a ChMS system has, but it can get the job done with the right amount of manual effort.
In fact, I am in the process of developing the LeadRidge Advanced Follow-Up System. This is a customizable automation system for guest follow-up and retention created with churches that do not have the budget for large scale ChMS in mind. Admittedly, this is an ambitious project, but the goal is to have a Beta version ready by the summer of 2021. I will be seeking Beta testers in the coming months of this writing; if you are interested in having your church be a testing site, please reach out to me at email@example.com.
Consistency and Commitment
When it comes to getting the most out of an Advanced Follow-Up System, the key is consistency and commitment.
Confession is good for the soul, so let me be transparent. I have created, implemented, executed, and tweaked many different guest follow-up variations over the years. However, I have not always remained committed to my own systems. Though it is people-focused, guest follow-up is process-driven, and like any process, it can feel tedious after a while.
In spite of my own seasons of inconsistency, experience has taught me that the cumulative effect of remaining committed to a Guest Follow-Up plan is worthwhile. I believe that a). The Lord rewards our efforts to reach those who are seeking Him, b). People generally appreciate a sincere, if even systematic, effort to reach out to them, and c). There is a significant chance that the person you followed-up with will tell family and friends about your efforts (“I found this really great church! They sent me a handwritten postcard and a video greeting from the pastor!”).
Yes, Advanced Follow-Up Systems take a lot of work on the front end. Brainstorming, planning, and implementation are not easy tasks. However, I am convinced that long-term commitment to a multi-touch, multi-week guest follow-up plan will result in growth and more opportunities for disciple making for you and your church.
If you would like to talk about a multi-touch, multi-week Advanced Follow-Up plan for your church, feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.