In the world of marketing, they call it “lead generation.” Not making the big sale all at once — which never happens — but cultivating leads from small expressions of interest and nurturing them into customers. Minus the profit motive and “sales” lingo, lead generation is exactly what churches need to be doing. Interest in faith starts small and grows, perhaps like this:
- an overheard reference to a congregation’s soup kitchen
- a desire for information
- a one-time act of serving
- meeting others
- engaging with another aspect of the church
- finding meaningful relationships
- asking deeper questions
- moving forward in faith
Church leaders often get impatient and try to rush this process. They invite a prospect to worship, a step that is far down the road. They press membership before the prospect has even found a circle of friends. They press conversion before the prospect has asked any questions. Rushed engagement rarely works.
Lead generation tends to be congregations’ weak spot. Church leaders have forgotten their own entry points. Lead generation can be disorderly and difficult to measure. Lead generation rarely pays off immediately. Here, then, are 10 keys to effective lead generation.
- Leads are just that: leads. Not visitors, not customers, not members, not sales. They are people who have agreed to receive a free mailing, asked for information about a product, or left a business card at a booth.
- Leads respond to “Calls to Action,” such as a free download at a web site.
- Social media are surprisingly ineffective in lead generation. Passing a link by thousands of eyeballs via Facebook doesn’t equal the power of an e-mail or blog to stir an inquiry.
- Content and assistance drive leads. A promotional piece about the quality of your day school is far less effective than a free listing of “Top Ten Day Schools” and cost comparison.
- Headlines and brief articles capture attention. Forget the long articles.
- In your e-letter, provide multiple entry points. Instead of a long article by the pastor, post links to four articles — by, say, youth minister, education director, mission coordinator, and pastor — and reach four times as many prospects.
- Provide ways for leads to ask questions online and to make comments.
- Use a sophisticated CRM tool (customer relationship management) to track leads, chart their movement through the system, and measure outcomes for analysis such as BatchBook.
- Have a dynamic and usable web site. To function in 2010 and beyond, you simply cannot attract leads and nurture them without a great web site. Spend the bucks.
- Cast many nets, sow many seeds, don’t just rely on one painstakingly planned initiative, like a telephone-calling campaign or a major fair. Have booths at ten fairs, give something of value away at a school fund-raiser (like a bicycle or vacation) in exchange for business cards and e-mail addresses.
Remember: leads aren’t workers or members. They are the essential starting point