With InterestGenerator you get to meet new people from your area every month and build connections with those who are ready to study the Bible, guaranteed. It’s a simple and easy way to grow your interest list. But how you approach and interact with those who request Bible studies will have a big impact on the longevity of that relationship. (No pressure, right?) There are many ways to approach an interest that are reflective of your church’s personality, but is there a “right” way to connect with your leads? And what should you do if you don’t get a response?
Join Larry Witzel, SermonView’s founder and president, along with Sarah Grant, SermonView campaign manager, as they walk through some best practices and simple solutions that any church can apply to their long-term communication strategy. Watch firsthand how the InterestTracker software can help you organize and maintain your Bible study requests and interactions with your leads. Plus, learn some tried and tested methods to help you see a greater response both initially and long term. You’ll walk away with new ways to encourage your team and engage your leads, helping them move from interested to invested.
Larry: Welcome to today’s webinar, “Turning Leads into Connections: How to Build Lasting Relationships with Your Bible Study Leads.“ I’m Larry Witzel, founder and president of SermonView Evangelism Marketing. Joining me today is Sarah Grant, one of our campaign managers. She is going to help with some of the demonstrations we want to share with you.
My goal for today is that you leave with something practical that you can put into use this week in your ministry.
Here’s where we’re going over the next few minutes:
- I’m going to begin by talking about the why. Why does a church need to put thought into 1-on-1 communication practices?
- Then I’ll pass it over to Sarah, who will tell you about our lead generation program, InterestGenerator, which is how we introduce people from your community to you.
- We’ll show you some specific features in InterestTracker, our online CRM for Adventist evangelism.
- Then Sarah will get into some specific practices that will improve the communication with your interests.
- Finally, we’ll look at some things you can do if someone just isn’t responding, along with some things you definitely should NOT do.
- Then we’ll end with your questions.
Why communication is important
Okay. Let’s get to the foundation of interest communication, and I want to talk a little communication theory here. What is church? It’s a holy community, led by Jesus, a community of faith. What is a community? Think of it as a network of relationships. So evangelism is what we call it when God works through us to draw someone new into that network of relationships, into that community faith.
What’s the starting point for that? It starts by building a relationship between one member of that network of relationships, and someone who is not yet a part of that network. As that relationship grows, then there will be opportunities to introduce them to other members of that community, but it starts with one person initiating a relationship first.
The next question is, how do you build a relationship with someone? That’s through communication, specifically through a sequence of interactions between you and the interest. The building block of relationship-building is an interaction.
About 5 years ago, a couple of communication researchers proposed a theory that we can apply here. They call it Communicate Bond Belong Theory (Hall & Davis, 2017). We communicate in order to bond, to build a relationship, and that bond leads to belonging, to affinity and identity with a community. Communicate, bond, belong. As they researched this, they found a couple of things relevant to us here.
First, humans have a fundamental need to belong, and we use interpersonal communication to satisfy that need to belong. But relationships take work, so people also have to manage the energy spent in creating those relationships. The researchers put it this way:
“The motivation to socially engage is offset by a motivation to conserve energy.”(Hall & Davis, 2017, p. 22)
People have limited time and energy, and they invest those resources into the most efficient processes to meet the need to belong to a community. So here’s the application: In your communication practices, design your communication to require as little energy as possible for your interest to engage in each interaction.
Second, reciprocity is important. Both parties need to be contributing to the conversation and to the relationship-building. There needs to be a balance in terms of the give and take in a relationship. So as you’re building the relationship, it’s important to open up yourself to that person, in levels of depth corresponding to them.
So, our goal is to draw an interest into a relationship with you, which can then lead them into that community of faith. People have a desire for that, because God gave us this fundamental need to belong. Communicate, bond, belong.
But how do you meet people who are seeking to meet that need to belong? The SermonView crew has spent years developing methods for finding people in your community who are ready to study the Bible with you, and that’s what Sarah is going to talk about next.
What is InterestGenerator?
Sarah: Interest Generator is a service we offer to connect you with people in your community who are ready to study the Bible. InterestGenerator includes multiple components that work together in a way that local churches have not had access to in the past. With InterestGenerator you get to meet new people from your area every month and build connections with those who are ready to study the Bible.
Each of our Interest Generator campaigns are managed by a dedicated marketing coordinator who blankets your community with targeted ads clearly focused on a request for a Bible study. When someone clicks on an ad, they complete an online form that requires them to type in their actual contact information, clicking through some confirmation pages to get to a button that says something like “Request my free Bible study”. So you can be confident that each lead is genuine, and they did not sign up by accident.
We do not advertise a specific study. Rather, we focus on themes to allow your church to choose studies that match the individual request. These themes use specific language in our ads that should be considered when selecting which studies to offer, but we’ll come back to that later when we discuss communication strategies.
The ads we use can be seen all over Facebook, Instagram, and depending on your plan, Google. They are geolocated to your exact area, and only your area. We use detailed targeting along with Facebook’s algorithm to make sure the people who are most likely to respond to your ads will be the ones that are seeing your ads. Now, this likely means that church members will not see your ads. We hear that concern a lot. If you are not seeing your ads, that means your campaign is doing exactly what it is supposed to! We want your budget to reach new people, not the ones you already have.
A lot goes into managing your social media campaigns and SermonView handles it all—ad design & testing, detailed targeting, conversion tracking, and managing comments/messages are all part of the package. We’ll go over some of the ads that we use in a little bit, but next I want to demonstrate how these leads get delivered to you and your team using SermonView’s online relationship management tool, InterestTracker.
Remember when Larry said that the building block of relationships is an interaction? Our team created a relationship management system where the central component is interactions. This system is called InterestTracker. You may be already familiar with this software, but let me do a quick demo for those of you who aren’t.
- Unlimited Users/Roles – share the energy with your team
- Set notifications to get alerts.
- Demo how leads come in to an account.
- Assigning a lead to your team.
- Show where to find the offer they responded to.
- How to mark an offer as followed up/set reminders.
We just covered how to document a follow-up for an offer, but let’s talk about how to actually follow up with your leads in ways that can start a dialogue and help build trust with your church.
Methods to increase effective communication with your leads
How you approach and interact with those who request Bible studies will have a big impact on the longevity of that relationship. There are many ways to approach an interest that are reflective of your church’s personality, but let’s look at principles that should be present with all interactions.
First off, spend time praying for them before you make contact. Often times we find ourselves seeking God or the Bible when we are facing challenging circumstances in our lives. Lifting up each individual in prayer not only supports them but softens our hearts to them and helps us to be open to potential needs they may have.
Look at the offer to understand the need. We can begin to “understand their need” by looking at the offer they responded to. This will help you know what attracted them and led them to make the request. It’s tempting to share what we want them to know, but this is about what they are responding to. If they clicked on an offer titled “God Cares”, they may not connect with materials about the mark of the beast or prophecy. Instead, you’ll want to use a Bible study that reflects the character & love of God. Likewise, if they clicked on an ad about “Bible prophecy”, they will be more likely to stay engaged with a study focused on prophecy.
Choose something that resonates with the offer that drew them to fill out the form. By doing this, you are not only building trust, but you are helping with their “emotional energy conservation” as Larry mentioned earlier, so there should be little resistance on their end by offering them a free resource they are already interested in.
Introducing yourself. Next, I want to point out one thing that SermonView does ahead of time to help with your communication. We run your ads under our brand “My Free Bible Study.” We do this because we don’t know what someone’s previous church experience is, so in case of a potentially negative experience, we remove that from influencing their decision, plus we build credibility with a professional brand]Since they’ve responded to ads from My Free Bible Study, you should introduce yourself as someone from the My Free Bible Study team when you first start communicating. Dropping something off at the door? Wear your volunteer name badge and, again, introduce yourself as someone from “The My Free Bible Study Team”. This will help them remember the ad that they first responded to, and avoid confusion about where you are from. Using this method will help give a reminder and a reason for reaching out to them.
You can try different methods of communication too. We recommend:
- Start with a phone call.
- Follow up with a text or an email.
- Then mail a card with a personal hand-written note.
Continue building the relationship. Remember, your goal is not just to get someone to complete a study, but to build a relationship. As the old saying goes, “people don’t care what you know until they know how much you care” is very applicable as you begin establishing a relationship with each individual.
Whether you hit it off right away or are having a hard time connecting, here are 7 tips to keep in mind as you move forward:
- Remember to guide gently. Stay attentive to their comfort level when it comes to pace. Ask them how often they’d like a new study, and follow up without pressuring them to be done faster. Remember, each person’s life looks different, some will have full plates and others will have much more availability.
- Respect their preferred method of delivery. If they opt to receive their studies in-person or by mail, don’t change it on them without them discussing it with them.
- Online studies still need human connection. If they are receiving their studies through an online platform, you should still reach out to them so they are not left to navigate it on their own.
- Contact should be about them. Check in with them as they journey through their studies and see if they have questions. Remember to make your reason for contact about them and their needs.
- Relate with them. This one is big. Remember back when you were first learning about God or the Bible? Share that you had questions or struggles, or maybe areas that relieved struggles when you learned it. By giving that “equal emotional investment” that Larry mentioned is required for building a relationship, you will become a safe person for them to work through their questions. (Practical TIP: Be familiar the Bible study yourself first so you are prepared for any questions, discussion, or to point out your favorite parts.)
- Save invitations for when the relationship is ready. We hope that each relationship grows to include your church, but be attentive to their comfort level and wait to invite them to events at your church until the relationship has grown to that point. The exception to this is if your church is holding an event that is clearly related to and focusing on the topic of the ad they responded to.
- If they come, meet them out front so they don’t have to walk in alone. Walking into a new church can be scary for most people. We don’t know everyone’s experiences with church. Having someone to walk in with that they’ve already built a relationship with will speak volumes about your care for them.
OK… But what if they still aren’t responding?
This can definitely feel disappointing. As Larry mentioned earlier, humans have a fundamental need to belong, and while, with our leads, we use interpersonal communication to satisfy that need to belong, we are human too—and it can still hurt when there is little or no relational feedback. But remember: although we don’t know what prompted them to make a request for a Bible study and then not respond to you, we do know that they expressed a clear interest in learning more about God or the Bible. It’s important to remember that unless someone asks you to quit contacting them, they are not a lost opportunity.
Continue to show them that you and the Bible are a source of Good News and encouragement. You never know when they will be ready to finally take that step, so it’s important you are there when they are ready, and that they know they can come back to you—even if they ghosted you for a while.
Remember, this is a very normal part of the process. These interests signed up to receive a Bible study; they may be intimidated with a conversation. However, by prayerfully and carefully engaging with each person, you can be a bridge to connection and God’s love. When they decide to cross that bridge is between them and the Holy Spirit, it‘s just our job to keep it open.
How to build a long-term communication strategy
So, how do we help keep that bridge open and help them move from interested to invested? We build a long-term communication strategy. Let’s look at a few factors to consider as you develop a plan that works for your church.
Some requests will be from dedicated Christians that want to dig deeper into their understanding of God, while others may have just suffered a tragedy or hurt that has compelled them to look to God for the very first time. Remember: Humanize the numbers and understand these are real people behind each lead and it will help us to be understanding of each person, whether they respond right away or not.
Every request is valuable. It’s true, that not all leads will turn into studies, but at one point that person took the time to give their personal information in exchange for an offer to study the Bible. This will provide understanding & should also encourage us to continue to reach out in meaningful ways.
The key to success is a combination of prayer and a communication strategy. One answer comes from the brand-loyalty best practices found in the business world:
The corporate world knows that once someone gets on their interest list, it requires reaching out multiple times in order to build a connection. The data suggest that number is an average of 8. That means that you need to reach out to your interest list an average of 8 times, with something that they find important or interesting (not something we find important or interesting.) Remember the need for energy conservation? Messages that are encouraging and uplifting will fill their energy, and you want that associated with your team and, more importantly, the Bible.
Here are 4 easy things you can apply to your long-term communication strategy to help build connections:
- Try a weekly inspirational text.
Text messages are quick and have a 98% open rate. What if you sent a text every Friday to your interest list? What if every inspiration contained a positive message, drove people to read their Bibles, and invited people to reach back to your ministry team? That is a low energy ask, with a high value reward of hope and connection. Text messaging is easy within InterestTracker,… [SARAH: You can do this by email, or by text in Interest Tracker. You can send a bulk message to your entire list, sort it by those who have requested Bible studies, or individually.]
- Create a mental anchor.
You want to start your communications the same way each time. Using a short, consistent phrase at the beginning of your communications creates familiarity with what it is and who it is coming from. We use “God cares” because it is short, meaningful, and matches an ad campaign that seems to really resonate with people across the country.
- Be an inspiration.
The feel of your communication should always be one that speaks into a person’s life. This is not the time for teaching or correcting. Again, you want to show them that the Bible and your team are a positive, uplifting addition in their life.
- Always end with a call-to-action (connection)
By encouraging a reply to your communication, you give your reader permission to start or continue engaging in a conversation. “Need prayer?” is a short and easy way to invite a response, and again, keeps the focus of the conversation on your interest. Remember: Communication then bonding leads to belonging.
Have you seen our brand-new “InterestGenerator Team Guide”?
If you haven’t seen our new Team Guide, please check it out. Over the last few years we’ve run over 250 campaigns, helping churches connect with over 25,000 people in their community. Partnering with these churches, hearing the successes and struggles, has helped us gather real-world data from the field and we’ve compiled the information into a team guide to create best practices and tips for building real connections as you engage with your leads. A lot of what we just covered is listed in this booklet. Plus, we have scripts to help with initial contact. If you haven’t gotten one yet, you can request one at the link on the slide, which will also include in the chat system.
Larry: That’s our webinar for today! My goal today was to help inspire and equip you with ways you can work with your team as they communicate with your interest list, turning a list of leads into relationships. Some things we covered today:
- We looked at the big picture: community, individual relationship, and interactions to build that relationship. Or flipping that around: communicate, bond, belong.
- We went over InterestGenerator and how that program works.
- We shared ways to help your team stay organized and on top of new requests with the InterestTracker software.
- We discussed methods to increase effective communication with your leads.
- We went over a few key things you can apply to your long-term strategy as you reach out to leads at every stage along their journey.
The SermonView crew would love to support your next outreach event, or help you find people in your community ready to study the Bible. We have a passion for ministry, and we’re nerds for marketing, and we’d love an opportunity to share more about how we can bring value to your church outreach. If you don’t already have an InterestGenerator Lead Campaign going with us and you’d like to learn more about what it can do for your church, contact us today.
Hall, J. A., & Davis, D. C. (2017). Proposing the communicate bond belong theory: Evolutionary intersections with episodic interpersonal communication. Communication Theory, 27(1), 21-47. https://doi.org/10.1111/comt.12106