If people don’t want to invite their friends to your church… then they won’t.
But, let’s just assume that the people in your church do want to invite people to your church. There are just a few things that might make that difficult for them… obstacles in the way. How do you empower the personal invite to be as effective and powerful and easy as possible? That’s exactly what we want to talk about today:
Maximizing the Personal Invite
Think through what has to happen when someone wants to invite their friends to your church:
They’re going to have to be in conversation with that friend, and they will have to say:
- “Hey, you should come to my church.”
- “It’s such and such church.”
- “It’s at such and such time.”
- “It’s at such and such location.”
There’s a lot of information that has to cross the gap for them to actually accept that invitation and respond to it.
One of the easiest and simplest ways to empower that personal invite is simply to have an invite card. That may seem obvious, but we’ve seen a certain kind of card that works better than others.
You might be tempted to think, “Oh, I want that invite card to be big,” and there’s some psychology to that. A bigger thing actually does make a bigger impact on your brain. But it doesn’t work if your people don’t have those cards with them because they were too big to fit in their pocket. It doesn’t have to be very big to be too big to fit in their pocket – maybe even pocket size is not a good idea.
I would say wallet size or sized to put in a certain pouch in a purse could be a better idea. I like the business-card sized invite because if it will fit in my wallet, it would fit in yours and it would fit in my wife’s. It would fit in anyone’s and what’s important about that is then it’s handy when the conversation happens in the grocery store or at work or at the gym or at a friend’s house. When the conversation shifts to being interested in attending church or what’s going on at church, you can say, “Hey, in fact, here’s an invite. You’d be welcome.” It just makes that conversation much less awkward when it can go, “Oh yeah, I’m doing this at church. Hey! You should come. Here’s a card.” Then they can keep talking about the event because all of the ins and outs are on the card.
If it is, in fact, business-card size, then your person is more likely to have some with them. Maybe they keep a few in their wallet and they hand it to their invitee on the spur of the moment. The invitee doesn’t have to hold it and carry it around with them because it’s too big. They can put it in their pocket and take it out at the end of the day. Perhaps it winds up on their nightstand or dresser and they keep seeing it up until Sunday when they might actually respond to it thinking, “Oh, yeah. I said I would come.”
The invite should have a landing page or website address on it, because no matter what, they’re going to go there first before making a decision. That’s another complete subject about the importance of a very clear website that’s designed with that user in mind, targeted for the person who’s been invited so it converts them from just being interested into trying a visit. We’ve talked about that before.
Sometimes for events people want a little bit bigger item, maybe something more ticket-size. However, here’s another tool I think is a great idea that we’ve seen work and I don’t think there’s a lot of people doing it right now. Create a postcard for that event, whether it is Easter, a sermon series, summertime, or Christmas. Design it as a postal-legal postcard having the correct format, the right amount of blank space for the stamp and for the address, etc. Then hand them out to your people unaddressed, unwritten, for them to stamp, address and write a personal invite to a friend who should come and attend that outreach.
There are so many beautiful things about this. First, it’s a personal invite and carries all of that power. We’ve seen it work very powerfully. You give that to your people, and they send it to their people who will come to the event because of that personal connection.
People often want to do a big mailer. That is expensive and it takes a lot of time. In fact, if you’re reading this right now thinking, “How do I promote for Easter?” Well, you’re probably out of time if you want to do a mailer.
But there may still be time to do a personal invite postcard. It can be simple. Maybe your is design on one side and the other side is blank for someone to write in that message. Since it’s a postcard rather than a full letter, the message can be a lot smaller and easier to write.
You could offer to pay for the stamp, if you had the budget to spend on marketing it that way. When your people are given a blank postcard with a stamp already on it, they are more likely to feel obligated to mail it to someone.
Here’s the goal for the personal invite, whether it is handed to them or they get it in the mail. Right when you say, “Would you like to come to our church?” and the person you said that to looks at the card says, “Oh, I’ve heard of you,” while they’re thinking, “I’ve heard of this. I’ve seen this,” that’s when you know you’re dialing in on a saturation marketing and branding campaign in your community. People have seen you.
There are many ways to create that saturation such as using social media and other tools, but there is one method in particular that I want to point out that I have seen work well and that is the billboard.
How to use a billboard
The design of a billboard has to be different than the design of an invite card. When you do a billboard, you think of it as huge and it is physically. But in terms of functionally sending a message, it is very small. Let me explain: the message on a billboard is a tiny little blip that someone drives by with just seconds to process. But if it’s on their commute, they see it and they see it and they see it and they see it, over and over again. It may not register very large in their brain until they talk to that friend who says, “Come with me to such and such church.” Their response is, “Oh yeah, I’ve seen that.”
What we’ve seen as another major benefit of the billboard is it empowers that personal invite. Your people will be excited, too. “Wow! We’re on a billboard.” That was really the most surprising thing for us when we were marketing our own church plant. When we bought time on a digital billboard, (which meant we could change it out as many times as we wanted) ours was one of eight panels in a rotation. We had a great response from that, but the response wasn’t just a throng of people coming into the service. We were shocked that it was our people who got so excited because they now felt we were legitimate. We were on a billboard! “I saw your billboard! I saw your billboard!” That empowered them. They got excited because they could see it out in the world big and bold. They started taking those invite cards we had printed and putting them in their wallet. They started writing the postcards and started taking the postcards around to area businesses. The response over and over when they would invite someone was, “Oh, I’ve seen you guys.” We would ask where they saw us, but often they couldn’t remember where they saw us. What was important was they said, “We’ve seen you before.” We knew it was because of that digital billboard.
You know that marketing principal, right? People have to encounter your brand and your marketing multiple times before they feel they’re ready to make a decision. That number of times is different for different people in different contexts, but the billboard increases that level of acceptance in a big way.
However, advertisement is only going to highlight what’s already happening at your church. If your people don’t want to invite their friends, you can have the best-looking billboard in town and the most beautiful invite cards but… they’re still not going to invite their friends.
Advertisement can accelerate a good marketing campaign, but a good campaign depends on building a great platform for that good old word-of-mouth. You’re never going to get away from word-of-mouth. It is still going to be the most powerful way to increase attendance, but you as a leader with a little bit of budget and a little bit of strategy can create a really dynamic platform for the word-of-mouth that’s already occurring naturally.
One of the ways to use those invites we mentioned is to get into the habit of handing out the postcards or invites after the service. We would have people standing at the doors as you walk out. “Here’s an invite card about the next sermon series. It’s a business card you can put in your wallet.” There are some people who say, you’re throwing away a couple hundred of those cards. That’s a waste of money. It only costs around $40 to print a thousand and maybe like $70 to print 2500. If we get some put into play that actually work, it’s worth throwing away a couple hundred. You don’t just hand them out to create a culture that says to attend here. The idea is to empower your people to invite other people to attend here. That’s not something you can do by just pushing ads or pushing marketing. It takes a combined strategy of event planning, marketing and empowerment.
One thing we would do is plan what we called “Wow” factors. This is just something in the series or in the service every single week that would create intrigue, something unexpected with a “Wow” moment for the service. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. We’ve talked about this before, as well.
I always use the Strange Donuts Sunday as an example. “…and next week be sure to come back. We’ll have bacon maple flavored doughnuts from Strange Doughnuts.”
It just needs to be enough to help nudge someone in the right direction. They’re talking to their friend. They want to invite them but now they’ve got this extra little thing they can throw in the mix. “Oh, you should come. We’re going to have bacon maple doughnuts next Sunday. You should come and try one.”
When you create intriguing things that maybe haven’t been done in other churches, whether it’s doughnuts or a different music, you’re doing one more thing to help empower the invitation. When I say different music, I know many churches have done special music to create interest. We weren’t the ones who came up with that idea, but maybe it’s a secular song done with some scripture overlay or something similar that just makes it more interesting to hear.
We did a series on “The Doors” where we used the song “Break on Through to the Other Side” to create interest. What it does is it provides something else to talk about with their friends other than just, “You should come and see our church.” Instead it’s, “We had doughnuts,” or “We watched this video,” or “You wouldn’t believe the music…we did this one song that you would never think would be good in a church, but boy, it really was…” It just sets your church, your ministry, apart from others… apart from what other people think would be happening in church.
Then when that person who’s talking about it happens to have that business-card size invite handy, the invite conversation just naturally happens. What you’ve done is built a platform for that word-of-mouth advertising to be super effective. You have empowered the invitation.
We know this is a handful of ideas, some of which you may be already using, but we love to share great ideas. Maybe you’ve got other great ideas that the whole church needs to know about. Please let us know what you are doing to empower the personal invite, how you are empowering your people to go invite their friends. We’d love to hear all about it.