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Beginner’s Guide to Selecting an Email Platform

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Written by Andrew Peters

Jul 14, 2020

Finally, your website is the easiest part of your week.

When it comes to communication, emails and text messages are undoubtedly the preferred options these days. 

A recent Gallup study found that “Sending and receiving text messages is the most prevalent form of communication for Americans younger than 50.”

And for those 65 and older, “the most-used methods of communication are cell phones, landline phones and email.”

It’s no surprise that we’re seeing these kinds of statistics. Emails and text messages are easy, affordable, and convenient, which is why most of us use them on a regular basis.

Think about it. How easy is it to send an email or text message?

You just type your message and send away— if you’re coordinated you can even do this while walking or talking. Within a matter of minutes (depending on your connection, of course), your message is virtually hand delivered to your recipient without you ever having to step foot outside.

Talk about convenient!

But you can’t always use a text to convey your message, and this is especially true when communicating with a larger audience like your church community.

Texts are great for sending messages directly to your friends or family members, and they can even be great for small group chats, but they’re not exactly the best choice for speaking to a large group.

Here are just a handful of disadvantages to using text messages over emails:

  • Texts can be seen as intrusive since users are immediately alerted “at any time, during any activity”
  • Not everyone is signed up for a texting plan, and if your church member is not, it could cost them a small fee per message. And if their plan is limited, they could also be charged for going over.
  • Texts are difficult for back-and-forth correspondence: You can’t always refer back to them since some messages are automatically deleted after some time. Plus, you don’t have the option to search for a specific message you’re looking for like you can with email.
  • Lastly, it’s difficult to type out text messages and it’s even harder to send longer messages.

That’s why email reigns supreme as the best form of communication for sending a message to a larger audience.

In today’s article, we’ll be discussing the importance of email communication and I’ll show you how to choose the right platform for your church.

Benefits of Email Communication

Social media does a great job of making it easy to communicate with your church community, however it lacks the personalization that email offers.

On social media, your messages are more likely to be general and pertain to the community as a whole. That’s where personalized emails come to the rescue.

1. Personalized Messages

Emails are private and personal, yet the same message can be used for your entire audience. This makes email a convenient option for any busy team.

For example, using one of the popular email platforms, you can automatically input the recipient’s name into a message without someone from your team needing to physically type this information in for each person. 

Once you set up your contacts’ information, it will automatically personally address every email you send.

2. Cost-Effective Communication Method

Email platforms save your team from countless hours of sending individual messages to every member of your community, which helps save money as far as staffing is concerned. 

Plus, many of the platforms today make it extremely affordable to send as many emails as your church needs each month. When you compare this to the cost of printing and mailing paper flyers, your church could save a small fortune.

Harvard Business Review tells us that: “Direct mail costs more than $600 per thousand pieces. With email, there are almost no costs at all.”

3. Encourages Users to Take Action

Is your church looking for volunteers for your next event? Are you looking for suggestions for an upcoming outing?

Not only can emails provide valuable insight and feedback directly from your church community, but they can also be helpful for guiding community members to take action.

When you end your emails with a strong call to action, such as a ‘Sign Up Now’ button or a ‘Let Us Know Your Thoughts by Hitting Reply to this Email’, you’re more likely to get a response from your community.

Now that we know how helpful emails are, let’s take a look at how to select the best platform to suit your church’s needs.

How to Choose the Right Email Platform

Not all email platforms are free to use, but most options are still fairly affordable. 

That’s why you should check out the price breakdown for each platform before you sign up for one.

Check Out the Associated Costs

MailChimp—one of the most widely used platforms—offers a free startup plan that allows you to send 12,000 emails per month and gives you a limit of 2,000 subscribers. 

If your church needs to send more than 12,000 emails per month, you can bump up to their growing business plan which gives you an unlimited amount of messages for only $25 per month. 

You then have the option of increasing the number of subscribers from 2,000 to 2,500 for only $5 more a month, making this option $30 per month for up to 2,500 subscribers and an unlimited amount of emails.

Check Out the Features

Price should not be the only determining factor when selecting the email platform for your church.Tweet This

You’ll need to check out the features, too.

Do you have someone on your website team who can build emails using HTML or will you need a simple platform that can do this for you?

Questions like this one will give you an idea of how do-it-yourself you’ll need the program to be.

With MailChimp’s free version, you can choose from pre-made, responsive templates—meaning they’ll automatically adjust for any device your users are on— or use the drag and drop editor that inputs the coding for you.

Constant Contact offers you the same option of choosing pre-made templates, but it also gives you access to a nice image library.

You should also look at features such as automation, scheduling, and reporting that come with each platform. 

Automation is when your chosen platform sends emails automatically at a set time or as soon as a recipient performs a certain action. 

For example, let’s say a member clicks the sign up button at the end of your email. If you have an automated response set up, a thank you email would automatically be sent and may be customized to include important details about what to do next.

There’s also scheduling features to take note of. 

Does the email platform you’re considering give you the option of scheduling an email or do you have to send it right away? This can be a huge timesaver and will allow you to send emails even when you’re not working. 

The reporting feature is a bit more complex, but will prove to be very valuable in the long run. 

With this tool, you’ll be given stats about how your emails are performing and insights into numbers like your email open rates. If your church community isn’t opening your messages, you’ll know you need to make changes going forward.

In addition to these features, you’ll want to see what kind of support each platform offers. 

Are there how-to guides and support staff available should you need it?

Constant Contact and MailChimp both offer excellent support for beginners and advanced tips for those who have mastered the basics.

What About Scalability?

I briefly mentioned earlier that some providers charge you per subscriber while others charge you based on the amount of messages you send. Keep in mind that you want to make this decision based on your church’s future needs too, not just your immediate ones.

As your church community grows, you may not want to pay an additional $5 for each 500 members you add to your list. 

Check out how each platform scales before deciding that a platform is right for your church at this time. It can be a huge pain to switch providers later down the line, so by taking the time now, you’ll be saving headaches and excess work in the future. 

With that said, evaluate both your short and long-term needs before making a final decision. You can also choose basic options now that you can upgrade later down the line.

It’s easy to see that text messages should be kept for friends and family only, while emails are the best way to keep in touch with your growing church community. Emails are easy, affordable, and convenient— a must-have tool for any church in the modern age.

However, when it comes to choosing the right email platform for your church, there are a few tips to keep in mind. To learn more about my favorites, stay tuned for Part Two: Top Email Platforms for Churches & How to Use Them.

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