In Part One: Beginner’s Guide to Selecting an Email Platform, we learned that email is one of the most widely used forms of communication because it’s easy, affordable, and convenient. We also discussed which features you should be looking for when choosing an email provider for your church.
In case you missed part one, go ahead and check it out, because today we’ll be building on everything we learned in that post.
We’ll take this topic a step further to discuss the best email providers for churches and how to use them to effectively communicate with your community.
Does my church need to use an email platform?
Back in the dark ages of email communication, if you wanted to send an email to a mass audience, you’d have to manually type in each recipient’s email address as a carbon copy (CC) or blind carbon copy (BCC).
Talk about time consuming.
Now, this method is fine for sending emails to a handful of recipients, but it’s certainly not efficient for a large email list.
That’s why email platforms are so convenient and effective.
They are essentially a database that stores your email lists and copies of the emails you send.
Instead of having to add each recipient’s name to an email you want to send, you’ll simply use an email list. This gives you the option of sending messages to a large amount of recipients without everyone seeing who else received the email. An email list is a great way to protect your members’ privacy while keeping the message personalized.
Plus, email platforms usually come with a helpful dashboard and tools that give you insights on how your emails are performing. We’ll discuss the performance aspect a bit later.
For now, just know that email platforms not only make your job easier, but they can also make communicating with your community much more streamlined and successful.
So to answer the first question: yes, your church should be using an email platform.
We discussed how to find the best email platform for your church and what features to look for in Part One, so today we’ll be skipping ahead to my top picks for your church to use.
Top Email Platforms for Churches
I mentioned two email platforms specifically in part one of our article, so I’ll quickly summarize their benefits here.
MailChimp is one of the most commonly used email platforms because it’s easy to use and affordable.
With their free startup plan, you can have as many as 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month. For a small church, this is a great place to start. And when it comes to scaling up for larger churches, the options are still affordable. The growing business plan costs $25 per month and lets you send an unlimited amount of emails to your list of 2,000 subscribers.
MailChimp also gives you:
- A free image library
- Email templates (that are mobile friendly, too!)
- Sign up forms (perfect for event sign ups and volunteering)
This platform is reliable and makes it simple for anyone to get started with email communications.
My third favorite platform to use is Benchmark.
Benchmark combines all of the features found in MailChimp and Constant Contact and provides additional ones such as chat support and social media marketing.
Plus, Benchmark has free and annual plans to choose from.
What I like most about Benchmark is the super easy-to-use media editor. You can quickly add your own videos and images in just a few minutes. Now, that’s not to say MailChimp or Constant Contact are difficult, but the updated editor in Benchmark just happens to be one of my favorites.
How to Use Your Email Platform Effectively
As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, email platforms help you communicate effectively with your church community. But in order to do this, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Segment Your Email List
Since we all get inundated with emails on a daily basis, it’s important to target your message in each email and send it only to those recipients who the message is intended for, not everyone.
One way to do this—like we talked about in our volunteering example—is to segment your email list.
This is essentially creating new email lists based off your primary one.
It may take your team a few extra minutes to do, but it will be worth the effort.
Some examples of how to segment your email list are creating separate groups for:
- Volunteering updates
- Youth program announcements
- Mission trip attendees
- Event organizers
These mini lists don’t have to be huge; in fact, they should and will be much smaller than your main one.
The point is to use your main email list for general announcements that apply to the community as a whole and targeted, or segmented lists, for announcements specific to a small group of individuals.
Familiarize Yourself with Email Tracking
Most email providers now come with a dashboard that measures the performance of your emails.
Without getting into anything complicated, the performance basically measures your emails’:
- open rate (how many recipients opened the email)
- bounce rate (how many email addresses were incorrect)
- link success (if the recipient clicked on any of your links, images, or attachments. Also often called click-through rate.)
These important insights can help you modify your communication to better engage your community moving forward.
For example, if your recipients aren’t opening their emails (a low open rate is a red flag for this), then you may not be sending emails that pertain to them. That’s where segmenting your list can be helpful.
If your emails are being kicked back with an error (high bounce rate), it’s a sign that your community is either giving you incorrect email addresses or using outdated or inaccessible email addresses. Or maybe whoever is in charge of inputting the email addresses is having trouble entering them correctly.
The links and images being clicked on give your team a clue as to what your users are actually interested in. Are they clicking on links related to videos, or are they more likely to open links to your latest blog posts?
Since each platform is different, you’ll want to check with your email provider to learn what metrics you can use moving forward. You may only need a 30-minute session to learn everything your email provider can do, but it will help you tremendously in the long run.
Personalization is Important
The last tip to get you started has to do with personalization.
We all receive emails meant for a large audience instead of us specifically. These are never fun. Those in your church community shouldn’t feel like just another person in a large crowd. They should feel as if you’re directing the information specifically to them.
One way to do this is by using the feature in your email platform that will automatically input your recipient’s name in the greeting. This way the email feels as if it’s addressed to each individual person in your community. It takes a small amount of time to set up, but it’s another feature that is well worth the effort.
Spend some time checking out the three I’ve listed above, and don’t forget to keep these helpful tips in mind before you send out any emails to your church community.