If your church is hosting a trunk-or-treat (or fall festival or whatever you call your Halloween alternative) event, following up with the guests who show up is the key to success. As I’ve been talking to pastors the past few days, the overwhelming question has been, “What’s the most effective way to use email to follow up with people who attend the event?” Below are a few tips…
There’s nothing wrong with hosting a fall event with the sole purpose of serving your community (and NOT getting people to eventually come back to your church). However, if your strategy is to use your event to get people to eventually check out your church, you have to collect their info.
It’s amazing to me how many churches in general, but especially at special events, don’t develop creative ways to collect people’s contact information. You can’t follow up with folks to eventually invite them back if you don’t get their info. There are lots of good ways to do this at a fall event, for example:
- Do a giveaway (make sure it something compelling like an Amazon Echo, Apple Watch, etc.) and have people register to win. If you set it up where someone doesn’t have to be present to win, it gives you a good excuse to get an email address so you can contact the winner.
- Give away concessions (think hotdog and a drink) and ask folks to quickly register (name and email address only) to get their ticket or wristband for concessions.
- Have a photo booth with hay bales and corn stalks set up where you can take a free family photo. Ask people to give you their email address so you can send them their photo. If you take this approach, you might choose to manually send Email 1 from below (instead of using an automatic send) to thank them for attending and attach their photo.
Once you have their contact info, I recommend sending an email sequence to provide value to folks who attended. The ultimate, long-term, goal is to build a relationship where you have credibility and permission to tell folks about your church but DO NOT do this in the initial follow-up emails you send.
Add the emails to a segmented list (avoid the temptation to add them to your normal church email list/database) where you can send them targeted content based on what you know about them (i.e. they are a family, they are likely to go to a community event, etc.).
An email sequence, if you’re not familiar with them, is a series of emails that automatically send at regularly-scheduled intervals when you add an email to the list. You can easily set these up in MailChimp and, for following up on your fall event, I recommend sending one email immediately, then an email once a week following the initial send.
Here is an example of six value-add emails you could send:
Email 1: A super-short email that simply thanks folks for attending. You might want to include one line that tells folks you’re going to send them five more emails that might be helpful to their family. Let them know they can unsubscribe at any time (by giving them this permission, you’ll show that you’re trying to be helpful and not pushy). Again, resist the urge to talk about your church in this email; make it about them, not you!
Email 2: Find another community event that they might enjoy and tell them about it. It there a community fall festival in your area? Or, perhaps you can provide a list of pumpkin farms and corn mazes in your area.
Email 3: By the time you send this email, Thanksgiving will be close by. Send an email with “Six Ways to Make Thanksgiving More Meaningful for Your Family.” Include tips such as “as you enjoy Thanksgiving dinner, make a list of all the things your family is thankful for,” or, “make this year’s Thanksgiving Day a no-device zone.” Again, resist the urge to make this over-spiritual. You might also include a list of area Thanksgiving Day parades or other activities folks can do on Thanksgiving.
Email 4: This email could be something simple like a generic “Top 10 Parenting Tips” or something similar. Make sure it’s valuable to them and not about you (it’s okay to include a few spiritual tips such as, ‘find a good church with a good children’s program,’ but avoid making this list too churchy). Basically, by this point, you’re just wanting to keep your name in front of them by continuing to provide them value. Feel free to get creative with this email.
Email 5: If you time your emails just right (a week apart, beginning after Halloween), you should be getting close to Christmas. Use this email as a chance to give folks something like “Five Ways to Avoid Christmas Gift Overload.” Again, make this a practical piece—not a spiritual brow-beating—where you help families navigate the pressure to go overboard. Perhaps you introduce them to the 4 Christmas Gift Challenge (1. Something they want, 2. Something they need, 3. Something to wear, and 4. Something to read).
Email 6: For this email, it’s time to start introducing your church. However, avoid simply making this a pitchy piece inviting people to church. Instead, make an introductory statement like, “If you’ve enjoyed these emails, we’d love to introduce you to our children’s ministry.” Then, explain the benefits of your children’s programming (talk about how it’s fun, safe, etc.). Introduce your children’s ministry staff (with photos) and let people know what they can expect when they arrive (children’s check-in process, etc.). If you can get these families to bring their children to check out your children’s ministry, you stand a great chance at getting the adults to attend your worship service and have a great shot at getting guests from your fall event to your church.
- Make sure your church’s web address is in the footer of the email in case someone wants to find out more about you on their own.
- Think about some on-ramp events or programs you can invite people to with a seventh email. Financial Peace University or a Family Life Marriage event or something similar is a great option.
- If you’ve done this email sequence really well, you’d probably have the psychological permission to send an eighth email inviting these families to your Christmas services.
- In the final email you send (sixth, seventh, or eighth email), include a single line at the end that says “This is the last Trunk-or-Treat follow-up email we’ll be sending you. If you’ve enjoyed this valuable content and would like to add your name to our main church email list, click here [with a link to join your main list].”
- Use an email system, such as MailChimp, that helps you follow the CAN-SPAM laws.
Bonus Tip: Black Friday Childcare
One church I know of does a follow-up event to their trunk-or-treat event called “Parents Shopping Night Out” where they allow parents to drop off kids at the church so they can get their Christmas shopping done without the kids in tow. Make sure you require pre-registration (so you can make sure you have a safe environment with enough volunteers). Offer the kids a snack, a few games, and maybe a movie for them to watch. It’s a huge service to parents and it introduces them, as well as the kids, to your church’s children’s ministries. If you’re going to do this type of event, have a flyer and registration system available at your Trunk-or-treat to let people know about it.