Free Email Marketing for Churches and How to do it right!

churchbuzz Church Websites

Note:  This article has been refreshed as of January 24, 2012.  We added our new preferred Email Marketing vendor for 2012 – MailChimp!

Why does our church need email marketing services?

Email marketing services provide the ability to send out your weekly church news and your monthly newsletter to your congregation via email.  Some advantages to using a service that specializes in this are:

  • They maintain all the email servers
  • They maintain the email lists and allow you to organize your list into multiple categories if desired
  • You can integrate their email list signup form right on your website
  • They have a vested interest in making sure your email gets delivered (they fight to stay off spam lists and blacklists)
  • They typically offer very user friendly tools to format and send your email newsletter
  • They track (see Commandment #10 🙂 everything about your email – how many were delivered, how many were opened, which links were clicked – which users opened the email, clicked on links, etc!

So how to get started?

There are a number of companies that offer these services.  You can check them out by searching Google for “email marketing“.  We have used the following companies and highly recommend either one:

  • MailChimp – our #1 choice for email marketing in terms of functionality but also they will host your email list for FREE – up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month
  • Constant Contact – one of the market leaders, but functionality not as robust as MailChimp
  • Vertical Response – they offer a VERY attractive package for non-profits – up to 10,000 emails per month!  They functionality of Vertical Response is second to Constant Contact.

At ChurchBuzz, we have settled on using MailChimp as our platform for the following reasons:

  • FREE email services up to 2,000 subscribers – this will more than cover most of our church clients.  Once you exceed 2,000 users, their paid options start at just $30/month.
  • Blog / RSS to Email service – this fits in perfectly with our setup and creation of blogs on  your church website.  People can subscribe to be notified when there is a new blog post and then these get automatically emailed out to subcribers.
  • Robust API – Mailchimp has robust API that allows us to do any future integrations we want to do as programmers
  • Integrations with third party systems – Mailchimp provides integrations with Google Analytics, Facebook, Twitter,
  • And a whole lot more.  We spent a week evaluating different systems and feel that MailChimp is the best email system out there.

Other Options

So, there are other options to using a service like this.  You could:

  • Manage all the email addresses in Outlook with a custom “group” and send out the email directly through your Outlook.  Here are some of the cons to this approach:
    • What if your computer / Outlook crashes?  Will you lose your email list?
    • What if the person who manages this is out sick – will the email still go out?
    • How much time does this person spend adding/removing people from the email list?
    • Also, it is harder to keep a consistent look and feel to all emails.
  • Manage all the email addresses in a GMail / Yahoo web-based email account.  There are some cons to this approach as well.
    • Same as Outlook in terms of time spent managing the list, but at least you won’t lose these if your computer or Outlook crashes.
    • No scheduling of emails
  • Create a PDF of your hard-copy newsletter and email this out to everyone, or put the PDF on the website and then send everyone a link to this.  PLEASE do not do this!  You will have no idea if anyone ever reads the newsletter.  Some people won’t have the Adobe Reader installed, etc.

How to do Email Newsletters Correctly

Here is our current strategy on how we best like to do email newsletters for churches.

  1. Use an email marketing firm.  See above.
  2. Create an email template to maintain a consistent look and feel and one that is branded to use the same logo, look and feel as your website, letterhead, business cards, etc.
  3. If possible, put all the content for the items in your Email Newsletter on your website FIRST and then give a short headline, a line or two summary and then LINK the newsletter to your website.  Your website should be main ANCHOR for all your content!  (See commandment #4)

If your church needs help getting started, feel free to contact me!  We would be glad to help!

Patrick Steil