How We Marketed Christmas 2014 at Severn Run in Print

UPDATE: I made some changes (2/2/15) in the results section after I realized that despite my husband's help, I still wasn't asking the right math questions. #embarrassing

We did something crazy for Christmas 2014 at Severn Run: 3 high-invite events. It felt crazy, but it’s what God was calling us to do. We hosted a concert event featuring our in-house band, The Worship Tribe, an all out Christmas Party to encourage connection between our folks, and then our traditional Christmas Eve Service to be the cherry on top of it all.

As you can imagine, marketing these things in conjunction with one another while giving the proper justice to each event in itself was a challenge. Add that to a tiny budget, and you’ve got an even bigger challenge.

Here is what worked best for us in print this season:

Ultimate Invite Packs

I absolutely love (no they did not pay me for this endorsement...I wish). They make getting high quality print work ultra cheap, and it’s fantastic. Because of this amazing and affordable resource we chose to create an invite card for each event, each one a different size (based on our emphasis: connection). I made the highest return event (our Christmas party) the largest card, and our lowest return event (Christmas Eve) the smallest in order to make them easily distinguishable for Severn Runners.

Ordering cards is easy, but the distribution strategy is where a lot of churches get hung up. In many cases, print ends up being a waste of money because we aren't sure about the best way to get these materials into the hands of potential guests. This is where your congregation is key. We have the best core at Severn Run. The folks who are committed are die hard and all about our vision and reaching our community for Jesus which makes them our greatest resource. I bet you have a great core of people too. Know that they love your church, and they are looking for easy ways to invite people to experience it with them. Use your congregation as a resource!

Ok, you probably knew that, but how do you get them to participate and participate well? To make it simpler on our crowd, we took 10 of each of these cards and bundled them together with a packet of hot chocolate, one of our handy Severn Run 2.0 (brand building campaign) stickers, and a Livestrong style bracelet with our outreach phrase “Go After” printed on it. We called these bad boys the “Ultimate Christmas Invite Packet." We put these packets in our Atrium in a little area we call the Serving Spot, and the Creative Team manned this station for 5 weeks. Each time a member of Severn Run came up for a packet, my team gave them tips on how to best distribute the cards and how to talk about each event in a compelling, connecting, relational way.

Here's why this was helpful. It kept our over-zealous from grabbing up 1000 cards that they would not be able to effectively hand out without tossing 10+ cards on a Starbucks table. It also challenged the shy to take on a manageable, but impactful amount of cards. And it gave the lazy a break from counting. We also print these cards to be handed to individuals in the form of a personal invitation, because that is the most effective way to use print materials, which is why we had Creative Team members manning the Serving Spot. Their helpful tips gave people the confidence to strike up conversations with their oldest friend and the guy who rings up their groceries.

Finally, we issued a challenge from stage. Hear me when I say this: at Severn Run, stage time is now sacred. You only get on stage if you can engage 80+% of our congregation. So whatever is said up there is really important and our folks know it. So from stage, we told them how many packets we had (250) and how quickly we wanted them out in our community (4 weeks). This put the responsibility into a lot of hands, with a deadline. I’m so pleased and proud to say that all 250 packets were gone after week 2 of packet promo. And that's only because we told people what was important, why it was important, and how to get the job done. The math tells me that potentially 7,500 cards were out in our community beckoning folks to our events.

You might be thinking to yourself, "Well that's nice and all, but that's impossible at my church." Keep in mind, we are a congregation of 1000 (1100 on a good day) and we are putting out 7 times that in invite cards...all for under $700. Scale to fit your needs, set goals that are achievable (or just over achievable + a lot of prayer) for your church, and then watch how well this works for you!

Our results*:

  • For our Christmas Concert 1133 people attended, compared to the 1046 in 2013 (8.3% increase)

  • At our Christmas Party 1049** people attended, compared to 845 in 2013*** (24.1% increase)

  • At our Christmas Eve Services 1167 people attended, compared to 1104 in 2013 (5.7% increase)

  • For some perspective: Our 2014 average attendance 1046.31, our 2013 average attendance 988.58 (5.8% increase)

Let's do a little comparison here. The average return on a direct mail campaign is anywhere between 0.5%-2%, and direct mail is much more expensive than our Ultimate Invite Pack Campaign. We saw an average increase of 11.8% across our three Christmas events from our print campaign alone. That's a return of 4.7% on our printed card campaign. For the less math inclined, for every 100 cards distributed 5 first time guests walked through our doors, compared to the 1 or 2 people per 100 invites that would have attended due to a direct mail campaign. (We did a small amount of Social Media marketing, but not enough to those outside of our audience to be measurable).

As you can see, the events that we emphasized more with the card size and spoken influence from stage, saw a greater increase than our Christmas Eve Services (which we emphasized the least of the three). All in all, it was a great Christmas season for us, and we are continuing to see the positive results of this season into 2015! Just today, I received our attendance numbers from Sunday only to see that we have had our second consecutive record breaking "normal" Sunday attendance at Severn Run! We are so excited to see God moving in our community and rewarding our financially responsible marketing strategies. He can work in your communities too as you do the best you can with the resources you have!

What are some affordable and effective print campaigns that you have done? Do you have anything in mind for marketing Easter 2015? Leave a comment and let's see if we can all bounce some ideas off of one another!

*Thanks to my awesome husband, Marc Mace, for all the math help. Thanks to him these numbers are mathematically sound.

**This number is a low estimate. Many folks never made it to the Worship Center for the abbreviated service and only participated in party activities. I later found out we only tracked attendance in the Worship Center which resulted in this low number.

***For our Christmas party week, the corresponding week in 2013 was a typical Sunday. No special events were promoted.