If you’ve caught wind of any of the latest church digital trends within the last couple of years, you’ve no doubt heard of the Plan a Visit strategy for your church website.
You may wonder if any of these trends and strategies actually work — perhaps they even seem gimmicky — and I wouldn’t necessarily argue with you.
The reason these tactics seem gimmicky is that so many churches employ these tactics, trends and strategies as, well, gimmicks. And by gimmick, I mean a quick and surface fix that doesn’t address the actual purpose behind the tactic that makes the tactic useful, to begin with.
What Causes Plan a Visit for Your Church Website NOT to Work?
Plan a Visit for your church website doesn’t work when it is employed as just a button or a quick page added to your website.
What Causes Plan a Visit for Your Church Website TO Work?
Plan a Visit for your church website works when it is employed as a strategy to connect with website visitors before they even step foot inside the building.
What you’re actually doing is creating a way to start a one-on-one relationship with a potential visitor, right from the get-go and cutting through the anonymity from the web browser.
Not every website visitor will want to signup for a planned visit and that’s okay. You need different hooks to catch different types of fish. The strategy will even work better in certain locations and with certain demographics than others. But what this provides is another avenue to connect. There are plenty of individuals who are just looking for a nudge in a particular direction and having someone who can point the way can go a long way. Don’t forget that the thought of visiting a new church for the first time can be daunting.
Key Components to Make the Plan a Visit Strategy for Your Church Website Work
If Plan a Visit is a strategy that you are looking to employ, make sure that you consider the following key components.
1. The Call to Action
A website Call to Action is simply a part of a webpage where you nudge a visitor towards taking a particular action. For example, for your Plan a Visit call to action you could say something like:
We’d love to have you join us this Sunday
Button Text: Plan a Visit
Here are some examples of great Call to Actions.
2. Plan A Visit Page & Form
When a website visitor clicks on Plan a Visit, it should open a page that includes a form where the individual can provide their information and let you know they’re coming. Don’t collect too much information here. Stick to the necessary fields like: Name, Phone, Email.
3. Automated Workflows and Responses
There should be an automated response to any signups that come in. I recommend using text messaging for your primary form of communication for this rather than email. In general, text messages see a much, much higher open rate than emails.
The Text In Church application does this part well. While there are definitely features that Text In Church leaves wanting, they have a great flow/funnel template set up for automated responses for Plan a Visit signups. If you’re looking to get set up quickly with a Plan A Visit system and don’t have existing SMS communication tools set up for your church, Text In Church is a decent place to start.
Subsequent messages in your workflow after a signup should include things like:
a) Your service locations
b) Your service times
c) Parking instructions
d) Brief info on childcare, etc.
Send reminders the day before and the morning of. And most importantly, make sure you are checking for replies and have a way to reply if an individual sends you a message!
5. Be Ready on Sunday
Once Sunday morning comes along, make sure you’re ready!
Give your Welcome Center volunteers a list of individuals who Planned a Visit. Make sure the individuals feel welcome and like they were expected.
6. Follow Up
This is one of the most important parts – follow up. This goes a long with with new visitors and is a great opportunity to show that you care about the individual.
Make sure you follow up with everyone who showed up.
You also have a great opportunity to follow up with anyone who didn’t show up. Or perhaps they just didn’t check in and they ended up sneaking in and sneaking out. This is a chance to engage personally and put a warm touch on things.
Overall, when employing a strategy like this for your site, the main objective is to transform a digital experience into a human experience. Connecting with a potential visitor before they step foot in your church can go a long way with beginning a relationship with that individual and can easily be the deal breaker that sets your church apart.
With all that being said, if you have any questions about how to set up your website with the Plan a Visit strategy or you’d like help doing so — I’d love to help. Schedule a Free Church Web Strategy Call for a brief one-on-discussion around your current website and various strategies that can help you increase your online reach.