3 Advanced Email Marketing Strategies with Kevin Fontenot (PCP178)

Almost everyone has email, which is why it is still one of the best ways to connect with people. But how do you make the best of it? Kevin discusses email strategies that work.

00:00
September 5th, 2017

Kevin is the director of marketing at TrainedUp and a professional internetter. He joins us to discuss email marketing strategies to improve your church’s communication.

What’s In This Session?

  • Why email marketing is still one of the best ways to connect with your audience (8:30)
  • The starting point for email segmentation (11:01)
  • Best email marketing platforms (13:03)
  • Finding ways to segment your in-person congregation online (15:45)
  • Conditional formatting in a single email to make sure no one is receiving irrelevant content (19:76)
  • Re-sending emails with a different subject line to those who haven’t opened (22:53)
  • Writing better email subject lines (25:01)

Show Notes & Resources Mentioned

3 Instant Takeaways

    1. Time of day and frequency are not as important as segmentation. The first step in email marketing is to ensure the right people are getting the right message. By segmenting your email list you are better able to target groups of people and communicate in a more relevant way.
    2. Include conditional content in your emails. After segmenting your audience use this information to create emails that are targeted to each segment. Email newsletters often contain information that does not apply to the recipient, but using segmentation allows you to ensure that the content is relevant to each area of your audience.
    3. Resend emails with a different subject line to those who haven’t opened them. Different subject lines may capture different people’s attention. Using this tip will allow you to use your 2 best subject lines for each email.

The Full Transcript

Brady Shearer: This is the ProChurch Podcast, session number 178, “Three Advanced Email Marketing Strategies with Kevin Fontenot.”

Well, hey there, Pro Church Nation and welcome to the Pro Church podcast. You’re now part of a small group of pioneering churches doing everything we can to seize the 167 hours beyond our Sunday services. Why? Because we’re living through the biggest communications shift [00:00:30] in the last 500 years, and what got us here won’t get us there.

I’m Brady, your host. This is session number 178. You can find the show notes for this session at prochurchtools.com/178, and in this session of the podcast, we’re joined by Kevin Fontenot, discussing three advanced email marketing strategies, so let’s do it.

[00:01:00] Welcome back to another session of the Pro Church podcast. This is Brady, your host. Great to have you along for the ride with us. We like to start off each and every session of the Pro Church podcast by sharing with you a pro tip or a practical tool that you can begin using in your church or ministry right away.

With the proliferation of video on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram and YouTube, what we’ve begun to see [00:01:30] is the necessity for captions of video and transcriptions of words and video and audio formats. For the longest time … Let’s just say this: the technology of automated bot transcription has not been there yet. If you want to get a transcription that’s quality, that is without error, you’d want to use a platform such as Rev, rev.com, where it costs $1 per minute to have your audio [00:02:00] or video file professionally transcribed by someone who’s going to get it back to you within 1 to 24 hours. But, as technology becomes more and more smart, what we’re seeing is platforms such as Trint.com come out, where it costs maybe 12 to 20 cents per minute. So you’re looking at a fifth to a sixth of the price of having a person do it, and it’s ready within 5 to 10 minutes, instead of 5 to 10 hours, but it comes with errors. It’s being done by an automation, [00:02:30] by a bot, and so it comes to you and it’s not perfect. So you’ve still got to go over it afterwards and kind of work with the draft that you’ve been given.

I think Rev, which is the biggest company for transcriptions, is kind of starting to hedge their bets, because we know that eventually, tech and bots will get to a point where we don’t need humans to transcribe for us, and we’re going to get a transcription that’s 95, 96, 97, 98, 99 percent there, rather than something with a platform like Trint, which is maybe about 75% quality and still requires [00:03:00] significant human editing after the fact. But, Rev has released a new platform called temi.com, temi.com, that is basically a carbon copy of Trint. What it’s going to do is it’s going to give you a draft of your transcription, and it only costs 10 cents per minute, so it is ten times cheaper than paying rev.com to do it. Basically you upload your audio or video file and then what’s going to happen is the Rev transcription Temi-bot, [00:03:30] whatever it is, is going to add speaker designations, timestamps, and transcribe the entire file. But remember, this is just going to be a draft, so it’s going to be faster than Rev, but it’s also going to be less precise. So you’re going to have to go in after the fact and edit the draft, but it’s ten times cheaper.

So, we’re in this position right now were we use both Trint/we might start working with Temi if it’s great, which is the automated service, and we use Rev, which is the human service, and we use both in [00:04:00] tandem. Right now, we’re going through our back catalog of the Pro Church podcast, 200 sessions plus, and we’re getting transcriptions for each and every one. We’re not going to pay a dollar per minute for that. It would cost about $10,000 to get Rev to transcribe all of those. So we’re using Trint, which saving us six times that money, and then the Pro Church Tools team is going in after the fact and editing those drafts. But, when we’re releasing our new videos each and every week, we need those transcriptions perfect really quickly, and so we go [00:04:30] and we get Rev to do it, and we’ll gladly pay extra because it’s not in bulk. So we use both.

We’re in this point right now where there’s this tension between automation and humans and, eventually, the automation of transcription’s going to get there and we’re starting to see services like Trint and Temi that are getting close, but they’re not quite there yet. So, if you need something that’s ten times cheaper than a platform like Rev, where a human is going to get you 99% of the way there, and you’re okay with going in after the fact yourself and editing the draft, then something like temi.com [00:05:00] or trint.com will be something up your alley. But if you need something that’s perfect because you don’t want to do the time of going in and editing, it is a little bit time intensive after the fact, you might want to use something like rev.com, which can also give you captions, not just transcriptions.

So, just letting you know that the technology is changing and we’re in this kind of in-between period where you might need to use both, or neither, or one or the other, if you’re okay with the cons that come with each. You want perfection, it’s going to cost more. [00:05:30] You want not … You want to save money? Well, you’re going to have to get those imperfections. So, just be mindful of that, and feel free to try it out. Experiment what works best for you. Like I said, we’re using both platforms right now, and eventually we’ll begin using more the automated ones as they become better and better and better.

With that being said, we’re welcoming Keven Fontenot to the Pro Church podcast this week. Kevin, he defines himself as a professional Interneter. Trying to figure out the best way to say that. I think that ‘Professional Interneter’ [00:06:00] is a fun little title that he’s given himself, which is a recent rebrand that he’s been doing. He’s also the Director of Marketing over at trainedup.church. We had the founder of TrainedUp, Scott Magdalein, on the 100th session of the Pro Church podcast. Kevin works there as the Director of Marketing, and when you’re on the marketing director side of things, you’re doing a lot with email marketing, and that’s what Kevin’s here to talk about.

We talk about three advanced email marketing strategies. We talk about why email marketing is still one of the best ways to connect with your audience. [00:06:30] The starting point for email segmentation, and, like I said in the title of this podcast, this is advanced email stuff, so be prepared for drinking from a fire hose and some of that more in-depth type of content. We talk about the best email marketing platforms, finding ways to segment your in-person congregation online, conditional formatting in email marketing to make sure not one is receiving irrelevant content, resending emails with a different subject line to those who haven’t opened the original email, and finally, tips and tricks for writing [00:07:00] better email subject lines. So, lots of great stuff in this session of the Pro Church podcast with Kevin Fontenot.

We’ll be back in just a moment with my interview with Kevin!

Well, hey there, Pro Church Nation! Welcome back to another session of the Pro Church podcast. Today we are joined by Kevin Fontenot. Kevin, welcome to the show!

Kevin Fontenot: Thanks, Brady. Excited to be here.

Brady Shearer: It’s great to have you. If people are unaware of who you are, and what you do, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Kevin Fontenot: Yeah, absolutely. So I have one of those fancy job titles that I like to refer to myself as [00:07:30] a Professional Interneter. Most people would probably call me a digital marketing consultant, but I’ve worked in churches for a while. Currently serve as Director of Marketing at TrainedUp. Previously ran a couple of companies called Church Mediasaurus and Church Social Graphics, but now I’m doing some of my own stuff on the side instead.

Brady Shearer: I think that we had Scott Magdalein, the founder of TrainedUp, on the 100th episode of the Pro Church podcast, which was quite the honor for him to [00:08:00] be on that episode. Yes, that is correct, “The Art of Training Church Volunteers with Scott Magdalein,” session number 100, prochurchtools.com/100. Here you are on the 178th session, 78 sessions later, and one thing that I know that you’ve been working on as kind of like a … I don’t know if it’s a side hustle, or if it’s part of the professional interneter platform that you’re building … which is an email marketing course, which, despite anyone’s conceptions about email, email [00:08:30] is still one of the best ways to get in touch with an audience, whether it be your church, your organization, your congregation, whatever it might be. Can you talk a little bit about what you see as the value of email marketing in 2017, with the proliferation of social and stuff, why email is still valuable?

Kevin Fontenot: Yeah, absolutely. I was reading an article by Buffer earlier this week, which is big on social media, and they do lots of great stuff on social, where they’ve [00:09:00] completely reworked their entire philosophy on social media, where it’s less about getting conversions and making money on social media, but it’s more about branding now, just because of the overall reach. And how social is going it’s hard to still make an impact out there with social media, especially with the crowded landscape. But with email marketing, it’s something that hasn’t really gone downhill over the last 5, 10 years. It’s still a hugely valuable tool for all organizations, because the people that, email that you do have, they’re giving you permission to email them directly [00:09:30] into their inboxes.

Brady Shearer: Do you kind of predict email to slow down or experience any type of decline over the next 1, 2, 5 years?

Kevin Fontenot: In the immediate term, I don’t think so, just because we’re so reliant on email for anything, whether it’s communications … I mean, with the advent of Slack and Facebook Workplace, people are still relying on their email inboxes for just about everything when it comes to consuming content or interacting with business associates [00:10:00] or just interacting with family and friends.

Brady Shearer: With that being said, email does … As we become so inundated with a seemingly unending number of emails that are hitting our inboxes every day, the term “Inbox Zero” was born out of this desire to somehow clear the inbox of clutter and get some freedom from what feels like this overwhelm of new messages coming in minute after minute. People are getting smarter with how they deal with email. [00:10:30] Whether it be managing email with certain tasks, like ‘Okay, I’ll read this later, I’ll set this as complete, I’ll ignore this.’ But then even our own email clients, like Gmail, now has three different tabs: Promotions, Regular, Social, just to categorize and make sense of this craze of email and at least put it into its own sections that make managing it a bit easier. Do we need to begin to send differently, based on that when it comes to, I don’t [00:11:00] know, segmentation or sending out mass emails, or time of day, or frequency? What are your thoughts there?

Kevin Fontenot: Yeah, I think that when we’re talking about the email, time of day and frequency aren’t as important, but really, the things that are ultimately important are segmenting our email list, making sure that we’re targeting the right people with the right message. We can’t do a simple broadcast email anymore, where we send out a single message and hope that everyone gets it and they’re going to look at it, and then only the most relevant people are actually going to respond to it. We really [00:11:30] have to do a good job of targeting in and zeroing down on who our target audience is for every single message that we’re sending out now.

Brady Shearer: Okay, so, let’s say we want to begin exploring segmentation. How would we start there, because it seems complex. It seems advanced. Is this something that any church can do, and if so, where do we start?

Kevin Fontenot: Yeah, absolutely. Segmentation is something that is, it’s a higher level concept, but it’s actually really easy to [00:12:00] implement, especially as you start with it. You can get super complex with it and have tons of segments in your email list, but just starting with some basic ones. Some basic segmentations for churches could be active members that are attending two to three times a month, versus those that are coming on Christmas and Easter and having those different segments based on when people are actually showing up. Or people that have kids in your kid’s ministry, or have kids in your youth ministry, and creating those different segments in your email list.

Brady Shearer: Where do we get [00:12:30] that information from, or how to we inject it into our email client?

Kevin Fontenot: It depends on what your email client is. If you guys are … If you’re using a church management system, you probably already have a lot of that information in there, with family members and things like that. You can also run surveys inside of your email client, so you can send out an email and do surveys and then segment your list based on that, based on what someone has clicked or hasn’t clicked, and be able to build out those segments from there.

Brady Shearer: [00:13:00] And what you mean, you just mentioned email clients, what are your preferred email clients? A lot of churches are very familiar with a platform like MailChimp that now has a free plan, but MailChimp is one of the more limited email clients. They excel when it comes to free plans and people who are just beginning to explore email marketing, but maybe if we’re going to venture into segmentation and other things like that, maybe they’re a little too limited for that. What are your recommended platforms.

Kevin Fontenot: Yeah, absolutely. My [00:13:30] number one recommended platform is ActiveCampaign. That’s what I use for myself, for TrainedUp, as well as for clients that I manage, and they’re my number one go-to. It’s simple enough where anyone can use it, but also powerful enough for people like me who want to do some more advanced stuff to be able to go in and do that as well. Also really like ConvertKit and Drip as some other alternatives out there.

Brady Shearer: Yeah, ConvertKit has really been up to some great things, and Drip has as well. I am glad that I passed the test. [00:14:00] We use ActiveCampaign here at Pro Church Tools, and it’s been great because it was the natural evolution for us. We were using MailChimp and then, like I said, we wanted to take that next step toward something a bit more robust, but not something that was going to be so complicated and so inundated with complexity that we didn’t know where to begin or how to even do the basics, and ActiveCampaign was that perfect middle of the road. Not something that was too complex, but also something that gave us those robust [00:14:30] features that we want, and one of those things for us was segmentation, was kind of targeted autoresponders, and those follow up campaigns that are based on someone’s action, rather than just saying, “Everyone in the email list gets this.” It was more like, “Okay, we want to follow up with someone based on X or Y.” Well, if we’re able to capture that information about them, then we can follow up with them at this point, and it kind of like … Is that sort of the thing that we’re talking about when we’re talking about segmentation?

Kevin Fontenot: Yeah, absolutely. With ActiveCampaign, [00:15:00] the thing that I really like about it is the ability to easily add tags, so I can create tags based on what someone’s doing on my website, or information that they’ve provided me when filling out a form, and I can create those tags in ActiveCampaign to allow me to easily segment people based on what tags I’ve assigned to them on their contact.

Brady Shearer: And then, does email segmentation just have to do with a follow-up campaign? For instance, someone comes to your church for the first time, you want to follow up with them, so you add a tag to segment [00:15:30] them as, perhaps, a new visitor. And then for the next four to six weeks they’re receiving a follow-up campaign that you would send out to all of your new visitors. Is that the only way that segmentation’s kind of come in to play when it comes to these campaigns? Or does it also come into play when it comes to just the weekly emails that you’re sending out to your broadcast list, your main, general list?

Kevin Fontenot: Yeah, absolutely. So segmentation, the thing that will really allow you to do inside of your email is you can send out a general [00:16:00] broadcast email, so say you’re sending out a weekly email on Thursday mornings, and you’re having some just general content about upcoming weekend service, and then one of the great things that you can do with those tags and segments that you’ve created is that you can actually add-in conditional content to that regular broadcast email based on which segment someone belongs to. So, for instance, if they’re actively involved in Kid’s Ministry, you can include some conditional Kid’s Ministry content, or something for your young adults, or for your youth ministry and be able to do that within one single email.

Brady Shearer: [00:16:30] Yeah, that’s a big thing that I’ve recently begun thinking about that is really cool, because a lot of the times, when you think about segmentation, we think about, “Okay, this person receives email A and this person receives email B,” but in this case, what you can do is you can send the same email, but within that individual email, people are seeing different things.

Kevin Fontenot: Absolutely.

Brady Shearer: Yeah, and that’s huge. That’s something that has huge ramifications, and again, it just … [00:17:00] I guess email segmentation success comes down to the ability to actually tag and segment people properly. And for someone who runs an online business, like me, this can be a lot easier than for a church. We can segment people because all of the interactions that they’re having with us happen online, so we can use various different tools to track those interactions, to track those decisions and clicks that they’re making, and then we can use those actions to influence the tags and segmentation connected to those actions.

But, if you’re [00:17:30] a church, a lot of this comes down to, ‘Okay, we have to find a way to track people’s in-person actions, like, do they have kids in our kid’s ministry, or not?’ Can you talk a little bit about best practices for getting these things that are happening in real-life into the digital world to begin getting good segmentation set up in our email client? Because I really think that we can give all the tips we want on actual email segmentation, but if we don’t actually have the right data to segment to begin with, these conditional emails, [00:18:00] these follow-up campaigns that are specific to people … Doesn’t really matter, because the data isn’t there to begin with.

Kevin Fontenot: Yeah, absolutely. Some of those ways are already in place inside of your church. If you have Kid’s Ministry, you have some sort of check-in system that’s right there that you’re going to have your parents register their kids, you’re going to find out information about their kids, how many kids they have, the contact information, all of that, and then most of those systems will allow you to export that data. Then you can import it directly into your email client then, and during that email [00:18:30] client, especially an active campaign, when you’re importing people like that, it allows you to easily add bulk tags to a number of people that you’re adding at one time so that you can easily do that segmentation.

Brady Shearer: Is this something that we need to be updating pretty frequently, like every month? That’s the nice thing about digital, the updates can happen automatically, but when we’re doing it ourselves, is this something that we should be updating monthly, quarterly, yearly, to make sure that the information is as up-to-date as possible? [00:19:00] Because somebody has to be doing this themselves, they have to be exporting that data from one platform and importing it to another. Maybe integrations do exist, but it seems right now, with most church software, that’s a little few and far-between.

Kevin Fontenot: Yeah, most church softwares unfortunately don’t integrate with Zapier, or anything like that, at this point. Hopefully that will change in the near future, with software companies becoming a little bit more open. Planning Center’s really good about publicly doing their API and working on open source projects, and I think that’s been moving the needle [00:19:30] when we’re talking about development in the church. But right now it is a manual process and so creating just a task list, a recurring reminder on someone’s job description would be something that would need to happen there. I think as frequently as you can is the ultimate thing. If you can only handle it once a quarter, that’s what you’re going to have to do, but ideally if you can do it once a month or a couple of times a month, that would be the ideal situation.

Brady Shearer: I really want to dial into this idea of conditional content within an individual email, because [00:20:00] I think that if you manage this correctly, and execute it, on it the way that it can be done, you can completely revamp the way that you do your church news letter, and I don’t know, Kevin, if you want to explore some of those ways with me but when I just think about conditional content in a church news letter, I just think about most church news letters, let’s say they’re sent out every Wednesday, for instance. They come and it’s just filled with information that’s completely irrelevant to you, the receiver. Because, maybe you send out one church news letter to everyone, which is likely, and even if [00:20:30] your church is 200 or less, you’ve still got dozens upon dozens of people that are receiving content in that email that is completely irrelevant to them, and their getting stuff and it’s talking about Kid’s Ministry, but they’re a young adult that isn’t even married, much less has kids. So they’ve got to kind of sift through that content themselves.

Have you seen churches use this kind of conditional formatting and conditional content within emails? Maybe a story of how a church has done it successfully?

Kevin Fontenot: I don’t know of any churches that are currently doing that, or any [00:21:00] that I’ve interacted with. It’s something that I would definitely like to see more of, especially even in my own church. I’ve had the privilege of being there for about a year now and have been able to separate myself from media and communications a little bit more and focus in on groups and discipleship, which has been nice to do. I think it’s something that should be done, but I don’t see a lot of churches doing it. I don’t know of any that are using it successfully at the moment.

Brady Shearer: I know that you have this free email course, Kevin, and it’s all about [00:21:30] implementing an effective marketing system for your business in just five days. Could you walk us through a bit of that, if any of that is applicable to the church world? Because I kind of like this idea of taking inventory, or looking at what you currently have as a church and saying to yourself, “Okay, here’s what we’re doing with email,” and going through an audit, even. When I think about this idea of implementing a better email marketing system in just five days, it can be something like [00:22:00] that.

Is there anything that’s applicable there that we can apply to what our churches are doing with email?

Kevin Fontenot: Yeah, absolutely. I think one of the biggest things that I talk about in there is really dialing in and finding your target audience. You need to … That’s part of what segmentation does. It allows you to figure out who you’re talking to and change up some information based on who those people are and really writing your emails around those. That’s one of the big take-aways from that, is making sure you’re talking to the right people. If you’re talking in your emails and your tone and your voice sounds like you’re talking to [00:22:30] a 60-year-old person, but the average reader is a 30-year-old male then that’s going to have a different connotation, and people aren’t going to actively read those emails anymore. They’re going ultimately stop opening those emails that you have, unless you provide them with great content on a consistent basis, so they know to expect great content from you.

Brady Shearer: What about this idea that I’ve seen … I don’t know if you’ve explored this before, where you send an email out, and let’s say it has a 30% open or a 50% open, and a 5% or a 10% click, [00:23:00] and for most of us, we just leave the email as it is. But I know what ActiveCampaign allows us to do, and I’m sure other email clients allow us to do it as well, is to then send another email, and this would be a form of segmentation that wouldn’t require anything on your own part as a church, but you can send an email to those who have not opened that email. Or you can send that email again to those that haven’t opened it, but with a different subject line.

Is that something you’ve explored before? And can you talk about that a bit?

Kevin Fontenot: [00:23:30] Yeah, absolutely. That’s something that I do with TrainedUp pretty often is we’ll send out an email campaign, get a decent open rate on it of 30 to 40%, and then I’ll send it out the next day to all the people who haven’t opened it with a different subject, and just try out and see what the community’s actually going to respond to.

Brady Shearer: Tell me about a recent campaign that you’ve done that with, and walk me through an actual example to put some flesh on this strategic idea that even I have not tried yet. I know [00:24:00] I’m going to be trying it soon. I don’t know why I haven’t. But can you walk me through an actual example of what that looks like and maybe some insights you glean from it, or at the very least, the process that you went through to execute on it?

Kevin Fontenot: Yeah, so, kind of the process of what happens there is … One of the things that I do when writing any email is I’ll write the body of that email first, and we’ll come up with it, and from there I usually write out three to seven different headlines or subject lines that I would [00:24:30] like to use for those. From there I kind of narrow it down to the top two and really, when I get down to those top two, there’s not a whole lot of difference between them, and they’re something where either one could really be successful, and I’ll use whichever one I think is going to be the most successful one for that first email that I send out, and then I’ll resend it with that second email subject line that next day, to those that hadn’t opened it yet. So I’m always thinking about different subject lines and different ways to say things to try to get a little bit more engagement out of the community.

Brady Shearer: Tell me about [00:25:00] the importance of an email subject line, because it seems inconsequential, and we can think about what’s actually in the email as the most important thing, but I think that the subject line gets overlooked. Can you talk about the importance of that?

Kevin Fontenot: Yeah, absolutely. The subject line is … It’s not the most important part of the email, but it’s right up there. Your email subject line, as well as the message that you’re sending are equally important when it comes to it, because if we have a terrible subject line with great content in it, no one’s actually going to open that email to read the great content [00:25:30] we have in it. On the other, converse side of that, is if we have a great email subject line, but terrible content in the actual email, people will open it that first time, but the next time you send an email, they’re going to be less likely to open that. So it’s really a marriage between a great email subject line and great content that makes people want to open those emails and then engage with them, click through to the links that you’ve created inside of that.

Brady Shearer: Yeah, when I think about … I think I would even disagree there and say that I think that the subject line is the most important part, [00:26:00] because … As someone who’s been sending emails now for like four years to our email list, and the email list that Pro Church Tools has always been the life-blood of the company, always the most important thing that we have. More than any social following or anything, it’s always been the email list, most important thing.

I think about emails that I’ve sent that have received a low open rate that I thought, “I don’t know why that subject line didn’t click,” or maybe I just didn’t put in as much effort as I could have, but I was like, “No, the content in that email was [00:26:30] so important!” And whether you’re dealing with an email list of a couple hundred, a couple thousand, or a couple tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands, every person that doesn’t open an email, that represents dozens and dozens of people. Or in my case, if I just write an email subject line that isn’t quite as good, thousands of people are now not going to open that email, just because the subject line wasn’t as good.

When I think about the goal of your [00:27:00] subject line, it’s got to be … The entire goal behind what you’re doing with your subject line is just get someone to open the email, more than anything else. And this is, I think, a big, big disconnect that I see with most people that are writing emails. A lot the times their writing the subject line with a description of what’s in the email, right?

Kevin Fontenot: Right.

Brady Shearer: And this is where we can kind of talk about click bait and I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, and getting a bit gimmicky or too sensational or hyperbolic, but you can write an email subject line that says, ” [00:27:30] This Week’s Upcoming Events for Your Church,” which is the most un-sexy, kind of dull email subject line. Now, it’s very descriptive of what’s in the email, but it’s probably not going to get too many opens. You could do something a little bit different and do something like, “Three Fun Events for Your Kids at Church this Summer,” which is equally true, assuming that that’s what’s in the newsletter, or part of the newsletter, but it’s just so much more [00:28:00] compelling to open.

What are your thoughts on that?

Kevin Fontenot: Yeah, no, I agree with you and what my … I’m not saying that email subject lines aren’t important. The thing that I’m saying is if we can’t just focus on the email subject lines, and I think this is what we see in lots of things inside the church. Whether we’re talking about communications and design and marketing, or whether we’re talking about church growth and leadership in any capacity, we’ll always see this one thing that we can focus on better, and we’ll put all of our time and energy on this one thing. Then, as soon as we get that one thing down, people [00:28:30] will go to it, and then the next step isn’t there.

So creating a great subject line is, yes, it’s very, very important and it’s something that we need to focus on, but if we have a great subject line and then the content misses and it isn’t great, people aren’t going to open it that next time and the time after that, and that’s kind of the big thing here. We’re not looking a single email campaign and creating a great subject line for the single email campaign, and a great body for the single email campaign. We’re working on it and it’s developing the voice and tone for our entire email system that we’re putting out there. [00:29:00] So we have to keep consistently great content, as well as that consistently great email subject that makes people want to click on it and find out more.

Brady Shearer: Yeah, that makes sense, and it is all about a holistic approach, right?

Kevin Fontenot: Right.

Brady Shearer: Like, step one is write the best subject line possible to get as many opens as you can, without sacrificing, so that when someone does open an email, they’re blindsided, right? This is why you don’t want to do a bait-and-switch sort of thing, but at the same time, your email line is just that important because if you can’t get someone to be [00:29:30] compelled to open it, then it doesn’t matter if you wrote the greatest story and the greatest offer ever. You could be giving away a million dollars inside of that email, but if no one opened it, it wouldn’t matter. But, the good side of that is you wouldn’t have to give away a million dollars.

I would love to hear … This is just interesting for me … I would love to hear some of the best email subject lines that have worked best for you at TrainedUp, and I don’t know if you have those in front of you. I know we keep catalog of them. Every six to twelve months, I’ll go through all [00:30:00] of our emails and look at what earned the best email open rates, because I find what will often happen with me is I’ll kind of go through a lull and I don’t always know why this is.

Sometimes I’ll email ActiveCampaign … And this is just like straight behind-the-scenes stuff … I’ll email them and be like, “Hey, why are you not sending my emails to people?” Because deliverability when it comes to email is this complex thing, and sometimes there are some unknowns that you can’t just seem to track down. So I’ll say to ActiveCampaign, “Why is no one opening my emails?” And they will be like, “Uhh, we don’t know.” And I’ll be like, ” [00:30:30] Okay, but I was getting like 30% open rate forever, and now it’s only like 23 or 24, you know?” And again, on an email list of 30,000, any percentage represents hundreds and hundreds of people, and that’s a big deal. Because the email list of Pro Church Tools is so important to us, when you don’t open it, that’s a big deal.

So for anyone listening in Pro Church Nation, make sure you open and click every single one of our emails, even if you don’t read it every single time, just do that. It would mean the world to me. Helps with deliverability. Side notes.

[00:31:00] But what about some of the best email subject lines that have worked for you, Kevin, because I’d like to dissect what worked about them and then offer insight for everyone in Pro Church Nation that’s writing email subject lines.

Kevin Fontenot: Yeah, so I don’t have data and all those in front of me at the moment, but I’ll just kind of think of one that I sent out, probably about three months ago, at TrainedUp as we were running a promotion that we wanted to send out to everyone to get people inside of TrainedUp. We had just heard about Nucleus and the launch adding thousands of people, and [00:31:30] we were a bit disappointed in our own efforts, because we didn’t have thousands of people in a few days, but we also didn’t have the emails that [inaudible 00:31:37] were sending out to everyone, either.

From that, we decided to run a new campaign and decided to just make it a little silly, so I created the subject line, “Sorry about Your Socks.” It was just something that was a little different and a little silly and it made people open it. I think we got something like a 65 or 68% open rate on that sending out to people that were interested in TrainedUp and [00:32:00] the newest version that we had launched. I tied that in with a coupon that said “No Socks,” and “Knocking people’s socks of with a discount.” So it was just a little silly but it made people open it, and we got a good number of people signing up from that email campaign that we did.

Brady Shearer: I like that, with the coupon code ‘no socks’. That’s really fun. And 68%, I mean, even if … What is your email list? Even if it was customers and it was only a couple hundred, 70% [00:32:30] open rate is obscenely good.

Kevin Fontenot: Yeah, it was about 1,500 people that we were emailing at that point that were really interested in TrainedUp.

Brady Shearer: Yeah, that’s monstrous. That’s awesome.

Okay, any other email subject lines that come to mind over the last little while? I have some of my own tips that I want to share, but I just want to give you one more shot before I jump in again.

Kevin Fontenot: Yeah, I mean, that’s the top one that I can think of. I sent out one this morning, I was listening to a Weezer song, “Say it Ain’t So,” and I used [00:33:00] that as a subject line. I’m still waiting. It hasn’t performed as well as I was hoping for, but that was something. I like to keep them a little bit fun to get people in, but I’ve also found that creating numbers and in the way that you’re doing things and saying whether or not this is going to be the best thing for your church or the worst thing for your church, are you doing this one thing very well, it’s going to make people opt into those as well and read those emails.

Brady Shearer: Yeah, I’ve always found that questions do a really good job of getting responses. [00:33:30] It’s interesting what you just said, because I’ve found this to be the case as well … And for everyone listening in Pro Church Nation, I hope you’re enjoying this conversation, because this is kind of like a prototypical, two people sitting down for coffee and talking about their own experiences and you kind of getting to listen in to what’s happening and what we’re thinking and what’s working, what’s not working for us.

Because a lot of the time I’ll send something out … Like, this happened today … I sent an email out today, and my headline was “My Three Step, Foolproof, Storytelling Formula,” [00:34:00] and to me, this is one of the most important things that I can teach anyone. And it’s only been 5 hours so far. You never can tell this early in the game, but based on initial responses, it’s not going to be a home run for us. It’s going to be like a solid single, or a solid double. Much like everything, like being consistent … and if you can consistently, at least in baseball, and Kevin’s right now wearing a Texas Ranger’s baseball hat to infuriate me as a Blue Jay’s fan. Of course, why would it infuriate me, considering we own the Rangers year after year. Side note. [00:34:30] But again, side note.

Point is that in baseball, if you can hit singles, or you can just get on base consistently over and over again, you can score a bunch of runs and win a bunch of games. You want to be a team that only hits home runs, (i.e. The 2017 Blue Jays), a lot of time that doesn’t necessarily win ballgames, because you can’t always hit home runs. And sometimes home runs are predictable. Yesterday, the Blue Jays won a baseball game. They had two hits all game and then, in the ninth inning, they hit a home run to tie it and a home run to win it. [00:35:00] That hadn’t happened since 1986, so it had been 31 years since something like that had happened.

And this is what I’m getting at when it comes to the predictability in, really any type of communication, but when it comes to email, a lot of the times it’s like, “I don’t really know what’s going to work and what’s going to not,” but if I can keep hitting singles, doubles and my home run every so often, that’s how you can be consistently good.

To share what I’ve learned and things that have worked for us a Pro Church Tools is that the shorter [00:35:30] the subject length, I’ve found, the better. This is something that I struggle with, because we send out two emails every single week. They’re Tuesday and Thursday at 8 am, Eastern, is when the emails generally go out, unless I’m a little bit late because I slept in. But, those when they almost always go out, and every single time that we’re sending out an email … Kevin, I don’t know if this is similar to you, because we’re like a media agency, for the most part … We’re sending out content.

So, today I sent out an email about this three step storytelling formula. We did an [00:36:00] article and a video in it. On Tuesday I sent out a podcast we did with Kenny Jahng, “Nine Social Media Tips and Tricks for 2017.” That was this week, and both of those email subject lines had seven words in each of the subject lines.

I’m looking at some data from a … on an article by our good friend Michael Lukaszewski, and they did this data mine over at Gmail of 40 million emails, and they found that the ideal subject length is three to four words, [00:36:30] which is super insightful for me, because I’m generally sending long email subject lines, because I’m trying to be descriptive of what we’re sending. I’m worried if I send out emails and every single one of them is like: “Anybody There?” “Is Everything Okay?” “You’ve Got to See This,” “Oh My Goodness,” like three of four words, it’s just is going to become like … You’ll just start tuning that out because it’s just too sensational and hyperbolic.

I try to be descriptive with that people are opening and, at the same time, be compelling. So I’ll use numbers a lot, “My 3 Step Foolproof [00:37:00] Storytelling Formula,” “9 Social Media Tips and Tricks for 2017,” “7 Social Media Templates for Churches.” Using numbers and lists because that does a good job when it comes to clicks, but it also is descriptive. There’s no bait-and-switch. There are 9 social media tips and tricks for 2017 when you open this email.

I guess it’s kind of a tough balance, and a lot of times I’ll save the more, really well, high performing email subject lines for launches, because we’re trying to maximize that, and we’re sending more emails than [00:37:30] normal, and they’re not as much value based emails, they’re sales emails, so it’s easier to tune them out.

That’s kind of my exhaustive thoughts on subject lines. I’d love to close out, Kevin, and share your best tips and tricks when it comes to just email in general. I think we’ve talked about three advanced email marketing strategies that a lot of the times aren’t considered.

That first one being conditional formatting within a single email. That’s huge and has so much in it when [00:38:00] it comes to possibility.

Number two, resending emails with a different subject line to those who haven’t opened.

Then, the third one, just all of this talk on email subject lines and just maximizing those.

Anything else when it comes to email marketing that you think churches are missing out on, kind of striking out with, to use another baseball analogy?

Kevin Fontenot: Yeah, I’m glad we didn’t talk anything about actually hitting other players, because I wouldn’t want to bring up that sore spot between us again.

Brady Shearer: Oh my goodness. You said this earlier, before we hit record; Both of our teams are pretty trash right now, [00:38:30] so it’s hard to be angry at one another when you both suck, which is kind of good, because we need to soothe out some of the bad blood between Texas and Toronto.

Kevin Fontenot: Yeah, we’d hate to have any bat flips or anything like that happen.

Brady Shearer: Nope, none of that. You can’t bat-flip when your team is trash.

Kevin Fontenot: Yeah, so I guess other thing I’d like to add in there is just something that I’m not seeing a lot of churches do, is experimenting and testing. We talk about a lot of best practices, and it’s something that gets asked over and over again in church [00:39:00] communications groups that I’m a part of, is, “Well, what time should I post this?” or “When should I send this? When’s the best day to send out an email? How long should this be? How long should my subject line be?” Ultimately, that’s going to vary based on your demographics of your church, who you’re sending it out to, and a one size fits all approach is never going to work.

So the thing that I would really recommend to you guys is, yeah, listen to the best practices if you want some great tips of how to send out good email, pay attention to Brady’s emails, they’re really great. I enjoy reading them every single week and they make me a better marketer just [00:39:30] by reading his emails and his copywriting is great inside of those and it really compels you to click on the one single focus inside that email that he’s doing.

But doing some testing and experimenting is something that you absolutely should do and need to do inside of your email marketing system. So that’s A/B testing on subject lines, A/B testing on links, what you’re sending in the subject, as well as A/B testing on the links of the content in that email as well.

Brady Shearer: Yeah, and that kind of hits on something that [00:40:00] has really been sticking out to me lately. Now this is something Gary Vaynerchuk says all the time, which is “Watch what I’m doing, not what I’m saying,” which is basically … What he’s trying to get across there is that as someone, him to me, or me to you, Pro Church Nation, who is a media agency, like you’re listening to this podcast to hopefully glean some valuable content, and hopefully over these last 33 minutes and 24 seconds of this interview, we’ve shared some valuable information that’s helpful for and can make you better at writing emails.

But, [00:40:30] if you want to see what I think is the absolute best of the best, watch what I’m sending you in your emails. When it comes to social, watch what I’m doing in Instagram and YouTube, because what I’m doing is what I think is the absolute best of the best when it comes to strategy, most up to date.

Thinking about that, maybe this is the biggest thing you can take away from this podcast, which is whenever you want to be improving at something, it’s one thing to listen to what people are telling you in their articles, their podcasts, their videos, their courses. It’s another thing to [00:41:00] look at the tactics they’re using themselves. Because either they’re not practicing what they’re preaching, or if they are, there’s a lot of time that I found different details and nuances that you can glean that are the most up to date that they’re testing and experimenting right then and there, that they haven’t worked out enough to actually share in an actual educational resource yet, but they’re trying it themselves.

Just to share a couple of other quick tips when it comes to email.

Use simple words. This is something I struggle with as, what my first [00:41:30] year professor dubbed me as, as a word smith. A lot of the times I want to use, and you’ll probably hear this in the way that I talk on podcasts, advanced words and a rich, deeper vocabulary. But when it comes to email and all types of digital communications, when it comes to text, you want to use the most easy to read language possible. Third grade level is best. The kind of reading level that will get you a better response by everybody than if you write something with a college level vocabulary.

[00:42:00] This can be tough for you, maybe. Sometimes it’s tough for me. I feel like, “No the perfect word here would be like intricacy,” and I’m like, yeah, but if you just say difficult, or complex, or hard to understand, that would be easier to understand for the vast majority. That’s not to say that Pro Church Nation isn’t smart or brilliant. It’s just to say that it’s just easier to read easier words. Like, the type of books that I’m reading to my daughter as we go to bed, it’s just easier.

I think that’s [00:42:30] a great place to leave things off, Kevin. Can you tell us a little bit more about what you’re doing online. I know that you’ve transitioned, like you mentioned, from Church Mediasaurus and Church Social Graphics over to professional interneter, I believe is the name of the platform. Can you tell us about that, where we can find you online?

Kevin Fontenot: Yeah, absolutely. The easiest place to find me online is at my website, kevinfontenot.com, and Fontenot’s one of those weird French words, so it’s F-O-N-T-E-N-O-T, and that’s where you can find a lot of what I’m doing there, as far as digital marketing goes. [00:43:00] Then, also launching kind of a test, personal brand for professional interneter that you can go to at professionalinterneter.com.

Brady Shearer: What are you going to be trying to do over at this testing personal brand. What’s the goal of that?

Kevin Fontenot: The goal would be to create more of a lifestyle brand for people that are making the internet, so going to be trying to create a community of people around that. But also to create kind of a common brand, so I’ll be introducing some clothing and things like that through that.

Brady Shearer: And you’re working [00:43:30] on this email course as well?

Kevin Fontenot: That’s correct. So I’m building out an email automation course that’ll be video based. It’s currently at about 20 lessons and still refining that, and hope to have it out in the next month. I’ll be launching that at a special discount for all my current subscribers on my email list, and I have free course on my website at kevenfontenot.com, which talks about the basics of email marketing and a marketing system for your organization.

Brady Shearer: Beautiful. If you [00:44:00] want to hear more about email marketing and learn more beyond these three advanced email marketing strategies, as well as some other great tips and tricks that we talked about in this session of the podcast, head over to those links. They’ll be linked up in the show notes on prochurchtools.com. Is there anything that you want to leave with Pro Church Nation, Kevin, that I have not asked you yet.

Kevin Fontenot: One thing that I’ll say to all the church communicators is don’t lose focus of why you’re actually doing what you’re doing. Make sure to spend time with Jesus. Make sure [00:44:30] that you’re feeding your inner man more than anything else, more than what you’re communicating, because that’s going to come out in everything that you guys do.

Brady Shearer: Yeah, that’s huge. It’s what we always talk about. Connecting to your Why. Drilling back into why you’re doing this, and that’s important on a practical level for your organization, for your church, having a clear narrative and mission statement. But then for your individual, what you’re trying to accomplish as an individual, like why you’re doing what you’re doing, why you’re serving in the church. This is something that I keep revisiting myself, like, “Why do we continue to serve churches?” [00:45:00] Well, because it is absolutely the key to my Why.

I got a message the other day on Instagram from a buddy of mine. He’s like … He left the church pretty recently, and he’s like, “Good on you for keeping to working with these churches despite all the frustrations and the problems you see,” and I was like, I said to him, I was like, “Look, there’s just no other way for me. This is just what I have to do. Call it a calling, call it what I’m … the DNA in me, but I just have to work for churches and work [00:45:30] with churches, because I believe that there’s so much power. And yeah, are we making a ton of mistakes? Absolutely, but that doesn’t mean that we go and we give up on people, or the church as a whole.

So that’s a great place to sign off, Kevin. Thanks for coming on the show. It’s been a blast. Pro Church Nation salutes you, my friend.

Kevin Fontenot: Thanks for having me Brady.

Brady Shearer: And there you have it, my interview with Kevin Fontenot, talking about advanced email marketing strategies for your church. We talked about why email marketing is still one of the best ways to connect with your audience, the starting point for email segmentation, [00:46:00] the best email marketing platforms, finding ways to segment your in-person congregation online, conditional formatting within a single email to make sure no one’s receiving irrelevant content, resending emails with a different subject line for those who haven’t opened the original email you sent out, one of my favorite tips and tricks that I cannot wait to begin using, and finally, the doctrine and ideation behind writing better email subject lines.

Tons of great content in this session of the Pro Church podcast, so a big thank you to Kevin for stopping by and [00:46:30] sharing some of the information that he has learned in the trenches, over at Director of Marketing at TrainedUp and in the other platforms that he’s been a part of over the years.

With that being said, it’s time for our review of the week. This one comes from Bryan from Baltimore. Five stars. It says, “I want to thank Brady and his team and all that bring and share on this podcast. No matter what I’m reading or listening to of Pro Church Tools, I always come away with nuggets of wisdom and creative ideas to try and put into the mix of what’s happening in my local setting, as well as helpful tools for church media, creative [00:47:00] teams and leadership, so thank you.

Thank you to Bryan of Baltimore for leaving that review inside of Apple Podcasts. Very much appreciated. Really, the best thing that you can do to help the Pro Church podcast is subscribe. So if you haven’t already subscribed to the podcast within Apple Podcasts, within Stitcher, whatever, iTunes, whatever it is that you prefer to listen to your podcasts in whatever app or platform, please hit subscribe. It would mean the world to me. We talk a lot about reviews, but subscribing to the show is probably the biggest [00:47:30] way that you can help the Pro Church podcast and you can help me and the team over at Pro Church Tools.

Thanks so much for listening. We publish three new episodes, three new sessions of the Pro Church podcast each and every week. Every Tuesday we’ve got an interview session like this one. Every Thursday, we do a coaching call in real time where I’m coaching and consulting with a church for an hour and you’re listening in a conversation and then every Saturday, a new episode of the Ask Brady Show. Four questions from the great people of Pro Church Nation, we’re just doing live Q & A with my co-host, Roxanne. But [00:48:00] the last week, two weeks ago, we had Alex as the co-host because Roxanne was on vacation, but Roxanne, the normal co-host is back now.

With all that being said, thanks so much for listening. Hit that subscribe button if you haven’t already.

This is Brady signing off for now. We’ll talk real soon.

  • Very nice! I think it’s one of the best way to tell your church what is going on. I do it for years already and I can help you if needed.