What's in this session?

  • Church Name: Bold Conference
  • Church Location: Kansas City, Missouri
  • Church Age: Pre-planning
  • Church Size: Sponsor church is 500
  • On the coaching call: Carson Cooper - Creative Contract

Show notes and resources

3 Instant Takeaways

    1. Be more than promotion. You want to be present in the lives of your audience, but this can be more than just advertising. It can be blog posts, behind the scenes content, podcasts, videos – anything that is valuable to your audience. Find ways to accomplish the vision of your conference in an online space.
    2. Have a measurable goal. If your goal is too broad, it will make it difficult to work toward because so much can fit into it. By narrowing down your goal you can better focus your energy, as well as know when you’re actually achieving it.
    3. Put in effort that is equal to the size of your goal. Often churches use God as an excuse to not put in the necessary work. Yes. God partners with us, but we still need to do our part. If you choose a big goal – plan for hard work.

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The Transcript

Brady Shearer: Well hey there, and welcome to the Pro Church Podcast Coaching Edition. 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 communication shift in the last 500 years, and what got us here won’t get us there. I’m Brady, your host, and right now, you’re going to sit in with me as I coach and consult with a church in real time. It’s raw, it’s unedited, and we’re solving real church problems, so let’s dive right in.

[00:00:30] Well, hey there, Pro Church Nation, and welcome to another session of the Pro Church Podcast Coaching Edition. In this podcast, I’m going to be speaking live with an individual. You’ll get to sit in on our coaching session together. Nothing’s off limits and everything is recorded. Today we’re welcoming to the show Carson Cooper. Carson, how’s it going?

Carson Cooper: I’m well, man. How are you?

Brady Shearer: I’m doing exceptionally well. We start off each of these coaching calls basically with this five question lightning round. Now, this coaching [00:01:00] call is a bit unique, because you’re not working with a church, per se. You’re working with a conference. The reason that I wanted to bring you on the show is because so many churches work with conferences, whether it’s their own conference, or they’re promoting another conference. Maybe it’s the World Leadership Summit, whatever it might be, Global Leadership Summit, pardon me. I think this is going to be valuable, but these questions, this lightning round, will be a bit different. First off, I’ll say, what is the name of your conference, the one that you’re working with right now?

Carson Cooper: [00:01:30] Yeah. Currently I’m working with Bold conference in Kansas City.

Brady Shearer: Okay. Well, that’s the next question. Where is your conference located? How old is the conference? New, old?

Carson Cooper: It’s the first time it’s meeting is this summer, so the church, it’s a part of Radiant Church. It celebrated a year this past Sunday, and this will be in June will be the first Bold conference.

Brady Shearer: Okay, and so, is the conference part of a church, or is it independent?

Carson Cooper: Yeah, it’s a part of Radiant Church in Kansas City, [00:02:00] which is pastored by a guy named David Perkins.

Brady Shearer: Okay. How big is that church?

Carson Cooper: I was just there last weekend, and they’ve got about 500 that meet between two services.

Brady Shearer: How old is that church do you think? Do you know?

Carson Cooper: Yeah, it’s one year yesterday.

Brady Shearer: Okay, perfect. What is the goal size of the conference? Like if the church is 500, how big do you want the conference to be?

Carson Cooper: I’m not quite sure. I think that that’s a kind of personal goal maybe they have. I think, I mean, really anywhere, I mean, I [00:02:30] think they’re really happy if people come. I mean, their biggest thing is they want to help kind of create a generation that’s in bold pursuit of God. If it resonates with you, then let’s go, you know? We’d love to see you there. I mean, maybe in the 500 realm, you know, around the Kansas City or Midwest area, surrounding states.

Brady Shearer: Is the goal, do you think, this lightning round is expanding unlike normally, but we’ll keep it going.

Carson Cooper: Nice.

Brady Shearer: Is the goal of the conference to get people within the church to attend, [00:03:00] or to expand beyond the church?

Carson Cooper: Yeah. It would be, the goal would be more national. Pastor David helped found, founded a conference in Colorado Springs like 15 years ago, and had, I mean, just people from all over the country coming. That would be the goal for this one, is to, yes, cater to the church of Radiant and the Kansas City area, but also to, I mean, like Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, obviously, as well, so more national than it is [00:03:30] just regional.

Brady Shearer: Right. The goal would still be, though, to attract Christians, followers of Jesus, right?

Carson Cooper: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: It’s not like it’s an outreach conference.

Carson Cooper: Totally. Yeah, it’d just be like a youth conference, so I mean, worship, speakers, calling students to live in bold pursuit of God, you know, living passionately, things of that nature, but yeah, so catering to youth groups, youth pastors, and even the young adult as well, but primarily Christian.

Brady Shearer: Oh, okay, so, and it’s a youth primarily, maybe into [00:04:00] young adults conference also, so no families and old people.

Carson Cooper: Yeah. Keep them away.

Brady Shearer: Okay. Cool. Okay, so finally, final question pertaining to this expanded not quite lightning lightning round. What is your role within this conference?

Carson Cooper: Yeah. Pastor David and several other of the staff there have just been mentors to me, and so I’m kind of serving as just a creative contract guy. I’d done a couple of graphics, some Instagram content, and then several videos, but then [00:04:30] also just want to learn more and see how I can help the conference as well.

Brady Shearer: Well, I think one of the reasons we brought you on for this kind of impromptu coaching session was primarily because churches, as Radiant Church does, big and small, are very involved in conferences, and you know, you’ve got a church that’s one year old, 500 people, so a young, you know, not a monstrous church, above average but not monstrous church, hosting their own conference. This is something that so many churches do. [00:05:00] I’m going to hand this over to you, and basically, you go ahead, frame up what you want to focus on over the next 45, 60 minutes, and we’ll dive into that, and hopefully I can offer some help and advice, maybe.

Carson Cooper: Totally. Right on. Thank you so much. Yeah, so in watching your videos and podcasts, just learning more about, man, what is the strategy, how we’re communicating with churches, and in this instance, you know, communicating with believers to hopefully bring them to our conference. I’m just wondering, and again, doing this for a [00:05:30] couple years, just wanting to, man, how can we do this better, and then seeing the, one of the kind of stumbling blocks I’ve seen is, man, how do we cater, or how do we advertise all year for a single event, you know, about, of three days?

I think I just want to kind of start out with, man, what are your thoughts on how do we start advertising, how do we start getting people involved, and at what time should we do that? You know, if this thing’s going down for three days in the summer, [00:06:00] when is a good time to start making that conversation? You know, if we do it yesterday, and we have 11 months of, like, hey, you’re really going to love it, in my experience, it’s like, man, you can only hype up how many speakers are coming and what it’s, you know, the speakers or the worship or the event, or like, we’re so excited for so long. I mean, so what would be your opinion on, man, when do we actually start engaging people and trying to advertise [00:06:30] for this thing?

Brady Shearer: Let me first ask this question. When you’re promoting the conference, does it have its own website, Instagram, Facebook account, or is it within the church’s online and digital presence?

Carson Cooper: Yeah, it has all of its own. It has its own website, own Instagram, and own Facebook.

Brady Shearer: Perfect. I think the first thing that comes to mind is that you want to be present in the lives, the digital lives, of those that you’d want to invite to the conference, you know, the audience that you’re trying to reach. You want to be present [00:07:00] and kind of top of mind when possible, year round, with those people. That’s the aim, but that does not necessitate promotion at all. For instance, if you look at what we do at Pro Church Tools, every week we’re releasing podcasts like this one. We’re recording and publishing videos. We’re releasing new articles. Almost none of that, most of the year, has any type of promotion towards our products.

Carson Cooper: Totally.

Brady Shearer: This may change in the future, when we have [00:07:30] products that are permanently open, and depending on when this podcast goes live, something like a Story Tape or a Nucleus that is now permanently open, but up until this point, for the most part, we’ve done the exact same thing, where, Pro Church Academy, one of our very first products, only opens once a year. We did a promotion strategy that was very similar, where we didn’t go throughout the entire year, “Hey, in nine months, Pro Church Academy is going to open,” because like you said, that’s just not really relevant at all to the day that someone’s going to see that, and it’s also just a waste [00:08:00] of time.

You do that too much, people begin tuning your social platforms and your messages out, which is what you don’t want. What you want to do is you want to create a platform that’s valuable year round. The best conferences do this, because this is like one of the biggest challenges for conferences. They know that they’ve only got them, the people that they’re trying to reach in person, for maybe one, two, or three days a year, so they’ve got to find a way to fill in the remaining 362 to make sure that people are still in touch with them so that they can maximize attendance.

What you want to begin doing is doing [00:08:30] something similar to what Pro Church Tools is doing, doing something similar to what that church conference is doing. What you’re trying to accomplish in person, those one, two, three days of the year, you want to, exactly like a church would do throughout the other 167 hours of the week is, how can we map this vision and mission in an online space? How can we accomplish the exact same thing that we would do in person, in the online sphere? Let’s get to kind of like the [00:09:00] root mission goal of the conference, because that does seem a little bit fuzzy to me at this point. Why does the conference exist?

Carson Cooper: Okay, so the conference exists from just a stirring in Pastor David to see a generation of youth and young adults in bold pursuit of God, so I mean, seeking after God, engaging with Him in prayer, finding purpose for their life, and walking out His plans and promises in life.

I mean, the goal of the conference would be to, for whoever [00:09:30] attends to experience God in that moment, but also take God with them back to their high schools, junior highs, college campuses, jobs, workplace, otherwise, and be empowered to live in a way that they’re seeking God’s will and purpose for their life, they’re communicating with Him through intercessory and devotional prayer, and they’ve discovered their purpose, you know, what are they supposed to do here on Earth?

Brady Shearer: I can think of about 10,000 pieces of content that you could create by reverse engineering [00:10:00] that goal, and then really just executing that goal online. You could create an entire month’s worth of content just on teaching students how to pray.

Carson Cooper: Oh, really?

Brady Shearer: Right? You could do a month’s worth of content on teaching a student how to discover your purpose, you know, a whole month’s worth on surviving high school, surviving college, choosing the next step, how to live in a life of uncertainty where, you know, you don’t know where you’re going to go to school, you don’t know what you might become, but you know, navigating [00:10:30] the here and now. There are unending number of topics within that space that you could do year round, and then, every time the summer time rolls around … When’s this conference happening?

Carson Cooper: June 25th through 27th.

Brady Shearer: Perfect. Every time June rolls around when you’re doing the conference, or you know, the beginning of summer rolls around, you’re hyping up towards that highlight of the year. This is something that my friends over at That Church Conference do well. That’s churchconference.com, Justin Dean and Van Baird. We’ve had them on the Pro Church [00:11:00] Podcast a number of times. I spoke at the conference last year. Basically, they’ve created this online community, and every single week they’re releasing content, they’ve got a private Facebook group. That might be a great option for you.

They’ve got their social platforms, and they’re helping to, or they’re helping reach churches and helping churches accomplish the same mission that the churches that attend do when they visit for those two to three days in September in Atlanta, but they’ve only got those couple of days, right, in Atlanta, and so they’re spending the remainder of the year creating content. It’s accomplishing [00:11:30] the identical vision and mission through the online space rather than through in person at a meetup.

Carson Cooper: Right on. That’s awesome. Cool. Well, I think, yeah, so I mean, I think, realistically, I knew that. I’ve read Simon Sinek’s Start With Why, and understanding, man, like, how do we, you know, leveraging why over what. People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. Kind of speaking [00:12:00] towards, I mean, that as well, what are some other examples, you would say, of content that fits that vision, you know, the goal, otherwise?

Then, how would you say, or what’s the, I mean, the plan for kind of a multi platform strategy? You know what I mean? Could a lot of this be best on YouTube with videos, or on Instagram with just striking images, with awesome copy down [00:12:30] below, or is it videos on Facebook? Facebook Lives I know you’re a big fan of. I mean, what would you say, like, how do some of these manifest across platforms, the why?

Brady Shearer: For sure, for sure. Well, I think one of the first things that is still remaining is that I think your goal and vision, you know, the one that you’re reiterating from the pastor behind this conference, is still a little bit too ambiguous or not really fully formed. Any single person can say, like, “My goal is [00:13:00] to help a generation chase after God,” which doesn’t really have anything specific about it, which makes reverse engineering an exact plan difficult. I think what would be first helpful is to narrow down that vision into something that it feels, like, tangible, feels like something that we can actually grasp and reach for, right? Like if my goal is to go to the gym, and I’m like, “You know what? Just want to live healthy.”

There are about 10 billion different ways that I could execute and achieve that goal. [00:13:30] If I don’t have something that’s actually precise, “Okay, I’m going to work out this many days a week for this long, and these are the exercises that I’m going to perform, and these are how many rest days I’m going to take, and then here’s the type of nutrition I’m going to follow after, here are how many calories I’m going to eat, here are how many protein, carbs and fat, if I’m going to break it down into the macronutrients. Here’s the type of supplements I want to take or the vitamins. Here’s the type of foods that I want to eat. I’m not just going to eat McDonald’s every day, but I need to eat whole foods.”

That would be an actual plan, right? [00:14:00] To get down into an actual plan, we first need a little bit more of a goal that is a little bit more fully formed, I think. I think one of the best things for a conference, you know, is to set at least a rough number of what you expect, and so, if you want, like, 500, I think, firstly, that needs to be communicated clearly across the team that you’re working with.

What I’m sensing is, and this isn’t unusual for a first time conference, by the way, because you don’t know what to expect and it’s brand new, [00:14:30] but what I’m sensing is a little bit of, like, “Yeah, we’re just going for it, and we want to see God do big things,” which is great, but if you don’t have something a little bit more tangible, it’s really tough to rally everyone around that, and you also won’t know when to celebrate, when to adjust, what to improve upon, because there really isn’t a goal that you’re aiming towards.

For instance, to go back to that analogy about health, if my goal is to be healthy, I could end up making a huge celebration over the fact [00:15:00] that I stopped drinking diet soda and replaced it with regular soda, because hey, I’m not consuming artificial sweeteners anymore, but if, does that really help me accomplish my overall goal?

Maybe, but because I didn’t really set anything concrete, wrote it down, made a, you know, “Okay, I want to lose x amount of weight, reach this amount of body fat, achieve this amount of lifting in the gym, run this far, complete this thing, eat these foods,” if it’s just, if it lacks that type of specificity, [00:15:30] you’re going to wind up pretty much celebrating anything and everything, and you may not actually see the progress that you want, because really, the progress hasn’t been defined.

I know this may not be exactly like your position to do, but at least on this podcast, if we can kind of like set some expectations and goals, then I think that would allow me to kind of craft a more concrete plan on how to execute on them, because the problem is that everything works. You know? You mentioned all of them. Facebook Live, Facebook [00:16:00] video, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, articles, podcasts, like, there are so many options. You’re not going to be able to do everything, so how do we figure out what we want to choose from and what’s going to give us the best ROI for the least amount of effort? How can we maximize what we do have? Well, we’ve got to figure out what we truly want.

Everything can work. That’s the problem. How do we figure out what works best? How can we sacrifice good for great? It starts with, like you said, the why, the goals. At least for a thought exercise [00:16:30] in this podcast, what do we truly want to get from this conference? Let’s start with a number. Are you comfortable with 500?

Carson Cooper: Yeah. I think, again, just, this is me speaking with not a lot of communication with them in regards to their firm goals, but you know, for the exercise, I would say yeah, I think 500 students, including youth pastors and young adults, I think that could be a reasonable goal.

Brady Shearer: For a first time conference, 500 is a lot, but what I think can help with this is that [00:17:00] you can get youth groups and student ministries on board, where you only have to convince one person, like the student pastor, or a small group of one to five people, the student pastor, their board, and their senior pastor, and you can get 20, 30, 40, 50, 100, whatever sized youth group they have, in one shot.

Carson Cooper: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: Truthfully, long term, you’re going to win with the students and with the churches via this content strategy, but I think the absolute best way to get like 500 guaranteed [00:17:30] is to reach out via Instagram, email, call, every single student pastor in your area, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, other surrounding states that I do not know about because I’m Canadian, and reach out to each one and say, “Hey, we’re doing this conference. Here are the three key benefits that you’d get from coming to it. Here’s how far away it is. You’ve got plenty of chances to call, sorry, to plan for it, and let us know. We’re willing to give you like this x amount of discount [00:18:00] in the next 30 days if you’re up for it.”

I guarantee you, if you’re willing to put in the work, you or someone else on the team, you know, that’s not glamorous work, right? Carson’s like …

Carson Cooper: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: Calling people on the phone or cold emailing, or DM-ing. Look, truthfully, most people won’t respond, but what’s going to happen is, when the one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, however many you do, whatever percentage do respond, they’re going to give you a huge amount right away, which, you know, otherwise, [00:18:30] I don’t know how you’re going to reach 500 on a first time, because you don’t have the brand equity yet, and you don’t have this huge platform. There are other options, but let me ask you, how do you feel, what’s your first visceral response to that?

Carson Cooper: Well, it’s funny when you mention that. I did a youth in, you know, how I got involved with these guys is I did a leadership internship, you know, a college leadership program, and that was part of one of our duties was cold calling just churches, and just saying, “Hey, what’s going on? This is Carson [00:19:00] from such and such. What do you, you know, I’d love to speak to the youth pastor.” I mean, just rooms and rooms of interns just calling people, you know? “I got someone who wants a promo pack. Yay.”

It’s funny that you mention that. I think, the response, I think, is really great. I think, realistically, again, with it being a church plant, they have an internship of about, I think, 20 college aged students, a part time internship, so I think realistically with a church plant [00:19:30] that really only has a few paid staff, mostly volunteers, I think it could work with the implementation of the interns, but I’m just not sure how much space everyone would have to do that in addition to running normal day to day church functions.

Brady Shearer: I think that you really have to map your ambition, as a church, in this case, to like the hustle and work that you’re going to put in.

Carson Cooper: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: If you’re a church of 500 [00:20:00] people, and you want to launch a conference in the first year without any brand equity, without any experience, and you want 500 people, students and young adults, mostly youth, to attend, that’s a very ambitious goal. You need to be willing to put the work in behind that to see it come to fruition. This is something that I see, and this is for everyone listening, along with you, Carson.

I recognize there’s a bit of disconnect here because I’m not speaking with the person in charge of this, and you’re kind of like the [00:20:30] third party who’s gathering some intel and bringing it back, so this isn’t even necessarily directed at you, but what I see in the church world is a bit of a disconnect between what we expect to achieve, and the amount of work that we’re willing to put in. I think the reason for that is not because churches are lazy.

It’s not because pastors are less willing to work than other individuals in other industries and institutions, but it’s because this God factor, where we can use the excuse of, “You know, the Lord gave me a vision, and if the vision isn’t too big for me, then it’s too small.” [00:21:00] You know? Like this is a God-sized vision. We can use that as an excuse to not be practical at all, and to also just use it as an excuse not to put the work in. If God doesn’t show up, if God doesn’t show up, this is not going to happen.

Carson Cooper: Yeah, neither will I.

Brady Shearer: Yeah. That’s just an excuse for you not to show up. God is like the constant. He’s going to do Him. You need to do you. You need to play your role in this. The ambition for this conference is high, and so the work put in needs to be high also. That would be like the preface. [00:21:30] Let’s talk about an actual strategy for reaching out to pastors. What I would recommend is doing email over cold calling.

One, you’re going to get more people in charge of this like onboard with this, because it’s going to be less awkward. Two, I actually think it’s more effective. Three, you’re going to be able to reach out to more people. Let’s do this. We’ll do a big cold email strategy. Here’s what I would do. Step one, gather the list. Whoever wants to do this, I’d put one person in charge of this. Gather the list of at least 100 churches with student ministries [00:22:00] that you know would be a good fit for the conference. Use the whatever, you know, five state or 150 mile radius around the church Radiant in Kansas, Kansas City, right?

Carson Cooper: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: Then find 100 to start with. Heck, find as many as you can. Find 1,000. That would be even better. It requires more work, obviously. Then what I would do is I would have someone write up an email template that includes the following things. Number one, the three main benefits why someone would want to attend this conference. [00:22:30] This is where you really need to figure out who you are as a conference, even at these early stages, what’s going to make you unique, and why it will be valuable for someone to pay, to pack up their kids, to make the drive, to book the travel arrangements. Conferences are a huge ask, right?

Carson Cooper: Totally.

Brady Shearer: This is why we’re seeing online conferences become more and more prolific, because you’ve got to figure out travel, accommodations, food. With kids, you’ve got to figure out the school timing, permission slips from their parents. You know, I remember when [00:23:00] I was in youth, we did a 10 day mission trip to Mexico, and we drove from Canada to Mexico.

Carson Cooper: Wow.

Brady Shearer: The state of Texas just never ended, and it was the worst. You know, like, figuring out this stuff is very difficult. Now, Missouri to, well, if that’s the case, Kansas City, that’s the thing, where it is, but let’s say Nebraska to Kansas City is a lot easier than Toronto to Monterey, Mexico. The point is that there’s a lot of moving pieces, and so you need to have such a strong reason for someone [00:23:30] to come. That’s where the person that’s writing this email needs to really figure out the three things. You know, number one, we are a first time conference, so we’re going to be cheaper than any other conference. That’s a huge one, cost.

Number two, we’ve got great connections with the speakers and worship that your kids are really going to value, so you’re going to have more of your kids sign up, because we’re bringing in the worship team and the speakers that your kids already know and will be interested in hearing. Number three, we’re willing to give you a massive discount if you sign up in the next 30 days. That kind of leads me into the second part of the email template that’s important. [00:24:00] You want to give them a reason to sign up, get the ball moving now. You need to inject a little bit of scarcity into the offer.

I would do something in the realm of 30 days, simply because things move slow in the church world. It’s a big ask. They’re going to need approval on the other end, all that stuff. I’d say, for the next 30 days, we’re giving away a massive 35% discount or something, something that really does move the needle. This is where you’re going to have to figure out cost, and you’re going to have [00:24:30] to figure out your expenses and where to dial in this price. You want to offer something that’s very meaningful, okay, over the next 30 days. Now you’ve got the main benefits.

You’ve got the discount, you’ve got the scarcity, and now you’ve also got this other thing, the timeline, these 30 days. Basically what this email is doing is it’s almost setting this clock that’s counting down from the second your first email is sent. You create that email template, and then what you do is you give the list of churches to [00:25:00] the interns or whoever’s going to be sending out these emails. You give them the email template, and you each give them, you know, you give each intern 50 churches, let’s say, and be like, “Okay, over the next week, your goal, your job, is to email each of these 50 churches. Email the person,” and then, okay, and then here’s the next step for them.

Number one, they have to figure out who in that church, whom is the right person to email. Don’t just send in the contact form over the church website. Okay? That’s lazy. You’ve got to go to the church website, [00:25:30] go to the staff page, track down the youth pastor, the student pastor, the person that’s in charge of that, find them on Facebook, find them on Instagram, get their direct email, and then send it to them. It’s going to wildly more effective if you do that, get to them directly, than if you do something where you send it through the admin or the contact page on the church website.

Carson Cooper: Right.

Brady Shearer: I would also include, have the intern include, or they could also, okay, have the intern include a phone number that the student pastor can get back to. [00:26:00] Give them more options. Be like, “Hey, by the way, if you prefer to talk on the phone with me,” and then the intern can put in their phone number, or even better, and probably more smart, would be, “Hey, if you want to talk with the conference organizer, here’s their direct cell. Feel free to give them a call.” Now, if someone’s ready to take the jump, or they need more questions answered, they can get back to the person immediately on the phone with the answers that they need.

Then what you want to do from there is you want to send the email through [00:26:30] an application that will track when the email is opened, if at all. You can do this with I think it’s called Boomerang on Gmail. I think that’s what it’s called, although I could be wrong. Any kind of like major platform that sends out support tickets for businesses will work, so we use Help Scout, Intercom, any of those things. You could sign up for a free trial on Help Scout, and when you send an email through Help Scout, it will say, “Customer opened at 4:51 PM,” and then you know if the email was opened or not. [00:27:00] This is going to inform the next step in this strategy, which is follow up email.

Let’s say you send an email and you check back. If someone doesn’t respond in three days, I would check back. In three days, check back. If the email was not opened at all, I would resend the exact same email with a different subject line. Don’t rewrite the email. Just send it again with a different subject line. If the email was opened [00:27:30] and not replied to, I would then respond in that exact thread, don’t start a new thread, like if someone hadn’t opened the email. Respond to that exact thread and just be like, “Oh, hey Thomas, I noticed that you saw this email,” or maybe you don’t want to say that. It depends on if you think that’s a little bit too intrusive or not.

Carson Cooper: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: “Hey, Thomas, just wondering if you saw this email. Wanted to know how you thought about it. Get back to me. Looking forward to hearing from you,” you know, “Carson.” Then I would try one more time, one third time, [00:28:00] let’s say another three days later, and be like, you know, “Oh, hey, Thomas. I don’t want to be a bother at all. This is just something we’re really passionate about. I’m not going to email you again after this at all. I just wanted to hit it one more time, you know, did you see this? Let me know if you have any questions. I’d love to help. Hope all is well with you in your ministry. Carson.”

Carson Cooper: Totally.

Brady Shearer: For the people that don’t respond after that, great. You gave your three shots, and they’re not going to respond. What I’ve found is that when you do these followup emails, it shows a little bit of extra intentional effort on your [00:28:30] part, that like 50% of the people that didn’t respond to this cold email, now they feel like, “You know what? This wasn’t just a mass email. This person does care about me.”

Carson Cooper: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: Now they’re more willing to respond, maybe more inclined to at least give you a chance.

Carson Cooper: Totally.

Brady Shearer: One more thing that can boost this in a huge way, and this is where the power of the interns come in, is that you want to personalize each email in some degree. For instance, obviously you want to address with their first name, not, “Hey, youth pastor.” You want to say, “Hey, Thomas,” so their first name should be in there. Second, [00:29:00] you want to include their youth ministry’s name. Be like, “Hey, Thomas, I hope all is well with Sonic Youth.” That’s the name of a band, right? Okay.

Carson Cooper: Yeah, I think so.

Brady Shearer: That’s okay.

Carson Cooper: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: That shows my in-touchness with youth group names. Okay, let’s try that again. “Hey, Thomas, hope all is well with Engaged Students. My name is blah from blah blah blah conference. I noticed that you guys went to,” and then insert event here. What you want to do is, like, ideally, through the social networks, and this [00:29:30] is what makes this so powerful, is that we can track down so much information, right, which makes it more personal. Be like, “Hey, I noticed that you had a big,” let’s see, what time would this be? You’re doing this maybe six months ahead of time.

“Hey, I noticed you had like a big fall festival,” or, “I noticed that you had a big winter retreat. Hope that went well. It looked super cool. Anyway, what I want to,” and then you can jump into that. Basically, in that first paragraph, you’re building a rapport and showing that, “Look, this isn’t a mass email. I know who you are. I’ve put in some effort. [00:30:00] I really think you’d be a good fit for this. No obligation, of course, but I want to let you know that I’ve done my work and my research, I know who you are. This isn’t just some like bulk email that I copy and pasted. I put some effort and work in here,” again, because the whole goal is to get someone to respond to the email.

Then from there you can take them down the road of actually signing up, responding to maybe their, you know, some of their concerns, and then working them through that signup process from there. What this is going to give you, if you execute on [00:30:30] all of those things, and it sounds like you’ve been writing them down, which is great, if you execute on all of those things as part of this strategy, what you’re going to get, at the end of it, is dozens of churches that are considering coming to the conference, and are good fits for the conference, and you have a good rapport with.

That’s amazing, because if you can do that on scale, and you know, the number of churches in America and around you, if you just put the research in, you can, if you do that on scale, you’re going to get [00:31:00] dozens of youth groups, dozens of student ministries with 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 and up kids, and suddenly that goal of 500 suddenly becomes attainable. If just say, like, okay, the average student ministry is like, you know, let’s say 20 kids, I don’t know how big student ministries are where you are, but let’s use something conservative, 20 kids, you know, maybe we only need 20 youth groups and we’re already at 400 kids.

Carson Cooper: Totally.

Brady Shearer: 20 youth groups, okay. If we email 2,000 and 200 respond and 20 sign up, that’s a 1% conversion rate. That seems pretty realistic, and now you’ve already like four fifths of the way [00:31:30] there.

Carson Cooper: Totally. That’s awesome. Kind of another question in, and maybe this goes into some of that email strategy, I mean, talking to youth pastors. The founding pastor of the church, Dave Perkins, and the conference founder as well, I mean, he has some rapport in the area. I mean, he’s been a traveling speaker. Again, he started a conference that went on for 15 years, and is kind of, I mean, he has constituents, if you [00:32:00] will. Would you say his, I mean, history is a good leveraging point, or should you just, I mean, focus on the tangibles of that specific conference, or you know, is it worth kind of getting his history in this, the denomination, the conference world, as a leveraging point?

Brady Shearer: There’s two levels to this. The first is, and this is kind of an interesting hiccup or interesting nuance of doing a youth [00:32:30] and young adult conference, the first being that the decision makers are not the people coming to the conference.

Carson Cooper: Right.

Brady Shearer: The youth, the students, are not making the decision, on a whole, to come to the conference. They’re just signing up because their youth group is going. You need to reach the decision makers, namely the student pastors and their senior leadership, when it comes to getting people to sign up. But, from the student pastors’ perspective, they need to be convinced that this is the type of conference that their [00:33:00] students are going to be excited about so that they’ll make the decision. That’s a little bit of the unique nuance that you need to be very aware of.

I think that you want to be talking about that at all times with your team, and not overlooking it at all, but what I will say about kind of leveraging any existing rapport, any existing name recognition that this pastor has, you have to ask yourself, “Does this pastor have cache with the decision makers that we’re trying to reach?” Does [00:33:30] a student pastor in Nebraska care about this person? If they do, then great, leverage that. If they don’t, then maybe it’s not something that’s worth doing. I would venture to guess that the students in a youth ministry, the 14, 15, 16, 17 year olds, probably don’t know this pastor. Probably he’s not on their radar. Would that be correct?

Carson Cooper: Yeah, more or less.

Brady Shearer: Right, so then you’ve got to make the choice namely, entirely, in fact, on the student pastors [00:34:00] themselves, on the youth pastors. Does it matter to them that this person is the one spearheading or behind the conference? That’s something that you’ve got to answer, yes or no. This pastor’s a little bit older. It might help when these student pastors go to their senior pastor to get sign off, and that senior pastor knows them, right? There’s a spectrum of, like, the students don’t know him at all. Some of the youth pastors do. Most of the senior pastors do, let’s just say, hypothetically. You’re not going to convince [00:34:30] the students to come because of the cache that he has, because he’s not reaching into that world.

You might get a little bit when it comes to the youth pastors, but maybe you’ll get a lot more with the senior pastors, which is good for them making the decision, them signing off on their church’s youth groups going to the conference, but it doesn’t help with the youth actually signing up. That’s something you’d have to consider there, but what I will say is, in general, you always want to leverage as much as you can from other networks, from other platforms, and then siphon off that attention [00:35:00] and bring it into the new platform that you’re starting. This is just basic digital communication, really, all marketing and communication 101.

I know business owners that will never start a new business unless they know that their existing customers would be inclined to pay for it. We do this at Pro Church Tools. We launched, for instance, the Story Tape Instagram accounts. The first thing that I did was when I launched the Story Tape Instagram account, I did and Instagram story on my [00:35:30] personal profile, @bradyshearer, where I had at the time, you know, let’s say 7,000 followers, and so I did an Instagram story and basically said, “Hey, the @storytape Instagram account is live. We’d love for you to go and give it a follow.” I leveraged my existing audience, and I even gave them a little bit of reason to sign up, to follow it.

I said, “If you follow that account today, I’ll give you a follow back.” This is being posted way later, but I actually did that this morning.

Carson Cooper: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: It’s 12:31 PM now. This [00:36:00] morning I created the account and had zero followers, and right now, if I head over to it, the Story Tape accounts, there are more than 300 followers, all because I’ve just leveraged my existing audience. That was one Instagram story, three, four hours ago, and we’ve already got 340, whatever it is, followers now because of that. There was a little bit of incentive for them to do it, and I leveraged my existing platform.

Carson Cooper: Totally.

Brady Shearer: In general, leveraging whatever you have is always an absolute, absolute must. [00:36:30] You’ve just got to figure out how to do it best. If I had just sent out a story and said, “Hey, @storytape is live on Instagram. Go follow @storytape. Thanks,” you know, maybe I would have got half those follows, but because I said, “I’ll follow you back,” and added the incentive, now I’m pairing existing rapport with an incentive. It’s going to be that much more impactful and powerful.

Carson Cooper: Totally. No, that’s really good. Kind of even in that vein that you’re talking about, siphoning off of your existing platform, so for instance, what I’ve seen [00:37:00] so much is, let’s say the conference posts something, bands and speaker, you know, “Hey, we’re excited for such and such and such and such to come,” and then everyone on the church staff and intern repost that image, I just, that’s kind of a pet peeve. I’m like, why would they, you know, why would they want to go look at it on the conference page if they just saw it on your page?

Would you say things like Instagram stories incentivizing people to go, are there any other types of, speaking of Instagram, [00:37:30] any other type of formal post that pushes people to that conference page, as opposed to, like, I’ll just share what I posted over there, in hopes that they go look at it? In my mind, why would they, because they just saw it on your personal page. What would you say are some things that help siphon that off?

Brady Shearer: Let me just clarify to make sure that I’m hearing you right. The conference Facebook page posts something, for instance?

Carson Cooper: Right, or Instagram page.

Brady Shearer: [00:38:00] Okay, so the conference Instagram posts and says, “Hey, we’re welcoming in Hillsong United to our conference. Go to boldconference.com,” that’s not the URL, “Boldconference.com to sign up.” That’s the original post, as an example.

Carson Cooper: Yeah, or for instance, yeah, “Hillsong United is coming. We’re super excited,” you know, like an image of them with that incentive, and then, you know, everyone else on staff that’s associated with the conference, ” [00:38:30] Hey, we want to support what the conference Instagram is doing,” and what I’ve observed in my experience, it’s like, “Hey, everyone repost that same image,” but I don’t know if that destroys the power of that original post, or, because in my mind, why would you go, because the hope is, right, to drive people to the conference page.

Brady Shearer: Like boldconference.com?

Carson Cooper: That or the Instagram page, even, as well, because with there being a link there, you know, you could just click that. [00:39:00] I mean, would you say it’s okay to repost images that are shared on the conference page, if they’re all just pushing towards the website?

Brady Shearer: Yeah, absolutely. I think that, I can understand like if there was a person in your church that followed every single one of those people, it could feel a bit spammy to see the same repost, but at the end of the day, that’s just going to be a small portion of your audience, and Facebook, Instagram, social platforms are great when someone shares what you’re doing, because it leverages their audience and it introduces you to new people. [00:39:30] They don’t follow you, but they follow him or her, and so I think that’s a great thing to do, especially because, for the most part, your call to action is not going to be, “Hey, follow the conference Instagram account.”

The call to action is going to be, “Go to our website, learn more about the conference, get that on your radar, consider signing up, come to the conference. Come again a second year. Come every year.” If that’s like the progression that you want people to take, you always want to be sending people to your website as much as possible. Now, there is a distinction between what we in the marketing world call direct [00:40:00] response and branding. It’s important to be aware of these two things. I alluded to this earlier. Kind of we started off the conversation when I was talking about the Pro Church Tool strategy when it comes to posting free content that really doesn’t promote anything paid. That’s what we call branding.

What we’re doing is we’re creating a brand that you, Carson, and everyone in Pro Church Nation, would trust. You would consider following. You’d keep an eye out for new content. You’d click the emails. You’d like [00:40:30] the posts on Instagram. You’d share on Facebook. You’d watch the videos on YouTube. That’s the type of content that makes you come back again and again. Now, if you only do branding, what happens is you make no money, because you never actually call anyone to action to do anything. A business, a conference, a church can’t thrive like that, so you need to pair that with what we call direct response. Direct response is the type of content that basically invites your audience to take a certain action.

Direct [00:41:00] response would be when I send out an email saying, “Hey, storytape.com is live. We’re open for new registration. Sign up, we’d love to have you.” That’s direct response. To create a memorable image of both of these, I like to compare direct response … Think of direct response like the monster truck rally that comes through Kansas City. They’re only there for one or two nights, and so they’ve got one goal in their mind, get as many butts in the seats in the coliseum as they possibly can. What is the classic [00:41:30] monster truck rally commercial that gets run on the local television networks in Kansas City? Well, if they’re coming June first, right around May first, those commercials start to run.

It’s just like, you know, “Sunday, Sunday, Sunday, be there, be there, be there. One night only. Come and see Bone Crusher and Grave Digger fight off at the Kansas City Coliseum. You need to be there.” They are going to do everything they possibly can to get you to sign up. That’s direct response. Why? Because they’re only there [00:42:00] for one or two days, and if they don’t get you, that’s it. They miss you. That’s the only shot they have. That’s a unique industry. Now, compare that to let’s say a Volkswagen car commercial that they show during the Super Bowl.

At some point, maybe for the entire commercial, you don’t even know what’s being promoted, and you’re like, and at the end, like the Volkswagen logo flashes, and you’re like, “Oh, okay,” and maybe you’ll think that commercial was cool, and maybe it will move you just a little bit more towards buying a Volkswagen or at least keeping them on your radar [00:42:30] the next time you are going to search for a vehicle, or the next time your friend asks for a recommendation for a vehicle. Those are like the two polar opposites of the extreme. What you can’t have is, in any way, one without the other. If you are a business, or a church, or in your case, a conference, you need to have both.

As you get closer to the launch of the conference, you’re going to have more direct response. “Hey, we’re bringing in Hillsong United. It’s going to be great. Sign up at boldconference.com.” That’s direct response, but you also need to pair [00:43:00] that with branding. “Hey, we just released a new guide on prayer as a high schooler. Check it out.”

That’s you offering free, valuable content that someone’s more likely to click on than you saying, “Sign up for our conference,” but you need both at all times. Pairing those together, I think, is the key. Recognizing the distinction between each, most churches, most conferences, most leaders and pastors do not recognize the difference. If you see church, Facebook, [00:43:30] website, social, email marketing efforts, it’s almost all direct response.

Carson Cooper: Right.

Brady Shearer: “Hey, we’ve got this event. Sign up. Hey, we’ve got this new series. Come and see us. Hey, we’ve got this big giving campaign. Make sure you give now.” Very rarely do they create this type of just branding that creates equity, that creates rapport, that creates the type of back and forth trust that would have you, Carson, on this podcast listening to me give you advice. You said this to me when you originally signed up. “I love your stuff. I’ve been following you for a little [00:44:00] while.” Without that stuff, we would not be having this call right now.

Carson Cooper: Right.

Brady Shearer: That same transactional relationship can happen in any context, in a conference, in a church, but you’ve got to put in the work ahead of time, and kind of give, give, give, give, give, and then eventually, you can ask.

Carson Cooper: Totally. That’s awesome. No, that’s super helpful. Yeah. I forget what the original question was, but that was, I mean, that was all really great.

Brady Shearer: I fear that the original question [00:44:30] was a little bit different, and then I kind of took it in another direction, but I was a little bit concerned that, like, the root issue there was a little bit different. Basically, I think, if I recall the original question, it had to do with promoting and kind of like …

Carson Cooper: Oh, yeah, in multiple accounts and stuff.

Brady Shearer: Like, should we post the same thing? Yeah, like, absolutely. I think sharing and using existing audiences that don’t yet know you, aren’t yet connected to you, leveraging someone else’s audience is a huge thing. I mean, we call that influencer marketing. That’s what Instagram’s all about, [00:45:00] right? You see …

Carson Cooper: Totally.

Brady Shearer: A model or a fitness person, and they’re holding, you know, a Swell bottle, and they’re like, “Get 15% off Swell.” Well, Swell is using their, that person, that individual’s Instagram following, leveraging that attention, and then trying to siphon a bit off towards them, so absolutely, in a micro context, you can do that with staff and leaders and those that are helping with the conference.

Carson Cooper: Right on. Totally. I mean, that’s, again, that was all really good. I had another question. Again, doing a lot of my research and looking at [00:45:30] other conferences within our category of youth, young adult, I see a lot of them, you know, they all have the same, realistically, we all have the same people. It’s really all the same speakers. You know, if they’re hot because they’re at one conference, you know, people are going to want them.

When I’ve observed a lot of their Instagram accounts, it’s like, leading up to the event, it’s a lot of I think visually like curated Instagram, so you know, massive grids that work together [00:46:00] with images and some details and dates, but with, you know, just kind of visually pleasing things, and then come the conference, it’s, you know, stuff that’s going on. Maybe it fits that same grid format, you know, working together, and then it seems like a lot of them go dark after that. I think my question, kind of two parts, is, what do you think, one, about the visually curated grid as opposed to a normal, living, breathing Instagram [00:46:30] feed?

By curated, I don’t mean like individual images that have a similar filter or are designed the same. I mean something, you know, nine images that makes a big picture. Kind of firstly, what do you think about that strategy going forward? Then second, I mean, what is the best thing you could do, once that conference is over, on your, whether it’s Instagram or other social accounts, whether that’s to thank people or to try to engage them to come back next year as well?

Brady Shearer: [00:47:00] Yeah. I think that, I’m not a huge personal fan of the grids on Instagram, simply because I think, for the end user, when I’m scrolling through my feed and I see one sixth of your image, I’m not really inclined to like it or click it because I know that there are five others.

In Instagram, because they don’t display in your news feed just chronological Instagram posts now, and there’s an algorithm that’s showing you, you know, I’m not going to have to scroll through five others right after it, but I think even worse, you start to see like the other [00:47:30] images in the grid like filtered in randomly, so I’m scrolling, “Oh, there’s the first one. Oh, there’s the sixth one. Oh, there’s the third one,” and it just starts to muddy up my feed. I don’t go over and click and look at the grid, usually. That’s just me. I think some people do it, but what I would much prefer is to leverage Instagram for what it’s best at, which is using it as a visual platform, sharing photos.

As for the grid, I’m not a huge fan. When it comes to promoting after the conference, one of the best conference techniques that you can do is get [00:48:00] people at the conference to commit to next year right then and there. You’ve got their attention. They’ve done all the hard work to attend the conference. The best way to get more people at your conference next year is to keep the existing ones that you had the year prior. You want to do everything you can, in the week two or three after the conference, to get people to commit to next year. How do you do this? Well, you create a huge discount and scarcity again.

On the final day of the conference, or you know, on the second to final day, you start dropping hints, [00:48:30] and the final day you kind of go a little bit harder on this and say, “Hey, in 2018, we don’t have all of the conference speakers or worship lined up, but we’ve already got the dates, and if sign in now, you’re going to get a 50% discount for you and your entire team.”

Carson Cooper: Wow.

Brady Shearer: “All we need is this type of deposit.” What that’s going to give you is a certain percentage of people, price conscious, that had a great time at the conference they’re at currently, are going to be like, “Oh, yeah, I need to lock that in. The deposit is this much? Great.” Then it gives you, the conference organizers, more time [00:49:00] to know and estimate how many people are coming, and to prepare for that. You can kind of run that on social for the week after. You know, maybe, again, these pastors need to go back to their senior leadership and get their approval. It’s like, “Hey, as long as you sign up this June,” so you know, it’s another 21 days, “We can give you this discount.”

Again, you don’t want to go super hard and only promote that on social, but you can mention that on Instagram, mention that on Facebook. “Hey, seven days left. Three days left. Hey, it’s your last day to get this discount.” What that’s going to do is it’s going to give you some numbers for the next [00:49:30] year, and some content for immediately after the conference ends. At the end of the day, once the conference ends, you want to be transitioning into that yearlong helpful branding content.

It’s not asking, asking, asking, but it’s just giving, giving, giving, so that you can build up a huge amount of rapport and equity in your audience, grow your audience, so that the time January rolls around and you start announcing the speakers and the dates and the locations and the worship team, that’s when you’ve now [00:50:00] built a huge amount of rapport, so more people are seeing your content in their feeds, more people are clicking the emails that you’re sending, more people are aware of you, because you’ve been delivering so much valuable content that your audience has grown.

You’ve got more followers, and now you can start promoting and switch a little bit into direct response, right, those two different types of content, and because your audience is so much bigger and more engaged, they are going to take action. I have been getting asked by so many businesses in the church world, entrepreneurs in the church [00:50:30] world, my friends, people I like, people I look up to. They said, “Brady, how did you get 1,000 churches to sign up for Nucleus, a brand new, unproven platform, in seven days when you launched?”

I say to them, “Oh, well, Pro Church Nation. That’s why. Because we deliver valuable content 12 months of the year, nonstop. They trust us, and so when we launch a product, they’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m already on board,’ and very little convincing even needs to take place.” You want [00:51:00] to do that exact same thing with your conference. The same principles, same tactics. Nothing is different. It’s just executing towards a different end goal.

Carson Cooper: Right on. No, that’s awesome. That’s really insightful. I guess my last question would be this. How do you know when is the right time to kind of switch between the branding and the, I’m sorry, I forget what you had called it …

Brady Shearer: Branding and direct response?

Carson Cooper: Yeah. Kind of when do you switch over in that mode? [00:51:30] Is it six months before, is it three months before, is it 10 months before?

Brady Shearer: You have to think of it, it’s not entirely like an on and an off switch. It’s more of, how do we balance the two? You always want to over index on the side of branding.

Carson Cooper: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: You don’t want to over index too far and never ask for anything. There are businesses, churches, and conferences that do that, but what you do want to do is over index on the side of branding. There’s a Gary Vaynerchuk book called Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, which …

Carson Cooper: Yep, I got it.

Brady Shearer: Which, the name of the book [00:52:00] would imply that, you know, three brandings for every direct response, but you can go as much as you want. We always keep pushing the limit for how much branding that we can do, because we’ve found, like we know our company makes money, we’re good at launching products, the products that we’re making are awesome and people like them, so we’re trying to push the limit on how much we can give before asking.

Carson Cooper: Right.

Brady Shearer: It used to be that we did like one article a week, and then we made it one article and one podcast. Then we made it one article, one podcast, and one video. Now it’s three podcasts, [00:52:30] three videos, two articles, every single social platform available, and now we’re launching two new brands, Nucleus and Story Tape, and we’re replicating that level of content, that level of branding, on each.

We just keep pushing the limit. How much can we give? How much can we give? How much can we give? Because we’ve found that the more we give, the more that we get. It’s just this, you know, general rule of the universe, or at least capitalism, or at least online digital marketing, whatever it may be, whatever you want to define it as. The more that we give, the more, [00:53:00] in turn, works out well for us. Lead with value, and it’ll all work out on the other side.

Carson Cooper: Totally. Right on.

Brady Shearer: Well, I think that’s a perfect place to leave off, Carson, a nice little happy moment at the end there.

Carson Cooper: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: Thanks so much for coming on the Pro Church Podcast Coaching Edition. I really hope some of this was valuable, and I think, I know, for people listening, for churches that are involved with conferences, that run conferences of their own, I’m sure that some of this was valuable, so thanks for coming on the show and being so transparent about what you and Bold Conference [00:53:30] are up to.

Carson Cooper: Yes, sir. Thanks for having us.

Brady Shearer: Thanks for tuning in to the Pro Church Podcast Coaching Edition. My hope is that by hearing what’s happening behind the scenes in another church, you can see that no church has it all figured out, and we’re all on this journey together. To that end, if you have a question for me, the best way to get it answered is on our weekly question and answer show called the Ask Brady show. You can submit your question to hello@prochurchtools.com. Sending in a video question will put you immediately at the front of the line. [00:54:00] You can watch every episode of Ask Brady at askbrady.tv.



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