In January of 2015, a friend and I started Chruch Fuel to provide practical resources and training to pastors and church leaders.
I’ve written about the startup process before, but today, I wanted to provide a glimpse into our simple business strategy. You’ll find this strategy on our one-page business plan, it’s how we organize the numbers on our weekly report, and it’s how we’re staffing for growth.
The strategy is simple, and it’s not even that unique. Here it is.
A – Attract
Our strategy starts with getting people to visit our website. Our goal here is to be helpful.
We publish 2-3 articles a week. I write some of them, but most are written by our volunteer writing team. These articles tend to be 800-1,000 words and focus on the “how” of ministry.
These articles get shared on social media and we distribute them to other websites who publish similar content.
We use a simple Google calendar to keep track of when content is published.
Getting people to visit something on our website is the first part of the strategy. From there, we move on to the second part.
B – Build
Once someone is on our site, we want them to take a step. The step isn’t to buy something, but to trade their email address for something valuable. We want them to share their email address.
Right now, we have about 41,000 pastors who have opted in to receive email messages from us. We didn’t buy that list…we built it from the ground up by creating helpful stuff and asking people to sign up to receive it. Here’s how we’ve built the list (and what we continue to do on a daily basis)
- We create free resources like 12 Emails You Can Send Your Church, 7 Lessons from 7 Churches or The Senior Pastor’s Guide to Leading a Staff.
- We run social media ads for our free stuff. When you run the numbers, it costs us anywhere from $.50 to $5 to get a lead. Since we started the company, we’ve spent about $20,000 on Facebook ads.
- Each of our blog posts has a call to action to download something related to the topic. Some people call this a “content upgrade.”
- When you visit our website for the first time, you actually visit a splash or start page that’s all about one of our freebies. The second time you visit our page, you’ll see the regular homepage.
Jeff Walker says one email subscriber is worth 1,000 social media followers. And we agree. Our email list is the most important asset we have.
C – Convert
Once someone has visited our website and shared their email address, now we can begin the process of turning a visitor into a client. When I work with businesses, I try to help them understand that this isn’t always a quick process. Most companies go for the sale too soon.
We rely on two main things to generate sales.
- Email marketing via a welcome sequence. When you download one of our free resources, the first thing you get is an email all about that resource. After a couple of days, we start you on a welcome sequence.We’re always tweaking this and trying to make it more helpful and more effective. But right now, it’s 11 emails delivered over 21 days. It looks like this inside Infusionsoft:
The first few emails are all value-add, designed to help a pastor or church leader experience a win. From there, we move to a few story-driven emails to build credibility and trust. And toward the end, we offer people an opportunity to take a next step with us, aka become a customer.
- Monthly webinars.This is the second thing we do to move people from fans to clients. Once a month, we’ll invite people to a live training that lasts about an hour. It’s free and very helpful.We invite the people on our email list who have already gone through the welcome sequence and we also spend some advertising money promoting these on Facebook. Webinars are actually great for list-building, too.On the webinar, we’ll teach for about 45 minutes and then pitch people on joining.
So what do we ask people to buy?
The main product we sell is a membership called Church Fuel One. This is really core to our strategy because we believe a subscriber is better than a customer. The recurring revenue that comes from a membership program is great for our organization. But we also firmly believe it’s best for our clients.
D – Deliver
Once people become a customer, our next goal is to make sure they loved taking action, Our goal here is to be remarkable. Here are a few things we do to treat our customers like family:
- We call our customers “family.”
- Our customers are pulled out of all marketing emails. It doesn’t always work because sometimes people use different email addresses, but our goal is to speak to our customers differently than we speak to everyone on our list.
- We provide lots of touch points for people to get personal help with the resource they purchased.
- We ask for feedback and improve the product based on user feedback.
- We give unannounced bonuses all the time. Whether it’s a free recourse or an online gathering or a bonus conference call…we want to give people MORE than what they purchased.
There are two people on our team who help us do this.
First, Emily provides customer support. Her job is to serve pastors and make sure they have everything they need to be successful. Whether it’s a phone call, a note card or a welcome gift, she’s serving on the front line.
We also have a pastor on our staff who serves as the community manager. Bobby runs our office hours and private Facebook group. Essentially, he is our pastor to pastors.
In my opinion, too many companies invest heavily in marketing and customer acquisition and not enough in product development and customer support. That’s a great way to grow but a bad way to last.
That’s a great way to grow but a bad way to last.
E – Engage
The final part of our strategy is to engage our best customers and turn them into promoters. The final step of our strategy really starts the cycle over for new people. For Church Fuel, this means partners, affiliates, and promoters.
Affiliates are happy customers who can earn a commission for sharing links to resources. Most of the time, affiliates share links to our free resources. From there, the system tags any new lead and credits the referrer.
Partners are next-level affiliates. We give them a higher percentage because they have an email list and are committed to promote at the next level.
Promoters are publishing partners who share our stuff. Sometimes, they share because their audience is similar and they are looking for content. In other cases, they share something helpful because we return the favor.
In all three cases, when our customers share, it starts the cycle over, giving us the incredible opportunity to earn the trust of new people and send them through our welcome sequence.
This strategy really isn’t new. It’s similar to customer life cycle lots of people teach…we just simplified and tweaked it to fit how we work. It’s a strategy I think works for 90% of businesses, even those who don’t primarily work online like we do.