In today’s Lunch and Learn series for the Church Butler podcast, we sat down with Chris Abbott of Guts Church who is an expert of Facebook Ads.
In the discussion, Chris talked about:
- What are basic tips and strategies for churches that want to start promoting online via Facebook?
- A case example for using Easter as a go-to source in reaching more people.
- How effective is a Facebook Ad Campaign?
- How much does it cost to start marketing your church through Facebook?
- What are the other forms of online advertising?
Check out the video below.
You can listen to the podcast episode here.
Here’s a transcript of the podcast.
Kenny: Hey, everybody. Today, we’re having a Lunch and Learn session that you will never forget. It’s going to be burned in your mind. That’s how awesome this could be. I’m Kenny Jahng, with Church Butler. I’ve got my digital penpal here Chris Abott from Guts Church. How are you doing, Chris?
Chris: Man, I am doing awesome, Kenny. Thanks for having me in the show, bro.
Kenny: It’s an honor and pleasure to have you with us, today. So we’ve been having this Lunch and Learn series of interviews with church communities across the interwebs. Just sharing some real practical, tactical details of campaigns out there. There’s a lot of leadership training. There’s a lot of 10000-foot concept training. There aren’t that many people that are actually sharing literally what they’re doing. And I love the heart and generosity of the conversations that we’ve had and with what you’re doing over at Guts Church. And so, I’d love to talk today about Easter. That’s what all these church communicators are thinking about at this point, or you should be. If you haven’t started thinking about Easter, it’s time to wake up. And Chris, you’ve got some great strategies of using Facebook ads in particular to get new people through door. So, let’s start just 30 seconds on who you are, who is Guts Church, where the name come from and tell us a little about your ministry.
Chris: My name is Chris Abott. I’m 35 years old, I live in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Originally from the East Coast, but moved here from college, and stuck here eversince. I actually got involved with Guts back in 2001, when I was going to college and, I just fell in love with this place. It’s incredible ministry and Guts isn’t an acronym or anything. It stands as that’s what it takes to live for Jesus; it takes guts. My pastor got saved back in 1979. The Lord just spoke to him like “You have the guts to serve me”. And so, that’s everything that we’re about. It’s just having the guts to live for God, and to kind of reach the unreachable. And we’re kind of like a church for people, a home church. That’s how it kind of all started. I’ve been involved to the ministry for years, and we do a lot of pretty cool things, a lot of testing, a lot of different things with Facebook ads, Instagram ads and a number of other digital strategies. So, that’s pretty all what we do. I was contacted by the church for a while and I just came on full-time, back in December as the Marketing and Media Director here.
Kenny: Got you. And tell us, where is your church located? On a given Sunday, if I came to your church service and look around, what is it look like, what does it feel like, what’s the vibe?
Chris: Okay, we’re in Tulsa, Oklahoma. There’s a quite a few churches around here. Our church is a little bit different. It’s like an old renovated warehouse. We’ve got some pretty cool things that we do. Every year we kind of make this unique. We have an outreach that we do in the entire month of October every Fridays and Saturday nights. We used to call “The Nightmare”. Basically, we depict the top five killers of teenagers. We depict them in kind of a real-life way. We walk people through rooms. It’s kind of a big over the top Hollywood haunted house style presentation. It takes 3 or 4 volunteers that run every single night. But, it’s incredible and we normally about 30 000 people come through every month, every October, and I think this year we had over 7000 salvation. We’ll like to kind of have to do stuff that’s a little bit outside the box, a little bit not so churchy kind of stuff to reach people that nobody else is reaching. Our services are set up in the same way. Kind of loud rock music, kind of a lot of lights and fog and that kind of stuff. Really, just trying to reach as many people, who are kind of like us, as we can. So, pretty cool, pretty laid back, kind of way whatever you want, drinking coffee in the sanctuary. We got concrete floor. It’s pretty awesome.
Kenny: So, in Easter, you are going big for Easter, and Facebook is one of the tools in your toolbox that you’ve been using consistently for some really good results. We’ve got an audience here. Some of the people have used Facebook before. Some have not for digital advertising. Tell us a little bit about your plans for this Easter, and why is it the go-to source to reach more people.
Chris: The reason I’m sold on Facebook isn’t necessarily because I’m like a social media junkie. You know like I’m not constantly checking Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat all the time. I like it because it’s the one place you can reach the most amount of people. Facebook, the last number… Facebook has currently 1.9 billion people, and 1.3 billion logins every single day. And average users on Facebook for 20 minutes a day. I run Facebook ads for a number of clients and insurances all over the country. If there’s one place in your city, in your town or community, where every single person in town showed up for 20 minutes a day, all you would do is hang out there and invite people to church. With the magical interwebs, we have that. Mark Zuckerberg created a digital place where people all over the world especially in your city and town go and hang out at least 20 minutes a day. We have the opportunity to hang out there and invite them to church. I just think if you’re trying to be a good steward of your resources, Facebook is by far the single best advertising platform in the history of ever. When we say advertising all we need is that’s how you reach as many people as possible.
Kenny: Sure. So, let’s get right to the details. We’ve got a couple of minutes to share, why don’t you walk us through literally what you’re doing with Facebook for Easter this year?
Chris: We’re doing kind of a number of things. I’m solved obviously like a Facebook pixel. Refining pixel on the website because one of the number one thing every pastor knows out there, every church communicator who’s ever been a part of Easter service is you get a ton of visitors from Easter, how do you get them to come back the following Sunday? I’ve got a Facebook refining pixels so we can actually retarget and run ads to our audience of people who had already clicked on our ads and looked at everything. So, after Easter, we can try to get them back in the door. We’re running that. And then, all of our ads are kind of based around a lot of those things that we’re doing that people who wouldn’t normally go to church are trying to get to the doors. Because obviously, you get pretty much every single person goes to your church and going to show up on Easter. They’re going to bring their families. They’re going to bring their kids. There’s probably quite a few people who thinks that you are. Unless people who hold gestures that they’ve been there for years. They just show up in Easter. Especially if we remind them. Just show up on their Facebook feed like “Hey, it’s Easter, come to church.” They’ll probably come. So, what I’m really looking to do is tip all those people that are out there like “Hi. Yes, it’s Easter, we should probably go to church. I guess we should get some nice outfits for the kids.” Where do we go? They’re trying to figure out. “I got a friend who goes to such, such church. I want to go there.” What I’m doing with Facebook ads is selling benefits not the features. It’s like, anybody who looks at one of our ads and thinks that “Why should I care?” I’m giving them a reason to care. We’re actually advertising like a pop of candy drop that we’re doing. Where Easter bunny hangs at the side of the helicopter and just drops tons and tons of candies in the field like on top of Easter egg hunt that we’re doing. I’m actually running Facebook ads just advertising the helicopter candy drop that we’re doing. It’s a cool enough thing that when you’re a mom or a dad and you got kids, they’ll be like, “You drop a candy from a helicopter? Sounds awesome. Let’s go there.” We’re also bringing a live petting zoo. So, in Facebook ads simply promoting the live petting zoo, the Easter egg hunt itself, and some of the things that we have. We have free ice cream for kids, every single Sunday, but we’ll be running Facebook ads specifically targeting that.
Kenny: You’re specific in your ad copying content.
Chris: Yes. All of my ad copies and content are going to be about those specific things because not everything hits every single person but if you get that specific, some people just see that “I don’t have kids, but helicopter candy drop sounds awesome. I’m looking for a place to go to church on Easter. Any place that could hire helicopter, now the Easter bunny throws candy to the kids sounds like a pretty cool place that I’m like to be a part of.” Even just targeting those parents of those young kids, we’re still going to reach tons of other people who are just attracted to that culture.
Kenny: What’s the call-to-action in those acts. Is it just giving them the information hopefully they come to the church?
Chris: I’ll set up a landing pages just custom landing pages just for each one. I’ll have a generic Easter landing page so just have every single thing that we have on Easter that we’re featuring, we’ll have that on a landing page. But then I’ll set up some separate landing pages just for the helicopter candy drop. Some of the people just click on an actual Easter invite. Let’s talk about everything. We’ll go the Easter landing page. But, for like the helicopter candy drop, the live petting zoo, the free ice cream, the Easter egg hunt, all the other things that we have, I’ll set up a custom lending pages for each one so I can track how many clicks we have, how many people actually hit that. That landing page, and just to give more of that information and click on the live petting zoo. And on that live petting zoo, I’m not just going to say “Hey, come on Easter, we’re having a live petting zoo.” I’m going to list all the types of animals that we have. I’m getting pictures of animals and give as much information as possible. We just want to tip them in that direction. When they wake up on Sunday, they think, “We can’t sleep in. We can’t skip it. We have got to go to Guts. They got llamas. My kids are going to love petting a llama.”
Kenny: That’s awesome. Some results. First of all, how are you targeting? How wide is the geographic boundary are you setting for the geofence?
Chris: Great question. Typically, if I’m just targeting an average Sunday, like just trying to get to show up on a Sunday morning to come check out church, I’ll probably do usually within 15 miles of the church. We’re telling somebody, we’re here. We are here on the heart of Tulsa and that’s over a hundred thousand people will just within 15 miles. With all the Greater Metropolitan Areas, you got over a million people. 15 miles is quite a lot of people of driving distance. Some are from rural areas from different churches. Sometimes we’re doing 30 miles because people drive from all over to get there, but at Guts we see most people drive usually live within 15 miles in the church.
Kenny: What other factors? Are you just targeting people who like your page and their friends, or are you doing other demographics interests?
Chris: Yes. We’ll do other demographic interest. I’m a big fan of using life events just because people who are in transition are looking to make changes in their life. Same reason as everyone signs up for gym membership on January 1st. Everything feels new in transition. It’s the reason, church as well, back to school. Kids are back in school. You are kind of following the routine. It’s prolyl time to go back to church. I’m going to take advantage of those times. Same thing, I specifically target people who just kind of engaged or just got married, or just got divorced, or just had a baby, or just had a birthday, any type of those, or just had an anniversary, any of those types of big life events. It is kind of a primetime, so people unconsciously most of the time are just kind of looking for some changes. “I’m 35 this year. I should probably go back to church.”
Kenny: Are you using just the web-based interface Facebook ads or are you using Facebook ad manager application offline?
Chris: Yes, I usually just use the web based ads manager. Especially if for businesses, you can get pretty specific and use the powerbuilder and use all of that stuff. For most churches, you don’t have to get that specific. You’re running a pretty big audience and there’s definitely some retargeting that you need to be doing, but everything that you want to do is really in the ads manager for ministry types though.
Kenny: Can you share us about your advertising? This sounds very expensive to most churches, and I think one of the reasons why people don’t venture into Facebook advertising specifics is they can’t afford it. In my experience in using Facebook advertising most efficient vehicle for paid advertising and you actually don’t need to spend that much. Some churches are going all in. What’s your budget look like? How do you even moderate in spending? Are you doing evenly across the month? Are you like the last week before Easter you save up some money? How are you planning on that spend?
Chris: Great question. Depending on what it is that we’re targeting or whatever. I kind of switch it up, so the short answer is it depends. For Easter, what I’m doing is I’m just going to slam Facebook and Instagram for the last 14 days leading up to Easter. Every single day, my goal is to hopefully get in front of like half a million impressions, get some around 250, 000 unique people. Everyone seeing the ad at least, two times, if not, three or four times, my goal is 10 000 clicks to those lending pages. We’re still ironing out some of that budget stuff that kind of thing. Trying to get it approved and figure out how much of that stuff will going to work. Just to give you an idea, it doesn’t take that much money to have a really incredible return on your investment for Facebook ads. One of my clients for Facebook ads, they had a Fall Festival back in October. Their church members were about 120 people, and we just ran ads for Tuesday until Sunday 1:00 when their Fall festival started. 520 people showed up to their Fall festival. I think we’ve spent $65 bucks in change. The pastor like texted me freaking out like “Man, this is awesome! We didn’t have anything close to that return.” Flyers and posters. They tried all those different kinds of things. My clients spend tens and thousands of dollars in direct mail campaigns and not getting any more closely than a lot you can get on Facebook ads.
Kenny: What is it about the Facebook campaign that makes it so powerful and impactful?
Chris: It’s simply that you’re actually showing people the ads and inviting them to church in a spot where they already are. If you’re out there, you can spend a hundred and twenty-five bucks in a billboard, and you can take how many impressions you have, and how many people will go by, you have no idea, like how many clicks you had on your website or how many people looked at the ad, just because they drove by. You go on the highway. You passed five people and three of them were texting. People on their phones aren’t going to pay attention when they are driving. If they are not looking on the road, they’re definitely not looking at your billboard. I think those other traditional marketing mediums are good supplemental marketing pieces, but Facebook ads should be your primary just because you can target who exactly who you’re looking. If you’re going to go out there and just go after 35-year old moms who have kids between the ages of 4 or 12, you can just do it. It’s crazy. The targeting makes it awesome. And just the fact that people are on there and they’re looking for that kind of stuff. And if they like you, they liked what they see in your ad, then click on it and go to your website for more information, that’s huge.
Kenny: Most people in the church actually haven’t embraced Facebook advertising. Can you walk us through a sample, just the skeleton of the first campaign some would ever do? We’re talking one or two hundred or three hundred people, most churches in this country are under 300 people. Not a big organization, not a big budget. How much money should they budget for Easter between now and Easter? Right now, we’re heading to the ends of February. We have March and half of April to go, 6 weeks, how much money should they spend a week? And just walk us through what they should be doing?
Chris: I would specifically and obviously, I think the more money you could put into it, the better. But it doesn’t matter if you have a hundred bucks to spend, or if you have a hundred thousand. The most important thing that I always tell every church, just take imperfect action immediately. Whatever you’re doing, do something. It’s okay. There are no wrong decisions except not making any decision. The only way you could screw up is by not running Facebook ads. As long as you’re out there, you’re going to test, you’re going to learn and you’re going to figure stuff out. Here’s typically what I say, the best thing is, you basically want to create an ad set with multiple images that highlights the benefit of what you’re promoting. Whether it’s your church sermon series, your church events, special service specifically for Easter, whatever you are going to do, I begged everyone to bring a petting zoo just so I can pimp it on Facebook. Just a petting zoo for parents to the young kids is somewhat irresistible, so that’s the reason idea of what to bring in and let people. We’re not going to say, “Hey! You’re missing pastor’s message. He’s preaching on Matthew 7.” Nobody cares and nobody shows up just because of Matthew 7. They show up because their kids can pet a llama and then, it’s Matthew 7 that ends up changing their lives. But, people don’t always realize that. You’ve got to post the benefits why people actually want to come in there. And, you also want to have a direct call to action. You basically want to set up an ad that takes people to a landing page, and has a direct call to action. For example, “Join us this Sunday at 9am and 11 am.” It’s not a rocket surgery. It doesn’t have to be anything crazy “Hey! Join us this Sunday.” But you actually want to invite them to church and have some type of a specific hard act and a call to action. It’s really important to have graphics that are going to stop people from scrolling in their feed, especially Facebook reward you if you don’t have any words in your pictures right now at all, you could run graphics there for a little while and less than 20% text. Really now, they don’t want you to have any texts in your image. Just have a great looking photo that’s not “stock-photo-y” if you could help it? And then, that’s just actually stop people from scrolling. All of your actual ad copy, you don’t want to sound polished. It’s funny. You can end in a preposition. It’s okay. Just sound like you talk, you want it to sound like it’s coming from one friend to another, and it should read more like a coffee shop invitation rather than like a corporate sounding rants with correct grammar. Your landing page should just, make sure to have your service times, and your location in your landing page, a lot of people mess that up. Forget to tell people where your church is or what time you meet, what time they should show up. Only have information on that landing page that’s directly related to your Easter service. Don’t tell them about your small groups; don’t tell them about all the other things that you have that are going on your typical week. Just tell them about Easter. If you say more than one thing, you say nothing at all. So just tell them about Easter Sunday. And then, finally, you just need to answer the question, “Why should I care?”. If somebody is looking at your Facebook ads and they see an ad, an invite for Easter Sunday in their news feed, they are thinking whether subconsciously or not, they’re thinking “why should I care?”. So, give them a reason to care. Someone who doesn’t normally go to church is reading your ad now, “why should I care?” then your copy should answer that question specifically. For example, you might say, “Skeptical about church? We were too. That’s why we created a church for people who don’t like church. Find out why we’re different. This Sunday at 11am, and feel free to wear flip flops.” Or you might say, “Hey, have you ever wondered why bad things happen to good people? Find out this Sunday as Pastor John explores the questions you’ve always wondered about God but never had the guts to ask”. Something like that. Now, they know why they should care, and why they should come up. Because you put it, you made them the center of story instead of you being the center of the story. “Hey. Here’s our church. Here’s what we need. Here’s all the great stuff that we do. Here’s why we’re awesome.” Make it about them.
Kenny: After you get traffic to the landing page, is there any sign up, any opt-in there, or is there literally just the webpage that is focused on the message and “Here’s the information”?
Chris: I’ve thought about testing stuff like a free coffee coupon or free t-shirt coupon or something like that. Or having people opt-in, but I’ve really seen such a great response with just a landing page to show up this Sunday. It’s working. We just keep setting up landing pages that way. I’ll link to like Google maps or something like that so if they need directions, they can do that. On times, I have email for them, so they can actually like, “Hey, if you want to plan your visit and learn more email me here or whatever, we’ll save you a parking spot up front. We’ll help your kids check in before the building, introduce you to some key staff and leaders.” Because very rarely are people going to do that? Most people look at like “wow! They went bend and backwards just to host us.” It kind of promotes that friendly connotation, that warm atmosphere even if nobody ever emails you to take you there.
Kenny: Got you. And then in your experience, you kind of have a connection card or some visitor card. I guess people are referencing Facebook as one of the places they found out about the church, right?
Chris: Yes. Depending on the size of the church, that same church I referenced earlier with the Fall festival, we did another one like Christmas. They had like pictures with Santa like free family pictures with Santa, free stockings, free candies, all kinds of stuffs for your kids, we promoted that. And they had 11 new families showed up on their photos with Santa Sunday. That was an additional 47 people, to a church of hundred twenty, and we spent $73 I think on the ad spent. We basically ran testing ads Thursday, Friday and Sunday, for two weekends leading up to it. Just to maximize our ad spent. 11 new families and 47 people who showed up, it was just all from Facebook ads.
Kenny: Repetition is definitely part of that game and you’re retargeting them. After they come to that lending page, are you showing a different ad in your retargeted marketing?
Chris: Right now, no. We’ve been playing with that a little bit. It kind of talking about. I really like the idea of some type of a kind of a middle of Fall ad. Trying to get them to come back, either take some type of specific action or just like, “Hey. We’d love to see you again this Sunday for blank.” But we haven’t tested that just yet. Probably for Easter but this Fall we have not done that yet.
Kenny: Outside the Facebook ads, is there any other digital advertising that you’re doing? Are you doing Adwords? Are you including Instagram in your Facebook media device?
Chris: Yes. Both those. We definitely do Instagram and Facebook. I run everything on Facebook and Instagram. Especially we kind of have a younger demographics. We reach a lot of millennials on Instagram. We’ll do a Snapchat filter for Easter. We do for some of our special events. We do something special for Wednesday nights for our middle school ministry and our high school ministry, anyway and get a lot of great play on Snapchat. We do a ton of Google Adwords. I came on staff and got us to prove as a Google nonprofits, and then applied for a Google Adgram. Are your familiar with those?
Kenny: Yes. Definitely. We’ve been getting those approved left and right for churches because Google remove the religious restrictions more on profit for a couple of years ago so I think it’s almost a sin for church not to take advantage of it. $10 000 of free Google advertising a month for nonprofit.
Chris: It’s crazy. I’m telling you. We just got approved to that 3 or 4 weeks ago. Nobody on my staff even know what it was or understood what it was. They think, “Why would Google do that? It’s legitimately $10 000 a month and free Google Adwords.” I think last week, we sent 1678 people from Google to specific landing pages on our website, we’ve spent $2 300 of Google’s money doing it and costed us nothing. I’m going to run some specific ad campaigns on Adwords just targeting different Easter cues.
Kenny: I love it. From my old church, we got it approved as well. One of the side benefits is that Google apps comes in free and we actually had a hundred and ten email accounts on Google Apps. Each one costs $50 per year and just like that, a hundred and ten times 55 disappeared on the line item budget. I didn’t get a parking space, not even a t shirt.
Chris: That’s the thing. It’s because they don’t even understand what we’re doing, Kenny; they have no idea.
Kenny: But it is an incredible resource in churches. If anybody who wants to reach out to me, I can give you some of the details of the Google nonprofit programs. You’re doing Google Adgrams, you’re also doing Instagram ads, any other paid advertising online right now?
Chris: Yes. This year, I am actually going to experiment with YouTube pre-roll video. I haven’t done it before, I’ve been looking for excuse to learn it and kind of figure it out. Sat down earlier this week with our social media guy, who does all our social media management posting and kind of talk about as a media team like “Okay, how exactly do we want this video to look?” Analyzing the type of pre-roll videos that normally get me. It’s almost always like the dude with this phone who’s like “Hey, what’s up YouTube.” and starts talking like that. Always the one, and it’s always like a long form video, like 30 seconds like watching it 5, 6, 7 minutes of that dude talks about his bookcase like talking about how he reads a book a week. It gets me every time. We’re going to try something like that and kind of giving people like a virtual tour of the church. It is kind of the plan right now. We’ll see how that goes.
Kenny: we’ll have to have you back on Lunch and Learn to talk about that specific opportunity. I know YouTube Pre-Roll is another with gold mine just waiting to be exploited. People are not using it and the cost and efficiency is there. Thank you so much for sharing today, some of the details about Facebook ads. It looks like a fantastic opportunity for churches that if you haven’t done it before or if you have tackled it, this is the time the church should double down and really put it to use for Easter. It’s a great season to be in. Chris, if someone wants to get in touch with you after listening to today’s Lunch and Learn, how could they do that? Can you give us some digits? What’s the best way for someone to get in touch with you?
Chris: I’ve got a website creativechurchnetwork.com, you can check it out there and then you can shoot me and email, probably at firstname.lastname@example.org or just email@example.com.
Kenny: You live on the Twitterverse?
Chris: Yes, I’m on Twitter, Instagram @theabbo.
Kenny: Thank you so much for hanging out with us today. We really appreciate you just sharing a very easy manner to really try to encourage church communicators here today to actually try Facebook ads. We’ll have to get you back here to hear about your experience of YouTube pre-roll.
Chris: Sounds great, man. Thanks for having me. I’d love to come back.
Kenny: Thanks a bunch, and have a great Easter, Chris.
Chris: Alright. Thanks, Kenny. Thanks, bro.