At our church, we send an SMS to every 1st and 2nd timer welcoming them and encouraging them to come back next week. You can see our follow-up process here. This is a process that we’ve been doing for the past year or so and it’s been working pretty well.
However, with any process you set up it’s important that it’s achievable – and the follow-up process is no different. As we were planning this process, we needed to make sure that using SMS remained achievable. This meant we had to consider the following:
- Make sure that sending the SMS doesn’t rely on a single person as we wanted a few volunteers to be able to manage it.
- More importantly, make sure that receiving and replying to the SMS doesn’t rely on a single person, too. I’d hate for a visitor to reply to our welcome SMS with a question that gets ignored because it is not seen by the correct person.
- Sending the SMS out to multiple people, preferably from within Elvanto (our church management database) was important.
- Be easy to use. Again, we want volunteers to be able to handle it so it can’t be overwhelming or overly complicated.
- Not too expensive, either!
I played around with a few options but settled on using SMS Broadcast as it does all of the above and only costs 2c per message.
Here’s how we set it up:
- We created an account with SMS Broadcast and purchased a heap of credits straight up – the discount only applies to your first purchase.
- I also purchased a dedicated virtual mobile number ($179/year). All SMS we send out now come from that number.
- I created a new email address (aka firstname.lastname@example.org) and set up SMS Broadcast so that any messages that are sent to our new mobile number get sent to that email address. Any emails to this email address get forwarded to a few key people for them to manage the replies.
- I added these key people’s email addresses to SMS Broadcast white list. When they send a reply via email, the visitor receives the reply as an SMS on their phone.
- I connected Elvanto with SMS Broadcast via their API. This sounds tricky but was pretty easy as they both had documentation on how to do it. This means we can now send SMS straight out of Elvanto
- All up this took about 2 hours to do. Plus an extra hour or so for testing…
With anything, there’s negatives to it. One of which is that we need to be careful that multiple people managing something doesn’t mean that no one manages it. We don’t want everyone to assume that someone else will reply to a visitor’s message and it’s just crickets… So it’s important to set a point person who is primarily responsible for handling replies. But on the whole it’s working really well and has helped us better love and care for visitors.