Why Your Church’s Outreach Ministry Needs a Landing Page

In a world of online skepticism and information overload, capturing attention and building trust is crucial. Explore how landing pages are an essential element to a cohesive digital experience that drives action.

Digital Frustration

In 2018, my wife and I were blessed to be able to purchase our first home. In the Lord’s kindness and perfect timing – my wife was almost nine months pregnant with our first child on the day we moved in – we had finally found the house in which we still reside today. It had taken over three years of diligent searching in a highly competitive market, a process that was stressful, time-consuming, and emotionally draining. But, at last, we had found the place where we could start to build our family.

One of the main tools in our house hunt toolkit was Zillow. Now the go-to platform for prospective home buyers, Zillow describes itself on its About page as “reimagining real estate,” and it truly has. In this digital age, the ability to easily peruse all of the houses available within a particular radius or price range, and to understand the key specifications and details of each, all from the comfort of our couch, was invaluable. It is true and right to say that it was ultimately the Lord’s provision that landed us our first home, and it is also appropriate to acknowledge that using Zillow as a tool played a significant part in us finding our house, as well.

However, there was one consistent problem with the whole experience…

Misleading pictures.

This is unfortunately a common frustration shared by many prospective home buyers, and has generated a lot of internet conversation. This YouTube video by Javier Vidana details a lot of the issues.

You see, one of the most frustrating aspects of using Zillow was scrolling through all of the beautiful, inviting pictures of a house, getting excited, and making an appointment to go look at yet another place, only to find that the property bore absolutely no resemblance to the photos we’d seen. Sometimes it wasn’t even close. The disappointment when this happened was palpable, and each time made it harder to want to keep exploring houses. As we repeated that experience over and over, we became increasingly wary of everything we saw on Zillow, and more and more hesitant to take any of the actions the seller of the potential home ultimately desired.

So what in the world does this have to do with churches and ministry outreach?

The Full Experience Matters

The pictures on Zillow are analogous to the promotional material that many churches put together for a particular event or ministry that they wish to promote, whether they be posters, fliers, social media posts, digital ads, etc. They’re often nicely designed, aesthetically pleasing, and compelling, all with the goal of making a positive first impression. However, just like our experience in visiting a house in person based on the pictures, the experience of taking the next step to either sign up for a course, find out information for an event, or participate in a ministry, is often vastly different from the first impression.

While I do not believe that most pictures were intentionally misleading, nor am I stating that churches are being deceptive in any way shape or form, it is still critical to understand the overall impact of the disparate experience. It’s in this context that we believe it’s important for churches to realize that capturing someone’s attention is only 50% of the battle. Convincing them to take action is the other 50%, and it takes a consistently elevated experience, as well as a differentiated set of information to do so. As more and more churches promote events and ministries through digital advertising on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, an effective, high-converting landing page becomes more and more essential.

To draw another analogy, think of your outreach advertising as a book cover. It’s the first encounter a potential reader has with a book, and its goal is to inspire someone to pick up the book and read its contents. It’s a visual handshake that entices, intrigues, and invites the reader to delve deeper. However, a book cover can only do so much work. If someone opens up the book, reads the table of contents, skims through the preface a bit, and isn’t engaged enough to continue, the author has unfortunately lost a reader. This is why good, engaging advertising often isn’t enough. It’s just as essential to think through where the audience will land after following an ad (digital or analog), and to carefully design a place that provides everything a user needs to take the next step. To pull the book analogy through, you must ask yourself how to make sure that once someone opens your book, you’ve also put together a table of contents, preface, and first chapter that ensures that the reader simply HAS to keep reading?

Let’s create a book that simply cannot be put down. Here are the top three components of an effective landing page:

Component 1: A Strong "Above the Fold"

We’ve talked before about how it only takes 50 milliseconds for visitors to form an opinion about your website that can influence whether they take the next action. This holds true for a landing page as well, making it essential that a user encounters three things right away:

  1. A strong, relevant visual(s)
  2. A hyper-focused headline
  3. A clear call to action (CTA)

The adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” certainly applies when crafting landing pages. A strong, relevant, attention-capturing photo or video assures a user that he or she is in the right place, helps elicit emotions (which are essential for driving action), and indicates what to expect as he or she scrolls down the page. In fact, content that utilizes high-quality images or videos in the background has been measured to see up to a 94% increase in page views.

However, your job isn’t done quite yet. Just like the opening lines of a book are designed to draw a reader deeper into the narrative, the headline and subheader of a landing page play a pivotal role in capturing the visitors’ attention. Crafting a compelling headline that succinctly encapsulates the essence of the outreach or ministry, coupled with a subheader elaborating on its significance, intrigues and compels visitors to explore further. It’s important that the headline isn’t simply a restatement of the event or ministry title – a frequent mistake – , but rather a statement that speaks directly to the needs and desires of your target audience. Your goal here is to speak in a way that acknowledges the “problem” that your event or ministry is addressing and clearly defines how that problem can be solved by participating in the same.

Here’s an example from a company that operates in our digital marketing space:

SEMRush is an excellent resource on all things digital marketing.

What works about the compelling headline and persuasive copy above is that the language is firmly entrenched in what the target audience needs and wants rather than what the company or organization might think is important. Perhaps surprisingly, the copy is focused more on connecting with the intended audience than including the name of the service in the headline.

The third and final part of Component 1 is to make sure that there is a single, clear call to action (CTA). There should be no ambiguity as to what you would like the user to do, and allowing the user to take that action early on in the landing page is a user experience best practice (Making your user scroll down through more information before they find the next step is a good way to lose their attention). Furthermore, we don’t want to provide multiple options for a user, especially on a landing page – Industry expert Hubspot has determined that landing pages with a single call to action convert 27% better than those with multiple options. Don’t confuse your visitors. Guide them toward a clear next step.

Component 2: Supporting Copy

One of our greatest foes when helping local churches build great websites is FUD.

Fear. Uncertainty. Doubt.

FUD is an absolute killer when it comes to an online user taking the next action. Therefore, it is critical that a landing page preemptively strikes against FUD, leaving the user with a clear sense of what he or she is going to encounter by coming out to your event and/or ministry. You’ve engaged the user with compelling visuals, spoken to their problem and felt need, and explained that there is a potential resolution to what they’re feeling. We must now adequately fill in the details of how that’s going to happen. You can really pack a punch here by focusing on benefits like the emotional impact, spiritual growth, and/or sense of belonging your event or ministry will provide. Here’s an example:

Let’s say that your church has an outreach ministry that’s designed to provide support for folks walking through a particular trial (i.e. CancerCare, GriefShare, DivorceCare, etc.). You could write supporting copy on your landing page like this –

Original Supporting Copy:

“Join our [INSERT MINISTRY] support group at [INSERT CHURCH NAME]. This group is:

  • Is open to everyone.
  • Is facilitated by trained professionals.
  • Is held in a confidential setting.
  • Meets weekly on Tuesdays at 7pm.
  • Snacks are provided.”

While informative, this list simply lays out facts without connecting with the audience’s emotions or needs. We don’t know who might benefit from the group or what kind of support it offers. Now, let’s try writing this in a way that connects with our audience, while also removing FUD.

Upgraded Supporting Copy:

“Life throws us curveballs, but you don’t have to face them alone. The [INSERT MINISTRY NAME] support group at [INSERT CHURCH NAME] is designed to provide the members of the [INSERT LOCAL COMMUNITY] with an opportunity to navigate through these difficult trials together in small, intimate groups. At [INSERT MINISTRY NAME], you’ll have the opportunity to:

  • Feel heard and understood in a safe, confidential group of no more than ten people;
  • Connect with others facing similar struggles and build a supportive community;
  • Gain practical tools and coping mechanisms to navigate life’s ups and downs;
  • Rediscover hope and resilience as we learn what the Bible teaches about [SUBJECT MATTER];
  • Enjoy coffee, desserts, and fellowship together after the session.”

This version paints a significantly more compelling picture of not only the group’s benefits, but also of what the whole experience will look like. By removing ambiguity about what the person can expect, you’ve significantly reduced the amount of fear, uncertainty, and doubt that could prevent someone from signing up.

In our experience, people usually don’t make a decision simply because of the details of your ministry or event. Rather, they take action because of the feeling those details evoke, and because they feel confident that there will be no surprises if they choose to participate. Your landing page user shouldn’t just be informed, he or she should be inspired. Make sure they’re eager to step through your digital doors and click on your call to action.

Component 3: Social Proof

We live in an anxious and skeptical world, and our digital experiences are often riddled with scams, bait-and-switches, and misrepresentation. It’s important for the local church to understand that trust is a precious commodity. Furthermore, younger generations are cynical about being sold to, and many in secular culture feel a general unease around the very idea of the church or organized religion. With all that in view, it’s easy to see why social proof is an absolutely essential concept.

To put this in perspective, think about how often we use the star rating system on Amazon when we make purchases. If you’re anything like me, one of the FIRST filters you select while shopping for a product is “4 Stars & Up” under the “Customer Reviews” headings. We want the comfort of knowing that someone has purchased the item and had a good experience before we’re willing to try it ourselves. The same is true when looking for a restaurant on Yelp, a plumber on Google, or a hotel on Tripadvisor. We need someone to assure us that it’s going to be okay if we move forward.

In short, digital opinions matter.

Your landing page might have mastered Components 1 and 2, effectively capturing a user’s attention, removing fear and uncertainty, sharing compelling and heartfelt benefits, and even providing a very clear next step. But without social proof, doubt may still remain, and inaction is the result:

“Will I actually experience what they say I will experience?”

“What if it doesn’t work out?”

“What if it’s a bad time?”

That’s where social proof, such as testimonials or reviews, are extremely useful. They provide authentic, trustworthy voices of real people who have either visited or participated in your church and/or ministry.

Introduction to Christianity courses such as The Bridge Course and Alpha utilize testimonials and the stories of people who have gone through the course in a powerful way. However, please not that testimonials do not need to be videos; text works as well.

Testimonials wield two powerful weapons: credibility and relatability. They break down skepticism by demonstrating that your promises aren’t mere marketing fluff, but tangible experiences enjoyed by others. And by showcasing diverse voices, they allow visitors to envision themselves in the scenario, fostering a sense of connection and understanding. Hearing how someone overcame similar challenges through your event or ministry, for example, can inject a powerful dose of hope and motivation, paving the way for them to take confident action.

You don’t need many testimonials to do the job, but adding three to four to a landing page with the person’s name and especially their photo can go a long way in giving the user the extra confidence he or she needs to click on your call to action. Don’t underestimate the importance of this section!

Building An Impactful Experience

Building high-converting landing pages for your church isn’t just about technology or simply having a way for someone to sign up for a course online; it’s about understanding your community, speaking their language, and guiding them towards the warmth and fellowship within your walls. An effective landing page accomplishes all of these goals, and can be a powerful digital handshake along the journey to ultimately welcoming someone physically through your doors.

As you consider what’s necessary for your next outreach event or ministry, here are a few other elements to keep in mind:

  1. Optimize for Mobile Users: Ensure your landing pages are responsive-designed, making it easy for potential members to connect with your church via their phone or tablet. Speed for the mobile user is key, as Google found that a 1-second delay in page load time can decrease conversions by 7%. Keep your landing page lean and mean, prioritize speed and ease of use.

  2. Match Landing Page Copy to Ad Copy: Ensure consistency between the messaging and visuals used in your ad campaign and the content on your landing page. This creates a seamless user experience and avoids confusing visitors who expect something different based on the ad.

  3. Minimize Form Fields: If your landing page includes a form, only ask for the most essential information needed to sign up. The fewer fields you require, the higher the chances of users completing them.

  4. Use Data-Driven Insights: Utilize analytics tools (Google Analytics, Heat mapping, etc.) to track user behavior on your landing page and identify areas for improvement. Analyze metrics like bounce rate, conversion rate, and time spent on page to identify where users might be dropping off and refine your page accordingly.

  5. A/B Test Different Elements: Don’t just stop at testing headlines and calls to action. Experiment with various elements like layout, color schemes, and content placement to discover what combination drives the highest rate of users taking meaningful action.

In our digital age, attention spans are increasingly fleeting, and we are bombarded with thousand of different messages at all hours of the day and night. Impactful landing pages are no longer a luxury, but a necessity. They really are the digital handshake you offer a member of the local community, and a first impression that can set the tone for not only whether or not they come out to an event of ministry, but also attend your church. These best practices are designed to help you craft compelling landing pages that capture attention, communicate value effectively, and ultimately welcome more people through your doors. 

Please let us know if Digital Outreach can assist you in any way with your next outreach event.