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Managing ‘touches’ with the right touch

just received a year-end greeting from a Web service that I tried briefly last summer and then forgot about. And while I was writing that sentence, another arrived from a service that I stopped using over a year ago.

In the multichannel church world of managing “touches,” this is exactly how you should be seeing a segment — probably a sizable segment — of your list. So let’s think together about this process.

First, am I offended that two enterprises reached out to me? Not at all. I’m happy to be on their radar. The day might come when their service works for me. Besides I know how to scan and delete e-mails.

In the course of a year, you probably have hundreds, maybe thousands, of people who touch your faith community in some way, from participating in worship to attending an event to sending a child to your school to receiving food from your pantry to shopping at your spring fair. Don’t worry about not seeing them again. It is highly unusual for someone to touch your church and then start the diligent process of joining.

Second, what’s the point? The point is to remind them of your purpose and your openness to welcoming them again. I had quite forgotten what one Web service did. I was glad to be reminded.

Don’t assume that your touches remember much, if anything, about who you are. Remind them.

Third, what’s the next step? Don’t expect a lot to come from this initiative. Just maintain your visibility. The day will come when they need a faith community, and you want them to think of you. Don’t demonstrate vexation at their lack of follow-through. Just be grateful that they touched you that one time. Express that gratitude by regularly checking in.

Fourth, what’s the cost to you? Nothing. Just a little time to compose an e-mail. If you have been keeping your “touch list” up to date — adding addresses every time someone visits or shows an interest — you have e-mail links ready to use.

Fifth, as you nurture leads, always be mindful that they have little or no interest in your church as an institution. They don’t care about your history, your arguments, your budget, your leadership structure, your facilities or your denomination. (I would argue that your members don’t care much about those topics, either, but that’s for another day.)

Well, then, what do they care about? Those who are open to going deeper want to know what you are about, what is your mission in the world, what is your character. They are sensitive as to whether you are open to them and have something to offer them. Communicating your values and character can’t be too overt, or it will sound like a sales pitch. You will want to craft these touch e-mails carefully. Keep them brief, include links to events, photos and videos, and provide a link for them to ask a question. Be sure all touches receive your blog and your church e-letter.

Sixth, don’t rush the transition from touch to prospect, but when you sense it happening, be there. If a touch asks a question, make sure you answer promptly and thoughtfully. If a touch seems interested in knowing you, suggest meeting for coffee. This isn’t a hard sell. It’s a chance for you to show genuine interest.

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