Are Challenges the New Free Download?

Building your email list is a fundamental part of growing your ministry. Whether it’s sharing the gospel or building relationships with potential donors you need a way to communicate with people and email is still one of the best ways to do that digitally.

Growing your email list isn’t just a matter of putting a signup form telling people to subscribe for updates. You need to offer something of value to get people to subscribe, this important to increase conversion rates, and remember this is the start of a long relationship so make it good. For years the gold standard was “subscribe and get a free resource”, and this is still an effective way to acquire new subscribers (we have an entire library of free resources for just that reason), but there are some limitations that come with this type of offer.

People have every intention to read the guide when they download it but often don’t. You’ve put a lot of effort into creating fantastic content, but it doesn’t add value to anyone if it’s downloaded and never read.

It’s often a short-sighted approach, one free resource plus, one email to deliver it does not cultivate a long-term relationship.

If the free resource is really good people will be more interested in it than connecting with your ministry. It’s important to watch how fast people unsubscribe once they get the resource to ensure that the campaign is meeting your ministry goals.

The Rise of Email Challenges
The concept of challenges has been around for a long time, even with ministries, think of a “read through the Bible in a year” reading plan, but challenges hit mainstream popularity through the health and nutrition industries. You may have heard of the Whole30 challenge in which you eat around specific nutritional goals for 30 days to see how it changes your health and habits. Or maybe you’ve gone to the gym and participated in a 30-day push-up challenge or something similar. The rise in popularity of these types of challenges is no surprise there are a lot of benefits both to the organization and the subscribers. Some of the benefits include:

Deeper engagement, users get to engage with your ministry daily for the duration of the challenge.

Provides strong value, subscribers get to experience firsthand the value that your ministry has to offer and how it impacts them.

Action-oriented, challenges aren’t intended for passive consumption, they drive subscribers to take action.

As you can see challenges offer all of the upsides of offering a free resource, and they cover many of the weaknesses, and we’ve found that they tend to be more appealing to subscribers as well. In a recent review of over a dozen offers we found that those which featured challenges converted at a 23% higher rate than those which featured free downloads.

How to Test This for Yourself
Creating your first challenge is easier than you might think, especially if you already have free resources or other content. While challenges as a format tend to perform better than free resources it’s important to keep in mind that not all challenges perform the same, so make sure the challenge you chose demonstrates the value your ministry is offering and clearly explain the value your subscribers will get from participating. With that in mind, you’re only a few steps away from launching your first challenge.
Review your top-performing content, whether it’s a free download or a sermon series, if it resonates with your audience it’s an ideal source for creating your challenge.

Break the content into bite-size chunks and make sure there’s an action item for each one.

Setup an email automation series to ensure when someone subscribes they get their content on time.

Let your website visitors know they can take the challenge.

Watch the data, to ensure subscribers are engaging and seeing the value they expect from the entire series.

If you follow those simple steps and remember to keep your mission and vision front and center through the whole process you’ll be well on your way to not only growing your email list but filling it with engaged subscribers whose values are in line with yours.

At Five Q we exist to help Ministries like yours multiply their digital impact. One way we do that is to help drive engagement and conversion rates through our website personalization platform, Journity. Journity integrates with all of the most common website platforms and allows you to create personalized experiences for your website visitors if you’d like to see firsthand how it works and can drive impact for your ministry take our 7 Day Website Personalization Challenge - it will get you started in 15 minutes or less per day.