4 Must-Know Church Marketing Secrets
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to share at a gathering of church leaders near Washington D.C. I shared four things I think church leaders need to know about church marketing. Below are some notes I shared with them. Enjoy!
I believe passionately that the local church is the hope of the world, and I believe we’ve got the greatest message that’s out there: the message of the Gospel.
I carry the conviction that the greatest message deserves the greatest marketing, creativity, and storytelling.
Marketers spend millions of dollars every single year to tell us that our lives would be better or enhanced with the products, services, or ideas they are selling.
We aren’t about selling salvation as a product, trying to woo people to our services, or trying to convince them to convert to what we think. We are about seeing the trajectory of people’s lives changed and hearts surrendered to the Gospel.
I believe that with every generation comes the challenge of communicating the unchanging, timeless message of the Gospel in a way that is relevant and compelling to the culture of its time.
We live in a generation that has been influenced and shaped by marketing.
God is the author of creativity. The first glimpse we see of Him in creation is that He is a creative God.
I believe that we are called to reflect that same creativity in whatever it is that we do for Him—and in this instance, in how we market and communicate His message to the community where our churches find themselves.
Traditional marketing, by definition, means “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services.”
Marketing as we know it today was deeply influenced by the Madmen era of advertising executives.
Those ideas have created a tidal wave of commercial messages that have interrupted our daily lives.
The average person is exposed to over 3,000 commercial images every single day. That’s nearly one million per year.
Everywhere you look, there’s a constant barrage of messages and information trying to get our attention.
The result of that is we’ve learned to filter out the noise.
We record TV shows to our DVRs, and fast-forward the commercials.
We glaze over banner ads and pop-up windows.
We are sick of marketing.
We are sick of being “sold to.”
We’ve learned to be untrusting of what’s being sold to us.
This generation has lost trust in marketing, big business, politics, and religion.
The rules of marketing have changed.
Marketers have even gone so far as to redefine marketing.
In 2011, the American Marketing Association changed their definition of marketing to say marketing is, “an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating, and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders.”
It’s moved from promoting and selling to adding value and managing relationships.
You can’t buy your way to the top, and you can’t win by plastering your name everywhere.
What captures people’s attention today isn’t a clever jingle or great art and copy [although those things can help]; it’s compelling stories, emotional connection, and sharing.
1. Marketing isn’t a line item on your budget.
It’s not a group or committee of volunteers.
It’s not what you do at Easter and Christmas.
It’s not fliers, brochures, mailers, or even your Web site.
Marketing is the sum total of everything your church does.
Every phone call a staff member takes is marketing.
Everything you write for your church Web site is marketing.
Every usher, greeter, and children’s worker is marketing.
Every word your pastor says [or doesn’t say] is marketing.
Every e-mail interaction someone has with a member of your church staff is marketing.
Every person who attends your church is marketing for church.
Everything your church does is marketing.
The challenging part of all this is how much of it is out of our control.
We can try to manage perceptions, set standards and expectations, and create compelling media and slick brochures, but it’s everything everyone else does that truly markets your church.
Church marketing is a team effort that’s not on the shoulders of a single person or department in your church, but the collaborative efforts of everyone (paid staff, volunteers, and attendees) that ultimately defines your church marketing. What message are the experiences people have with your church communicating?
What does your marketing say about you and your church?
What different aspects of people’s experiences with your church need to be reworked?
Is there a disconnect between what you say and what people experience? Where are the gaps in your marketing?
Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Starbucks marketed like a church?
2. Marketing is not what you say, it’s what people hear.
We need to stop speaking in “church lingo.”
We need to be interpreters of what it means to be Christian.
We have created our own language in the church subculture.
The challenge we have is that language matters.
Language is oftentimes our first impression.
Are we speaking in a way that people easily understand?
Does what we say make sense?
Are we creating easy onramps for people or creating barriers with our language?
It’s not about dumbing down the Gospel but making it easy for people to connect and understand.
Remember to have an outside set of eyes and ears.
Jesus was a pro at this. He used everyday terms and ideas to express the most significant spiritual truths.
We’ve just created our own language trying to explain it all.
Go back to the basics.
Also, remember perceptions matter. How you say something is just as important as WHAT you say.
Listen to what you say through the filter of people’s perceptions.
Get people’s feedback.
3. Your logo is not your brand.
Logos are a form of visual identity and they matter.
Images and icons have a rich part of our faith—from the ichthus fish to the image of the cross.
Branding has been a part of culture for a long time to signify ownership.
Logos, in contrast, as we now define them, haven’t been around for very long.
Logos were designed as a way to give visual identity.
Logos are easily recognizable and are all over our culture.
If I show you a swoosh, an apple, or a lady that looks like a mermaid surrounded by stars, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll know what companies they represent.
But those are just visual icons and reminders.
The brand of Nike isn’t about the swoosh; it’s about the attitude of “Just Do It.”
The brand of Apple isn’t about the apple; it’s about the simple, easy-to-use, and elegant products they create.
The brand of Starbucks isn’t ‘the siren,’ but the feeling of a ‘third place,’ a space away from home and work where you can escape.
Logos don’t define brands, but the feelings they create do.
What feelings and emotions you have or what people say about a company, a service, or a church is what defines the brand.
Your brand is what other people say about your church or the people who attend your church.
“That’s the family church, they are the more traditional church…young people go…they are more conservative…”
Chances are that your “brand” in your community is strong. But it is something you need to pay attention to.
Brands are created and defined by experiences.
So, the way you influence what people say about your brand is by carefully evaluating the experiences you create.
Many church leaders spend a lot of time focused on their weekly worship services and what happens in the actual service. And that matters.
People’s experience with your church begins before they come into a service.
And, in some cases, it begins online.
Your logo matters as a visual expression of your brand, but your brand is defined by experience.
Is our logo just traditional or is it giving a visual representation that is compelling? Does it accurately reflect your church’s values?
In today’s culture, images and experiences matter.
4. Social media isn’t a fad.
Social media is the most significant Cultural Revolution since the printing press. It’s changing and shaping the way we connect, engage, share information, tell stories, and break news.
There are stories of how it’s saved lives, sparked revolutions, connected people around the globe, and enabled people to do things that would have never been possible before.
Jesus told us to go, and make disciples, and to proclaim the message of the Gospel.
One of my personal favorite examples of this is in a parable that Jesus told. Luke 14:16-20-23, Jesus replied with this story: “A man prepared a great feast and sent out many invitations. When the banquet was ready, he sent his servant to tell the guests, ‘Come, the banquet is ready.’ But they all began making excuses. One said, ‘I have just bought a field and must inspect it. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I have just bought five pairs of oxen, and I want to try them out. Please excuse me.’ Another said, now have a wife, so I can’t come.’ “The servant returned and told his master what they had said. His master was furious and said, ‘Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town, and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ After the servant had done this, he reported, ‘There is still room for more.’ So his master said, ‘Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges, and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full.
A few things here… notice that previous to the event, the man had sent out many invitations—maybe like those postcards your church sends out for Easter and Christmas services.
It was only after the master sent his servants out to personally invite people that people began to show up.
Social media is changing how we make decisions.
Think about the last movies you went to see, books you read, TV shows you enjoy, restaurants you go to… they are all shaped, in large part, by our social graph, things people share with us.
We don’t trust what’s marketed to us, but will trust the opinion of our friends and connections.
We have never been more resourced and equipped to share the Gospel than we are today.
It’s an incredible opportunity that comes with a tremendous responsibility.
We will be held accountable, as church leaders, for how we steward this season in the life of the church.
The early church didn’t have what we have today.
There were no direct mailers for special services, no email campaigns to share inspirational thoughts from Jesus for the day.
No one was live blogging or tweeting when Jesus taught.
Peter didn’t stop following or unfriend Jesus online as a way to deny his friendship.
What people did have, though, was a compelling story—first-hand accounts of life transformation, stories of experiences unlike anything they had ever encountered before, and an understanding of the truths of the Gospel that they had never known.
They couldn’t help but spread and share that message.
They told their friends.
Their friends told their friends.
The message of the Gospel started with 12 and spread to thousands, and it’s continued to be shared across generations for the last 2,000 years.
The way it has been communicated has changed—through stories, stained glass, the domes of Cathedrals, the printed press, and today, online.
I believe the church is called to be present wherever people are present, and I believe that means we need to have a presence online.
And being present online, today, doesn’t mean taking up real estate on a Website, but it’s truly being present, engaged, and connecting people.
We’ve got to make our content—messages, sermons, music, etc—easily sharable online.
Jesus said that the Spirit would empower us to be witnesses in Jerusalem,
Judea, Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.
Today, we can reach all of those places, and beyond through social media.
Social media presents one of the greatest opportunities the church has had to extend its message and reach people.
It’s not going away.
What you do matters.
Through words, images, pixels, stories, and tweets, we are connecting people to the life of Christ expressed in our local churches.
The goal isn’t being known but making Him known.
The goal isn’t people in seats but lives transformed.
The goal isn’t about being excellent for the sake of excellence, but to honor God with the gifts of creativity He’s given us.
The goal isn’t marketing; it’s sharing.
Your job is to help your church share the story in a way that captivates and engages people so much so that they will want to go and tell a friend…so that the Kingdom of Heaven may be full.
From: www.churchleaders.com web site. May 2015.
The above article, “4 Must-Know Church Marketing Secrets” was written by Tim Schraeder. The article was excerpted from www.churchleaders.com.
The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”