Church Marketing: The Product
By John F. Bagwell
If you have had a traditional marketing course in college you are no doubt familiar with the four P’s – Product, Price, Promotion and Placement (or Distribution). The first P is Product and a very important part of marketing.
Today, I want to cover the first P — Product — and focus on how this can relate to your church or ministry. In subsequent issues I will focus on the other 3 P’s.
Let’s look at two areas: Defining the product and the product image.
Defining Your Product
How would you describe the “product” offered by your church or ministry?
The question makes your think, doesn’t it?
Oh sure, you’re “selling” the idea of a “church” but what exactly is a church and specifically —your church?
You may come up with words such as: God, Salvation, Comfort, Friendship (a sense of community or belonging), Family Values and other related words.
Most churches want to increase their church attendance, but the over riding question from non-church goers is, “Why should I attend church?”
Unless you can give people a compelling reason to attend church —and specifically your particular church – you probably will not be successful in finding and keeping new members.
In many cases it is a two fold process -educate the prospect about the “product” and next get them to try your “product.”
This is why you must know your “product” or, in this case, “your church.”
It really is hard to define a church. However, in order to market your church, you must first define what your church is. Clearly defining your “product” is crucial for effective church marketing.
An Example From The Secular World
When you think of McDonald’s you probably think of fast food. If you ask my six year old what he thinks about McDonald’s, he will tell you, “fun.” The food, to him, is secondary. Why do you think they call it a “happy meal?”
The idea of “fun” can change for my sons. There are times that my boys make a choice between Burger King and McDonald’s based on one thing – the toy in the kid’s meal.
McDonald’s has learned that they sell a lot more hamburgers and fries based upon creating an atmosphere of fun and excitement than just by focusing on hamburgers alone.
Apply this same dining experience to yourself. Where do you like to dine?
More than likely you have several restaurants you favor. In most towns if you want a hamburger you can go to any number of restaurants. Why do you pick one over the other?
It is probably because of the service, the food, or because they have a big screen TV that you can watch your favorite sports team. But if you really think about it, there is one thing that defines your “dining experience.” That is what makes you come back time and again.
I am not saying you should “water down” the gospel or focus all your activities on “fun,” or otherwise try to change your church to fit into the secular world. You just need to communicate to your members and prospects a clear image of what the church “experience” is at your particular church and show them how it is relevant to their life.
One way to help define your church “product” is to talk to your members. Find out why they come, and what they expect. Ask them why they bring (or don’t bring) their friends to church.
You might also visit with recent new members to your Church and find out why they joined. Ask them what they liked about your church and why they joined your church over another.
I served on a Pastor Search Committee at my church here in Dallas this past year. One of the projects we had to undertake was defining our church. Some of the potential pastors we interviewed asked us some tough questions about our church. One person on the committee had been a member of the church for 40 years and had difficulty defining our church.
Take the time and effort to know who you are before trying to present an image of something you are not.
ChurchMax offers a number of marketing programs – including direct mail. We have recently added a program that allows you to reach prospects for as little as 10 cents each— including postage.
We also have over 500,000 promotional products – from key chains to coffee cups. Most can be imprinted with your church logo or message.
Another important part of your “product” is how people perceive the product.
I love traveling and visiting other churches. Recently my family was visiting with some friends in another city and attended their church. Since they were teaching in the children’s department, my wife and I were placed in an adult class where we didn’t know a single person.
We were introduced to the teacher and a few class members. Most of the members were interested in what was going on in their own lives and with each other so they pretty much ignored us. We felt out of place.
While it wasn’t a particularly bad experience, I certainly missed my home church Sunday School where everyone knew me and I felt at home.
When we went to the worship service things were different. People welcomed us, and showed a genuine interest in my family. We felt at home. If I were looking for a church home, I would probably go back to worship at that church. However, I’d look for another Sunday School class!
The point I want to make here is that your marketing needs to be as unified as possible. To quote my childhood pastor -“Everybody needs to be singing from the same hymnal.”
Now that doesn’t mean that you are going to get every Sunday School class to reach out to every visitor. But it helps to make an effort to have a unified message that everyone receives when they come to your church.
McDonalds has created an image of good food, reasonable prices and fun. It is pretty consistent wherever you go. Imagine if you stopped at McDonald’s in Oklahoma only to discover that they didn’t have a Big Mac menu but instead offered Chinese Food.
I hope you will spend some time thinking about the image of your church. It would be worth your time to call a friend or relative in a neighboring city and ask them to visit your church unannounced and give you a report. The results may surprise you.
If you have the budget, you might contract with a “Mystery Shopping Service.” This is a company that sends people into businesses to check on customer service. These companies are in major cities, or I can provide you with a list of some national companies that you can use.
Don’t Overlook Your Church Facilities
What image are they communicating? Are the rest rooms clean? Is the parking lot well lit at night? Are the carpets clean? These are little things, but they make a big impression on a visitor. And they contribute greatly to the over all image of your church.
In short, make sure you have the very best “product” available.
Before I close this issue, I wanted to tell you about an interesting ministry I came across. I’ve just listed them on my resource page for speakers and entertainers.
Animal Alley Ministries uses animals to introduce, demonstrate and reaffirm good Christian character traits such as kindness, loyalty, orderliness, endurance, responsibility, alertness and more. The lessons are exciting, Christian based and educational. David Stewart and his family and staff take their animals all over the country – to Christian schools, churches and other organizations.
When I first heard about his ministry my “marketing mind” began to come up with all kinds of ideas. This would make a great promotion for vacation bible schools or other events where you wanted to attract a lot of kids or families with children.
This article “Church Marketing The Product” written by John F. Bagwell is excerpted from Church Marketing Newsletter the June 2007 edition at www.churchmax.com.