Every church is marketing, whether they know it or not. The question is, are you embracing marketing in your ministry in a way that is respectful and at the same time effective?
Here are some thoughts from the digifora team on how marketing influences the church along with a few tips to create a targeted, powerful marketing message uniquely tailored to your church.
Marketing in the Church
The debate over whether or not the church should engage with marketing — or, the “M-word” as many call it these days — is everywhere. It doesn’t matter if you’re attending a giant megachurch or a tiny rural congregation, everyone has an opinion on church-based promotional activities.
The thing is, it doesn’t matter if you’re condemning the activity or not, chances are you unknowingly support church marketing, and not just a little bit, either. Let’s count the ways most ministries engage in marketing on a regular basis, shall we? Churches market themselves by:
- Getting their numbers listed in the phonebook and online directories.
- Making sure the exterior of their building is impressive and alluring.
- Choosing geographic locations that are near an optimal number of potential attendees.
- Branding their bulletins, videos, and other announcements.
- Using social media to engage with their congregants and surrounding communities.
It’s tempting to write off many of these activities as necessities and “the way we’ve always done things” — but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re still marketing.
As our very own digifora partner, Haley Veturis, explained in an interview with Christianity Today, any time you serve your community or invite someone to church, you’re marketing. Even something as simple as refining the overall experience of a service, things like cleaning up music and lighting, are also key marketing activities.
In essence, if you’re doing anything to get more people in your building, you’re marketing your church — and you know what? That’s okay. In fact, it’s more than okay. It’s how the church has attracted people for thousands of years.
The more important question to ask isn’t whether or not you should market your church, but rather how you should do so.
How You Market Your Church Matters
All churches market themselves, no matter what size, location, objectives, or message they’re championing. This begs the question, how should you market your church in a way that is ethical and effective at the same time?
A key element here is finding ways to promote your church (and by extension, the Church as a whole) without it coming across as a purely fiscal matter. If you’re just trying to get butts in the pews and checks in the offering plate (or digital giving app, at this point) you’re going to come across as an organization that is “productizing” your faith.
This stigma isn’t just bad. It undermines the actual marketing goal that you should be focused on: creating a good experience and an even better community.
At their core, churches are communities. They’re relational. And as such, they need to be more human. That means your marketing efforts can’t hide behind a professional logo and fancy videos. You need to get down into the nitty-gritty human interactions to market your local church brand.
This makes word-of-mouth marketing one of the most important ways to market a church in a healthy manner. It means taking the attention off of the “big stage” stuff and refocusing on a more human-to-human approach.
Empower your staff, volunteers and members to authentically step into the community and represent your church’s brand. This comes through high-level things like a clearly understood mission statement, as well as day-to-day items like running a quality children’s church program that genuinely serves the kids in your congregation.
Use this personalization factor to foster a God-focused, deeply spiritual, human experience that truly impacts and inspires those who interact with your ministry. Use your marketing momentum to navigate the conversation and avoid the all-too-common “disjointed church brand” that most faith-based organizations sport these days.
By focusing on things like individual empowerment, personal impact, and community building, you can create a church marketing strategy that remains comfortably within ethical bounds and empowers your ministry to build the Kingdom and reach the lost.
Tips to Market Your Church
Understanding the need for ethical-yet-impactful marketing in the church is easy. Turning words into actions is a bit harder — but not impossible. Here are a few tips to help you craft an effective church marketing plan for your local ministry:
Identify Your Goals, Timelines, and Messages
What are you trying to accomplish with your church marketing? What are short-term and long-term benchmarks that you want to reach?
What about the messages that you’re trying to communicate? What are their values, why should people care about them, and how can they get them?
Starting with questions like these can help you orient your marketing efforts. As you do this, keep one key factor in mind: consistency. Whatever you do, remain consistent over time to maximize your marketing effectiveness.
As you sort out things like goals and timelines, make sure to keep practicality in mind, as well. Assess the resources you have available and consider what you can designate for marketing. This starts with money — but it shouldn’t stop there.
Once you know how much you can afford to spend on things like social media campaigns or local outreach efforts, consider what other resources you have available. Can you get volunteers? Do people in your congregation have marketing skills they’re willing to donate?
Getting an idea of your marketing resources is a critical step that informs how you go about effectively getting the word out about your ministry.
Consider available marketing channels
Next up, look at your marketing channels. This can include things like signs out front and bulletin boards downtown. It can also come through things like volunteer efforts in your local community.
At the end of the day, though, a lot of your channels are going to be online. Set up effective social media profiles (remember to stay consistent with things like the kinds of content you create and posting frequency.) You should also tend to things like your Google Business and Yelp profiles to ensure that you’re responding to reviews and cultivating a good online reputation.
Don’t forget your website. You want your site to be mobile-friendly and SEO-optimized. That way, when someone down the road says, “Hey, Siri, what’s the closest church to me?” your ministry will top the list of results.
Marketing Your Church
Marketing happens in the church, and yes, it’s okay to talk about it. In fact, if you want your ministry to effectively serve its members and your community, you need to address the marketing elephant in the room.
Instead of avoiding the M-word altogether, work with your ministry team to come up with a strategy that markets your church the right way. If you need help, you can tap talent in your congregation or even bring in an outside hire, like a fractional CMO, to get things going.
From there, strive to set quality goals that focus on human-to-human factors. Use effective marketing channels. Encourage word-of-mouth marketing. You get the idea.
By consciously steering into marketing, you can create a healthy, thriving church that is focused on meeting individual needs, building a community, and ultimately growing the Church.
This is too important not to get right.