A question that we all wrestle with is “should we be doing more marketing?”. I’m sure that no one in this economy has a lot of discretionary money to use for marketing, so what is the best way we can utilize the limited funds that we have? Here are some thoughts…..
First of all, we need to remember that the most effective marketing tool that we have available to us are our regular attenders. Friends bringing friends are the bread and butter of church growth. I believe that there are some things we can do to create a culture where inviting people to come to church with you is business as usual:
First, make sure that your church is an environment that people feel comfortable bringing their unchurched friends. I always say that I want the North Jersey Vineyard to be a place where people feel comfortable bringing their boss and their father in law. In other words, we want to make sure that people trust us, and if they do extend an invitation they won’t hear afterwards… “so you like this?” Some things we can do to build trust:
- make sure that everything is contextualized. That means that we offer explanations for why we do things like sing for 30 minutes straight… why we do ministry times etc… I don’t offer explanations every week, but on a regular basis I’ll say something like.. “we are about to go into a time of worship… this is an extended period of time where we are going to corporately be singing our prayers to God. If this is something that’s new to you, I’d encourage you to just focus on God and allow these songs to be prayers that help you connect with Him. I’ll think you’ll find this a meaningful experience.” A little explanation goes a long way.
- Make sure that the signage is clear. Go overboard in making sure that people can find the parking lot, the main entrance to the church, the kids church, the café, the sanctuary etc. Remember, you’ve been coming to this building for awhile, things may not be as clear as you think they are. This is especially important if you’re in a rented space like a school or a hotel.
- Have a functioning welcome team. A lot of times we don’t give the welcome team the attention it deserves. The welcome team members are the ones who make the first impression and an effective welcome team can go a long way in helping someone have a good experience.
- Give your people tools to help them invite people. Print up business size cards that you can distribute to your people that contain everything a person needs to get to your church (address, web-site, etc). Another tool we use on a regular basis are sermon series postcards. When we are doing an “attraction series” (a series that is dealing with a felt need like avoiding burnout, healthy families, financial sanity etc) we encourage people to invite their friends to the new series by giving them 3 postcards in the program the week before the series starts. Remember that people are most open when they are in transition and under duress, so regularly do messages that address these types of situations and give your people tools to make it easy to invite someone.
- Another way that we gain trust is by letting our people know that we are prepared to assimilate the friends that they bring. Put things like newcomer lunches, Vineyard 101 classes, and other events that are geared to help people become a part of the community on your calendar. We do our newcomer lunches 4x a year, and they are always followed up a week later with a Vineyard 101 class.
There are some relatively inexpensive ways to get the word out to your community about your church. Some advertising opportunities I’d encourage you to look into:
- Facebook ads: Facebook is a cost efficient way to get the word out. You can spend 25$ or you can spend 2,000$. You also have choices in how you want to be billed. I like to go with pay per click. This way you only pay for the people who click through to your web-site. The other option is to pay for every page the ad appears on. Pay per click also let’s you know exactly how many people were impacted by your ad.
Also, because Facebook gathers lots of profile information from their users, you can advertise to exactly the demographic you feel most equipped to reach. One church that I know of targeted the friends of people who went to their church and the banner was something like “Check out the church that some of your friend attend.” If you’re promoting an upcoming series for families, you can make it so that only people who are married with children see your ad. I don’t think there is any other marketing tool out there that gives you such precise access to particular demographics.
- Direct mail and door hangers: Direct mail might be a little outdated, but I think it can still have some impact. I think the effectiveness of direct mail is that it makes people aware that you’re out there, and then if someone invites them to come they have already heard of the church and might be more open to visiting.
- Servant evangelism with invitation cards or postcards for an upcoming series attached to whatever you’re giving away: Not only does this get the word out, it also makes the people in your church more open to inviting their friends. They think “if I can get out there and invite a stranger to come to church, maybe I can invite my friends and coworkers.”
- Radio spots: They might be cheaper than you think. Andre Jenkins in Virginia Beach recently bought 25 spots on his local ESPN radio station for under 400$ to promote their fall kickoff.
- Billboards: They can be pretty expensive, but they certainly make thousands of people aware that you exist. Just make sure that you have some professional help with the design. You only get one chance to make a first impression, and you don’t want to make a cheesy first impression. If you’re going to spend thousands on a billboard, make sure that you don’t cut corners on the design.
Remember that you want to be clear in your advertising about what you want the person to do next. Obviously you want them to come to your church, but before they come to your church they are probably going to check out your website. I always ask at my newcomer luncheons how many of them went to our web-site before visiting the church. Usually every hand goes up. Make sure that your URL is visible and clear on your advertising and that your website is user friendly and attractive. Put up pictures (so they can see the kinds of people who go to your church) and podcasts so they can check you out before visiting. Be mindful that web-sites are the new front door to our churches.
Let us know the kind of marketing have you found most effective for your church. By the way, the best book I’ve read on church marketing is “Church Marketing 101” by Richard Reiser.