Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Marketing for the Almighty

One of my clients asked me about the work he knows I do with my church. He was interested in the types of marketing activities we use to spread the word about the church. Now, marketing and churches might only seem to go together when talking about the so-called mega-churches but in fact it’s a critical factor for the ongoing existence of every small church. Small businesses and small churches are very much alike.

First, let’s consider the similarities of small businesses and churches. Each operates on a tight budget for finances and other resources. People need to wear many hats and perform a variety of necessary work. If people don’t know about your business or your church chances are they won’t patronize it. If you aren’t visible in your community no one will know you exist. This is true whether your community is a store front (or church front) on Main Street or an online community representing a specialized niche. Then, there’s the survival factor. Many small businesses fail, and churches are susceptible to all the same challenges of cashflow, too few customers, inability to attract good employees (or volunteers), and changes in demographics and the marketplace.

The magic of marketing is that all those problems can be greatly improved by the application of good marketing principles. They work regardless of whether your organization is a for-profit or a not-for-profit concern.

Here are some of the marketing techniques we have applied at our church and some of the results we have been able to achieve:

1. Newsletter—Ours is written by a talented little church mouse named Perley. We use a simple form for people to fill out so people can sign up. Subscribers become close personal friends of Perley who gives them advance notice of our events and suppers.

2. Press releases—Our local newspaper has printed every single press release we have sent them—church suppers, work being done on the church, fundraising efforts, concerts, publicity for our church cookbook, photos. We know the paper and what they like and we give it to them.

3. Church Cookbook—Not only is this a great collection of recipes, it’s a marketing piece for our church as well. It tells our story and lets people get comfortable with who we are as a church. It’s also fun.

4. Church Suppers—Not only is this a fundraiser but it gives people a non-threatening introduction to our church—way less scary than walking in cold on a Sunday morning. So again, it’s marketing.

5. Friendly ambassadors—Small churches (and small businesses) grow because of relationships. Our church members all seem to be involved in other activities in the community, and while they don’t shove their religion down anyone’s throats, they serve as ambassadors through their service and caring.

These are just a few marketing techniques that we have in place. We’ve been doing this consistently for a little over two years. Here are some of the results:

1. When people asked about our church, they used say, “Is that church still open?” Now they say, “Oh, that’s the church that’s always in the paper.”

2. Our suppers are sold out in advance every time and we raised the price of admission so we make more each time.

3. We’ve raised enough funds (in an area that is definitely not affluent) to put in a septic system, indoor plumbing, and next month we’re putting a new roof on our historic church building. All things our small congregation could never have afforded to do on its own.

4. Our congregation has tripled. Weekly offerings actually exceed the day to day cost of running the church.

5. Our loyal workers feel appreciated and valued.

6. Our visibility in the community has allowed us to fulfill our mission of helping others.

We’ve done all this and more by simply applying good marketing techniques in a consistent way. Regardless what type of business you have marketing just plain works. Whether you’re trying to build your own business or help your local library or animal shelter raise funds, marketing is the most powerful asset you can have. Of course, having an “in” with the Almighty doesn’t hurt either!

Until next time,

Caroline Jordan
Get Knowledge. Get Focus. Get Results.
The Jordan Result