Quite honestly, I had another blog all written and scheduled to post for today, but after making a call to a prospective client, I switched gears! The prospective client is a large church that is local, that has a website, does mailings, banners and other large format graphics. And I will admit that having both my own church and another local church as clients, that I am a bit sensitive to how churches market themselves.
Wait? A church MARKETING itself? Yes. I believe that, in today’s environment, churches need to market themselves. So, let’s take a look at how they can do just that.
With today’s tech-savvy public, church “shopping” is done differently. 25 years ago, if I wanted to know more about a church, I’d call, find out when the services were, attend, and then MAYBE come back. Now, when someone church shops, they find the church’s website. Keeping a vital, updated, informational website is paramount to engaging those who wish to find out more, and attend. But websites are also the communication tool to the active members to find out about events, staff information, or the online monthly newsletter or weekly bulletin.
Having a website is vital, but it requires someone to manage it, and might be inflexible. So, to enhance the website, use social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter. Here’s what you can do with each:
Facebook – have a church page where all events are listed, photographs from church events are posted, and any kind of inspirational meme that you find interesting; have a page for various groups and/or ministries, such as the music ministry, or the youth group, so that you can post specific information to those pages as well; finally, have the pastor or pastoral staff make sure they have pages so they can post inspirational quotes or scripture.
Twitter – this might be specifically for youth programs, or if you have a preschool onsite, so you can communicate changes or post quick updates without having to wait for people to view the Facebook page or pages.
Banners out in the front of church property can advertise services times, upcoming events such as Christmas services, or Easter services, Vacation Bible School – you get the idea. Keep the copy simple so it can be read by cars driving by at 40-50 MPH! For onsite banners, think of them as seasonal, and use retractable banners that can be pulled up, and then stored after services are over.
DIRECT MAIL IN CONCERT WITH EMAIL MARKETING
Direct mail is STILL the best way to communicate about your church or religious organization, and should be used for all special events and mailed to not just the congregation, but to anyone who’s visited and provided their address to you. Again, focus on the “big” events, but also, send out mailers just to let the area know you’re around. For those who have provided email, use that tool as well, tying it to events on your website. Some churches find email marketing too intrusive, so that is a tool that your church’s leadership must determine is a good tool or not.
There are small print companies that specialize in church newsletters, with templates, and then offer advertising space in the back for ads, which is some cases can cover the cost of the printing. Some churches mail their newsletters, others just leave them at the church to be picked up. However, one thing is to make sure that if you print a newsletter, make a PDF copy accessible on the website.
Churches these days have to compete with so much, from family soccer games to other churches in the area, that having an effective marketing plan can boost attendance. While the goal is NOT to generate revenue, or enhance sales, the goal is to reach people with the message that the church wishes to share with the community.