How Does Church Marketing Work? The critical marketing takeaway from the Parable of the Sower.
One of the best self-help books I have ever read for my marriage was The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman. In his book, Dr. Chapman states there are five primary love languages people express love with and receive love through. The point of the book is that if you’re not speaking the person’s primary love language, that person will not feel loved.
Just like there are different love languages, and you must be speaking the correct language to make another person feel loved, there are many marketing vehicles to attract people to church. I am not promoting any of them over any of the others in this book. Some of the more popular vehicles include internet marketing, direct mail marketing, email mail marketing, social media marketing using vehicles like Facebook and Instagram, and digital marketing.
With each vehicle, there are experts in specific industries pushing their particular method as the method you need to market your product or service or church. The truth is each marketing vehicle works best when used properly, in the right environment, and targeting the right people.
For example, Facebook has a limit to the number of characters you can use. In a print ad, though, you can have as many characters as you like. Neither vehicle is better than the other. They are merely different, and different techniques will be called for under various circumstances to speak to specific demographic groups. Understanding those differences and when one vehicle provides better results than another is the key to choosing which are best for your church.
I once had a church submit a design for a direct mail postcard we were to print and mail that looked just like a Facebook ad. It had a one-word headline and some tease points. When an ad like that runs on Facebook, the recipient can click on the ad and be taken to a landing page to learn more. The problem, however, is that with a direct mail postcard clicking is not an option. It was a good ad, and while I agree there should be some branding of your marketing, it only worked best in one environment.
This principle is not complicated, and I am sure you are probably familiar with the concept. Have you ever heard the saying, “Use the right tool for the job?” Of course, you have. With each endeavor in life, there is a right technique, or tool, or method that should be used to get the job done in its most efficient and productive way. And problems arise when we fail to follow this principle. Paul made this same point when he instructed the Corinthian church about spiritual gifts: “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone, it is the same God at work” (1 Cor 12:4-6). Each spiritual gift was different and had a unique purpose. God’s power was behind them all, but they each worked uniquely.
With a direct mail postcard or door hanger, the person receiving the card has unlimited time to look at it and consider the message. But the message will be missed if the same postcard ad is designed for a billboard where the prospect has two seconds to read it as they drive by at 75 miles per hour. Similarly, it would be unwise to use the same digital ad copy on both Google and Facebook. With Google, you purchase impressions of people who have typed a particular search term (like “Church” and your town name). In contrast, with a Facebook ad, you choose settings to cause the ad to appear for a specific demographic when they scroll through their Facebook feed. If the point is not yet clear, imagine what would happen if a company used the same 30-second ad copy for a radio ad they used for a TV commercial. What was visual and evident in one environment will be missed entirely in the other.
In Matthew 13:3-9, Jesus told what has been called “The Parable of the Sower.”
A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.
Later, when Jesus was alone with His disciples, He shared the full meaning of the parable, revealing that the seed is the message (we might say gospel). As it is spread, it falls on a variety of hearers with varying levels of receptivity. It’s a powerful message.
Church marketing works just like this, following the model of the parable. Think of the farmer as the church and the seed the message the church has to spread to the local community and the world. As your marketing campaign scatters the seed, it lands on a variety of prospects.
· The Path. There are those who will receive your marketing, but the enemy has such a foothold in their lives, they do not understand how the church can improve their journeys. So, they ignore the message.
· The Rocky Ground. There are those who will receive your marketing and get excited and respond to it. They may even come to church, but only for a season. They never plant roots at your church, so when troubles come, they fall away.
· The Thorns. There are those who will receive your marketing and may understand it, and they may even want to respond to it. But they are so consumed with the worries of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth it keeps them from doing anything.
· Good Soil. There are those who will receive your marketing and visit. They will end up committing to becoming members. They will join Bible studies and start small groups, tithe, and serve.
When I was a boy, my family lived outside the city on a few acres of land. It wasn’t a farm, but it was big enough for my father to plant a large garden in the back. I remember one season when my father sent me to plant beans. That day I planted four different kinds of bean seeds. But to me, they all seemed the same.
The more marketing vehicles we use to spread the message, the greater our harvest.
The critical marketing takeaway from the Parable of the Sower is that the farmer did not plant just one seed. He planted many. He scattered them. There is no single marketing technique or medium that will reach every prospect, despite what some marketing companies will tell you. You must diversify. You must plant a generous amount of seeds to get a generous return. Farmers always plant more seeds than they need for crop yield. They plant extra because they understand the principle of sowing and reaping.
Our churches should practice the same principles that Jesus laid out in the parable. We should be using every type of seed (communication, media, or strategy) to promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We should be using every type of advertising vehicle at our disposal to speak to people in the language they understand and respond to the best. And just as the farmer sows season after season, and year after year, so must we.
There is no one perfect marketing vehicle out there for all instances. We must learn to use as many marketing vehicles as possible to accomplish our specific goals. Just as there are different love languages and various soils, there are different people who hear and respond to different types of marketing.
By casting a broad net and spreading as much seed as possible with as many marketing vehicles at our disposal, we can reach more people where they are.
Taken from Marketing Like God: Developing & Implementing a Biblical Marketing Strategy for Church Growth.
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