The 50 Minute Church Marketing Plan
It is imperative to have a plan. Even if you are not planning a marketing campaign shortly, it will benefit your church to complete the 50-minute marketing plan. This will give your church valuable insight into who you are and who it is you are reaching.
When I was young, my father used to say, “John, if you’re not going to take the time to do something 100 percent, then don’t do it at all.” As I got older, I tested the bounds of his philosophy by saying things like, “Dad, I’m not going to weed the garden because I just don’t think I can put 100 percent into it!” Or, “I was going to clean my room Dad, but I needed to go to football practice, and I didn’t have enough time to do it 100 percent!” You can imagine how my excuses went over with him.
Many of us act like a perfectionist sometimes. We want to complete a task, but we feel we may not have enough time, knowledge, or resources to finish it. As a result, we put it off or don’t do it. This kind of procrastination can be very detrimental to our careers. Can you imagine not coming to work every day you were not ready to give 100 percent?
A Simple Plan Is Better Than No Plan
It is no secret that God has a plan. We may not understand it at times, but He certainly has one. And so should your church. I am not speaking here about goals and yearly plans for the growth of your church. You should have those as well. But specifically, any time you are going to put money into advertising an event, sermon series, or special day, also develop a marketing plan to go with it.
Many churches want to hire branding firms and marketing agencies to boost their attendance. To be sure, there are plenty of agencies ready to take your money. But for most churches, funds for outsourcing marketing are simply not available. However, just because your church doesn’t have the money to hire your own agency doesn’t mean you shouldn’t develop and implement simple marketing plans for every marketing campaign you run.
In about fifty minutes, your church can develop a clear and measurable marketing plan for your next event. To do so, you will likely need to forget about perfection. It is more realistic to create a quick, basic marketing plan you can implement than to spend weeks trying to create the “perfect” (or, 100 percent) yearly plan for all your church marketing. By developing a 50-minute marketing plan for every paid advertising campaign, you can define clear and attainable goals.
A 50-Minute Church Marketing Plan answers six questions in seven steps. When you have clear answers to each question, you are ready to launch your marketing campaign.
The 50 Minute Church Marketing Plan
Step 1 (0 minutes) – Define your objective: Get people into your church.
Step 2 (10 minutes) – Perform a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
Strengths: Your strengths are aspects of your church that set you apart from other churches in the community. They add value to your church. The more of these you can share in your marketing, the more responses you will receive. Some examples would be:
· You have an incredible worship team.
· Your pastor is a well-known author and speaker.
· You have programs for helping marriages.
· You have programs for healing addiction issues.
· You have a great children’s church.
Weaknesses: Weaknesses are aspects of your church that may be holding you back from growing. Weaknesses may affect the response of your marketing. Some you may be able to change, but some you cannot. Some examples would be:
· You have limited space for new visitors.
· You are located in an older part of town that people avoid.
· You don’t have a great children’s or youth program.
Opportunities: Opportunities are usually external factors you can build on to make your marketing more powerful. Special days like Easter, Christmas, New Years, and Mother’s Day, or seasons like “back to school” time are great opportunities for churches. Much of the groundwork has already been done by the season, and people are more receptive to visiting a church or making a change during these times. Other opportunities may include new people or businesses moving into the community. Identifying and reaching new move-in members is an opportunity every church should take seriously.
Threats: Threats are usually external factors that might limit response to your marketing. A non-Church holiday weekend, summer break, community-wide, or major sporting events can pull attendance down and nullify even the best marketing efforts. By identifying these potential poor attendance days upfront, you can plan more effective campaigns around those days where you are more likely to have success.
As an aside, don’t view the church down the street as a threat or as competition. Your competition comes in the form of worldly opportunities that pull people away from God. Some of the most successful churches I know have strong relationships with other churches in their area, and many work together to improve their communities.
Step 3 (5 minutes) – Know what you are marketing. Don’t just advertise for the sake of advertising. Define what it is specifically that you are marketing. I see a great deal of church marketing that only features upcoming events, or a simple, “Visit us this Sunday” tagline. If you’ve read this far, you know I am not a fan of shotgun marketing where you spend a ton of money without a specific plan.
Instead, design your marketing for something specific, like a new sermon series, Easter, Christmas, a Friends and Family Sunday, or a Fall Festival. When you focus your marketing on a specific event, you can also coordinate all of your media and designs to match that event making your marketing much more effective. (Remember, keep your marketing timely. Don’t clutter your message with events too far in the future. As a rule of thumb, anything longer than two weeks away will be forgotten.)
Step 4 (15 minutes) – Define your target audience. Who are the people you are trying to reach? Where do they live? What are their ages? Do they have kids? What ethnicity are they? What are their pains? What are their needs?
Your church should have a demographic profile of the people in your community. One of the most successful ways to define your target audience would be to take a lesson from Rick Warren and his “Saddleback Sam.” Sam was a representation of the target people Saddleback church wanted to reach. The church understood who Sam was and what his needs were. You can agree or disagree with Warren’s methods, but the results speak for themselves. In August 2018, the church baptized their 50,000th person, more than any other church in U.S. history.
Another similar method involves creating an Empathy Map, developed by Scott Matthew of XPLANE.[i] Begin by collecting necessary demographic information of the people you want to reach in your community. You can usually find this from the U.S. Census.[ii] Once you have your data, gather your team, and complete these steps:
· On a whiteboard or poster board, draw a person’s head in the middle of a large square.
· Give the person a name.
· Separate the space around the person into these sections: thinking, feeling, hearing, seeing.
· Using these categories, describe life from this person’s viewpoint. Remember, this person represents the people of your community. You are explaining what life is like for them.
This exercise should take no more than 15 minutes. Ask yourself (and the group) what this person wants. What motivates him or her? As you do this, you will form a clear image of the people you are targeting, and you will have a better idea of how to tailor your marketing to reach them.
Don’t try to be something you are not. You should also look at your attenders and know what the driving factor that brought them to your church was, and what makes them stay. If you are a small church with an older population attending, then that is who you are. Work with it and use it to reach more people who fit who you are. If you are a 50-something church, 30-somethings likely will not stick around.
Step 5 (10 minutes) – Identify advantages and benefits. What are the advantages and benefits people will receive if they respond to your marketing? What specific things will people see in your marketing that will factor into their decision-making process? Will this marketing improve their marriages? Will it help them with their household budget? Will they raise better children or grow closer to God? Never pay for marketing without listing the advantages and benefits people will receive when they respond. If you can’t answer “What’s in it for me?” then you are not ready! Step 6 (5 minutes) – Budget. What funds do you have available to devote to this marketing campaign? The funds you have will determine the next step, so you must know what you have to work with. In the business world, a rule of thumb is that an organization needs to spend about 5% of its bottom line to maintain a 10% growth rate. How does that compare with your church? Another “rule” you can use as a church is to spend equal to your missions’ budget on local marketing. If you have no mission’s budget, I would strongly suggest you devote a tenth of your gross revenue to this area before you begin any local marketing.
Step 7 (5 minutes) – Define your marketing media. What types of marketing media will you use? There are many vehicles available to you: direct mail, email, phone messages, social media, PPC (pay-per-click) advertising, etc. Your market and your budget will influence your choices. For example, social media may work great in a high millennial demographic but fail in an area where social media isn’t used as much. Think about your target and the funds available as you consider each of the available marketing options. Which vehicle will the target audience respond to? Which advertising vehicle will give the best ROI? Mix as many marketing vehicles into your plan as you can afford until you determine which are the most effective.
This plan should take about 50 minutes the first time you try it. But, after you lay the groundwork, each successive campaign will require significantly less time.
Taken from Marketing Like God: Developing & Implementing a Biblical Marketing Strategy for Church Growth.
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