- Praise God
- Please be praying...
- What Every Church Needs to Know about Marketing: Final Thoughts: If you don't pass the people test, nothing else matters
- What Every Church Needs to Know about Marketing: Part 3: Marketing is about People
- What Every Church Needs To Know about Marketing: Part 2: Marketing is Everything
- Getting Your Current Members to Invite Friends
- Through the eyes of a visitor
- Encouraging progress
- Please be praying
- Bootstrap Faith
- Know Our Hearts?
- Seldom Read But Always Evaluated
- Creating an Experience
- The Bond Between Music and Design
- The Church Exposed
- The Value Principle
- The Nike Effect: Part II
- The Nike Effect: Part I
- Starting New This New Year
- Christmas Revelation from Charlie Brown
- The Video: Speaking Starbucksian
- And The Winners Are...
- The Video: A Treasure Hunt
- The Video: We're Not Like That Church Down The Street
- The Video: Signs of Neediness
- The Video: Death to Papyrus and Comic Sans!
- The Video: Inconsistent Artwork
- A Thanksgiving Thought
- The Video: The Culture Crime
- The Video: Reserved for Barista
- The Video: Real Men Love Java
- The Video: Marketing is more than you realize
- The Video: The purpose of the video.
- What If Starbucks Marketed Like the Church? A Parable.
- re-Branding on Momentum
A woman is driving down a lonely, pitch-dark road late at night and sees that she is almost out of gas. Her fear is somewhat relieved as she sees two gas stations up ahead. If these two gas stations are equally accessible and the gas is equally priced, which one will she choose? The answer is simple. She’ll choose the one with better lighting. Why? At that moment, her primary need is safety. Better lighting makes her feel safer. Her response is natural and just as natural as the first conclusions that people commonly draw about churches.
I imagine the owner of the less-frequented store dropping prices and scratching his head. “Why are we so slow at night when the other store is packed? Cutting prices doesn’t work and increasing inventory hasn’t increased sales. Redesigning the logo and a bigger advertising budget hasn’t done it either.”
The owner’s disconnect here is about perceived needs. Sure, the late-night customer might want to save money some other time, but at that moment her most important need is safety.
How does this relate to the church?
The summer between high school graduation and my first year of college, I worked for a friend at church who cleaned offices. We cleaned at night, usually from 8:00 PM until about 2:00 or 3:00 AM. Now, cleaning is probably my least favorite thing to do in the entire world. In fact, I’m amazed that my mother didn’t pass out at the thought that I would actually take a job cleaning—something that she did not see me do for eighteen years. The funny thing is, I was pretty good at it. I mean, we never heard much praise from our clients, but in my own mind, I was a master cleaner.
The thing is, I had adapted my own way of cleaning. I know this is not the most appropriate topic, but bear with me as I chat about toilets for a second (I promise it’s crucial to my point). When I went into these offices to clean the toilet stalls, I was absolutely sure I was the best toilet-stall-cleaner out there. Why? Simple. I watched the other people who cleaned them, and they followed this approach: open the stall door, wipe down the doors, spray the toilet, and they were done.
My “superior” method was this: I opened the stall and sat on the toilet lid. From there I had the most important perspective that exists in the bathroom world—the perspective of the person on the seat. After all, the person sitting there usually has time to stare at the walls, right? I can clean all day long, but if the stall is not clean from the view of the person on that seat, we have problems. Honestly, very few other perspectives matter. I would finish by wiping down the seat and voila—the cleanest toilet stall in all the land!
With that in mind, some of us in ministry need to change seats. We need to look at the church all over again from the perspective of the first-time visitor. Things might look good when you are standing at the door, behind the pulpit, or in the youth room, but the bottom line at the end of the day for the church is how we come across to the person in that seat.
© Richard L. Reising
Through all of our consulting, I’ve discovered countless marketing speed bumps and stumbling blocks that keep outsiders from hearing the message of Christ clearly in our churches. It is never our intention as a church to create these things, but oftentimes we’ve become so “churched” that we overlook them—forgetting all about the outsider.
Now, my observations and my passion for connecting with the lost are not to be mistaken for a desire to water down the gospel—rather far from that. In scripture, you’ll find that Christ is either your cornerstone, or your stumbling block. You either find his truths to be the foundation of your life, or you stumble over them (1 Peter 2:7-8). It clearly tells us that for some, Christ Himself will be a stumbling block. You need to know this in advance. Not everyone will leave your church talking about how awesome it was. Scripture tells us that we won’t please everyone, but we’ve got to make sure that we aren’t the stumbling blocks because of our inability to relate and adapt ourselves to the lost and their needs.
In 1 Corinthians 9:20, Paul tells us, “and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law.” To reach people we have to adapt our lives and our approach to them. We have to understand how they think, communicate, interact, and view the world. It’s impossible to reach someone without adapting the way we communicate to his or her understanding.
Do you know of any possible stumbling blocks at your church? How do you plan on overcoming them?
© Richard L. Reising
A couple of years ago, I had the honor of visiting the Democratic Republic of Congo in West Africa and addressing about twenty-five hundred native pastors. I was completely humbled by the opportunity to speak to them and totally unsure how I might explain exactly what it is that I do. A “marketing executive with a passion for churches” might connect with a few, but honestly, I wasn’t sure they would understand well enough for me to gain and hold their attention.
Then I remembered Joshua and Caleb and the team of spies who were sent ahead to check out Canaan. I talked about this story to the pastors, focusing on how they analyzed and calculated and researched the Canaanites. They brought their report to Moses and the Israelites. “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it” (Numbers 13:30).
As I dug deeper, I discovered something pretty cool. The instructions that Moses gave to Joshua and Caleb sounded so familiar to me. It was what we call market research, demographics, and psychographics today. Moses told them:
"See what the land is like, and whether the people who live in it are strong or weak, whether they are few or many. How is the land in which they live, is it good or bad? And how are the cities in which they live, are they like open camps or with fortifications? How is the land, is it fat or lean? Are there trees in it or not? Make an effort then to get some of the fruit of the land." (Numbers 13:18-20).
Research still proves critical in knowing how to take the land for God. I shared this message with the Congolese pastors and explained that I am like Joshua and Caleb for many churches—a spy sent out to scope out the community. The pastors understood completely. In fact, I think they got the message in a way that many American ministers don’t. God gave them insight and strategy to expand their reach in their communities.
The point I’m making is to know your community. Know what they like, what they dislike. Know their hopes, and know their fears. Through research, find out how you should market yourself to reach them. This will equip you to expand the Kingdom and to further your reach. If you don’t know where to start when marketing to your community, start by finding out who they are.
Who are the people you're trying to reach and how are you getting to know them?
© Richard L. Reising
Back in high school, did you ever notice that when a guy didn’t have a girlfriend, no one wanted to date him, but the moment he had a girlfriend, all the other girls were suddenly interested? It’s the eighth wonder of the world. It’s amazing what happens though—it’s like this air of confidence takes over the guy and suddenly every girl in school has taken notice. Do you know what I’m talking about?
Well, the girlfriend effect is alive and well in churches today and it starts with the atmosphere you create.
But what does atmosphere have to do with church growth? Some of you might think the suggestion is an attempt to devalue the work of the Holy Spirit and the power of prayer, but it’s completely opposite. The fundamental component of any church’s atmosphere is the sense that God is among His people and is active in their lives.
Remember, the Bible says that Peter and John were clearly “perceived” as “uneducated and untrained men,” yet the onlookers “marveled” at their “boldness”—“And they realized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
They had a powerful spiritual walk that was evident. It created an atmosphere around them. People must be able to recognize that a church’s leaders and members have been with Christ and that His Spirit is active in the church. If it is not recognizable, the church will have a hard time making an ounce of difference in people’s lives. It is the cornerstone of the atmosphere you create.
So my challenge for you today is to continue to press into what the Lord has for you. When the Lord is the cornerstone of your church and the Holy Spirit resides there, it is evident not only to believers, but to visitors as well. It makes them want what you have—even though they may not know what it is.
© Richard L. Reising
Everyone who knows me knows I’m a thinker. In fact, my close friends tease me all the time because they can tell when I’m having conversations in my head. And I always find it strangely odd how my wife is never ready for that trip that I’m convinced I told her about. I then realize that I only thought to tell her about it. That’s the difference between intention and communication. Very similar to the difference between someone’s heart and how others perceive them.
Here’s the thing—until you clearly and fully communicate that thought, it really only exists in your head. In this world, a continuous battle for mindshare causes the companies that over-communicate to be the ones that make an impact. If you didn’t catch it the first time around, you’ll hear it again.
A similar tale can be told of Radio DJs and popular music. About the time that a hit song is driving them crazy is when people start calling in to request it. The DJ's totally burned out but has to play it over and over for listeners who are most likely hearing it for the first time.
The same principle that applies to the DJ, works for the church. Something is said once or twice and leadership assumes everyone has heard it. It’s not like that. Just like radio, people are tuning in at different times. Just when you think you’ve said something enough, some are only hearing it for the first time. You’ve got to repeat if you want it to stick. When it comes to especially important areas, like spiritual steps, communication is essential. If you aren’t making it a routine to communicate these things, there are people who aren’t hearing it. If you aren’t tired of saying it, you’re probably not saying it enough. The same principle applies to signage at your church, as well as communicating the brand and vision to your staff.
By over-communicating, you’re showing value to the recipients and you’re creating a culture of trust.
© Richard L. Reising
As a marketing person, you would probably assume that I am pro-promotion, right? Meaning, that I think the answer for more growth is found in advertising. Well, the truth is that I am pro-promotion…when you’re in a place to promote yourself. There are a lot of people out there today that misconceive what marketing is all about. It’s about building a bond between you and those you’re trying to reach. And as a result, I challenge that for most churches, the best marketing is not to advertise at all—not until they’re ready. Most churches are not ready because they aren’t connecting or "bonding" with visitors well enough to get them to come back.
In the video, What if Starbucks Marketed Like the Church, one of our baristas made the comment that they plan to do a direct mailing "that will solve everything". The only problem is that the experience that this fictional Starbucks provided was actually keeping people from coming back. The other barista said himself that visitors rarely came back. I see it time and time again. A struggling church sees a thriving church do a mailing and decides, “we should be doing that too. That will solve our problem.” Think about it this way: That’s the same logic as the young couple that fights all the time and thinks marriage will solve all of their relationship problems.
Direct mail, like getting married, doesn’t solve problems; it brings them out and intensifies them. If you aren’t retaining visitors, when you send out a direct mailer, all you are doing is inviting people to come in and see why no one wants to come to your church. On the other hand, if you have a healthy church—one that is thriving on its own, direct mail can enhance your growth just like marriage enhances a strong relationship.
I recently was consulting at a church that had spent tens of thousands on advertising the year before we arrived. When we worked with them to diagnose their current situation, one of the things we saw was that about 4 out of 100 visitors were returning. Thank God for the 4, but that means that 96 people out of every 100 were casting a "no" vote about their church. With their increased advertising, they were increasing the rate that 96% of the community was turning them down. Give them a few more years of this and everyone in town will have visited and summed up that church as one that nobody wants to go to. Needless to say, my team and I helped them shut down the advertising and are working with them to build an atmosphere that fosters growth—in numbers and in spiritual depth—while keeping their core values in tact.
You won’t win them all. A healthy church will experience 20-30% visitor retention. Growth should be organic first and foremost. It should be the response of changed lives inspiring others to experience change. Word of mouth has been and always will be the best advertising that exists. If you’re not hitting these numbers, it’s time to look introspectively.
In the meantime, start asking yourself, what is it that’s making visitors not return? Take the energy and effort that you would put into a direct mailer, or promotional plan, and apply it to things that will cause organic growth. Focus on the relationship first—once you’ve got it solid, then you can start talking about the marriage.
If you’re interested in more resources about building an atmosphere that fosters growth, start by reading my book, ChurchMarketing 101. There are several chapters devoted to it.
© Richard L. Reising