- 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
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
There is no doubt that Starbucks has their own language. Tall, Grande, Venti... (Let's call it Starbucksian). For the most part, churches have their own language too. Having your own language is sometimes a valuable weapon in your marketing arsenal, but yielded without planning and precision, it can be deadly to your culture. Basically, it’s a two-edged sword. On one hand, if you don’t know the language, you feel lost and on the "outside." However, if you know the language, you feel "included," special and "in-the-know."
"Code" language is a very insider thing. Many churches will ask, if insider language is a bad thing, why does Starbucks do it? Simple. They want insiders. As an outsider, you learn the secret code by ordering a drink. If you don’t know it, someone is standing right there, looking you in the face and helping you engage your transition between outsider and insider. They are there to even suggest a drink. When someone has a puzzled look on their face, you quickly hear... "Would you like something hot or cold?" "Would you like something sweet?" They are literally trained to identify a newcomer and immediately make them comfortable without any kind of embarrassment. They are "hands on" to steer you into an addictive Mocha Frappucino. After you visit about three times, you are the master. You’ve got your drink and your size down pat. You’re an insider now. The bridge to that point was built very deliberately by Starbucks themselves in an effort to create insiders. Brilliant!
Now, why is this not working so well for churches? One, most churches speak Christian-ese not as a bridge to gain insiders, but as a validation tool with other insiders. AKA: I prove my spirituality in the number of three-syllable Bible words I can say. As churches, we often make it difficult for visitors to understand our code. We don’t have interpreters waiting to greet visitors at the front door, their job solely to explain everything we intend to say. When someone does indicate they might not know our ways, many churches throw them under the bus and make a show of them—asking them to stand up, raise their hands, and fill out forms.
If the visitor tries to follow along, our insider jokes and language—the very stuff that rallies the troops and makes believers feel like they’re in the cool "in-crowd" (the “God is good.... All the time” stuff from the video)—all of those insider jokes just remind them that they’re outsiders.
What's the key? Just that: a key. It’s like a map that you need to read the key to understand the symbols. The key is a bridge. The key is an explanation. Without explanation, you leave outsiders out. Without the barista telling me what the stuff is, I’m lost. With the barista carefully explaining the coded language, I’m on my way to becoming an insider. So, insider language in itself is not the issue unless it is left to resolve with out deliberate explanation.
Make this commitment: never let a service take place where you don’t break down church vocabulary for the visitors present and tell them the story behind our inside jokes. The secret behind this is two-fold: if you commit to it, 1) you’ll build stronger bridges and 2) you’ll get tired of bringing in so much context to all your insider verbiage, that you'll cut it down to the minimum.
As a church, do you have your own language? Do your inside jokes leave an outsider feeling further outside? It’s time to build a bridge. Change your language or commit to bridge-building. Without it, your church might be good at winning over other Christians, but you will leave a lost and dying world dying to know what you’re talking about.
© Richard L. Reising
In our video, What if Starbucks Marketed Like the Church?, one of our cameos with a barista suggested that, "We aren’t like that store down the street, where they water their product down. We serve only 100% real coffee." This is particularly humorous to me because in the course of consulting with hundreds of churches, I have never met a church that says, "We really water it down,” only churches that claim that other churches do.
As a matter of fact, in a particular consulting season, I asked about ten churches in a row if they considered themselves "deeper" than the other churches in their community. Ten out of ten, despite being from different denominations and of different sizes, all claimed to be "deep". Go figure! Maybe those are just the churches that hire marketing consultants :). Maybe it’s that we all value depth and feel as though we’ve nailed it. Either way, we might just be missing it if we feel we have a unique claim on truth—or assume that others fall so short.
It’s similar to the “Got Milk” ads. They were an effort of the US Dairy Board to get people who don’t drink milk to start drinking it. This is very different than the ads by the individual dairies (like Borden or Lucerne) that make claims as to the superior quality of "their" milk. These ads are aimed at people who already drink milk—attempting to bolster their position with them.
When it comes to your promotional efforts as a church, any claim you make as to the quality of your truth does more to separate you from others in the eyes of a believer than to endear you to a non-Christian. Actually, that’s the least of what would appeal to someone on the outside of Christianity looking in—deciding if they want to know God in the first place. Spiritual truth and doctrine are critically important. But when a church outwardly communicates the superiority of its doctrinal statement, it only matters to those who are savvy enough to distinguish it—thus showing that they are not asking the masses to taste and see of His goodness, but rather talking to “church folk”, trying to rally the troops along common values. I'm not saying you are not right--just saying that non-believers don't care.
The point is, if I don’t drink milk, don’t waste your time telling me how perfect your milk is compared to everyone else. Convince me to drink milk. Any time we spend making a claim to "our milk's" superiority is always wasted on a world that doesn’t value milk in the first place. It’s always an argument of superiority that ultimately reveals that we are unaware of the decision-making process of the non-believer. If they aren’t drinkers of "milk", their primary need is to taste and see that He is good (Psalms 34:8).
Let's spend all of our efforts on bringing that to pass and applaud any church that makes progress in His name.
© Richard L. Reising