Ask most people about marketing and they’ll talk about advertising. Why? Because advertising is the end result of a long marketing process and the only part that is actually observed by the general public. Behind the scenes, though, there are hundreds of people and thousands of hours of marketing work involved in every product you see advertised.
This becomes problematic when consumers of advertising become creators of marketing, as they assume they should start with advertising. That’s like assuming that building a house begins with picking out paint and wallpaper because that’s the part that’s most visible and that you’re most familiar with.
So what is marketing?
Marketing is the study and practice of better, faster, cheaper and friendlier. “Making things go more smoothly,” as I put it to my students. The product or service a company provides is the “what” of its existence. Marketing is the “how.” In a church setting, our “what” is the spreading of the Word of Christ. We want to grow the Church, heal the world and bring the Good News to those that haven’t heard it. Those are all answers to the question, “What should the church be doing?” The question, “How can we do those things better?” is one that marketing can help answer.
So where do we start? Good marketing begins with some basic ideas that can help any organization—including your church—accomplish many objectives long before venturing into the realm of advertising.
Good marketing programs must have well stated goals, often at several levels. By “levels of goals,” I mean that company-wide, department, and personal marketing goals are often set forth, and should compliment each other. If “increased customer satisfaction” is a company-wide goal, then a personal marketing goal might be “spend more time in one-on-one customer interactions.” Goal consistency is even more imperative in a church setting where much more is at stake than dollars.
That which is not measured cannot be improved. One of my favorite bosses once quipped that marketing without measurement is like basketball without baskets; “Lots of dribbling, but what’s the point?” For churches, measurement can be about much more than the numbers of people attending services. You can measure how many people are involved in different activities, how many hours of volunteer time are given, how pleased people are with various activities, how satisfied staff and clergy are. And your measurements should all tie back to those goals we talked about earlier.
Once you have goals set, and an idea of how to measure progress towards them, you need a plan. How to get from “Point A” to “Point Z” without trying to skip the stuff in between. Marketing planning utilizes a “blueprint” model that navigates from the statement of a goal to its achievement. This is where many churches (and businesses) fall down. Project planning skills simply aren’t taught in schools. But they are taught in many corporate marketing departments.
Marketing often requires a balance of priorities. Shareholders want maximum profits; customers want low prices; employees want higher wages. Marketing has to find a balance. Knowing how to “market internally” can mean the difference between success and failure… even before a product ever gets out the door. Managing internal marketing relationships within your church will help you prepare for and overcome tension and unrest that can disturb your people and limit your success.
In the business world, how these and other marketing fundamentals work together will depend on the particular product or service being marketed. In a church setting, marketing programs will also depend on the goals and resources of the particular church. But no matter what you want to accomplish, starting with a strong foundation is critical. As Christ said in Luke 6:47-48: (NKJV) “Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock.” Don’t start your marketing programs by working on the “paint and paper” of advertising first. You’ll only end up standing around in a muddy, vacant lot arguing about why you’re still wet and cold. Start with simple, foundational marketing plans and you’ll end up with something that will stand the test of time.