I was reading a post titled “News from Australia” on Seth Godin’s blog (author of the marketing books Purple Cow and Free Prize Inside) a few days ago. The second half of the post talks about a dentist who gets much happier after firing his “C” patients; those who complain constantly, don’t pay on time (or ever) and make his life miserable. I was reminded of my time in retain marketing when we’d joke that we’d love a churn rate of 2% (losing 2% of our customers every month), if we could hand-pick the 2% that left.
Now, in the church, we simply can’t ask people to leave. Right? Right… I’m always telling my clients not to make assumptions, and that when they come to hard-and-fast rules that they’re sure they can’t do without, they should stop and spend some time looking at them very carefully. Sometimes we build an entire edifice around one very small brick that we’re sure we can’t move, reshape or get rid of, simply because we’re afraid to question something that has been there so long. “Sacred cow” being the term we’re familiar with.
I’m not even going to propose an answer here, but I’m going to ask a question: what would you do if you found out that the negative behavior of 2% of your membership was responsible for severely limiting the growth and renewal of your church?
In marketing you sometimes run into these weird situations where, for some reason, you end up hanging on to a product that no longer fits in with your brand, your new product line, your store design or your image. And every now and then you have to make a decision to lose a product that may still have some “shelf life” or appeal to certain customers, because it is, frankly, hurting the overall business plan of the organization.
Now, I am in no way saying that Christianity changes the way fashion and retail trends do. I am also not suggesting that anyone ever be asked to leave your church because they are difficult, ornery, hard-to-please or what-have-you. I’m one of those people, and, yowza… we need the Lord more than anyone. But, from a marketing standpoint, the behavior of your members does have an effect on the growth and success of your church (as well as the mental and emotional well-being of your clergy and staff).
Healing some kinds of negative behavior may end up being one of the most important marketing programs your church ever undertakes.