Church advertising observations from someone who doesn’t like church advertising. Part two in a two part series. Read part 1, Why Church Advertising Doesn’t Work.
In my first article, I explained three reasons why most church advertising doesn’t work. I promised some practical action steps to design church advertising that reaches the people in your community.
Here are eight steps to attract people in your community in a compelling way:
1. Identify people groups in your community based on their passions.
Most people in your community are not thinking about going to church. But what are they thinking about? What are they passionate about? What are they excited to pour their time into when they get home from work? Get a diverse group of people in your church to brainstorm… you will quickly come up with a dozen or more groups of people.
2. Who can your church most effectively reach?
Let’s be realistic. You can’t effectively reach all of these groups. The way you reach a Harley-Davidson fan is typically different from the way you reach a gardener. Your church is uniquely equipped to reach some of these groups very effectively. This has a lot to do with the personality of your church. Pick a few of these people groups that overlap with the people already attending your church, and/or the people you as a leader are passionate about attracting.
Before we continue, many churches have tried steps one and two, and then built outreach events accordingly. That’s why we often see church softball leagues, motorcycle rallies and Super Bowl parties. These activities are good, but they don’t usually speak to people at a deeply emotional level. As a result, you end up with the second best softball league, motorcycle rally, or Super Bowl party in town.
That’s why step three is so important. I don’t see churches doing this:
3. Learn what keeps these people up at night.
Do you want to reach your community at a deep level? Identify what keeps them up at night. What are those deeper emotions that drive them to obsess over their motorcycle, climbing a corporate ladder, or never-ending home improvement projects? What chronic problems do they deal with in their lives? These fears & problems will vary a bit from each group you identified in steps one and two. Sometimes it relates to the passion (e.g., parents worrying about their kids) but usually the thing they pour their time and passion into is just a facade for what keeps them up at night.
Step three may make you uncomfortable. I understand. But advertisers are capturing the hearts of consumers by speaking to them at a deeply emotional level. They tell them that the thing they are selling will make them happy. Advertisers do it in a manipulative and deceitful way way, but you can do it without manipulating or deceiving. Don’t lose sight of the fact that you are sharing the Gospel! You have something to share that will actually transform their lives!
4. Develop practical biblical teaching.
In step three you identified a chronic problem or fear that these groups of people face. What does the Bible say about this topic? If you’ve listed a problem or fear in step three that you don’t think the Bible addresses in a practical way, then you probably are still listing symptoms instead of root problems.
Pick one of these fears or problems. Prepare a multi-week teaching series, and make sure that each week offers its own practical action steps, as well as benefits for attending. Each part of the series should include specific action steps that will help them with the thing that keeps them up at night.
5. Don’t water it down.
It may be tempting to dilute your teaching to make it more more seeker-friendly. But if you hit on a problem that speaks to them at an emotional level, they want all the information they can get. Consider showing them the tip of the iceberg and point them toward additional resources through scripture, and trusted Christian authors. People who think scripture is irrelevant have probably never discovered that there are practical answers to the specific problem they face.
Now that the teaching is developed, it’s time to re-engage your advertising campaign! But your ads will no longer talk about your church. You are about to earn their attention in a compelling way.
6. Design advertising that speaks to these people at an emotional level.
Focus on what keeps them up at night, and the practical outcomes of your teaching. Make a promise about what practical benefits they’ll get for taking action. By the way, your call to action should probably not start with visiting your church. We all know that’s a risky proposition for some. This leads to step seven.
7. Create a marketing funnel.
You need to create “baby steps” that people can take before they step foot in your church. Don’t require people to visit your church to start learning about solutions to their specific problem. Instead, earn their trust with some practical teaching on your website that will help them even if they never visit your church. This will help earn their trust and prove that you are a credible source of information. Yes, effective baby steps will get more people in the pews for your teaching series. But it will also get many more people interacting with you through your website, even if you don’t know who they are there. I will write more about how churches can use marketing funnels in a future article.
8. Make your advertising more targeted.
Billboards and direct mail are fine, but you should supplement them with more targeted forms of marketing. In steps one and two, you identified groups of people who have specific interests and passions.
Did you know that using Facebook you can advertise to these folks in a targeted way? For example, there are more than one million people in the U.S. who “like” Harley- Davidson on Facebook. And despite the rural community where I live, 1,540 of them are within driving distance of my church! You can run targeted, local Facebook ads that tie your message to their passions, and you only pay when someone clicks.
Thousands of ads are running at this very moment that suggest random products or activities will fill the void in consumers’ lives. The ads get results because they speak at a deeply emotional level. When we begin to understand this, it suddenly seems silly to run ads that differentiate your church from other churches.
To a small church on a shoestring budget, this idea can be daunting. “I’m competing against national ad agencies for the attention of local consumers… are you kidding me?” But take heart. You have the real answer to people’s problems. And that can make all the difference.Photo by mtsofan