We’ve Come Along Way, So We Need a Biblical Marketing Strategy
I’m pretty sure my childhood church didn’t have a biblical marketing strategy. Growing up in church we never had a website, a social media account, or a marketing budget. In fact, our marketing strategy was just a sign out front and the congregation inviting friends, neighbors, and co-workers to join us one Sunday. Life was simpler then… that is before the internet. Or at least before it was in every home and in everyone’s hand. It wasn’t as accessible and we certainly weren’t as glued to our screens as we are today. Now churches and ministries contend with the constant drawl of memes, viral videos and something called “TikTok”. So what is a Bible teaching, Gospel believing church or ministry supposed to do to be heard in the noise? A biblical marketing strategy is a great start.
Smart Goals and SWOT Analysis
I know this seems strange for a church or ministry, but it is necessary. Before launching into branding and marketing, we need to know what our goals are and where we need to improve or grow in to make those goals happen. God wants us to plan, although we have to understand he is in ultimate control and will correct us along the way.
In their hearts, humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. – Proverbs 16:9 (NIV)
- Specific – smart goals are detailed, clearly defined, and meaningful.
- Measurable – smart goals are quantifiable so progress can be easily tracked.
- Attainable – smart goals are realistic and attainable with the right tools or resources.
- Relevant – smart goals align with your church or ministry mission and are strong enough to push you towards God’s call on your ministry or church.
- Time-based – smart goals have a specific time frame for completion.
A SWOT analysis is completed to determine what areas of the organization need to improve or leverage. It is a great tool for setting those SMART goals mentioned above. Think about the SWOT analysis broken in two main areas Internal (SW) and external (OT).
- Strength – What your ministry or church excels at.
- Weakness – The areas your ministry or church struggles with.
- Opportunities – Local opportunities or new resources that your ministry or church can grow in.
- Threats – External oppositions to your goals that you need to overcome.
Market Research and Your Target Market
Yes, churches and ministries need to complete marketing research and know their target market too. Now, this is not your typical marketing research and your target market is pretty much everyone in your reach, but this is still a necessary step. With that being said, you don’t need to complete focus groups or research tithing habits. Your research starts where every research should start, God’s word. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus, so we need to look at who he served.
Your Target Market
- The Lost – Luke 15:6-7 KJV – ‘I say unto you, that likewise, joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
- The prisoners, the blind, and the oppressed – Luke 4:18-19 NIV – “The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”
- The Broken Hearted – Luke 4:18 NKJV – “He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted”
- The Outcast – Luke 5: 12-16, Luke 5:17-26, Luke 5:27-32, Luke 7:36-50 and so many more.
Of course, this is not all, but this gives you an idea of who you’re “marketing” to. This drives your verbiage, where you go online and in-person, and what you highlight in your marketing. Now of course, this is all within reason. Stay connected to God to stay in tune with how far he wants you to go. Not every church or ministry is called to serve every group and we certainly never want to contradict the word or God’s call on our lives by using foul language or going places where our eyes should not see.
Biblical Marketing Strategy Positioning
In business, positioning is all about competitors, pricing, and brand image. For example, Apple has positioned itself as a higher quality, more innovative phone manufacture as compared to Android. Android manufacturers position themselves as a quality, but reasonably priced phone option for everyone. In churches and ministries, it’s a little different.
Our competitors are not other churches or ministries. Our competition is sin and the pull of this world. Our pricing is high and free all at the same time. It is dying to one’s self and taking up the yoke of Jesus. Our brand image should be Jesus, but I will get into branding a little later.
We have to position ourselves as accessible and imperfect but striving to be holy, all at the same time. We have to position our churches and ministries as a community to help those you’re reaching out to achieve that “well done, my good and faithful servant” we all long for.
Biblical Marketing Strategy Branding
This is my favorite area of any biblical marketing strategy. This is the area we get to use the beautiful brain God gave us that put ourselves in our target market’s shoes and see what they see, hear what they hear, and feel what they feel. Here, let me explain.
Branding is all about psychology. Every color, every text, every image, every word choice, evokes a connection, which evokes a feeling or emotion, and that evokes an action.
As the hands and feet of Jesus, we have to be extra careful about our branding. Too much of one connection or too little of another can push away those you seek to serve. For example, using one photo of a homeless man looking sad may evoke a connection to how Jesus said to take care of the least of these and evoke a feeling of empathy or anger at their situation which then evokes the action of joining your homeless ministry once a month to help the homeless in your area. However, only talking about how the homeless have a higher rate of imprisonment and mental illness, so they need our help may evoke a connection of someone they knew being attacked and that evokes fear which evokes them to ignore your message altogether.
Another example would be a church showing huge events and concerts with people appearing to be intoxicated (whether they are or not) to appeal to the college population around them. This might make them interested, but it sends the message that the church is exactly like the world and can evoke the thought of “why even go if it’s just like Saturday night on campus?” or if they attend the church and see that it’s not like that at all, they will feel “duped”. It can and usually does backfire.
The key to any effective branding strategy is authenticity and clarity. It took me the better part of a year to gain clarity on my branding. I bounced from Churches to Entrepreneurs to Mom Entrepreneurs to Christian Entrepreneurs and finally back to Churches and Ministries because that is where my heart is. I had to force copy for entrepreneurs. I had to “fake it” on social media. I had to “play a role” with coaching clients. It’s just not me. I want to help churches and ministries be effective at what God has called them to do. Now that I have that clarity and authenticity in my message, things flow more easily and I believe God will honor it.
I always recommend a church or ministry (or business for that matter) have a website, regardless if they offer anything really online. Many churches choose not to upload videos or live stream, but they still need a website and here’s why.
“Google it” is everyone’s answer
When is the last time you had a question about where to eat, shop, or visit and didn’t “Google it” or ask your phone for information? It’s probably been a while. The internet has become our go-to for information, maps, and recommendations. We start our search there and then ask those we know for their thoughts. Not having a website is like not having a sign out front of your church. How do people know you’re there if they’re not already connected to the church or congregation in some way? The answer is, they don’t.
A website doesn’t have to be flashy or expensive to create, but it does need to communicate who you are, what you believe and what you offer. It needs to be a place where visitors can contact you without countless clicks and redirects. It needs to be inviting and welcoming. It needs to be an extension of the hands and feet of Jesus. If you need help with your website, contact me. I’m here to help.
This is marketing speak for articles, videos, and audio. This could be blog posts, YouTube videos, or Podcasts. It could also simply be sermon notes available on your website, live streams of part or all of the Sunday sermon, or audio recordings of messages. The main goal of content marketing in a biblical marketing strategy is to provide value to your market in a way that allows them to connect and trust you. That’s it. It’s that simple.
I personally am not a fan of social media. I think it gets in the way of real connections and leads to a mindset of self-importance. But there’s no denying it’s power, especially when reaching youth and those lost in the world. And it’s really budget-friendly if you know what you’re doing. But as scripture tells us, we’re not supposed to be like this world.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. – Romans 12:2 NIV
So how can we connect with this world without becoming like it? It’s all about staying in tune with the Father and discerning what is truly needed and not “what will get us noticed”. It’s not about going viral or getting millions of followers. It’s not about becoming a YouTube star or Social Media Influencer. It’s about making one connection and then another and then another, each time pointing them back to the one who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
So with all of the social media platforms, how do you know which one you should use? All of them? First, never feel like you have to have an active presence on all of the platforms. Your people are not on all of them. They are on one or two of them. I recommend allowing each ministry to have a presence (if the leadership is willing to make the time). Then they can use the platform their people are on. For example, the seniors at my home church have nothing to do with TikTok, but they are most familiar with Facebook. The youth use Instagram and the ladies love Facebook Groups. Know your people and you’ll find your platform.
Email marketing is a wonderful part of a biblical marketing strategy because it allows your church or ministry to provide updates and sermon notes directly to your congregation and even see who opens them and who doesn’t. Think of email marketing as an extension of your greeters’ team and weekly bulletin. Services like Mailchimp allow you to start for free (up to 2000 subscribers currently).
Budgeting for a Biblical Marketing Strategy
The last area of the biblical marketing strategy I want to mention isn’t a fun one. It’s the budget. You have to know what your church or ministry can afford to spend. Jesus tells us in Luke 14:28, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” Developing an effective marketing strategy is like building a tower. You need to know and understand your costs before committing to a website, social media ads, or anything else really. But it’s not only about finances. It’s also about budgeting your time and your team’s time. Do you have the bandwidth to start blogging? Do you have a volunteer willing to send out weekly emails? Do you have time and money to set up a quality live stream? Count your costs before laying your foundation.
Remember, God gave you your ministry or church because it’s HIS plan. He will grow it regardless of you doing all of the “right things”. Take steps to build your connections with those in your congregation or sphere of influence and watch God show up.
You’ve got this and God has you. Now, go build that biblical marketing strategy.