Allow me to be honest: There are a lot of mistakes that you can make in your church’s marketing strategy and a lot of landmines on which you can inadvertently step. It’s not like you ever set out with the intention of blowing your ministry’s goals and ambitions to smithereens, but hey, it can happen before you even realize it. Some of you reading this know exactly what I’m talking about. You wonder why you’re not experiencing any engagement or connectivity with your local community, much less your own congregants. You wonder why you’re not seeing growth or even the slightest hint of enthusiasm from staff or volunteers. You might even be wondering why your church doesn’t seem to be taken seriously in some community venues.
It’s not until later that you realize you unwittingly neglected to adhere to the most basic principles of marketing, many of which would’ve inspired and encouraged your team and your church. I know some of you as pastors are probably thinking: I don’t like the idea of “marketing” my church. It sounds like I’m selling something.
Well, you are. It just so happens to be the free gift of salvation and the eternal message of hope and redemption found in Jesus Christ. What you’re “selling” doesn’t cost anything, which is pretty Good News if you ask me. (See what I did there?) And you’re also trying to persuade folks to join you on the journey of following this Jesus dude.
Anyway — whether you’re a church communications director or a senior pastor running everything yourself because you have no staff and haven’t trained your dog to manage social media — you should avoid these three painfully obvious marketing blunders:
#1. Failing to have a solid logo.
I’m not trying to insult your intelligence here, I promise, but you’d be surprised how many churches have been in existence for several decades without a basic logo. In fact, many of them try to dive into social media or websites without realizing they need a logo in order to distinctively brand themselves to their congregants, their local community, and the world. Here’s a pro tip: Don’t create a Facebook Page for your church and use a photo of your actual building as the profile photo (especially if your building isn’t much to look at.) This isn’t good marketing. Don’t even use a photo of your pastor and his wife. This will confuse people all the more. Photos of people should generally be reserved for personal profiles and personality Pages.
If you’re dead set on showing off your building, then create a custom cover photo for your Facebook Page using a simple graphic design platform like Canva and place it up there at the top. The profile photo, however, should always be your logo. Before you even attempt to have a web presence of any kind, make sure you have a contemporary, attractive, well-designed logo that reflects your church’s brand identity, messaging, or overall personality. This logo will eventually be placed on everything from t-shirts to car decals so make sure you’re happy with it.
#2. Lack of web presence.
Speaking of websites and social media, your church needs a digital strategy in order to survive in today’s culture. Start by asking yourself some basic questions like: What do I wish to achieve by putting my church on social media? Do I only have time to manage one platform? What platform is most popular among my congregants? (Hint: It’s probably Facebook.) Will I be uploading sermon audio/video at some point? How do I plan to most effectively communicate with my congregants? Will the majority of my congregants be confused by links to other sites like YouTube and Vimeo? Do they even know what these platforms are?
Once you’ve got a basic website and/or Facebook Page, don’t neglect them. In this world, you can’t afford to go weeks or even days without regularly posting content and updating your site. It defeats the purpose and honestly you’ll just be shooting yourself in the foot. If you’re going to have any chance of building a decent web presence and a social media following, you’ll need to post and engage on a consistent basis, even if it’s just once a day. (For more on this, see my column on social media engagement here.)
#3. Remaining oblivious to your target audience.
Too many small churches fall under the impression that they have to compete with the megachurches in order to stand out on social media or gain any traction. This just isn’t the case. Take a deep breath. Chill out. You have a completely different demographic of congregants and a different local community than they do. And if you’re a senior pastor running everything yourself, your congregants are likely to be more understanding and forgiving if your Facebook Page and/or website lacks a little professionalism or creativity. No one knows your people and what kind of church you are better than you do. And remember that, oftentimes, small is actually what many people are looking for in a church. There’s no reason to be insecure just because you only have 60 people on Sunday mornings. Use this to your advantage. Play it as a strength. Tailor your digital and social media around this and allow your platforms to reflect it. Your target audience will be drawn to the honest community atmosphere and will be more likely to engage with it.
There’s plenty of other marketing blunders that you should avoid and landmines you should be able to sidestep, but these are a good start when it comes to the fundamentals. Stick with it and before long you’ll basically be the Rambo of church marketing. And who doesn't want to be Rambo?