Sometimes I feel like marketers make up words just to confuse everyone and justify their worth. One of the new buzz words out there that you have likely heard is "Inbound Marketing." While most marketing strategies are created for businesses to sell product or services, it doesn't mean that they are irrelevant to the church. It's my opinion that the church should lead in every aspect of culture, including marketing! I would love it if local businesses would come to our churches and ask us to help them with their business strategies!
So, what is Inbound Marketing anyway? It's simply a marketing strategy that brings visitors in to your media channels by earning their attention and loyalty before every trying to sell them anything. This includes using media opportunities such as blogs, podcast, eBooks, etc. to bring value to potential customers or clients before you sell them anything. This way they know you and trust you when you offer them anything to buy. The opposite of Inbound Marketing is billboards, tv ads and telemarketing (traditional advertising) that expects people to buy your ad and purchase your product or service without knowing anything about you or your organization.
The truth is, Inbound Marketing is hard work. In a fast moving world we're all looking for a short cut and Inbound Marketing is no short cut. It's slow, it's tedious, it's hard work but at the end of the day- it's worth it. Traditional marketing tactics are dying fast and building a loyal fan base or "tribe" is invaluable for any and every organization.
So, what does this look like for a church? Well, traditionally church marketing strategies consisted of a Yellow Pages ad and out paying the other churches to have the biggest ad and expecting people to show up at the service time posted on your ad. I'm hoping that you're not still expecting that to work! Most have progressed posting a website link that then lists the service times on the website. That's a step forward, but still a big jump for people to go from an ad to a website to a service without any real connection to the church. Inbound Marketing allows you to build a relationship with someone before you even invite them to visit your church.
Consider these resources that you might be able to offer those in your community:
- Free eBook from your Pastor about finding the meaning of life
- Free prayer where anyone can submit a prayer request and get a personal response
- Free music download from your worship band
From a marketing standpoint, you use these media assets to capture a point of contact to help begin a relationship. So you have an ad that drives people to a site that gives them this valuable resource and allows for relational connection and follow up. From there you share additional resources and invite them to attend a worship service at your church or participate in a special program where they might establish some relationships. You DON'T add them to an email list and start spamming them! You DO build a relationship with them initiated by giving them value and letting them know who you are rather than what you're about before you just say "come and see."
Is Inbound Marketing for your church? I hope so! I think you will see far greater results using these efforts and I genuinely believe this strategy if executed effectively could help your church grow tremendously!