church marketing

Inbound Marketing: Is it for your Church?

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!

Everything Speaks

In a meeting this past week someone mentioned the principle that “Everything Speaks.”  The thought behind this statement is that everything beyond just our words communicates a message to the recipient. Think about it in terms of a restaurant.  Before pulling in the parking lot you see the sign and get a feel for whether it is a fancy or casual restaurant often by the design of the sign.  Your experience begins in the parking lot whether it is easy to navigate or cluttered with trash.  Even when walking in you notice the exterior of the building and then whether you are greeted or not when you walk in the door.  That’s just the beginning of the nonverbal messages that are communicated through your dining experience.  Everything speaks!

This phrase has been running through my mind in every experience I have had this week.  Think about it in terms of your church’s weekend experience.  What speaks in your entrance/parking lot?  What does your lobby and worship center communicate?  What are the faces that people see?  Are they warm and welcoming or cold and insincere?  Are the lights bright or dim? Are your seats comfortable?  Do you pass plates or have a box in the back?  Everything communicates something!  We only get 1 shot at first impression and we must remember that everything speaks.

More than any other place that I have considered this principle is on our website (  When it comes to our web platforms we often think about the words that speak or the commentary in videos, but EVERYTHING SPEAKS!  This goes for the colors on our site, the cleanliness of the design and navigation, the location of our Online Giving, the visibility of our Senior Pastor and so much more.  I know what I am intentionally trying to communicate on the site, but I wonder what we might be unintentionally communicating.   Each week we have thousands of visitors to our website and we cannot afford to communicate the wrong message and neither can you.

I encourage your to process this principle this week.  Think about it in every experience you have and then apply it to your ministry environments and web platforms.

I will be eager to hear your thoughts and what speaks to you through this experience.

Email Marketing - Provide Value

Remember the old saying: "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all"? I think a similar statement can be made in regards to email newsletters:

If you don't have anything of value to send, don't send anything at all.

It seems that many organizations feel a need to send a weekly email because they always send a weekly email.  I believe this is one of the greatest causes of no one reading any of your emails, even when you have something great to say!

Every email you send should provide your audience value.  Whether that is making an important announcement, inviting them to an event or activity, or simply sharing an inspirational thought; every message should provide value in some way.

Before sending your next email newsletter, simply ask the question: what value is this providing to our readers?  You will hopefully feel a much greater confidence and excitement now as you hit send knowing that you have just provided greater value to all who receive your message.

Other Posts in this Series:

Title Creatively

Keep it Simple

Make it Personal

Understanding the Numbers

My Take on Constant Contact