Today I was taking the kids to school, and the local Christian radio station was on. I heard a commercial that really took me back. It was for a new church plant that was about to launch over in Augusta in the next week or so. The voiceover for the commercial was inviting people who were disconnected to church or had been turned off to/by church to come to their launch service. The thought hit me “that commercial totally missed the mark.” Think about it, how many people do you know that have been burned by church or are disconnected to church and are riding around listening to Christian radio. I guess it is possible that some may listen to Christian radio…..but not the majority for sure. Granted, it didn’t cost that church any money as the commercials are free there, but it did cost, time, resources and possibly attract some “lookie lou’s” that are just taking up seats to check out the new show in town; seats that could be open for people that need Jesus, the unchurched/dechurched. It’s the same broken concept of advertising a big outreach event on Christian radio. It misses the target.
I think one of the reasons why so many churches miss the target in marketing is that they don’t understand who and where the competition is. If you’re a restaurant, your competition is other restaurants. If you own a dry cleaning business, your competitor is….other dry cleaners. For the local church, the competition is….other churches….right? Wrong. The competition for a local church is every thing that vies for the attention, time and commitment of people in our community – NOT other churches. That may seem like a no brainer, but it is huge if you take it to its logical conclusion. It means that every church, instead of trying to think through the framework of “how can I fill my church with more church people?”, we began to seriously ask the question “What can we do to help create a worship environment that someone who doesn’t know Jesus would want to come to?”
A final word on marketing in the church.
At Cedar Creek when we ask people, 95% of first time guests come because of a personal invitation.
That has been true since day one back in 1993. The best marketing practice is to encourage people to invite a friend (it helps them to come back if they’re not bored out of their mind when they get there, but that’s a different post for a different day). That’s not to say that marketing using mailers, facebook, invite cards, billboards and the like aren’t important. They are. What those marketing pieces do is equip your people with name recognition and branding so that when they do invite someone, Cedar Creek will possibly be familiar to that person: “Oh yeah, I’ve heard of that church” or “I saw that billboard the other day on the way to work”.