Whether or not you recognize it, your church is doing marketing: that sign in front of your church; the Facebook post about your upcoming sermon series; or the announcement from the pulpit about your new small-group ministry. These are all examples of marketing. And the better your church markets, the more quickly it will grow.
When it comes to church marketing, it’s almost as important to avoid mistakes as it is to pursue success. We’ve put together a list of the top 10 church marketing mistakes you’ll want to avoid as you improve your church’s marketing game.
Church Marketing Mistake #1: A weak social-media strategy
When you’re creating a social-media strategy, you need to ask yourself: “What is my church hoping to achieve with social media?” Do you want to grow your local church? Do you want to communicate with your own congregants? Do you want to grow a large following of people who watch your sermons or use resources you’ve created, but may never physically attend?
Set your objectives first: the rest flows from here: Who’s going to maintain our social media? Which social network should we prioritize? If you’re looking for a better understanding of the various social-media platforms, check out this piece on the pros and cons of various platforms for churches.
Church Marketing Mistake #2: No email list
Studies have shown that, on average, if you have 2,000 Facebook fans, 2,000 Twitter followers, and 2,000 email subscribers, and you message them all:
- 40 Twitter followers will see your message
- 120 Facebook fans will see your message
- 435 people will open your email
Create incentives that can help you generate email addresses. Create a campaign of three or four emails that people will receive when they sign up for your list. It should start with a thank-you email, and then should include tools and information about your church that people would find useful.
Church Marketing Mistake #3: No visitor game plan
No one wants visiting a new church to feel like stepping onto a used car lot. You need a tactical plan for making visitors feel welcome, capturing their information, and getting them to return—all without pressure!
It starts the moment they pull into the parking lot. Clear signage or a parking-lot attendant can help ensure that visitors don’t have to hunt for a place to park or walk from the back of the lot.
The next order of business is getting their contact information. Without this, you’ve lost your ability to be proactive with them. So make sure there is ample time in the service dedicated to encouraging visitors to fill out contact cards. And ensure that the cards don’t require so much information that people opt out of completing them.
Church Marketing Mistake #4: Failure to advertise your sermon series
Sermon series can be a huge draw. You spend a lot of time and effort coming up with sermon series ideas that will appeal to people both inside and outside the church, but if you’re not marketing those sermon series in advance, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity.
There are a number of potential ways that you can market your sermon series: Promote it on social media; create a page on your website; purchase banners and signage; send emails, invitation cards, and direct mailing.
Church Marketing Mistake #5: Neglecting local SEO
Imagine that someone has just moved to your city and they’re looking for a church. What do you think is the first thing they do? Chances are they’re Googling “churches near me.” Google serves up the churches in the area based upon local SEO (Search Engine Optimization). To neglect learning about and improving your local SEO is an egregious church marketing mistake.
Here are some tips to winning at the local SEO game:
- Nail your NAP (Name, Address, and Phone number). Everywhere you write your church information online needs to be the exactly same. You want uniformity on your website and anywhere you display your church information.
- Put your church address everywhere. There shouldn’t be a page on your website that doesn’t include your church address. Google should find it on every page it indexes. (Our advice: make it part of your universal footer on your website.)
- Collect Reviews. One of the key ways to ensure your church gets a high SEO ranking in your city is through reviews. Encourage people to review your church on Google+, Facebook, and Yelp!
Church Marketing Mistake #6: Website neglect
When was the last time you updated your church website? Here are some signs your website needs an update:
- It’s non-responsive on mobile. Eighty percent of Internet users own a smartphone and 47 percent have a tablet. If your website looks all goofy when someone tries to visit it on a mobile device, they’re not going to visit your church. (And Google will penalize you in search engines, negatively impacting your SEO.)
- The design is dated. Web design isn’t static. It doesn’t take too long before what was hip yesterday becomes passé.
- Only the IT guy can use it. You want a website that allows you and your team to make updates and changes when you need to.
It’s important to update your website every couple of years, and not just so that people enjoy looking at it. You want your website to rank well, and updating your website is going to ensure that Google is finding the things it needs, like responsive design, a fast page-load speed, and an increase on the average time people spend on your site.
Church Marketing Mistake #7: Forgetting about word of mouth
Word-of-mouth is marketing 101—but that doesn’t negate its importance! Nothing influences people’s decisions like hearing a recommendation from a trusted friend or family member. It’s a mistake to not consider ways you can put endorsements to work for you. Get involved in your community. When you do good for people, they talk about you. Weird, right? You should be finding ways to serve your community anyway—but creating positive buzz is an awesome perk!
Church Marketing Mistake #8: Ignoring mobile technology
You know, the internet isn’t going away. Unfortunately, churches are struggling to understand how mobile technology is just as revolutionary and important. Churches utilizing mobile to meet these needs have a marketing leg-up on other churches. Not only are they forward thinking and improving their word of mouth by providing the tools that people rely on, but they’re finding it easier to keep their church engaged and connected.
If you don’t have a church app, it’s time to start looking into one. The Total Engagement Package from echurch is an example of an app that keeps people involved in ministry and community while giving them the tools they need for to make giving easy and quick.
Church Marketing Mistake #9: Promoting a “generic” church
Too many churches market themselves in ways that make them completely indistinguishable from every other church. For people looking for a church home, it can be really hard to understand what sets one church apart from another. Denominational differences can help: sometimes people will just show up at your church because it’s the same “brand” that they’re familiar with; for people who don’t know the differences between a General Baptist church and a Reformed Baptist church won’t necessarily have a greater draw to one over the other.
You might think that it will put you at a disadvantage to market your differences instead of your similarities, but here are a couple things to keep in mind: first, they’re going to find out what sets you apart eventually, and second; marketing your distinctives will actually help you stand out.
Church Marketing Mistake #10: Marketing to everyone
Similar to #9, this church marketing mistake is about making too broad of an appeal.
You’re not going to be what everyone’s looking for. And that’s fine. When you know who your ideal audience is, you make better ministry decisions. Figuring out what kind church you are can help you know what your ideal demographic is. It’s just that you’re going to have a better idea how to tailor your messaging, how to approach sermons, how to use your resources, and how to make decisions regarding the ministries you start.
Improve your church marketing
You don’t have to be locked into making the same church marketing mistakes. You can learn from churches that are nailing church marketing without having to copy them. If you’re wondering where to start, we put together a free eBook entitled 5 Principles of Fast Church Growth. It’s full helpful tips and ideas pulled from interviews with America’s 100 fastest-growing churches. We’re sure that you’ll find it full of “Eureka!” moments.