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
- 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: Having a weak social-media strategy
Whether you’re a church of 5,000 or 75, you probably have a Facebook page. A Facebook page has become as important to churches as a website. Everyone knows that they need a social-media presence—it’s just that they’re not entirely sure why.
And Facebook is just one social-media platform; what do you do with the others?
Before you start posting on social media, you need to know what a successful social-media presence looks like. If you don’t define success, you’ll never know when you’re achieving it. And we’re not just talking about likes, retweets, favorites, and shares. As enticing as those metrics might be, they’re not necessarily helping you achieve your goals.
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?
Just because someone uses social media themselves doesn’t mean that they’re the right person person for the job. You’re going to need someone with a hunger to learn how each platform works and how other churches and businesses are using it to meet their own goals.
- Which social network should we prioritize?
When churches don’t have a strategy, they tend to jump onto every channel and never really commit wholeheartedly to any particular one.
It’s important to understand how the different social networks work, what you can expect from them, and how much effort each one requires to pull off effectively. Pour your energy on the ones that are going to help you in the long run.
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.
- What kind of content will we post on our channel, and how often?
The kind of content you post is going to be dictated by your goal. If you want to draw people to your church, you’re going to focus on talking about your church and celebrating the work it’s doing.
Your posting schedule has to make sense for the platform you’re on. If you’re trying to build a Twitter following, you’re not going to get away posting content once or twice a day. It’s going to require a commitment of investing time in building relationships and having conversations.
Church Marketing Mistake #2: Not building an email list
While most churches have a Facebook page, not too many are building an email list. This is a huge church marketing mistake because email is still one of the most powerful ways to reach people.
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
Building a strong local email list can create an audience for your message and draw a potential crowd to your big events and ministry kick-offs. Creating an email list is easier to do than you might think!
- Sign up for an email service.
- Put a signup form on your website. Installing a pop-up can be an effective way to generate addresses.
- Create an incentive that can help you generate email addresses. The chances that people are just going to sign up for your list is slim, but they might if they’re getting a benefit from it. Put together resource with a local interest:
- 20 Ways to Pray for [city name]
- 20 Budget-Friendly Date Ideas in [city name]
- 24 Advent Devotionals from [your church]
- 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. This could be:
- Links to your social-media channels
- A couple of your best sermons
- Important articles from your blog
- Information about what sets your church apart and an invitation to visit
Once you have an email list, you can reach out to it when you want to share things like:
- New sermon series
- Big holiday services like Easter and Christmas
- Ministry kick-offs
- Large events
Church Marketing Mistake #3: Not having a visitor game plan
No one wants visiting a new church to feel like stepping onto a used car lot. It shouldn’t be a high-pressure affair, but that doesn’t mean that you should be passive. You need a tactical plan for making visitors feel welcome, capturing their information, and getting them to return.
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.
If you can afford the volunteers, it’s helpful if greeters can actually spend some time helping visitors get accustomed to the church. They can physically show them where the children’s ministry is and walk them through the check-in process, lead them to the coffee or refreshments, help them get a sense of where the restrooms are, and take them into the sanctuary. If you can’t spare someone to be that hands-on, make sure that your signage is clear and up-to-date.
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.
Then send a special series of emails to visitors who give you their email addresses. It should include:
- A Monday email thanking them for visiting and an invitation to get together for coffee or a visit.
- A Friday email teasing out the content of the upcoming Sunday service and an invitation to come back.
If they don’t come back the following week, don’t drop them. Keep them in the loop about big events that your church is doing in the community.
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. Use your channels to talk about the upcoming series. Create promotional images and talk about the content in ways that focus on the benefits attendees will experience. Encourage people to share the content with others. Don’t forget to purchase Facebook ads to your local community.
- Create a page on your website. Start a new page with every new sermon series and write up a persuasive ad for the series. Include any teaser videos, downloadable flyers, or invitation cards, wallpapers, and social images so people can share them.
- Purchase banners and signage. Put some signage outside and banners inside to advertise it.
- Send emails. Send a promotional email to your list. Tell them about the upcoming series and link them to the series page on your website.
- Direct mailings. Send out postcards to homes within a couple miles of the church.
- Invitation cards. Create invitation cards for church members to hand out. On one side they should have your church information, and on the other there should be a graphic advertisement for the upcoming series.
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 then 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 don’t even want to use Rd. in some places and Road in others. You want uniformity on your website and any other place you enter your church information: Google, Foursquare, Yelp, Facebook, etc.
- 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.)
- Claim your listings. Go through and make sure that you’re listed on Google My Business, Apple Maps, Yelp, Bing, etc.
- Start collecting 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? Churches that neglect semi-regular updates are guilty of a huge marketing mistake. Not only do you need to keep information up to date, but you also need to know when it’s time for a content refresh.
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. You don’t have to be constantly keeping up with the church down the street, but you do need to be aware when your site is starting to look outdated.
- Only the IT guy can use it. Content management systems have come a long way in the past 10 years. You don’t want a website that only the hyper-tech-savvy people on your staff can make changes to. 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.
Here are some tips for improving in this area:
- Identify the influencers. There are people in your church who just love connecting with others and seem to create a comfortable rapport with them. Recruit these folks and find ways to turn them into ambassadors for you.
- Get your church on board. People don’t seem to comprehend how influential a personal invitation is. Help them understand what an important part they play in growing your church.
- Share more testimonials. Use your social-media channels to share stories and testimonies of people whose lives have been changed because of your church.
- Wow your visitors. If you go out of your way to ensure that your visitors feel loved, it’s going to make a difference. They might not come back, but they’ll share their experience with others.
- Encourage reviews. Online reviews are a form of word-of-mouth marketing that has a real impact.
- 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
By now we all know that the internet isn’t going away. It’s changed everything and it’s helped the spread the kingdom of God in amazing ways. Unfortunately, churches are struggling to understand how mobile technology is just as revolutionary and important.
Mobile technology is changing the way that we:
- Browse the internet. It was reported last November that more people around the world were accessing the internet on mobile devices than desktop computers. This should dramatically affect how you think about your website and online presence.
- Manage our money. More than a quarter of Millennials are entirely dependent on a mobile banking app. They’re not writing checks or standing in line with a teller. They’re depositing checks, transferring money, paying bills, and checking their deposits on their phones.
- Consume content. Netflix announced that half of their nearly 75 million users are watching video on their phones. While this only makes up 10 percent of Netflix viewing, it’s still an amazing statistic.
- Stay connected. Between things like texting, messaging, social media, video chatting, email, and voice calls, mobile devices are providing the easiest ways for people to stay connected.
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
Your church is special—at least it should be. But 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. But 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:
- They’re going to find out what sets you apart eventually. You’re not going to be able to keep your distinctives a secret.
- Marketing your distinctives will actually help you stand out. For every person who doesn’t feel like you’re their cup of tea, there will be others who actually pay attention because you’re offering something creative or unique.
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. Are you a church that’s going to appeal more to:
- Millennials or Gen Xers?
- Marrieds or singles?
- Families or college students?
- Seekers or established believers?
Don’t worry, you’re still going to be ministering to people from all walks of life. 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.
Improving your church marketing
You don’t have to be locked into making the same church marketing mistakes. You can learn from churches who 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.