Can content marketing help people discover your church? Absolutely. In fact, if your church isn’t doing content marketing, you’re missing out on one of the biggest opportunities to get the word out about who you are and what you’re all about.
I’m going to give you ten sure-fire suggestions for getting a content marketing plan started at your church, but let’s get some preliminary information out of the way first.
What exactly is content marketing?
“Content marketing” sounds a lot more complex than it really is. Basically, it’s creating valuable, relevant, and consistent content for a specific audience. That’s it.
This is particularly important for churches to understand. Most discussions about the cons of marketing for churches have focused on the evils of catering to people’s “felt needs.” But content marketing is the furthest thing from attempting to draw people based on church amenities or musical style. Instead, you’re creating interest and loyalty by regularly supplying people with helpful information.
Whether you know it or not, you’re already churning out great content—sermons, Bible studies, small group lessons, children’s curriculum, and more. This content speaks volumes about who you are and what you value.
Why not put that content to work for you?
After all, a 2015 Curata study showed that 82 percent of leading marketers are strategically reusing content. If it works for them, why wouldn’t it work for you?
Content marketing isn’t about promoting your church like it’s some sort of a product. You’re not constantly trying to convince people why you’re so amazing. It’s about building awareness for your church while doing genuine ministry. The content you’re creating is real, valuable material that can change lives. People are drawn to you because your message resonates with them. You’re contributing something they find meaningful.
The best content you have is content that lasts, known in the industry as evergreen content. It doesn’t get outdated, so it can continue being useful for years to come. As you focus your content on particular areas, like Bible study, community service, marriage, or stewardship (just to name a few topics), you build a platform, a reputation for speaking about those topics, and an audience of people who want to know what you have to say.
This content allows you to create interest and loyalty from those outside your church without constantly trying to convince them why you’re so amazing. They’re drawn to you because your message resonates with them, and you’re contributing something that they’ve found meaningful.
Once you establish a platform and begin populating it with evergreen content, it’s continually drawing new people to you.
Content marketing’s impact on companies
As Hubspot has reported, 63 percent of marketers say generating traffic and leads is their biggest challenge. It’s the same for churches. You want more people to see what you’re doing, and you want more people to get interested in attending your church. This often means struggling to increase website traffic, build a robust email list, grow your Facebook fan page.
Content marketing has solved this problem for companies like American Express, Intel, Random House, and Expedia. By creating intriguing and useful content, these companies have built a marketing machine that regularly brings people to them because of the value they’re receiving.
Sometimes, this means these companies are offering fun, shareable content. At other times, they’re creating beneficial articles and videos that answer genuine questions potential customers struggle with. In both cases, they’re creating stuff that isn’t simply about their product but offers honest-to-goodness benefits to potential customers.
You don’t have to look far to find content marketing at work. Red Bull is constantly pulling some epic stunt that hits the bullseye with their targeted audience. Tasty’s ubiquitous Facebook videos have greatly increased Buzzfeed’s value. Even our own echurch blog is built on a strategy of giving you content that helps you grow, engage, and manage your church.
Your church can do content marketing, too. All you really need is a content strategy and a home for your content.
Where will your content live?
Choosing a platform for your content is important. If you decide you want to create daily devotionals, you wouldn’t want to publish some on your website and others on your Facebook page. You’d want them gathered in one, cohesive place. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can’t publish them on your website and then share or promote them on your Facebook page.
Whatever platform you decide upon, you need to be consistent with it so people know how to keep getting valuable content from you.
Here are 5 suggestions to get you started:
For churches serious about content marketing, video’s a no-brainer. YouTube reports mobile video consumption goes up 100 percent every year! Obviously, if you’re interested in creating video content, YouTube is the smart place to host it.
Since YouTube is owned by Google, its content gets preferential treatment in searches. As long as you write a brawny and rich description and tags for Google to index in each of your videos, they can be discovered by people all over the world.
If you’re considering live streaming your services, Bible studies, or other ministry events, or you want to post your sermons and other devotional content, give YouTube some serious thought.
A platform like WordPress or Blogger is the way to go if you intend to create a lot of written content. Ideally, you’ll want to host your blog on your church website. This way, the content you create draws people to your site, where they can explore and learn more about you.
Podcasting has become a disruptive force in the world of content marketing. Its popularity has been growing steadily for some time. According to an Edison Research study, the percentage of Americans who have listened to a podcast has grown from 11 percent in 2006 to 36 percent in 2016. You read that right: over a third of all Americans have listened to a podcast.
If you’re interested in starting a church podcast, there’s a lot of help available to get you started!
Facebook doesn’t just have to be a place where you promote your content. It can be a substantial content marketing platform. From written teaching to live video, Facebook archives all your content and makes it instantly sharable, enabling you to build your audience in the same location your material is hosted.
The pricing to boost content to the people who have liked your page is extremely reasonable. Plus, there’s the benefit of hosting your content where your audience already spends most of their time.
As crazy as it sounds, you can create incredible content using email as your platform. The better your content is, the more people will want to be on your email list to stay up to date with your latest content.
And as you grow your email list, you grow your influence.
10 ways your church can do content marketing right now
When you start thinking about content marketing, you’re probably overwhelmed by all the work involved. After all, one of the keys to content marketing is consistently creating content. Knowing how busy your staff is, this probably feels like a huge imposition to place on yourself—and them.
But as I said earlier, you’re likely already creating content, and some of that can be mined as you put together your marketing strategy.
It’s also imperative that you rethink your priorities altogether. When you get a content marketing plan into place, it doesn’t have to be in addition to what you’re already doing. It might replace some of your other activity that might not be performing well or that doesn’t offer a strong return on investment.
Remember: Content marketing is like financial investing. Over time, your content builds in momentum and continues to work on your behalf long after you’ve published it. This means that over time, a vibrant content marketing strategy can be infinitely more productive than a lot of short-term outreach ideas.
But, like investing, you’re not going to see a lot of immediate wins. You will need to put some time in and trust the process until the flywheel turns over.
Most churches give up on content marketing when they don’t see immediate returns. Don’t be that church. You have to stick with it.
Here are ten content marketing ideas to get your creative juices flowing:
1. Turn sermons into blog posts
You’re producing a sermon almost 52 Sundays a year (not to mention the fact that you probably have years’ worth of banked messages). This is an incredible amount of viable content—put it to use!
There are a number of ways this can be done:
- Publish your outlines. As long as they’re robust enough that people can get something out of them, outlines can make awesome content. However, be careful you’re thinking through your intended audience. An outline might appeal more to other ministry leaders than the average person.
- Publish your sermon. If you’re anything like me, you actually write your entire sermon out before you give it. That makes it nearly ready to publish! There are just a couple of things you want to do first:
- Pull out any language that’s specific to your congregation.
- Go over it a couple times for edits. Because my sermons are written to be spoken, I don’t tend to worry too much about them being reader friendly. That needs to change if I want people to read it!
- Break sermons up into multiple posts. If your sermons tend to be on the longer side, why not break them up into multiple posts and get more mileage out of them?
2. Turn sermons into alternative content
Your don’t have to use your sermons in their current form. You or a staff member can turn them into lots of other kinds of content:
- Small group guides and questions
- Bible studies
- Personal devotions
- Biblical commentaries
Come up with some ideas to use your sermons to benefit different kinds of audiences.
3. Podcast on issues important to your ideal audience
Have you identified the demographics you want to reach? Narrowing your focus (and content marketing strategy) down to a specific group is critical. Once you know who you want to speak to, you can ask yourself what it is that they’re interested in.
Do you want to reach college kids? You’re going to need to address different concerns than if you would to reach young families. So, figure out who you want to reach, and build your platform around them.
4. Contribute to your local paper
Depending on the size of your town, there’s a good chance the local paper would be willing to host an editorial column on local issues related to community. A newspaper might seem like an unlikely platform, but hear me out.
You’re still providing useful content, and it’s distributed to locals—which is really who you want to reach. As people in your area become familiar with your voice and priorities, they’re going to be encouraged to check you out when the opportunity arises.
Plus, any content you create for a local paper can be repurposed on a blog or Facebook page.
5. Create informative infographics
If you have someone in your church with some design experience, consider creating infographics. As a tool, an infographic is an innovative way of displaying content that will attract and hold the attention of your target audience.
You can create infographics about most any topic from biblical history and theology to local information and culture that will resonate with your community.
Here’s a couple reasons why infographics are a content marketer’s secret weapon:
- They make you look like an expert. Simplifying information into entertaining and consumable graphs, tables, and charts positions you as someone who really gets it. Ultimately, this improves your credibility.
- They make your content easy to understand. You want to share information about the kings of Israel and Judah? An infographic is going to make that information a lot more understandable (and accessible) than blocks of text will.
- They make your content extremely shareable. Infographics are shared on social media three times more than any other type of content.
- They create awareness of your church. Most infographics are created to include relevant information about where they originate. This would include your logo as well as website and contact information. As it gets shared, so do you.
- They’re easy to track with analytics. If you really want to get a sense of what people are into and how it resonates with them, you can use analytics to watch every time your infographic is viewed, shared, or even how long people spend looking at it!
6. Interview important locals for a podcast or YouTube series
Creating a series that features discussions with significant local people—whether they’re other pastors, humanitarians, business owners, aid workers, or politicians—will have a profound effect on your standing in the community.
Not only does it help people see you as significant, but it also lets people know you understand issues that affect them. Creating opportunities where you can have open, frank, and refreshing conversations about local concerns and subjects helps people see your church as an integral part of your community.
7. Create email-only devotional content
Get everyone on your staff together and plan a 30-day devotional around a particular book of the Bible or topic. Promote this special event heavily, and get people to give you their email addresses.
If the content’s good and people seem interested, you can stretch it out for two months or a quarter—maybe even indefinitely.
This could be a great way to build a significant email list.
8. Have trusted people in the church create content
You probably have people with ministry backgrounds, writing experience, or rich devotional lives in your church. Encourage them to help you with content. Many hands make light work, right?
If you can identify five people in the church who could create bi-weekly content for a blog, it wouldn’t be too long before you had a meaningful amount of content!
If you want a good example of this principle in action, check out Pastor J. D. Greear’s blog. He does this really well!
9. Create ministry-specific content
Let’s say you’re really interested in reaching families with young children. Maybe focusing on adult-oriented sermon content isn’t your best bet. It might be smarter to throw the reins to your children’s ministry director. They can build a platform around ministry to kids.
If you want to build a strong content marketing strategy, you’re going to find it at the intersection where your ideal demographic meets your strongest ministry. It doesn’t have to focus on the pastor. You can create a platform around:
- Small group ministry
- Marriage groups
- Financial advice
- Youth ministry
- Or basically anything
10. Publish in-house written worship songs
If you have a worship team full of creatives who are writing some of your worship songs, it can be a great content marketing opportunity.
The cost of high-quality recording and video equipment is falling all the time. You can take advantage of a platform like YouTube to feature the songs and have downloadable charts and lead sheets available on your website.
Is it time to get started?
There’s no way that you can do all these things, and I’d recommend finding one or two areas to really focus on. Use these suggestions as a launchpad and brainstorm other ideas that can help you reach your demographic.
The most important thing you can do is dive in and get started. Don’t wait until you’ve got it all figured out. Read some blog posts, watch some videos, and get started. There’s no substitute for doing it yourself and figuring it out as you go!