Nowadays, it’s clear….
The old door-to-door evangelism methods may need a makeover. Church attendance is declining while internet use is soaring. More people are searching the internet for the answers they formerly would sit on the pew or ask trusted clergy members to find.
The church is still as relevant today as it was before, but answers we’re called to relay may need responses outside of the good ol church buildings. We may need to use different marketing techniques now that technology is continually expanding.
Churches today have the ability to reach a global audience rather than simply focusing on the local communities, which is a huge opportunity! Unfortunately, many ministry leaders and churches have no clue how to tap into this wealth of opportunity the internet has afforded the church because they don’t know how to market a church online.
Added onto it all, there’s a common desire by pastors to become a brand, rather than to disciple and send out leaders, so multiplication is not happening as we’re commissioned. Instead, motivation is being given out Sunday after Sunday, rather than training people the will of God and how to train others the will of God.
As a result, there are areas with large churches but small outreach initiatives, and in some locations, the churches expect people to enter into their real estate in order to participate in their local spiritual development programs. The internet is breaking up monopolies and expanding evangelism capabilities. It’s enabling those who feel called to begin answering their call.
What Churches Have to Be Watchful For
On the downside, people who are underdeveloped or completely against God are also afforded access. We (those set apart for God) need to be in position.
Now, Google and the search engines have become the trusted advisors for Christian and non-Christian people alike. The results people are receiving when they search for normal everyday problems may or may not be consistent with the Bible.
For example, when someone is having marriage difficulty and searches, “What to do when my marriage is falling apart”, what type of results do they get? They can get all kinds of answers to a concern like that: some consistent with the Bible and some not.
As ministry leaders, we need to be cogniscent of this new phenomenon, and realize a major gameplan to combat that is to enable online ministries thru funding, sharing their content, and training on how to spread their messages to wide audiences who need them.
In this article, it’s my goal to introduce to you the traditional church marketing model and the necessary modifications to be effective in the internet age.
The Pre-Internet Church Marketing Model
Though it looks like the internet must have been around forever, the truth is the internet was invented in the 1960s as a network to share research between a few selected government agencies and universities. It didn’t become open to the public until the 90’s, and at that time content was very difficult to find because search engines weren’t invented until the 2000’s.
From a broad technology standpoint, the internet is still new. There are still markets that are not penetrated by the internet, but with Bill Gates’ initiative to get a personal computer to each household, the internet is still on an uphill climb, and the church should get on board.
The traditional pre-internet church marketing model consisted of:
- door to door evangelism
- direct mail flyers
- word of mouth
- Community outreach
And, for aggresively marketed churches (typically the larger churches), they would add:
- Frequent leadership networking
- Public speaking
- Public Relations (television, radio, press releases, newspapers, and magazines)
- Book publishing
- Product development
- Paid advertising like billboards and signage
- and other marketing functions
But, Times Have Changed…
Now, the traditional model is not as effective, and it’s not as budget-friendly as it once may have been. Instead, there are much more budget-friendly and effective marketing options online that have a higher return on investment.
In fact, statistics say, “content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates 3 times as many leads”
With 4 billion internet users, you can easily see why door-to-door in comparison to engaging in activity online would reach a much smaller audience. When a knowledgeable digital marketer implements the latest strategies, it can widen the reach of your church to millions of people!
The Digital Marketing Trifecta
In his article How To Effectively Position Your Startup’s Content Strategy in 2018, Neil Patel mentions the digital marketing trifecta that looks like this:
(Image Source: Neil Patel)
Now, marketers all over are raving about the effectiveness of the digital marketing trifecta. Statistics like these stand behind it:
Techmagnate says content marketing will reach over $313 billion in revenue
55% of companies have a small content marketing team
Better content creation is the #1 factor that B2B marketers attributed to their success, with 85% listing this cause.
Statistics about the digital marketing trifecta have resulted in over one-third of CMOs believing that digital will account for 75% of marketing spend in the next five years. Churches need to get on board if they’re not on the boat already!
Not to rehash this statistic over and over, but the internet has 4 billion users and is still growing. With this in mind, the least churches should do is to create a church website.
Owned media works for more than one reason–it’s a marketing method, but it’s also an asset on the church balance sheet. Your website is digital real estate, and when it’s created as a resourceful tool to answer leading questions, concerns, and problems, then it can be hugely valuable to the church and the community online.
Owned media can drive revenue by housing fundraisers, selling products and services, and invoking trust and brand awareness.
When you’ve created something that resonates–either thru an owned media asset or a paid media source–you create advocates and earned media. Some examples of content that recieved loads of earned media is…
1. Faithit — “59% of Millenials Raised in Church Have Dropped Out”
Faithit has quite a few articles that receive huge amounts of earned media: likes, shares, and retweets because they do alot of invoking emotion, addressing “elephants in the room”, and driving awareness about pressing causes that hit home for their target audience (mostly composed of Christian millenials). Here’s one example article that drove massive earned media:
Did you read the share count?!!! 690.8K Shares!
I’d say this peice of content resonated with a wide audience.
2. Faith and Passion by Steph Curry
In this video, Steph Curry is disclosing what he believes to be the secret sauce of success: faith in God, passion, and drive. The video is owned media, but it earned 635,169 views and many shares thus far. This short video of less than 3 minutes resonated with many people, and continues to be watched, shared, and inspire.
3. Pastor Durbin — Shocking Sermon
This sermon by Pastor Durbin has been viewed more than 2.5 million times, and it’s the gospel! When people are saying the gospel is no longer relevant, it’s videos like this that remind us that it is.
Concluding Earned Media
Earned media is from creating “viral content”: research studies that others can reference, infographics, and content that deeply resonates. Earned media may take more initiative because the wider the publisher distributes, the greater chance you give the content to be shared, so often times, earned media is exponentially increased by outreach initiatives (cold emailing, collaborations, and reaching out to influencers who would like the content).
In his article, How We Scaled a Startup from 0 to 100,000K visitors/month in One Year, Tyler Hakes talked about how he leveraged content marketing and earned media to gain great exposure for his business and mission. You should check it out.
Earned media can greatly widen your impact as a church.
Paid digital media is the area of digital marketing where there’s very very few churches, however, it’s an area where you can have the most control online. With owned media, you control the publishing schedule and keyword research, but you don’t control search engine rankings or whether content resonates.
With earned media, you control whether you ask for shares, whether you communicate to brand advocates, and whether you create something consistent with what your audience usually likes, but you don’t control whether it resonates or whether they click the button to share.
When you use paid media, you set up a campaign and you pay for a certain amount of visibility and reach. You can bid on keywords, so anytime a search user enters a keyword into the search engines, your article could be served to them. Alternatively, you can bid on placement on social media feeds.
Paid media can be purchased thru…
Search engines like:
- and, Youtube
or, it can be purchased thru Social media like:
- or, Pinterest
Depending on your objectives, you’d have to choose the paid advertising option that serves your initiative best.
Final Words on How To Market Your Church Online
The goal of this article was to show you how to market your church online. This topic is so meaty, I’ll assuredly be writing much more about this. If you have questions or concerns about this, don’t hesistate to leave them in the comments section. I’d love to help you out!
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Now, it’s Your Turn…
What’s your experience marketing a church online? Have you used the digital marketing trifecta? What are your thoughts about it? Leave your comments, questions, and feedback below.