Church Redux

how-trends6-0712I’ve written about growth churches and mega churches in the past because they offer a lot of sales potential for Audio/Video/Lighting manufacturers and systems integrators. Fast growth = frequent sales opportunities. I’d put the majority of my marketing and sales resources there, no doubt.

However, there’s something to be said for the other 90 percent-plus of the churches in North America. That’s right: The vast majority of churches are either in slow growth, have plateaued or may even be in decline. While that doesn’t sound like a sexy, ripe market, the sheer numbers can’t (and shouldn’t) be ignored. Of the roughly 300,000+ churches in the U.S. alone, roughly 270,000+ are an underserved market. A huge market. So the question lingers: Is your marketing ignoring focusing on targeting this massive market?

Focusing on the Majority

While churches are, in fact, churches, the many articles I’ve written have focused primarily on reaching the top 10 percent (or even less). This time, I’m saying that tapping into this staggeringly large, virtually untouched market needs a focused approach.

Because the average size of a church is right around 90 people, the opportunities for sales are both limited in quantity and revenue more often than not. I contend that there are two simple approaches to making the most of marketing and sales efforts into this numerically significant church space. The first is a shotgun approach to provide low-cost, box sale opportunities that are time sensitive (the deals expire) to pick up the easy sales. The second is to further subdivide the market from those churches that are simply getting by with technology to turn-around churches — a category of churches actively engaged in becoming growth churches again.

Sell Once to Many

With greater than a quarter-million unique churches fitting into the small-church category, targeting the senior pastor or worship leader is not only smart, it’s likely the only staff members you’ll need to reach. The idea of speaking to felt needs is important, as these churches will spend money, but they’ll do so far less frequently.

With Easter coming in just a few weeks of the publication of this article, the last-minute marketing push to this demographic is prudent. From easy, self-installation product sales for replacing aging gear to reminding these non-technical staff of swapping out expendables with fresh replacements, the quick sale is easy and helpful for churches.

For many churches, there are a couple of budget numbers that are helpful in staying under to expedite sales. The first is the sub-$500 sale. Far and away, churches often place no restrictions on processing a purchase order that’s under $500 without the additional step of added authorization. Make a sale in this price point, and you’ll likely have a credit card transaction happening nearly instantly. The second price point is sub-$2,000. It’s a safe number for many churches to allow senior managers/leaders to spend up to this $2k tipping point when important repair/replace decision need to be made quickly. Though less common than the $500 P.O. limit, it’s still a nice way to market products that make an immediate, notable difference for church services.

Of course, capturing these sales contacts is helpful, but I’d further recommend adding a custom field to your CRM database for Typical Weekend Attendance (TWA). This lets your marketing and sales teams know the size of a church prospect/client; helpful for targeted marketing and sales campaigns. <100; 100-500; 500-1,000; 1,000-2,000; 2,000-5,000; 5,000+ are standard TWA ranges to use.

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Targeting Turn-Around Churches

A subset within the 90 percent of churches described above are a group called turn-around churches. These are churches that often have new, young leadership actively campaigning to take a church that is either in decline or has stagnated in growth to a new level of community reach and growth.

Here the tact is slightly different. Instead of only focusing on low-cost, fast sales, the felt need is both short- and long-term. Because these are quite typically young pastors, they’re attuned to the value of technology and are interested in leveraging electronic tools to both revamp their image to their community and as a way to be more efficient and effective with a small volunteer-only team of techies.

The short-term sales opportunities are similar to their counterparts in this 90 percent of the demographic; they have repair/replace issues that need solving, too. But because they’re more future-focused in their turn-around efforts, they’re also open to low-cost solutions that get them down the road towards more significant technology purchases once the growth curve has brought in additional revenue. The tweak to the marketing and sales efforts here helps value their self-described turn-around philosophy, applauding them taking the harder, more courageous road towards effective change. Speaking to their short- and longer-term mindset helps them identify with your brand as a potential partner on this journey; something not lost on the lonely who walk this path.

Value Proposition and Value Budgets, Together

As I continually remind our readers, the value proposition is more important than the features and benefits. This is a market where meeting felt needs is the way to more sales and long-term, loyal purchasing. At the same time, the reality of a smaller church requires acknowledging the smaller budgets that are a reality for this demographic.

Those sub-$500 sales are important to all churches — all of them. Yet it is important to identify which portion of the market a marketing campaign is targeting because stopping at the quick, low-cost sale is too short-sighted and leaves money on the table for those churches interested in leveraging technology as part of their roadmap for more effective growth.

Is it too much to ask manufacturers, rep firms and systems integrators to put the minimal effort into subdividing this vertical market into the very real categories that exist? Getting the right message to the right people in the right way at the right time is the crux of good marketing. The house of worship market deserves this kind of attention and deliberate, focused effort if this industry wants to see the revenue opportunities that are available right under the surface.

A former staff member at three mega churches and church technology consultant, Anthony Coppedge has developed a respected reputation as a leader in technical and communications circles within the church marketplace. Reach him at anthony@anthonycoppedge.com or on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/anthonycoppedge

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