Thou Shalt Know Thy Audience
A casual perusal of the house of worship facilities and technology magazines is enlightening: the majority of advertisers push marketing pablum to reach every church, yet fail to identify with almost all of the audience. Their failure is not the inclusion of church lingo or boring stock photography, but in missing the first maxim of advertising: know your audience
Perhaps the volume of swing-and-a-miss advertising is a direct result of two factors: the marketing team creating the content is not associated with a church and doesn’t understand the cultural nuances, and/or the firm doesn’t yet understand how their products best fit within the house of worship market.
Mismatch of Ads & Audience
There is a statistically high likelihood that the designers creating the advertising and marketing designs for the vendor are young, more liberal than conservative and not involved in a local church community. This isn’t good or bad, but it’s a common reality that seems to manifest itself in outdated, irrelevant or outright hokey marketing material for the church market. And while this may be true in your firm, it doesn’t mean hiring older, conservative church-goers; a simple education of attending a few churches and asking questions of their staff may be a helpful primer in understanding the wide variety of church sizes, denominations (or lack thereof) and cultural demographics.
In corporate/business marketing, the ads needed to reach an enterprise-class organization are quite different from those that identify with the small business owners. Identifying the organization type is the first of several steps that also include the scope of the business, the size/number of locations, the cultural vibe each displays to their clients, and ultimately the influencers and decision-makers of the organization. Your marketing team likely has these personas created for vertical markets such as corporate, education, and government, so it’s logical step to create these for churches, too. In fact, I’ve written an entire article here on rAVe about understanding church buyers and their personas.
Track Sales & Product Registration
The easiest person to sell to is the person who’s already bought from you. Chances are, your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software has a field for identifying the vertical market or type of business. However, beyond the logical grouping of corporate, government, education, church, there needs to be a few more fields to accompany the customer profile when church is selected. In particular, consider adding these:
- Denomination – Choices should include at least the most common denominations that invest heavily in audio, video, and lighting. Baptist, Charismatic/Pentecostal, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Non-Denominational, Presbyterian.
- Size – Defined not by membership, but by attendance. Helpful groupings include: 1-100; 101-300; 301-500; 501-1,000; 1,000-1,999; 2,000+.
- Multi-site – A simple yes/no field is all that is needed.
Why those three sub-classifications? Because each has a number of unique differences that will show up in how your products are (or are not) used). Targeting your advertising becomes more intuitive once you begin tracking the trends of your church buyers over time, which will lead to more focused and effective advertising to pique the interest and engage a church that is a likely candidate to purchase your technology.
It is a worthwhile effort to have your inside sales teams follow up with previous church buyers and leads in order to fill out those new fields. Once completed, your marketing team can craft customized emails and marketing promotions to re-engage previous leads and buyers with greater focus.
Advertise Realistic Solutions
It is interesting to me how the photos used in the church trade magazines are almost exclusively of 1,500+ seat auditoriums or of sub-300 seat venues. Remember that of the 300,000+ churches in the United States, greater than 90 percent of them have less a good deal less than 100 people in weekly attendance, while less than 1,000 churches have greater than 1,500 in weekly attendance. So while it’s nice to show the bigger venues that maxed out their technology budgets, it’s also unrealistic to the average medium sized (250-500 attendance) church, if not outright alienating.
If your target audience is the large church (1,000+ in weekly attendance), then surely highlight the larger venues. But it is statistically safer to assume that the majority of your church clients will be in the medium to mid-range of church attendance; show them photos/imagery that is contextually applicable to their venue size.
So, why the focus on attendance? Two reasons: First, membership has little value when those who show up are the ones who give money to the church, so focus on those showing up as the real barometer for size; second, attendance has a fairly even relation to budget, depending upon the location and growth/decline rate of the church. Typical weekend attendance is perhaps one of the most helpful bits of data for your sales and marketing teams to know when selling into the house of worship market.
Know Thy Audience
When you truly get to know your church buying audience, you will undoubtedly find better ways to align your products to the unique needs of church sizes, budgets, and venues. As any good salesperson will tell you, quickly and readily understanding the buyer’s sentiment is key to knowing when to close or move on. Knowing who to sell to — and who not to sell to — is important in both marketing spend and sales follow up. And, just in case your marketing team hasn’t yet done so, get the data on how people are navigating and clicking through your website. I’ve long been an advocate of creating vertical market sections of the website to focus on various markets, and think that churches are ideal prospects for subdividing your product website into persona-driven click paths.
Once your marketing team has paved the way, your sales team will benefit from consultative selling techniques for the house of worship market. There’s an end game here beyond making a sale to churches: getting repeat sales. The data won’t lie, so begin by ensuring your marketing team is in touch with various church styles and needs, creating personas, following up with previous clients and leads and aggregating your data into meaningful information for reaching the right kinds of churches for your products.
BONUS: Take a look back at what I thought were the best ads targeting churches at the end of 2014.
Do you find the church market hard to understand? How well do you feel your organization markets to churches? Share your thoughts and opinions below, as we actively look to hear from you!
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