John Squiric - CEO Truth Advertising
Designing Church Ad Copy That Works.
North Texas has a lot of churches. It is home to some of the largest churches in the country[i] , as well as hundreds of small and medium-sized churches representing nearly every denomination. Living here allows me to see a great deal of church marketing. And while I applaud any church which tries to reach their community for Christ, I have become increasingly concerned with the number of churches neglecting sound marketing principles and instead try to brand themselves as “hip” or “cool.”
In advertising, Brand Awareness Marketing is a strategy that focuses solely on capturing attention, usually through a pretty or clever design. It lacks the necessary elements to drive people to act. This type of marketing works well for companies like Nike, Coca Cola, and Amazon because consumers already know about their products and services and need no further education. These businesses market solely to keep their brand on the top of our minds.
It is rare that a church reaches its maximum attendance and can afford to market itself only for branding purposes. In all my years of marketing churches, I have yet to encounter a church with unlimited funds to spend on Brand Awareness Marketing. However, I continue to see church marketing attempts that lack purpose and fail to call for action. While “connection” and “belonging” convey strong emotional ties to individual identity, when churches appeal to people to “connect” or “belong” to their church, they are missing a much stronger motivation—need! The best church marketing focuses on what people can gain by connecting or belonging (WIIFM). It is far more effective to share how an upcoming sermon series or program will address a genuine need, rather than offering a nebulous plea to “belong.”
Five Key Questions When Designing Ad Copy
Before you write a word of ad copy, or choose a pretty theme, or approve a design created by your team, ask yourself five key questions:
1. Who am I speaking to?
2. What are their needs?
3. What problems are they facing?
4. Will what I am saying help solve a problem or meet a need?
5. What do I want them to do?
When your ad copy answers these five questions, your marketing is more focused. Remember, people don’t buy products or services; they buy solutions to problems. The greatest problem solver of all time was Jesus Christ. The New Testament is filled with examples of how He solved people’s problems. He also solved humanity’s biggest problem, the need for salvation. People will not respond to your marketing because it is pretty or clever. They will respond to your marketing because it helps them solve a problem or meet a need.
Essential Graphic Design and Formatting Questions
To get the full potential out of your marketing, designs can’t just “look pretty,” they must follow some key design elements:
· Does your design have the correct amount of white space, and is it used effectively?
· Do your fonts and layout follow basic layout rules? Two or three at the most.
· Does your design follow alignment and spacing rules?
· Is your design using colors correctly?
· Are you using symbols such as hyphens, dashes, and quotation marks correctly?
· Does your design have the correct focal point?
· Do you know the difference between CMYK and RGB (for print design)?
· Do you know how to format your design to printer specifications (for print design)?
Just as pastors, doctors, lawyers, and teachers require training to do their jobs well, so do graphic designers. In all my years of marketing, I have never produced artwork for a client. I instruct, guide, and inform designers on how the designs should look, and I don’t create the final art. I don’t have the training. I hire professionally trained graphic designers to do that work. Whether your church outsources marketing design or has an in-house team, make sure the job is being done by trained professionals who genuinely understand design.
Five Key Success Elements of Design
Graphic design for church marketing is not a beauty contest. Yes, marketing must look good. But even the best looking marketing will fail if it doesn’t include the right features. For your design to work to its fullest potential, it must also include some key success elements that are vital in every marketing campaign and on every platform.
1. Capture Attention – Before you can invite people to church, you must first gain their attention. If you skip this step, the entire process fails. A strong title and an intriguing design can create the initial attention-grabbing impact you need to stand out among all the advertising noise people experience daily. Both the title and design combine to show there is something valuable for the reader to discover if they will look closer.
2. Engage Your Reader – To invite reader engagement, your marketing should have well-written text and a reason for them to continue reading. You must answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” They should be intrigued and inspired to seek to know more about your church.
3. Educate Your Reader – Once the reader’s attention is grabbed and they are engaged sufficiently, you must educate them about your church. Include ministries and programs you offer. Remember, the message is not about what your church has accomplished. It is about the reader and what is in it for them should they attend. Let them know when they can attend, what services are available, and how they should dress. A photo of the pastor can also add a personal touch.
4. A Call to Action – Do not miss the opportunity to call your audience to action! You can invite them to call your office, visit your website, visit the church, or attend a special event. Don’t leave them without an action step. If they have paid attention to your message thus far, they want to act. Tell them how.
5. Contact and Information – Give your audience numerous ways to reach you. Most people will search online for your church before their first visit.
6. Include your website or custom landing page, phone number, map, sermon times, and your social media accounts.
There are certain times when you cannot include all of these elements in the initial ad copy, such as a billboard, social media post, or Google Ads campaign. However, you must follow as many of these guidelines as possible with your initial design and follow it up with the rest of the information on your landing page or website.
There is a science to designing ads that work. You can and should create an ad copy that is visually appealing and follows the five key questions to ask when creating ad copy. Do not put out “ho-hum” bland marketing to your communities that do not address the Five Most Important Words in advertising
[i] The Dallas area is home to half of the ten largest churches in Texas. Elizabeth Abrahamsen, “10 Largest Megachurches in Texas,” Wide Open Country, 2016, accessed March 15, 2020, https://www.wideopencountry.com/10-biggest-megaChurch-texas/. The Dallas area is also home to eight of the one hundred largest churches in the U.S. The Dallas Morning News, September 22, 2010, accessed March 15, 2020, https://www.dallasnews.com/news/farmers-branch/2010/09/22/20100921-Survey-Dallas-area-is-home-3206.