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  • Writer's pictureJohn Squiric

The Church Marketing Funnel. Leveraging your Marketing for Maximum ROI.

One of my closest and dearest friends in college was perhaps one of the smartest math minds in the country at the time. However, for transferring that knowledge from the classroom to the real world, he was paralyzed. He worked in a sandwich shop after graduation. He had a lot of book knowledge, but he could not put it into practice in a meaningful way.

There are, sadly, many pastors and church leaders with a tremendous amount of Bible knowledge but similarly, struggle to apply that knowledge and communicate it in a manner that helps people get from point A to point B in their lives. Sure, spiritual wisdom and Bible truth are fascinating to learn, but if no one ever puts them into practice, they serve little value.

My hopes and prayers for you are that you have gleaned some golden biblical morsels related to the area of church marketing and that you are now ready to put them into practice. If you don’t take action, then nothing you have learned will benefit anyone in your church or community.

Stages of a Typical Church Marketing Funnel

The church marketing funnel comprises several stages which a potential new visitor will move through as they become integrated into the church. Each step builds upon the prior one and has its distinct characteristics and procedures that should be in place to keep the visitor moving towards membership as they progress through the funnel.

Stage #1 – Awareness. This is the very top of the church marketing funnel. If you have not already completed your 50 Minute church Marketing Plan from chapter 18, please do so. The information gathered in Step 7 (define your marketing media) is essential. In this stage, you will “pour in” all the marketing vehicles you have determined will best reach your target audience to inform them of your upcoming event. Just like the parable of the farmer sowing seed, the more you scatter, the more chances some of those seeds will fall on fertile soil.

For illustration, let’s assume you have a budget of $3,000 for a particular marketing campaign. The theme of the campaign will be your upcoming sermon series on marriage. You will use six standard marketing vehicles, budgeted according to which vehicles are best at reaching your market. Your budget breaks down as follows:

· $1,650 for a direct mail postcard to 5,000 homes in your vicinity.

· $300 for social media ads targeting a 10-mile radius from your church.

· $300 for Google Ads targeting a 10-mile radius from your church.

· $400 for 30-yard signs at various church members' homes.

· $250 for 2,500 door hangers at homes in your vicinity.

· $100 for 2,500 invite cards for members to invite friends, family, and neighbors to church.

Stage #2 – Interest. Each vehicle mentioned above has its unique method of reaching your target audience, along with some limitations. You must use each one to its maximum effectiveness to ensure success. To do that, your specific marketing pieces must create interest for people to move through the funnel.

Your marketing vehicles should have similar headlines and graphics to create a branding effect and enhance noticeability. The more times your target sees your ads (impressions), the more they build the RAS effect I discussed in chapter 5. Also, all of your marketing vehicles should be formatted with the success elements I laid out in previous chapters specific to each vehicle.

Stage #3 – Engagement. If you have used the first two stages correctly, you are poised to engage your prospects. For print vehicles with large amounts of space available, I would encourage you to use it. As David Ogilvy, the father of print marketing used to say, “The more you tell, the more you sell.”[i] With print vehicles, there is enough space to tell people what your church has to offer. Use the space to educate people about what they can gain from attending your church or event.

· List the benefits and what to expect.

· List your sermon titles and describe how the messages will benefit them.

· Include a personal invitation from the church or pastor.

· Include a link to a landing page or your website.

For your print vehicles with limited space, keep it simple. Include an invitation, service times, and a link to a landing page or website.

You will likely be very limited for space on social media and paid internet search vehicles. Include a link to a specific landing page focused on your message series. Also, include a “Learn More” button that will take them to the information they need to make a decision. On your landing page:

· List the benefits of your church and what to expect.

· List your sermon titles and describe how the messages will benefit them.

· Include a personal invitation from the church or pastor.

· Include a link to an “I’m New” page on your website that will speak to first time guests.

Stage #4 – Consideration. If your marketing efforts thus far have not secured a visit on Sunday by your target, they may now begin to evaluate your church in-depth. For a non-believer, or formerly churched, choosing a church can be a difficult decision and may come with a lot of personal baggage they have been carrying with them for some time. Or, they are unhappy with their current church and are looking to try something new. This means they will be looking more closely at your website. Having a great website is not an option. It is a requirement.

One key to a great website is your “About Us” page. A good About Us page will address all the questions people have when they are looking for a church to attend. Be sure to include:

· An explanation of your preaching style. Everyone has different styles that they prefer. Disclosing yours upfront will help those considering your church decide whether they will attend.

· An explanation of your worship style. Just like your preaching differs from everyone else’s, people often have a preferred style of worship. Be upfront and honest about who you are.

· What kind of programs you offer that help people and their families become closer to God. For example, describe your Bible Studies, Children’s Church, and Youth Group.

· How people dress when they attend. No one wants to feel out of place. Make people feel comfortable by explaining how others will be dressed on Sunday.

· What kind of programs you offer that help people and their families join the faith community. People want to be part of something. Describe your home groups, clubs, and activities.

· What kind of programs you offer to help people navigate the pitfalls of life. Describe your marriage groups and recovery groups. Many people are broken, and they are looking for specific kinds of help.

People will also be reading reviews of your church on other websites. For more information on building reviews, see chapter 15.

Stage #5 – Action. People are ready to give your church a try. Now what? Get your church ready for visitors. You may preach a life-altering message, but a new visitor will form an opinion of your church beginning the minute they drive into your parking lot. They will build on that impression by the time they drop their kids off at the children’s church and make their way to sit down in your sanctuary. Long before they hear your message, they will have an idea about who you are. It may be right or wrong, but they will have their first impression.

Train your parking team to welcome people with a smile and a greeting as they get out of their cars. That spirit should carry over to your welcome team. Set up a welcome or information booth with a sign or banner directing visitors where to go. At the very least, have a person designated to answer questions and guide visitors where to go while explaining how child-care works and anything else they need to know to have an excellent first experience. Make them feel welcomed, not lost. If you don’t have these volunteers and leaders in place, get them before you begin paying for marketing.

Stage #6 – Measure ROI. If you are serious about growing your church, then you will need to repeat this marketing funnel for each event you market. Part of this process is measuring ROI, then managing and tailoring your budgets for specific marketing vehicles. By measuring ROI for each vehicle, you can know how to divvy up your marketing dollars, assigning higher amounts to the advertising vehicles that produce the most visitors.

For a detailed explanation of measuring ROI, refer to chapter 17. Without it, you are left wondering where people came from and guessing at what works. If you are a smaller church of 50 or so, and 75 people show up, and you only used one marketing vehicle, you may be able to make an educated guess where they came from. However, if you are a larger church and using various marketing vehicles, you need a measuring stick. The critical tool for measuring ROI is a simple connection or guest card.

A connection card is simple and straightforward. You are asking for the guest’s name, contact information, and prayer requests. Also, you want to collect some other relevant information. Ask, “How did you hear about us? Please check ALL that apply.” You can include checkboxes listing each of the marketing vehicles you used, including a box for a personal invitation from a friend or family member. By listing all the marketing vehicles, you get a better idea of which ones work best. By just leaving an open space, people are most likely to write in, “internet search” as that is most likely the last place they saw your ad before visiting. Not listing all marketing vehicles on your card will skew your results, and you may incorrectly think that all your traffic is coming from the internet.

Having a card is one thing, but getting them to complete it is another. Designate someone to make new guests aware of this card during your announcements. You can also offer a free welcome gift when they bring the card to your first-time guests’ welcome area. I understand that not everyone will fill out this card, but with a little effort, you should be able to get enough feedback to get a random sampling. I have seen churches ask those visitors who cannot meet the pastor at the welcome center after service to just drop the card in the offering plate. This can be a great way to get them to fill it out as they will have something to place in the offering.

Stage #7 – Assimilation. Your church should have a program to take attenders to members. Most churches do this by offering a class for church membership. Since I am a church marketing expert and not a church membership expert, I will defer to the experts in the field. One of the pioneers in membership classes would be Saddleback Church. I highly encourage you to examine their process if you do not already have one in place.

Stage #8 – Retention. Nothing is more depressing to hear about than a church remaining stagnant or that is in a declining growth rate. The common denominator I hear is, “No one seems to stick around.” What good is bringing three new visitors only to have four leave? Rather than give you statistics and endless reasons people leave the church, I will share ten reasons my wife and I have bought into our church home.

1. They did an excellent job in Stage #5 – Action. From the first visit, they made us feel welcome and accepted.

2. They did an excellent job in Stage #7 – Assimilation. They provided us with membership classes that moved us to become members.

3. We serve. Through the membership class, my wife and I both chose an area to serve in, and we feel part of something bigger than ourselves.

4. We are part of a homegroup. We feel a genuine connection with other couples in the church in the same stage of life we are.

5. We attend Bible studies. We gather from time to time with other men and women and share life struggles and continue to move toward the center of God’s Will in our lives.

6. There are mission opportunities. There are always opportunities to serve in the mission field, whether helping out around our local community or serving abroad. The church gives us a platform from which to give back.

7. We see growth. Our church continues to expand into the communities around us with satellite churches.

8. We agree with their VPS wholeheartedly. “If broken people matter to God, they matter to us.”

9. We give. When people give to something, they feel a sense of belonging and want to see it succeed.

10. The preaching is A+. It is always a relevant, biblically-based message delivered clearly and understandably.

Taken from Marketing Like God: Developing & Implementing a Biblical Marketing Strategy for Church Growth.

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[i] David Ogilvy, “How to create advertising that sells,” ad for Ogilvy & Mather that appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers in 1982. The quote later appeared in Ogilvy On Advertising (New York: Vintage, 1985).


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