The Four F’s of Church Marketing

Vince WilliamsMarketing Practices

Almost every week, as I talk with church leaders about their upcoming evangelism efforts I’ll hear this phrase: “Mailings don’t work.” And it’s true, mailings don’t work…unless they’re done properly. Firing off a mailing without a good plan is a waste of church funds, but by using some proven principles that have been honed by direct marketing professionals over decades, you can effectively reach interests through the mail and start to see new faces coming through your doors.

Your church mailer needs to accomplish two goals with each home it reaches:

1. It needs to get read.
2. It needs to elicit a specific response.

Additionally, it also needs to be cost effective, and must represent the truth in an uncompromising fashion.

These break down into the four principles of an effective mailing: frequency, function, funds, and faithfulness.

The first glaring variation between a professional’s approach to mailing and that of the local church is frequency. Frequency is the cornerstone to any successful marketing program. A recipient is unlikely to take any action on your invitation the first time it is seen. When weeding through mail it is easy to ignore anything that doesn’t immediately catch your attention, and frequency helps your brain to say, “Oh, this is familiar.”

When I worked in secular marketing I was hit with the same concerns and objections that I hear today from local churches. Funds are low so we’ll just make one quick attempt and blame the medium when it doesn’t work. We want to do just enough to say we tried. This philosophy isn’t shared by large companies, or large churches for that matter. They understand that consistent communication increases response. The human brain is wired to distinguish between things that are familiar and things that aren’t. You definitely want to be on the familiar list.

Try sending a mailing to a smaller radius every month for six months. You can change the mailer, but keep consistent with the logo, the general feel, and the call to action. You can send one per sermon series, or just a general invite focusing on different aspects of your church.

So if consistent messaging is so powerful, why can’t you just send a card with nothing but your name on it? Well, the answer to that falls under the next point…

Frequency has gotten households to notice that you have something to say. Now make sure you say it well. Remember, the goal of your marketing is to incite a response. Here is where many churches fall short. They assume the message is either:
• Jesus loves you; or
• stop by and visit.
Both are great messages, obviously, but the reader is unlikely to care about either without more information. You wouldn’t care if you got a mailer that said Bob loves you or stop by my no-name store. You wouldn’t care unless you knew Bob or knew what was waiting for you in the store.

Although the message of Jesus is always our primary goal it will be hard to explain his divinity and love in one simple postcard, therefore I believe churches should focus their attention on the invite. The key to a good invite is to let people know what they are going to find. A good birthday invite lets you know you will see friends, have food, have a little fun and most likely eat cake. The same is true for a church invite. Are there friendly people there? Are there kids? Is the music good? Is the message applicable to life today? Is there something unique about your church family that people will find endearing? These are all good components to a church invite.

Here’s a sample of a card we recently printed that I think hits the mark.

As a church, making money is obviously not your goal. But money is just as clearly necessary for a church to function effectively. So how do you fund this kind of consistent marketing? Well, God has a plan. He knows it is going to take money to move the message of the church forward, and He established a system for its continued financial growth: tithes and offerings.

On a practical level, mature disciples support the church financially. As God works through a church to grow maturing disciples, He funds the work through these gifts. That means that as you draw new members into an environment that fosters spiritual growth, these new members will add to your financial base. From a purely financial perspective, effective outreach funds itself.

Example: If a church sends 10,000 cards out to a neighborhood every other month for a year, they can expect to see 100 families walk through their door over the course of that year. Assuming just 1 in 5 families stay you will have acquired 20 new families. Based on standard tithing and offering rates of American families today,1 contributions from the new families alone will cover the mailing costs within 8 months. In business, you would call that return on investment. In ministry, we’ll call that effective evangelism, and once you have that engine running your outreach will fund itself.

Again, the church should not be focused on making money. But I know that God can and will bless your outreach efforts, both spiritually and financially.

So you have a solid plan. You have planned for frequency, created a functional outreach tool, and set aside initial funds to start the campaign. Is the mailer telling the truth in an uncompromising fashion?

This is where a lot of church committees run aground. Some members of the church want to do something that is completely post-modern with no mention of anything biblical, while others want to just put a picture of Jesus on the cover of the card. I believe the answer lies firmly in the middle. Biblical truth is as relevant today as it has always been. But truth isn’t defined by our internal “Christian-speak.” Truth is universal, and there are always ways to communicate it clearly within today’s culture.

For example, I recently passed a church displaying a banner that said, “We love you! But not in a weird way.” Now that is uncompromising truth with a fun modern feel. It is also a church that is growing and reaching new people. In the end, that is what it’s all about.

By taking into account these four F’s your church will be able to reach people more effectively for less money, and with more success.

Need help creating a church mailing campaign?
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