Different… ahem… Strokes

February 9, 2005 by

Murray Qualitative Research (MQR), a marketing research and consulting service, has just released the results of a study that show how women and men respond differently, in terms of romance, to the exact same ad. Yes, we’re getting near Valentine’s Day. Yes, we already knew than men and women have very different ideas about what constitutes “romance.” And, yes, releasing this study now is good PR for MQR (which is another mini-marketing lesson for you). It is, however, a great example of how you need to think about different audiences for your marketing. Because the exact same marketing program may have drastically different effects, depending on whom it reaches.

In a recent meeting of my church’s administrative board council, for example, we discussed how certain types of “over the top” marketing to people in the 30-45 year-old age bracket can actually turn away potential members. It sounds weird to say it this way, but there are a large number of people in this group who don’t like to be “preached to.”

Well… that will pose a problem in church. Right? Isn’t that the whole point? Preaching? Take a second and deconstruct with me. When we say we don’t like to be “preached to,” we don’t mean it literally. We mean that we don’t like being made to feel intellectually or morally inferior. We don’t like being pressured or talked-down-to. I’m in this age group, so I know whereof I speak. High pressure sales tactics are a turn-off from a car salesman; how much more so from a church!

How do you deal with complications like this? In “real world marketing” we call it segmentation. You actually market to people based on either demographics (quantitative, statistical data) or psychographics (qualitative, personal data). An example from the world of church marketing might help; greeters.

I attended services more than 10 times at the church where I’m now a regular before anyone really said more than, “Good morning,” to me. But that’s OK. I don’t like to be “greeted to death.” What would have been helpful, though, for someone like me who is a bit more introverted about their church habits, would have been for a greeter to have pointed out some materials I could take (if I wanted), and where I could go for more information. Letting people self-select their marketing is a great way to not turn people off.

Now… I know other people who would have come once or twice, and then left in disgust, convinced that the church wasn’t “friendly enough.” Some people need and want personal help. How do you discern the difference? Training and interaction.

Train your greeters in how to spot the subtleties of the different types of newcomers. And train them in how to have an initial interaction that clearly gives new people a choice; do “this,” if you’d rather have a personal, private worship experience, or “that,” if you’d like some company and sharing.

Your church isn’t an ad for perfume. The diversity of your congregation is one of the greatest marketing strengths you have. Being able to match their talents and gifts with possible new members will make for a very strong conversion of “visitors” to “members.” It just takes some practice, some attention and some sensitivity.

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Andy Havens

Andy Havens brings 15 years of experience to the table and is the founder and president of the marketing firm Sanestorm, as well as a number of different blogs. He lives in Columbus, Ohio, with his wife, Christina, and his son, Daniel.
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