Confusion Costs

November 19, 2004 by

Siegel & Gale, a major research, branding and communications firm, recently published a “Perplexity Poll” (PDF) for its clients in the wireless telecommunications industry. In brief, what they found is that there is a measurable cost related to the confusion and complexity surrounding issues like rate plans, additional charges, roaming, phone features and invoices.

What kind of measurable cost? Try $3 billion. That’s how much the industry loses every year when people get fed up and quit because they are confused. Fully 25% of the people interviewed said they’d left a previous wireless company because they’d been perplexed and frustrated.

What does this have to do with church marketing? Well, it shows — in big, stark numbers — that people like clear, easy-to-understand information. They don’t like to be confused. And they vote with their feet.

And while most churches can’t compete with cellular phone service in complexity, ask yourself the following questions while you’re putting together your next church marketing piece:

  • Is there an easy response mechanism? An email address or phone number where someone can ask a question?
  • Is there one, clear message? Or are you asking people to grasp the contents of the entire church bulletin board all at once? [Hint: that second thing is a bad idea]
  • If you’re asking for a response, have you left plenty of room? This is my pet peeve; when people leave me less room for my email address than my zip code.

Simple stuff like that. Pretend you’re the most distracted, harried member of your congregation. Does the piece make sense? Can you get to the heart of the matter in less than 30-seconds? Is there any way to make it even more succinct?

It’s our job to try harder so that our audiences don’t have to.

Post By:

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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2 Responses to “Confusion Costs”

  • Chris Busch
    November 21, 2004

    The Cost of Confusion

    The guys over at have an interesting post about a recent

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  • Rhinoguy
    November 22, 2004

    I think another thing to bear in mind is that while the phone company sets out to confuse potential customers and intentionally buries details in the fine print, churches accomplish the same effect by assuming everyone knows what they’re talking about.

    For instance, if your bulletin blurb on a single parent support group reads “The SPSG meets tonight in the 5th grade boys classroom. Come join us.” You’d have to already know what SPSG means, what time they meet, and where the 5th grade boys meet in order to participate. De-acronyming and specifying time and room number (including “lower floor” / “main floor” designation if appropriate) is going to make a big difference in gettiing people to the meeting.

    Likewise, if you have a New Year’s Party that has been designated “Fantabulation ’05” and your bulletin simply has it listed with a date and time, anyone who has begun attending your church since Fantabulation ’04 happened is unlikely to know how unbelievably excited they should be about the event.

    If you have a quick-glance schedule (event / date / time) and a more detailed blurb section, make sure the details agree. If one says Tuesday and the other Thursday (or one says 6:00 the other 6:30) you’re going to get a mix of people who get upset because they’ve shown up at the wrong day / time or who don’t even consider attending because of the confusion.

    My personal pet peeve is when childcare is being provided, but it’s not listed anywhere in the bulletin or inserts. I know when my boy was little I missed a lot of events because I figured if childcare was being provided, they’d say so. Then I learned to ask. It’s not a problem to ask, but it’s not a newcomer-friendly policy.

    And then there’s the whole “what the heck’s a ‘Narthex’?” issue.


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