18 Word of Mouth Marketing Tips for Churches

October 17, 2006 by

At a recent Word of Mouth Marketing convention several bigwigs sat down and came up with 40 ideas to boost word of mouth marketing in 40 minutes. As leadership in a church shouldn’t we be thinking about these same types of things? What are we doing to refocus our congregation on relationship building, evangelism or servant evangelism? What tools are we putting in their hands to make that happen? So often we forget that as leaders we can reach a few people, but if we empower our congregations they can reach exponentially more people. It’s how the church works.

So without further ado here is my list of Word of Mouth boosters for churches. Some of these are taken directly from the Word of Mouth Marketing Association list (link via Brand Autopsy) as they apply in both instances. And some are originals. I whittled the list down from 43 to 18 as I felt some of theirs were redundant or did not apply.

1. Identify the Connectors (see Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point) in your church and encourage them to do what is natural.

2. If you train your congregation in the ways of evangelism, they become better recruiters. Teach them about servant evangelism, enable them to make friends in the world, make evangelism easy. Bring it back to the way that Christ modeled.

3. Make it easy for people to find you (i.e. yellow pages, signage, website, free advertising sources, paid advertising sources).

4. Use interesting stories or testimonials to bring your ministry impact topics to life. Whether it be on your promo materials or on your website or in your services, oftentimes this has more impact than the sermon.

5. Encourage your church marketing evangelists to tell two friends about you, not just one.

6. Do something unexpected and generous for your congregation–send a free item (include an extra one for them to pass along to a friend) just for being a valued member of the church. This can include T-Shirts, Sermon CDs, Books that the church finds foundational, etc.

7. Do something unexpected and generous for your visitors. The visitors bag should not be a boring place. Your printed materials should be of professional quality. In the very least they should be printed in color and not just on colored paper. The material should be informative and positive in tone. And there should be a gift of some sort like a gift certificate to Starbucks or Chick-Fil-A

8. Create experiences. Your services should be experiential.

9. Be an evangelist for your evangelists. If there is someone you know who is making a difference in bringing people in to your church then point them out so others can learn from what they’re doing. You would also do well to praise them in front of others. Make them feel special, as they are.

10. Give your congregation business card holders packed with referral cards.

11. Ask–just ask your congregation to talk about you. (Duh!)

12. Leverage the content your church creates to make it talk-worthy. This includes PowerPoint slides, the bulletin, touch cards, visitor bags, outline sheets etc. If it can be used in multiple places then do so (i.e., web site, visitor bags, etc). And make it memorable.

13. Put your marketing collateral in something noticeable that gets people talking.

14. Make it easy for people to easily spread the word about you (Create a button for their blog or web site, a card or CD they can pass along to a friend)

15. Create clever 30-second viral videos and post to your home page. Poke fun at yourselves. Do something fun. Spoof a popular TV show. Talk about something in current culture. Engage the audience.

16. Let your congregation create ways to make it easy for members to show off their creativity. Use artwork by church members on Thinking of You cards, post cards, church bulletins etc.

17. Let your marketing evangelists know you’re listening. Comment on their blogs, invite them to marketing planning meetings or to your office for a VIP meeting to hear their ideas.

18. Join in the conversation (and start one if needed).

Post By:

Marcus Neto

Marcus Neto is currently living in Daphne, Ala., where he earns his peanuts as a web designer. He can be reached at marcusneto.com.
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16 Responses to “18 Word of Mouth Marketing Tips for Churches”

  • Jody
    October 17, 2006

    One thing my church asked me to do was to start a blog about what’s going on at our church. I’ve passed the link around to friends and coworkers who don’t go to church and I encouraged them to “read it when you’re bored at work” or something. The blog not only engages people within our church, but also many people who would never go to church. It has opened up a lot of conversations about Christianity and our church that I wouldn’t normally have, since I’m not very good a evangelism.

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  • Cameron
    October 17, 2006

    I just started listening to the PyroMarketing mp3s, available off their website (free!). In the book, Greg Stielstra discusses how the “old” way of marketing involved mass marketing – hit as many people as you can and hopefully somebody will bite. The “new” way of marketing involves word of mouth – a much more personal approach. I don’t think it’s coincidental that a lot of the Web 2.0 community success is based on personal relationships rather than cold invitations – really something the Church could learn a lesson from.

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  • Marcus Neto
    October 17, 2006

    Jody, I would disagree with you on one point. You say that you are not good at evangelism. Conversation can often times be evangelism. By writing or at least spreading word about the church blog you mentioned you are evangelizing. Be encouraged!
    And Cameron, I totally agree. we are inundated with pieces of direct mail, commercials, cold calls and the such. The only thing we as a culture crave right now is relationship. That is where word of mouth comes in and Web 2.0 is a big part of that….

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  • Allen
    October 18, 2006

    Call me old-fashioned or a cynical grouch, but isn’t this whole thing off-course a bit? Marketing your church? Whatever happened to “marketing” Jesus, and then the believers are added to the church?
    I guess that’s sort of alluded to in tip #2.

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  • Jody
    October 18, 2006

    Allen- I like the attitude my pastor has: He doesn’t care if you go to his church or not. He just wants to see a person come to salvation through Christ, and then let the Lord lead that person to a church. He is more interested in bringing the church to people rather than bringing people to a church building. But, for those who are in the church, he wants there to be strong communication lines and opportunities to grow as a family. So I agree that if we make our efforts all about growing our numbers then we are missing the point. If we make our efforts more about increading God’s kingdom and bringing hope to those around us, then we can also provide a place for them to fellowship. It’s a fine line, sometimes, though…

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  • Jana
    October 22, 2006

    Here’s a great tool for word of mouth that’s a variation on #10 above… We’ve developed what I call the “micro brochure.” It’s single-fold, business-card-sized brochure. It has a non-churchy teaser on the front; the inside has service times and a little bit (and I do mean a LITTLE bit) about who we are, and a map on the back. People can carry a few in their wallet or purse, and if an appropriate time comes up in a conversation, it’s an easy thing to pull out and hand over. Or leave them — with a really generous tip — to your waiter or hair stylist.

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  • Mike Adams
    October 24, 2006

    When it comes to marketing Jesus, I think we have to always be thoughtfull and very careful. Nothing new under the Sun so says Solomon. Stick to what has worked for 1973+ or – years. PREACH THE GOSPEL. If we get God’s word into people’s hands or share a word people will respond. We have no idea what is in their head so we can’t judge whether we did something to “win” that person to Christ. We plant and water seeds, God gives the increase. There is no magic pill or campaign. Hard work; Preach the Word; Tell them about Jesus Love; Live it out; Study the Word; Age old principles…We can find the answers to our future by clearly looking at the past. Keep sharing and stay encouraged! I agree to use the tools we have in technology but PLEASE include God’s Word in all you do. Direct mail has been known to bomb, TV, Radio and all the Rest, but GOD’s word does not return void. If we went into a field and planted seeds and came back three days later expecting a harvest, we would all be dissapointed. As Kingdom builders (all of us) we will reep what we sow. Pray about all you do; Turn your Church inside out. If your walls were the inside and you were on the outside I’ve often thought that would really stop traffic. Inside Out Churches that are reaching out in hand to hand combat can win souls. It’s not popular or fun for many at first but it is effective and it’s what you make it. Jehova’s witness puts in over a Billion hours a year in door to door evangelism for the wrong kingdom. Imagine if we did 1/10th of that! Blessings, mike

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  • Sara
    October 25, 2006

    Well, it started off well. I am all for one when it comes to getting your name out there. Sure. Nothing wrong with that.
    But this shouldn’t be about who has prettier pictures or shinier nurseries or a taller steeple or more bodies filling cushy chairs. Sheer numbers do not reflect accurate results. It is still our responsibility to live out our faith outside church walls. Not everyone will come to us and those that do, we don’t know the inner motives. The command was “Go”, not “Corral the masses once a week”.
    Attending church does not change your life, just your schedule.

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  • Dan
    October 25, 2006

    Please post a link to your blog. I would be interested in seeing how you do what you do.

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  • Brandon
    October 25, 2006

    Marketing and the church??? Hmmm, makes you think. I would agree there could be a fine line between the two, but in the day and age we are in the church has to do more than offer a Sunday service and hope for people to show up. I think sometimes we get marketing confused with relationship building. Yeah, a church can send out 500 mail pieces or emails, but I think the point Marcus is getting to here is we should do something. Now I think we should be smart about our “somethings” that we do. If you look at stats the average return on a mailout even being opened is about 1%. Am I saying we shouldn’t mail out pieces… No, I’m just saying lets be smart about what we do. Web 2.0 gives us great opportunities to reach out that we didn’t have before. This is just one area, that as the church we can look to. Now back to marketing and the church; I am one that is all about the “get out and do something” approach. The best kind of marketing for a church is the kind that comes from people by people. If I go spend time with someone in a nursing home that is lonely… it means more than just sending a card. If I take time to listen and try to counsel someone who is hurting… it means more than I will pray for you (on that note how many times do you actually pray for them). What I am getting to is church marketing is not about getting people to the church (a.k.a in this illustration: Sunday service, building, mid week meeting). Church marketing is about getting the Church (people… us Christians) out to the people. This doesn’t take away from all the standard marketing campaigns we do to get out the name of a church community, it should just cause us to refocus our efforts to being active in lives.

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  • Garth Gibson
    November 2, 2006

    You might put more fun evangelism for your church online.
    Encourage your church members to create blogs and polls of their favorite bible verses or create polls of who are the most religious local and national politicians or celebrities.
    Encourage parishioners to post religious blogs and be sure to include they are a member of such and such church then they could all link to each other.
    Members could create advocacy campaigns like this
    Foley Is Unholy one. Little by a lot this could turn into massive word of mouth marketing.

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  • Dan Schultz
    March 7, 2007

    Let’s just remember that we’re all on the same page here. You can trace marketing the church back to Acts. People gathered in their homes and broke bread together…why did they come? Because they were ASKED and they wanted to be part of a community. Church is a community and even today, people still crave it. Word of Mouth, as we all know, works better than anything.
    But how do you reach out to the people that won’t listen, or don’t trust, or don’t need it? Share your story…then share His. They can’t argue with that.

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  • Anusha2007kk
    March 17, 2008

    The new distributed viral forum/blog/wiki/classified/etc viral advertising engine is here. Spread the word about your product or service in short amount of time to millions of people. Get residual traffic and increase search engine visibility by using long lasting backlinks. Low cost, no pay per click fraud issues and great ROI. http://widecircles.com?imt=3

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    March 2, 2011


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  • Rusty
    August 7, 2013

    Great tips Marcus – thanks for sharing. My business has had great results using OpinionAmp for online marketing. OpinionAmp gets reviews from my real customers and takes those reviews online to the culture and target audience we’re trying to reach with our product. I’ve got nothing but positive things to say about the process – incredible results for my small business. Can’t imagine it’s much different than marketing church!

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