Marketing the Church or Your Church?

April 22, 2009 by

Marketing guru Seth Godin has an interesting post (as usual) about whether you should be marketing for your category in general or for your specific product over the competition:

Confusion sets in, though, when you compare a pitch designed to get someone to buy any product in the category (you need an mp3 player because you can listen to music) vs. buying your product instead of the competition (ours is cheaper and bigger and better).

Are you trying to make the market bigger, or just grow your share?

This strikes me as an especially sticky question for the church (not only because it uses plenty of market lingo that makes some people uneasy). Most Christians want to say we’re promoting our category in general (Jesus!), not just my local church (First Community Church of Your City).

And that’s as it should be. I don’t care which church people are going to, I care whether or not they’re going to church (or more accurately, whether or not they’re connecting with God).

But I think Godin’s point still raises an interesting question for the church. If we’re all truly working to help people decide whether or not to go to church, what are we doing to help people decide which church to attend? I’m not suggesting some Baptist vs. Lutheran advertising war like Coke vs. Pepsi, but to be realistic and honest it’s hard to pick a church. How can we make that easier for people?

I’m not sure the best way to do it (though there are probably examples in the Church Marketing Lab), but I do know one of the foundational rules has to be don’t go negative. We still want to see people go to any church, not just our church, so it doesn’t help the Church if you bash the congregation around the corner.

Godin claims you have to pick one: the general category or your specific brand. While it’s a helpful distinction and an interesting question for the church, I’m not sure we really have that luxury in the church. Unlike Coke or McDonald’s or iPods, our message is too important to only do one or the other.

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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3 Responses to “Marketing the Church or Your Church?”

  • Michael
    April 22, 2009

    I think a Baptist vs. Lutheran war would fun… Kidding.
    I think that it is always about The Church first and which congregation second. Letting people know what your congregation offers (ie: Music Style, Liturgy, etc…) is also important.
    Very tough to find the balance…

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  • Blake
    April 22, 2009

    Actually, why not an advertising war? If there is a group of pastors in town that are good friends and decided (with their church’s permissions) to undergo a friendly local advertising war wouldn’t that accomplish to some extent what you’re talking about? Not only would it fuel the local economy, it would also probably get local media attention, show the community that their local churches aren’t a bunch of humorless stick-in-the-muds and ultimately hopefully get some people in the doors.

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  • Michael
    April 25, 2009

    On the flip side though, does it seem like some people could take it the wrong way? Would people think that its just Christians being “hypocrites” because they are just trying to out do each other and not getting along? Also, would there be people that would think that the amount of money spent on marketing could be going to something better and make them even less likely to step foot into any church?
    Just a thought…

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