I recently challenged a friend of mine who mentioned to me that his church is on a “serious marketing campaign” – which included knocking on doors, printed mailers, and local radio spots.

Now you’re probably thinking – “what’s wrong with that?!” and to be fair – absolutely nothing. But my challenge wasn’t issued on what was being done, but how the church determined if it was the right things to do.

First, what my friend probably meant by his comment was that their church was on a “serious advertising campaign”, as that is precisely what they were doing – advertising their church (and its services). Marketing is the broader term of promoting and selling a product or service; which includes advertising.

Second, how did the church determine that knocking on doors, spending money on printed mailers and radio spots were the right advertising medium for the people that they were trying to reach? I’ll give you an example of what I mean by this in a minute, but consider this:

Marketing also includes research. And market research is a powerful tool that many churches choose to forgo, in their pursuit to “do something” and get the word out.

Ministries spend thousands of dollars on “shotgun advertising” doing a lot of things, hoping that one of these advertising methods ends up reaching the visitors they were trying to connect with. But it’s equally important to KNOW your audience! You need a clear picture of who you’re trying to reach, what they want, what they’ll respond to, and how to make your message resonate with them. That’s the power of market research.

And before you tell me, “we don’t want to choose – we want to reach everybody” I’ll remind you that this is not possible. It’s not even biblical. Jesus came to save everyone – but who did he target? He understood his Jewish audience, and He ensured that His messages connected with them.

Your church can’t reach everyone – and in reality, you’re not supposed to. That’s why there are thousands of churches, each one a little different, ready and able to connect with the myriad of individual personality types and preferences that exist within our world. Your job is to first clearly understand who it is that you’re meant to reach – then figure out the most effective ways to connect with them.

Remember my friend’s church that spent the money on the radio spots? The spots aired on the local gospel stations, so I ask you – who was the church attempting to reach?! Who was the intended audience? Since the church clearly wasn’t looking to convert listeners who already had a church home, the thought process must have been to reach listeners who didn’t currently have (or weren’t regularly attending) a church, but enjoyed gospel music – right?!

In this case, market research could be used to clearly understand what radio station(s) the target audience listens to. What are the best times to air the spots? (Does the target audience listen to the radio during the morning commute or the afternoon drive?) Should the church use a funny ad or a more traditional message? Does the target audience even listen to the radio – or would it be more effective to run a series of newspaper ads or create a viral video for Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter? And we haven’t even begun talking about measuring the effectiveness of these advertising campaigns!!

As you can see, market research is a powerful tool and shouldn’t be neglected no matter what your church size and budget.

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