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Every pastor wants to figure out how to get God’s message to more people in their community. If your church is anything like mine, you meet people all the time who say things like, “where is your church located, again?” Or “I’ve never heard of that church.” or “I’ve driven past that church a bunch of times, I never realized you guys were there.”

It’s not like we don’t want to reach more people, but we’re either unskilled in creative marketing, feel like we don’t have the resources, or we make simple church marketing mistakes. Week after week we hope more people will show up this week than last week, but we haven’t done anything different to increase the likelihood new people will walk through the doors. Don’t just hope more people will come next week, in the words of Jesus, “compel them to come.”

PASTOR: We hope more people will show up this week than last, but don't do anything different to increase the chances someone new will walk through the door. Don't just hope, in the words of Jesus, 'compel them to come.' Click To Tweet

I can’t guarantee it, but I’m pretty confident if more people knew about your church, more people would come to your church, and more people would want to be a part of your church, so it only makes sense to maximize your marketing opportunities. But how?

The good news is that Jesus is building his church, so the success of God’s kingdom doesn’t rise and fall on the creativity of your Instagram posts, BUT God can and does use marketing as another touch point in people’s life. The more times your church has made an impression on a person’s brain, the more likely they will show up to your church when they are searching for God. So how can your church maximize your time and resources to get the most return on your marketing investment?

PASTOR: Jesus is building his church, so the success of God’s kingdom doesn’t rise and fall on the creativity of your Instagram posts.Click To Tweet

There are lots of answers to that question. There isn’t just one way to market your church, but in the process of trying to discover the best ways to spread the word, you can waste lots of time and money, or even worse, send the wrong message about your church. So if you want to market your church effectively, be sure to avoid these 7 common church marketing mistakes.

1. Have No Plan

Most churches use a “spray and pray” strategy when it comes to church marketing; no schedule or strategy, just impulse/random social media posts. If you want to maximize your church marketing begin creating a plan by answering these questions:

Who is our target audience?

Yes, anyone is welcome at your church, but if you target everyone, you’re targeting no one. The number one question someone asks themselves when they are considering attending a church is, “Is there someone there like me?” The way you market your church can answer that question. Every marketing campaign your church performs needs a specific audience in mind.

PASTOR: If you target everyone, you’re targeting no one. The number one question someone asks when considering your church is, “Is there someone there like me?” The way you market your church answers that question. Click To Tweet

What action do we want them to take when they see/hear our ad?

This is an action step. In the marketing world, it’s called a “call to action.” When someone comes in contact with your message what is the one thing you want them to do next. Text a phone number? Click a link? Come to an event? If you don’t clearly explain the next step, they won’t move in your direction. There are times when your marketing is simply for “brand awareness,” but you probably don’t have enough money to market endlessly so make sure whatever message you are broadcasting has a purpose and an action step.

Are we prepared if we get a good return on this marketing idea?

What if it works? Ha! Wouldn’t that be amazing? What if 100 more people show up this Sunday because they got your message? Would you be ready? If 1000 people click your link in 20 minutes is your website going to crash? If everyone who got your mailer comes to your Easter egg hunt, do you have enough eggs? If you expect your marketing to work, make sure your ready. If you don’t expect it to work, don’t do it!

How will we know if it worked?

After your marketing campaign is done, will you have any way of knowing if it worked? Will you have any analytics or data to review? If you’re using mail, is there a place on your connect card asking “How did you hear about our church?” If you’re directing people to your website are you using the free Google Analytics service? Make sure you have data. And if you’re paying an outside company to market for you make sure they provide the data. Before you sign a contract be sure to ask them what kind of data they can offer to show their plan has worked in the past.

What is the goal of this marketing idea?

If you can’t answer this question, don’t waste a second or a penny on marketing. You have to know the goal. Is it Sunday Attendance? Is it web clicks? Is it the number of people reached through radio? If you don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish how will you know when you accomplish it? There’s no wrong answer you just need to know the goal so you can use the best strategy.

The time and dollars you spend to spread your message are valuable, and I believe you are responsible for being a good steward, so the worst way to spend them is to throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks.

2. Don’t Take Advantage of Drive By Traffic

The number one marketing opportunity your church has is the drive-by traffic every day. Depending on where your church is located you have a few thousand people to as many as 50,000+ people whose eyeballs pass your church building every 24 hours. (Your city can give you that data by the way.) Think of the potential reach or damage you do to your church every day. When people drive by your church what message are you sending? Does it look like the kind of place I would want to bring my family? Does it look like it’s been foreclosed? Is the parking lot well lit? Is the sign up to date?

One of the things we did at our church is hang a 25ft banner, big enough to see from the street, over the stained glass window on the front of our building. Our building is old, but we want to send the message that our church is not. Another thing we did is cut down a large tree that provided more visibility. We’ve had a median that grows weeds in our driveway for 30 years, and we always tried to stay on top of the landscaping, but no matter how hard we worked we couldn’t keep it from being an eyesore, so we paid a company to tear the median out and give us a three-lane driveway instead of 2. Your church property is a billboard for your church, and thousands of people drive by every day drawing an impression about your church. What message are you sending?

PASTOR: Your church property is a billboard for your church, and thousands of people drive by every day drawing an impression about your church. What message are you sending? Click To Tweet

3. Bad Stock Photography

When it comes to websites and Facebook ads, the easiest thing to do is “google search” a phrase like, “happy family” and then use one of the pictures from the search results (that’s illegal by the way.) This strategy poses 2 potential problems:

False Advertising

In your attempt to send an attractive, compelling message to potential visitors, be careful you don’t send a false message. If your church has no ethnic diversity, don’t post a stock photo of 5 friends who are black, Asian, Hispanic, and white. It’s not true. And if by chance someone shows up in response to your marketing and sees that you mislead them, they won’t trust you, and your marketing hurts you instead of helps you. We don’t do it on purpose. Our motives are pure, we want our church to be more diverse or younger, but honest advertising will always be more effective than false advertising.

Cheesy Quality

Probably more likely than false advertising, is just poor photo selection. People, especially younger people, want authenticity. And the photo example I’ve provided here is not authentic.

7 Biggest Church Marketing Mistakes

Let’s be real, the people who attend your church aren’t that perfect, spiritual, or happy. With a photo like this, instead of sending the message, “you’re welcome here” you send the message, “you probably won’t be good enough to fit in here.”

So if you want to be honest, authentic, and legal with your photos, what options do you have? First, try to use as many pictures of your actual church facility or church people as possible, but there are times when a stock photo is a better choice. Our church uses a mixture of stock and personal photos. Our criteria when selecting stock photos is, “Does it look like this photo could have been taken at our church? So for example, we use this stock photo from lightstock.com as the main photo on the front page of our website because

7 Biggest Church Marketing Mistakes

  • it shows a diverse range of ages
  • it shows a girl with a nose ring, which defuses any feelings of uptight religion
  • it shows a young couple
  • it shows a man carrying a baby carrier
  • it shows people stacking chairs (one of our campuses is portable)
  • It shows people wearing casual clothes

This photo could’ve very easily been taken out our church, but it’s better than any picture we had, and it only cost $10, so we purchased it and use it a lot.

I highly recommend lightstock.com for your stock photos. I don’t work for them, but I am a satisfied customer and asked them to offer some kind of discount to excellentpastor.com readers, so they were kind enough to provide this discount code with a 20% discount for the yearly subscription or the first month of a monthly subscription. You can also pay $10 per picture if you choose.

4. Not Using Email

In the age of social media, it’s easy to forget about good ole reliable email newsletters, but you’d be crazy to overlook email marketing because studies show that people are anywhere from 6x to 30x more likely to click on a link in an email over social media.

Keep in mind marketing doesn’t always have to be to brand new leads. As a matter of fact, your best chance at engagement will probably be with people who have already come in contact with your church; they just need a reminder that you exist.

What if you sent a weekly or monthly email newsletter from your church keeping relevant information on their radar. While we’re on that topic, do you do anything with the email addresses you collect from the guests who visit your church? Please tell me you are collecting email addresses from guests????

I wrote an extensive tutorial on how our church uses Planning Center’s FREE “People” software to follow up with every guest who visits our church. You can read that tutorial here.

There’s a fine line between being annoying and being helpful, figure out where that line is and maximize exposure to people who have given you permission to reach them by giving you their email address.

There are lots of email marketing companies you can use, but I recommend MailChimp, They have a free account for up to 2000 email addresses, and if you use Planning Center for your church database management (and you should) it syncs perfectly with MailChimp so you can send emails to your database in one step. Read more about that here.

5. Outdated Website

I could write a whole blog on this topic alone, and I probably will at some point in the future, but for the purposes of this article, let’s keep it as simple as this: your website is the front door to your church, and people will visit your website before they visit your church. Is your website sending the clear message, “you really need to visit our church because you will like it!” or is your website sending the message, “Something cool was happening 4 months ago, but nothing cool enough to update the website has happened since then.”

It’s easy to think that people don’t visit websites because they visit your social media pages instead, but that would be wrong, they visit both. The difference is when they visit your social media page they are most likely just browsing, trying to get a general impression of your church, but when they visit your website, they are looking for specific information.

  • Service times and address
  • General information about your beliefs and pastor
  • A video of the sermon (if available)

Here is a screenshot of the google analytics of our church website. Since Jan. 1 of this year, we’ve had 20,301 website views from 14,970 individuals.

7 Biggest Church Marketing Mistakes
  • 43% viewed the homepage
  • 10% viewed the “about us” page
  • 4% of those people viewed the “our pastor” page
  • 3% viewed the “sermons” page

More critical than cool youth group names, or a calendar of events is the images on your homepage and quality of the information in your pages. At our church, we use our website as a tool to reach visitors (people who don’t attend our church yet), and then we use the church blog to provide news and updates for everyone. Our website is NOT for our church members, we use social media for that.

I understand that having a good church website can be challenging if your limited financially and are not a “tech” person, but it’s too important not to do it right. I would go as a far as to say if you can’t have a good, updated, website don’t have one at all.

We just launched a new website for our church, and we used this $54 WordPress template. We had to customize it to fit our needs, but our total cost after hosting, WordPress templates, and stock photos was less than $400.

We use Bluehost.com for our hosting and domains. They have plans for as a cheap as $3.95/month.

6. Not Taking Advantage of Facebook Ads

Facebook ads are such a powerful marketing tool, it’s scary. I’m sure you’ve experienced scrolling through your feed only to see ads for products you viewed earlier in the day; that’s not a coincidence.

Facebook ads allow you to target people of a certain age, in a specific zip code, with a specific interest. For example, you can show posts to people who are friends with people who like your churches page, in other words, you can market to people who are 1 connection away from people who are involved in your church. Those aren’t “cold leads” they are most likely people who have heard about your church through a friend.

Or consider the opportunity to maximize marketing dollars to show an Easter Egg video promo to women ages 22-42, who “like” the county public school Facebook page AND live in your churches zip code. With Facebook Ads, you can do precisely that.

Here is an example of a video ad our church did for Easter this year. We targeted only people living in the surrounding communities who were “facebook friends” with people who “liked” our churches FB page.

You’re Invited to Easter at Hope City Church

Are you going to church this Easter??? You’re invited to celebrate Easter with us at Hope City Church.

–> Fun Kid’s Classes
–> Exciting Music
–> Life Changing Messages

Saturday, March 31 @ 7:00pm
Sunday, April 1 @ 9:00am/10:15am/11:45am

We share real hope so people can have real life. Find more at http://realhopenow.com

Posted by Hope City Church on Thursday, March 8, 2018

7 Biggest Church Marketing MIstakes

  • We spent $208
  • We reached 17,770 individuals
  • The video was watched over 5,000 times
  • 63 people clicked the link to go to our church website

You may consider that successful or not, you’ll have to decide what your goals are, but we definitely did.

The worst idea is to just boost a post for $20 with no criteria. The more specific you’re targeting the effective your reach. Whatever you do, don’t miss out on the opportunity to use the most sophisticated marking tool of our lifetime for as little as $1 day.

7. No marketing at all

This is a long article with A LOT of information, and when it comes to branding, marketing, videos, ads, photography, and social media, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and do nothing., Don’t do that! The worst thing you could do is nothing.

Sometimes our strategy to reach people is just hope. We keep doing the same things and just hope that more people show up next week than the week before, but we have the most significant message in the world, shouldn’t we figure out the most effective ways to get that message out?

I’m not talking about marketing with wrong motives, or tricking people into coming, or creating hype, I’m talking about effective ways to tell people that their family would love your church and potentially fall in love with Jesus if they knew about it.

Whatever you do, do something. People need to know!

If you think this post would help other pastors please share it and help us spread the word

Jason Isaacs