5 Steps for Creating a Church Marketing Plan
If you’re looking for an exhaustive manual for creating a church marketing plan, then you’re reading the wrong series. But if you’re looking for a great starting point for a quick and effective marketing plan for church plants that will take hours rather than months to create, keep reading.
Before beginning this process, there is a question you need to answer honestly, “Should my church be marketing?” Truth is, there are some churches—actually there are a lot of churches—that would answer, “No.” If your church isn’t delivering a solid worship and community experience and/or doesn’t have the infrastructure to support growth in attendance, you shouldn’t be thinking about church marketing.
It’s one thing to invest thousands of dollars to create epic events and fill your sanctuary or school cafeteria with warm bodies. It’s another thing to meet people’s needs, connect them with your community, and have them return the following Sunday. This is the first step to help you do just that.
Step 1: Identify Your Church Brand or Identity. Every church has an internal and external identity, even from the earliest days of the plant.
Internal. The internal identity is how well your church knows itself, its values, and its ministry. For most church planters, this is not complicated. You have decided to step into the unknown because you have a unique vision and mission. That particular calling and how you will embody it is the essence of your internal identity and the key to discerning your Core Brand Values. (Core Brand Values Worksheet)
External. Your church’s external identity is how you communicate your internal identity to the community around you as you make yourself known. The better you as a church know yourself and what you stand for, the better your church will connect with everyone who comes in contact with the brand. This external expression of your church’s identity is made of a core brand message and core brand personality. (Core Brand Message Worksheet and Core Brand Personality Worksheet)
This first step is designed to give you a more concrete sense of what you already know well – your calling – so you can channel that toward an effective message to your community. It will allow you to more clearly identify your core values, brand message, and brand personality so you can communicate well with your community, visitors, attenders, and members. In Step 2, you need to take a look at your key audience and available marketing channels.
Step 2: Assess Your Audience and Marketing Channels. Who are you trying to reach? What methods of communication make the most sense for you in the early stages of church planting?
Audience matters in church marketing and church plants often need to be particularly purposeful and strategic. Is your primary focus geographic or demographic? Or both?
Once you have some clarity about your audience assess all of your available communication tools for reaching those groups of people. In most cases, you will want to closely evaluate three primary categories, paying close attention to how relevant and effective each might be in communicating with your audience:
Web – Especially for a church plant, a quality website is generally the right starting place. Keep in mind that quality does not have to mean elaborate or expensive. The goal is to create a space on the internet that clearly and attractively conveys your values, personality, and message.
Social Media – If you aren’t there yet, it’s time to at least acquaint yourself with social media. Not every church will need to make heavy use of it, but church plants in particular should be aware and engaged. Social media is where the culture is increasingly communicating, not only for recreational purposes, but for news, interpersonal communication, and even spiritual discussion.
Print – Print media is by no means dead, but using it well requires more strategy than ever. It pays to get a clear sense of who you’ll be reaching in your community so you can discern what print media are most effective in connecting with those people.
No doubt you will be compelled to totally skip Step 1 and Step 2 and go right into creating your marketing plan. Don’t. Going through these exercises is often the difference in an unfocused, “fingers-crossed” marketing budget and an intentional plan that reaches people. It will also unify your team and give you a much better understanding of where you should invest your resources.
Step 3: Set Realistic & Measurable Goals. Clearly define what you want your marketing efforts to communicate and by when. Be sure and set a realistic and measurable goal. Some ideas:
Increase web traffic by 10% by March 1.
Consistently tweet 3 tweets a day by March 1.
Make one blog entry a week between Jan 1 and July 1.
Creating clear, attainable goals for yourself, your team, and your ministry will provide you with tangible measurements of your success.
Step 4: Create a Tactical Plan. Be very specific and detailed by answering what will be done, when it will begin and end, who is responsible, what it will cost, and what is the goal. Click here for the Marketing Tactical Plan spreadsheet.
The devil is in the details, so stay focused and delegate tasks and responsibilities clearly and realistically.
Step 5: Measure & Evaluate Your Plan. Evaluate your plan periodically to see which initiatives are working well and those that aren’t working at all. Since the game changes frequently for church plants, it’s worthwhile to maintain an ongoing dialogue about what you can change or do better. Don’t be too quick to give up on strategies that require time, but don’t be afraid to shift gears if something clearly doesn’t fit your church and its mission.
Listen, planning isn’t fun. None of us like to do it but planning is an absolute necessity if you want to be successful. Developing a church marketing plan is nothing more than setting goals and making a to-do list that will get you there. It’s really not much different than planning a party—a celebration of what God will do in your church and in your community when you focus your efforts on creating a successful plan to reach your people and your community.
*adapted from United We Brand by Mike Moser