I’ve got good news and bad news.

Whether you’re a pastor, communications director, or ministry leader, you have a role to play when it comes to marketing. Marketing doesn’t have to be an ugly or secular word. It’s simply sharing next steps and opportunities for your church to engage in.

Marketing doesn’t have to be an ugly or secular word.

For years and years, churches have jumped to conventional methods to promote what they have going on at their church. Many focus on things like bulletins, stage announcements, brochures, and emails. Others have the budget to utilize more expensive methods like newspaper ads and billboards.

Here’s the bad news. These conventional marketing methods are growing less and less effective. Your audience has more clutter and messages competing for their attention than ever before. For churches, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get noticed in a noisy world. Emails are only getting opened on average between 20-30% of the time. Bulletins are getting thrown away. Stage announcements are only reaching the segment of your audience that is there that day. Printing has become more expensive and is being replaced by a digitally-driven culture. Some churches may be finding success in a few of these areas, but most are finding these to be trending downward in effectiveness.

Here’s the good news. There’s a method that is typically overlooked, and many have forgotten. It also happens to be the least expensive and most effective marketing tool in today’s culture.

Word-of-mouth marketing.  

Our greatest influencer on what we watch, read, attend, or participate in is the recommendation of friends and family.

Our greatest influencer on what we watch, read, attend, or participate in is the recommendation of friends and family.

Most of us would say that we’re aware of the power of word-of-mouth marketing. The problem, though, is that so few are changing their communications strategy to equip their audience to do this effectively.

Here are some practical ways you can equip your church to be your most effective marketing tool through word-of-mouth marketing.

Share a vision or goal

Empower your audience with a compelling vision and goal that they can be part of. Your audience wants to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Don’t just settle for sharing your vision. Invite them into your vision. Give them a clear call to action and share with them how they can be part of making it happen.

Use the power of social media

Our culture has become a sharing culture. Through social media, we naturally have an audience of friends and family that we can share with at the click of a button. Because of this, social media has become a game-changer in marketing, and can help your message spread further, faster. I saw this at work recently in my church. Our community responded in a huge way to a need within five days using only social media.

Our culture has become a sharing culture.

Give your audience a simple call to action. Make it easy for them to get the word out about what’s happening in your church through social media. Some practical ways you can do this are:

  • Ask people to share/re-tweet/repost your social media posts.
  • At the end of services, encourage people to share their experience with their friends.
  • When you create a post, don’t just give the information that “insiders” would need to know to participate. Include information that makes it beneficial to the audience that may be exposed to your post through a friend sharing it.
  • Add value to your audience through social media. Nothing spreads quicker than something your audience finds beneficial to their life.

Equip your audience with a tool to start a conversation

Yard signs, invite cards, door hangers, and social media posts can all resource your audience to engage their friends and family. It’s not the tool that makes this effective. It’s the conversation your audience has that makes this powerful. You’re just providing the information they need to help them take their next step.

Make your content easy to share via word-of-mouth

Remove barriers from the process of making your content easy to share. Add share buttons on your website so that people can share the information on their social media platforms or by email. Make your tweets shorter so that people can re-tweet and add comments to their post.

Make your tweets shorter so that people can re-tweet and add comments to their post.

Create memorable experiences 

Our natural instinct as a sharing culture is to share the things we’re experiencing. As a church, if we can create memorable experiences through our services and events, we are giving our audience something they want to talk about and share with their friends. Here’s something to consider each week as you plan: What’s going to be the thing that people are talking about after attending our service or event? Then, how are you enhancing that experience to make it something your audience will want to share? On social media, try to capture that experience through pictures and quotes so that people can easily share what they’ve experienced.

What’s going to be the thing that people are talking about after attending our service or event?

It’s harder than ever to get the attention of an outside audience through traditional marketing tactics. What if we focused our efforts on equipping our core audience with the simple tools they need to share with their friends and family? It may be the most effective thing you can do as a communications leader to get more people connected to the life of your church.

When you need to get the word out about things happening in your church, where do you start? What’s been working or not working for you? Share in the comments below!