What counts as a conversion for church marketing?

What counts as a conversion for church marketing?
A common word to Christians, and a key part of marketing. But what do ‘conversions’ look like in church communications?

Churches aren’t in sales, they’re not out to make money or turn a profit – so the idea of marketing often feels alien, almost a dirty word when used in relation to church communications. In marketing, the term ‘conversion’ applies to a ‘lead’ (a potential customer or user) who has committed to the goal of the provider.

Common examples include purchasing products, downloading an app or signing up to a website. It is an important goal, a key part of the process that goes on between marketer and consumer. The term speaks of a change in state from one thing to another – but more than this – there’s a sense of achievement associated with it.

Now, in one sense, this feels pretty familiar – with the church’s use of the word ‘convert’ for new believers – but I hope I don’t have to state that this isn’t the church’s sole aim.

Before the word ‘heresy’ gets hurled my way, I’ll explain; we have a calling that is much more than helping people get to the narrow gate and leaving them to fend for themselves on the ‘convert’ side:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Matthew 28:19-20a
There’s not even a hint of “believin’ so leaving” mentality here – making disciples is a long term goal, not as easily quantified as whether someone has made a profession of faith. We are commanded not just to teach them but to be ‘teaching them’ – another continuous verb, pointing to an ongoing relationship, encouraging disciples to become disciple makers.

So whilst there may be a stage at which a person is converted, now believing the Gospel (not that this is always an obvious change, or a change which occurs in an instant, by any means), how does this factor in to a church marketing plan. To put it another way, if we can’t base our strategy solely around conversions (in both the Christian and the marketing sense of the word), how do we set our goals, from which our actions follow?

Here are a few ideas:
  • Consider your audience
    This could be another blog post in itself, but take time to think about the types of people that make up the target audience for your communications, both online/digitally and offline/print. Consider the variety of people types, and the different places they are at in terms of their faith, and then target your communications towards these.
  • Consider your medium
    Perhaps your website and Twitter presence are more public facing, aimed at those who are not part of the church, and who may know very little about the Bible. Maybe your Facebook or Google+ accounts are aimed at church members and attendees. Consider even smaller increments such as the differences between the intended audiences of your Facebook groups, pages and profiles.
  • Consider your tone
    There’s a tricky balance to strike here – you want to sound personable without seeming juvenile, but concise without sounding dry. There’s not one answer, just some pitfalls to avoid. A very clinical stream of announcements/ dates & times without interruption is not going to build community, but trying to sound too much like a kooky supply teacher will make people avoid your channels unless they need an update. Perhaps just get a second opinion here and there.
  • Invest in engagement
    Posting the right content and updates is only half of the job – engage with your audience even though it takes effort (unlike posts which can be scheduled, engagement has to happen in real-time due to its discursive nature). This type of direct communication meets users where they are at, and can have long-lasting effects, but also enables other users to see your church from a different perspective, not just a brand trying to self-promote, but as a voice willing to engage in two-way discussion.
  • Don’t be shy to direct people to your online channels
    This might sound a little too obvious but if your office staff are fielding lots of phone calls asking for event times, useful phone numbers or other information that can be found elsewhere, they probably need telling where that ‘elsewhere’ is. There are a lot of churches with great looking websites and well curated social media channels that are ghost towns, simply because their audiences haven’t been taught to go there for their updates. It’s a cultural shift, but encourage your audience to use all the channels that are available to them.

The key point to draw here, and it’s one that I probably bang on about too much, is this: consider. Effective, efficient and engaging online communities don’t just ‘happen’, nor will they happen overnight. Investing the time up front in planning your communications plan, and how you are going to set these processes up for the long term, will mean you have a roadmap to consult every time you lack clarity on the direction of the ministry.


5 Responses

  1. Excellent!

    And you’re right about it taking time. It takes a while—so hang in there church social media peeps!

    • Joe

      Thanks Eric. It definitely does, but if it’s done well it’s totally worth the investment!

      What would be your top tip for church social media managers?

  2. […] What counts as a conversion for church marketing? Great thoughts on church social media. […]

  3. Thank you, Joe! I have been thinking about this subject but haven’t been able to put it into words. This post is a great conversation starter.

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