Inbound marketing is attracting and connecting with people who come to you through a posted content that they are engaged in. This is how churches can reach people where they are at.
I will start with two premises. One, where are the people that you want to engage with or invite to your church? Second, how do we do that in a postmodern were the perceived narrative of the church is negative and even hated in a postmodern culture?
How we meet and engage strangers and turn them into visitors to your church is essential to our growth.
This will fundamentally change the way you and your people will engage the world to promote your church or ministry by using social media, blogs, review sites, gaming platforms and so much more including relating to your existing members.
The new watering holes
Traditionally, church marketing was to place an ad in the Yellow Pages and the Friday or weekend local newspaper, and you were done. In years past that was it, all you need to do. Everyone was reading a newspaper and will see your ad, or if they are new to town, will check the phone listings. But, these mediums have either disappeared or not used anymore. Then, there was the excitement of your current members being the salt and light in the community and engaging in friendship evangelism. This still works and can be a prime tool, but people do not seem to be much interested in that or do not have the time. Going door to door has not worked well either and is even banned in some communities. So, where do we find people who may want to go to our church? It is the same location as where people go to find a restaurant, a school or a solution to their problem or itching the proverbial felt needs. Where do people hang out and engage culture these days? That will be Facebook, Yelp, and other social media and blog sites. That is where the church, the people of Christ must also be at and engage in.
Consider this, there are more than two billion people on social media, most on Facebook, Instagram has 600 million active users, and more than ½ of the people living on this planet have smartphones and Facebook accounts, and it is 91% of Millennials. So, you can reach them where they are at online and in their journey of life. Then 90% of top business are using social media and yet, 90% of churches claim they are using Facebook, but with careful investigations, actually, the vast majority is not using it effectively or at all. Posting what the church times are, and occasional pictures of their youth group is not connecting with outsiders.
We are living in a new era of communication, in an instant that is, and we are more connected locally, even globally and more than ever before. This is why the smart business is also shifting the way they do their marketing and sales. I would like to introduce you to a new world of promotion, that is called “Inbound Marketing,” or content marketing. Your church or ministry can be better positioned to engage culture and show off your wares too to be successful in your strategy and results.
Why Inbound Marketing is a good thing for us
If you have done any serious witnessing, you will have discovered it is harder than ever before. People do not want to be “talked to;” rather, met where they are with “causal conversions” using kindness and grace. Delivering the information and evidence they need when they are ready or ask. We are all in journeys in our lives, many so busy and overwhelmed in life, for many there is no room for church, let alone God. We must meet people on their paths, with encouragement, not being argumentative or arrogant.
Connecting with people is the essential foundation of an effective evangelism campaign, and the direct response most successful business attract and keep new customers.
Business, especially the big ones uses social media marketing as their new prime strategy. They are turning causal conversions and answering people’s conversations online as marketing into profit. You have a new product and want to know how people feel about it, you need to engage them where they are at. And, as we see everyone with their heads down in their phone these days, that place is, the smartphone. The same goes for a Christian business or a church or a parachurch organization. Your customers, parishioners and potential members are already out there waiting to connect. Then, there are those in crises, you can perhaps help them, from locating housing or a job or a recovery or…. So, how do we do this? Two ways, connect with them on social media, and then blogging. You make blogging and social media posts and then use that content to build awareness and trust. You can use this to solve problems, potential problems and give people solutions they need in their lives.
Create real, relevant and marketable content
This is the classic question, what are the needs of your community? How do we meet those needs? Then understanding where do people hang out? For Millennials, it is in the world of virtual reality. So, you go to them, not by knocking on a door; rather, with engaging people where it is less intrusive and even expected. We also have to keep in mind that people today do not know much about church other than what they see in the skewed bias of the media, pathetic representations in film and TV, and thus many have a skewed and cynical view. Keep in mind you will get the hostility. As many have been hurt, confused, angry, frustrated, and many have been negatively run over by so-called Christians. It has been said, that the only exercise most Christians get is from running over others and jumping to conclusions. So, the world looks at us as crazy, because they have met and been hit by crazy and developed a mindset and a defense mechanism to protect themselves from the bad us. And of course, there is the fear of conviction and the desire to do as one pleases and not have God in their life too. So, we have our work cut out for us. So, remember the Fruit of the Spirit, not assumptions, and do some research into who you will be talking to. Kindness and listening go the furthest.
What do we engage them with?
What are their goals, roles, challenges, and fears? Interview people who left your church, why? Learn from them. Apologize and fix what is wrong. And then how can I help them now. Even if they will not come back. Use that information to engage new prospects.
We are creating the awareness of our church, and meet what the person in the world’s awareness, so the two awareness can meet.
There is a problem and an opportunity. How do I solve my need? This is how friends come together. A need, an awareness of the other, then there is a consideration if there is a fit with personality, interests and so forth, this all leads to a decision, will I risk and an outing. The same process goes for most relationship journeys, including buying a car or house to finding a church, even if they are not looking.
How to do inbound marketing?
Create friendly, helpful articles on how to manage life. You know who is great at doing this? The JW’s! Yes, a cult! Take a look at a Watchtower magazine. This is what the Church should be doing by using Truth, not cultism. And instead of printing, do this via blog posts linked to your church website. So, they click to find out more and it takes them to you. Then you respond within 24 hours by email, with a listing ear and any help they need. For example, ways to find a good preschool with recommendations. A rating of the schools in your area and alternatives. Where to get medical help, or insurance information, or mental health help, or where to get resemble priced designer clothes, and so forth. I did an article on preschools, what are the ones in the area, prices, wait lists, ratings and so forth. The church I was an interim at the time at a preschool and it drove many new people to us. I also did a blog post on how to buy an auto and where to go to not get ripped off, and it was a great tool to engage people.
In the 80’s and 90’s, this was called the “Matthew 10 principle.” Go door to door and asks your neighbors “how can we pray for you?” If there is a need, seek how to fill that from a kids bicycle or a job for or medical need or whatever that is reasonably able to fulfill. Your goal is to help them resolve problems, both personal and even subject not affiliated with your church, before telling them about your church. Pray, research and engage their issue. Then go back to them and present a solution. Tell them a little about your church and that they are always welcome. And to email you if they come so you can meet up with them. I did this with tremendous success, so much I was fired from one church I was a Youth Pastor at, for bringing in too many people who were “not like us!” So, make sure your church is ready, I did not do that.
Create a blog that is informative and friendly. It is best to use your blog for useful, relevant content to the journeys of people in your area. Find out the needs, local Facebook pages city groups, we have “Pasadena Now” and Arcadia has a very popular group, and many subgroups you can join and talk with people of similar interest. Join them at an event and make friends. Do not play the Christian card, just be the Christian without words; Fruit, and let them come to you for questions, then invite them to an event at your church. What you are doing is seeking strangers, making connections, turning them into friends without strings attached. Thus, you started with a stranger on a social media post, helped them with an issue, made a connection that may eventually make a visitor to your church. Even if it does not, God built us for relationships and these are never a waste of time. We never know what God is going in the lives of others. It may take more time, more prayer and someone else to connect with them. What is important is your example as Christ’s ambassador (2 Cor. 5:20).
How to write your blog
In your blog it is essential it is short, 500 words, clear and answers a need people are seeking. Like where to get help if you have a child with ADHD, what are the nearest and best nursing homes, who has the best deals for lunch and so forth. This is spread out to as many people in your church as possible. Each member engages people with their expertise, like legal help, tax questions, how to curb appeal your home, the list is endless. Multiple blogs that are geared to a specific interest in your community that people can write too. Then share them to Facebook groups or other mediums. A friend in my church wrote up a short piece about a rooftop move happening that a local business was doing a promotion to a restaurant, it was a free event. And he and his wife went to a local Facebook page of movie interests and invited people, he reserved a section for them, and he brought snacks and hung out with a bunch of strangers who became connections. If they can’t write, mine the information and find people in your church who are good writers to create them. Since I primarily work with pastors, I write blog posts that answer their issues, that lead them to my websites for further resources, and even my books. Since I am a with a missions organization, I am not selling, just give what they need to build their church for Christ’s glory and I raise my own support in this way too. A business that is not doing well can create new customers in this way too. Draft an article that has a solution to a problem, that takes a stranger to being a lead to a place of being a customer.
You might write about, who are you, your qualifications and experience, then your main talking point(s) or theme, then why they need this information and finally how is this going to affect and help them.
For a Christian business. Who are you, what are you offering, how was this developed, how will this impact their ministry or church and why they need this. Then, where will you be at? Speaking, when and where? Exhibiting at…? Then make sure your church website is up to date, accurate, pleasing to the eyes, and has a prayer submission place.
Here is an example
How to use a Blog to bring People to Your Church (48 characters)
Create a blog for church growth! If you do not have one already, WordPress is free and great, HubSpot is the best solution for better interrelation. But it is not free.
How and why? We see this a lot on Yahoo news and all those “sponsored ads” that look like articles. Here are people with problems and needs, you have a blog post that answers them, and they find you because:
- What is the Topic? What will this be About? What is covered, what will they get out of it? What will attract people? The only way they get to read it is because it popped up in a search, so your keywords need to be specific. Your title and topic sentence need to connect that can attract people with their question to you. Be catchy and relevant.
- Know your Perspective Visitor. Think about what this person will be looking for online, how can I position my blog to catch them in their search. Churches must think locally; bigger ministries can think globally. The more your church people blog on your church blogs, the more help you give and the more trust you earn in your community.
- Create the Right Title that Connects and Grabs. Google will only read and show the first 50 characters of the title to your post. It has to be informative and grab people. Like, “5 Ways of Positive Parenting.” Use three or four keywords together like “The Best Lunch Spots in Pasadena” or “The Free Medical Clinics in Pasadena,” or “Where is Help for Children with Disabilities in Arcadia,” “Where are the Best Movie deals in San Gabriel” and so forth, be specific. So, readers will know what this is about.
- The Right Body of your Content. Short, friendly and concise. Use good organization and formatting, a font like Verdana, and white spaces are pleasing to the eye, do not be too busy. People read fast and move on. Use section headers and bullet points. Use a relating picture will also be a good help. Your focus is educational content, not selling a product. Talk about a problem, a short testimonial or quote from someone, then ways to answer that problem. Unless you are a speaker, do not write about yourself. And for evangelism, do not write about your church or ministry, unless you are promoting a specific event. Rather, write about a specific issue. Like, “where in my city takes used computers and cell phones?” You can also do this with a friendly Apologetics site. As people are asking different questions today than twenty years ago and many apologetic sites and books are out of date, and many are argumentative and push people away. Although, this may not bring people into your church, but you can answer the questions people are struggling with. Only one issue per post, think bullet not shotgun. This makes it easier for people to find it, easier to read too. You can also do this with short animations or videos. Do not overwhelm and overload information.
- Close it Right. Then end where to get more help and this can lead to your church or ministry website. If you are a business, this is where you have your offer or coupon, or a link to an event at your church. On the sidebar of your blog is where you can advertise your event, like a VBS or Alpha, or, Celebrate Recovery, or a Concert.
- Call to Action. Do not just invite people to your church, except maybe Easter, invite to an event your church sponsors, in the web world this is called, a CTA, “call to action.” Then invite them to your church. And share this with relevant social media groups. Allow people to get to know you first. Then be ready to answer their questions.
- Have keywords that work or you! People will find you because of the keywords you have and “metadata.” Just posting a blog will not surface, you have the determine the right keywords, Google Webmaster Tools is a great place to find them. But, know your audience and their needs and what they are looking for.
- Promote It. Create a Twitter like promo with the link to your blog and share in various social media groups. Also, make sure there are social media sharing buttons, so others can promote it too.
- Did it Work Right? Then keep watch on the analytics, is your post working? If not, tweak it. See what others are doing who are good at it for tips.
- Newsletter. Collect emails and send out a weekly or monthly newsletter with links to your blog posts, what is happening, your events and any helpful insights and links.
The above section is an example of a blog post. However, for lead generation, this one may be too long with 700 words for most occasions, try to keep it under 500 words. And the bullet points 4 to 5. For informing current customers or members, you can be up to 700 words and up to 10 points.
With inbound marketing or sometimes called “content advertising,” you have a means to reach a stranger and lead them on a journey to being fully engaged members of the Body of Christ. Do not miss this incredible opportunity we have today!
© Richard .J. Krejcir Ph.D. 2018, Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org