Digital Marketing For Churches

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Innovative Churches Digital Marketing Strategies to Maximize ROI

Churches Digital Marketing CSC

Church attendance is steadily decreasing, especially among millennials. In their efforts to attract new attendees and reach a younger audience, churches have often mistakenly used misleading marketing tactics that are more of a turn-off to the target market.

More than any other industry, authenticity is the single most important element of church marketing. Instead of focusing on flashy, disingenuous messaging, successful churches are making the switch to honest digital marketing strategies.

Challenges for Churches

Churches face unique challenges with marketing. Traditional marketing isn’t enough, since word-of-mouth marketing and follow-up communication are extremely important, and churches typically have fewer resources to devote to these efforts.

Some huge churches have full-time staff to create and maintain websites, social media accounts and marketing campaigns, but most churches don’t have the luxury. Because of that, smaller churches need to find fast, innovative and inexpensive marketing strategies that help them make the most of their resources.

Creating a strong and recognizable brand is also a challenge for many churches. A lot of churches share a name or have a similar name to another, so it’s more difficult for a prospective follower to conduct a simple search of the name and find your church without sifting through a lot of results.

Vital Digital Marketing Strategies for Churches

Working with a limited budget, limited time and minimal experience, many people feel overwhelmed at the idea of embarking on a digital marketing strategy for their church. Fortunately, you don’t need to employ each and every digital marketing option available. You can start with just a few strategies to see an increase in online traffic and in-person visits.

Website Design

Regardless of industry, most consumers use online reviews or other online information to help them decide whether to visit a business in person. In this sense, a church is a business, so without an online presence, people are less likely to find and come to your church.

Ideally, your website should have a simple, straightforward design with compelling graphics. You should also include the following valuable information for your visitors:

  • Service times: Most church website visitors are looking for service times. Keep this information as current as possible to encourage people to visit your church in person.
  • Location details: In addition to listing a physical address, provide basic directions from major roads in the area, embed a map and list any satellite locations. If your address causes issues with GPS and takes people to another location, be sure to note that on your website to help people find you easily.
  • What to expect: Visiting a new church for the first time can be intimidating, so offer as much information as possible for your visitors to tell them what to expect. What’s the tone of your services? Is your congregation diverse and inclusive? How do your members dress? Answering questions like these will help your new visitors feel included and comfortable.
  • Contact information: Make sure that anyone with questions or concerns knows how to reach you. Include your email address, phone number and an inquiry form on your site that’s easy to find to help your visitors get the answers they need.

Ideally, you want as much of this information on your homepage as possible. You can include clear links for more in-depth information to make it easy to find.

If you take the time to invest in a website, you can provide potential followers with the information they need to find your church, learn more about your message and choose to join your community.

Social Media

People spend hours on social media each day, even if they’re not in search of something particular. Taking the time to curate professional profiles for the church on these platforms and post pictures, articles, videos and other content encourages new visitors to explore your site and consider attending one of your services or events.

While there’s nothing wrong with stock photos, visitors appreciate original photography that’s more personal to the church. You can keep your website looking modern with recent images of your community, the exterior of the church during seasonal changes and photos of staff members with short biography sections.

Social media also keeps you connected to your community and prospective followers. As you generate more interest and engagement with your posts and content, you can address questions or comments from followers and get a better understanding of what they expect from you.

Here are some tips to keep in mind with your church’s social media accounts:

  • It’s not necessary for a church to have a profile on every social platform. Depending on the size and diversity of the church, a few accounts can be enough. Finding the right platforms requires a deeper look into your audience and the followers you want to target, and then choosing platforms based on where you can have the most impact.
  • Ensure that your entire church is on board with the changes. There are numerous churches in every community, so feel free to ask members of your congregation to share your church profile page within their network, share posts and invite family and friends to upcoming events.
  • Avoid obscure names or acronyms. While they may make sense to members, an obscure name may confuse potential visitors and make them question whether your church is the right choice for them.
  • Promote content, rather than the church itself. Focus on building a tight community of loyal followers who will promote your church for you because you provide them with valuable content, rather than pushing your church on its own.
  • Use visuals. Instagram photos, YouTube videos, infographics and other highly visual content are generally more popular than text, so work to include a lot of visual content into your social media campaign to catch the eye of your followers.
  • Be polite. It’s best to avoid religious or political debates on your accounts, though you can show support for causes. You want to promote an environment of acceptance and understanding, so do your best to limit the heated discussions and don’t allow abusive language among your followers.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is the process of creating valuable, relevant and consistent content for a specific audience. It’s not about shameless self-promotion, but rather it’s promoting your business indirectly by genuinely helping people. For a church, this means creating interest and loyalty by providing your followers with helpful information on a regular basis.

Getting started with content marketing is easy since most churches already have a ton of content. Group lessons, children’s curriculum, Bible studies, recorded sermons and sermon outlines or transcripts are all content that can be used in your campaign and reflects your values and mission.

Evergreen content is content that won’t ever be outdated, so it can provide value for years to come. You can share more topical information like current news or updates, but most of your content should be timeless.

As you focus your content on particular areas suited to different audiences, such as Bible studies, marriage, stewardship, community service and more, you’ll build your platform and followers through your reputation for providing something meaningful.

Here’s some inspiration to get started:

Turn Sermons Into Blog Posts

You’re producing a sermon nearly every Sunday, so you probably have plenty of excellent content. You can offer this to your followers by:

  • Publishing your outlines: As long as your outlines are solid enough to provide value without the full text, your outlines are great content. Be sure that you’re sending it to the right audience.
  • Publishing your sermons: If you write out your sermon in advance, it’s nearly ready to publish. After a quick check for spelling and grammar, remove any language or phrasing that’s specific to your congregation. Check for readability as well, since some verbal phrasing doesn’t work as well in written form.

If your sermons tend to be lengthy, you can break them up into a series of posts released over a few days or weeks. This not only breaks them down into easily digested information, but it also keeps your followers coming back for more.

Turn Sermons Into Alternative Content

You don’t have to limit yourself to sermons in their intended form. You can turn them into small group guides, Bible studies, personal devotions, biblical commentary, trivia and more. Adapt your ideas to different audiences to keep the information relevant and fresh.

Create Podcasts on Current Issues

Once you have your target audiences identified, you can narrow your focus to specific groups and develop podcasts that speak to the issues most important to them.
For example, you may want to adjust your content to speak to high school students versus newlyweds with children.

Once you know who you’re trying to reach, you can create highly targeted podcasts that engage your audience.

Interview Local People for a YouTube Series

Creating a series of discussions with local community members, whether they’re members of your congregation, local business owners, humanitarians or ministers, can elevate your standing in the community. It not only establishes your church as a community leader, but it also shows viewers that you understand the issues facing the community and you’re open to a dialogue about local concerns.

Giving Portal

With a well-designed website, you have an opportunity to embed a giving portal that provides you with an outlet for congregation attendees and donors to contribute to your mission work and the expenses of your church. Donations are so vital to a church, and this gives people an opportunity to give in addition to other fundraising efforts.
Unlike other aspects of your website, your giving portal link should be discreet, though accessible. You don’t want it to be the first thing your visitors see, as that can be off-putting to some.

Live Streams

Many churches use live streams of services to keep people within the community connected, even if they can’t attend a service in person. It also has the potential to draw new visitors as they see your services and decide that your community is the right one for them.

If you go “live” on Facebook or other social media platforms, the social media platforms push your live video to new followers and viewers outside of your existing network. This gives you an effortless and free way to gain more exposure and grow your following.

You can use live stream on your website, YouTube and other platforms as well. Video is an incredibly popular form of content to begin with, but it has extra value for churches as a marketing tool.

SMS Marketing

Though near-constant internet connectivity is common with younger people, it’s often done through phones instead of laptops and desktop computers. SMS messaging gives you a chance to reach your members with their main device and engage with your current congregation.

You can gather this information through an opt-in form on your website or by handing out information cards at services for attendees to write phone numbers and emails. Keep in mind, however, that you don’t want to misuse or overdo it with this information. You can send a message or two a week to update followers about your upcoming events and availability.

Online Directories

Churches are vital to a community, so it’s important for churches to use local SEO and online directories to be accessible to members of that community. Online local directories are free and easy to set up. All you have to do is submit your church to local listings and register with Facebook, Google, Yelp and other online platforms.
Current online directory information helps you show up in the search results when users search for certain keyword phrases. When your information shows up, they may go to your website or visit your church in person to learn more.

Public Events

Churches often have events for members of the congregation, but you have an opportunity to increase your following by hosting certain events to the public. You can advertise an event that’s open to all members of the community on your social media accounts, email list and website to draw new attendees or attract people who have visited your website.

You can also offer public events and tell current congregation members to invite their family and friends to increase attendance. This is a great opportunity for in-person contact with those interested in your church to show them what you have to offer.

Keep in mind that events don’t have to be strictly religious. You can host mixers, brunches, blood drives, car maintenance clinics and other types of events with the help of your congregation.

Your church can get involved with local community events, such as art festivals and food and drink events, to stay connected to followers.

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Tips for Success

  • Recognize the ongoing process: Just like attracting people to your church, gaining a following on social media and an increase in website traffic take time and consistency. It’s also a continuous process, and you may need to adjust certain aspects of your design, content or overall strategy to see results.
  • Utilize free and inexpensive outlets: Unless you choose paid advertising on social media, staying active and promoting your church is free. All it takes is your time to reach your audience and attract an engaged online community of followers. Many churches can find discounts and programs for nonprofits within the community to save on paid advertising.
  • Recruit volunteers: In all likelihood, you have marketing or graphic design professionals in your congregation. Speak to members about your goals and see if anyone wants to volunteer to help you start or refine your marketing strategy to keep things current.
  • Track progress: Marketing isn’t a “set it and forget it” thing. If you’re not tracking your marketing efforts, you won’t know what’s working and what isn’t. Set attainable goals and measure the success of your campaigns and tactics, adjusting as needed to refine and plan a successful campaign for the future.
  • Invest in professionals: Professional marketing consultants don’t have to be expensive to be successful. You can allot some of your budget to working with an experienced marketing agency to spare yourself money and time lost in mistakes, especially if you’re in a saturated area with a lot of churches. Once you develop your campaign with a professional, you have a great foundation to take control of more of your marketing strategy.
  • Connect with other community churches: Several communities have organizations and networks of churches that are working toward marketing and other goals. Search your local community to see if you have any of these resources and share ideas to promote everyone’s success.

Elevate Your Church Digital Marketing With M16 Marketing

With social media, content marketing, video marketing and other digital marketing options, churches have endless options to improve their following in the local community and reach more potential visitors.

If you need guidance in developing a church digital marketing strategy, M16 Marketing can help. Contact us today to see how our talented team of marketing professionals can help your church succeed!

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