Guerilla marketing for churches, pt. 3

Lots of religious liberals get discouraged when they hear about or see the slick marketing efforts of those mega-churches. They should remember what the critics of mega-churches point out: All that slick marketing is swamping the basic product, as mega-churches find themselves with a watered-down message, and most probably a fickle congregation who are ready to switch to another church should they get bored.

Those of us who are guerilla marketers know that you don’t need huge ad budgets and slick ad campaigns to really succeed. When I was selling building materials, I posted high gross (1.2 million dollars a year in the late 80’s), and high net (30% when the other salesmen were below 20%) by being honest and straightforward — and by using guerilla marketing techniques that didn’t cost a cent.

Among liberal churches, Unitarian Universalist congregations in particular serve a niche market that no other religious group serves. We don’t need to waste time with expensive mega-church techniques. We are poised for explosive growth, if we could just stop navel-gazing long enough to do a minimal amount of guerilla marketing….

Part 3 in a series adapting Jay Conrad Levinson’s Guerilla Marketing Excellence to church marketing. Part 1 of the series has a general introduction to Guerilla Marketing: Link. Part 2: Link.


The world’s best customer list: Guerilla marketing’s golden rule #5:

Your own customer list is the best in the world — but only if it bulges with information about each customer.

This one is very simple for churches to implement. Buy the best church database software you can afford.* Make sure your office administrator or a talented lay person (you?) is trained to use it. Then start collecting information about everyone who comes into your church.

Two good ways to collect information:

1) Get your ushers/greeters to ask everyone they don’t recognize to sign a guest book. That guest book should ask for names of adults in the family, mailing address, email address, names and ages of children. Don’t ask if they want to receive the newsletter — if they’re within an hour’s drive, just send it to them!

2) Get staff and lay leaders into the habit of collecting information about everyone in your church. Your religious educator should be collecting names and birthdays of children. Your minister should know the name of everyone who participates in small group ministries. Your youth advisor should have the names and mailing addresses of all youth, and if their parents aren’t in the church, the parents’ names too. Every time the secretary takes a phone message, have her enter work phone and cell phone numbers into the database. Etc. Etc., etc., etc.

Once we have the information, we market the church, not just to outsiders, but to our current members and friends. Here’s a few ways we use database information at First Unitarian in New Bedford:

  • We send the newsletter to everyone we can.
  • We look at where our current members live (I have push pins on a big map) so we can see where we should advertise.
  • We send a book of bedtime prayers to everyone with kids.
  • We’re going to send that same booklet to everyone with grandkids.
  • We’re going to start asking for college and military addresses from every family with a child in college or the military.
  • The designated guerilla (me) reads over the entire list of members and friends every month, to see who’s coming and who might be slipping away.

How do you collect information about your congregation? How do you use it? Share your ideas in the comments section!

[* For the record, here at First Unitarian we just started using Shepard’s Staff, and so far we love it. It generates all the reports we need, and allows us to collects all the data we can think of; it’s even given us ideas for more data to collect. It’s far more flexible than our old Access-based database. So far technical support has been excellent. Also, Shepherd’s Staff is good financially for small churches because you can start out with a license for under 200 names, and then upgrade to an unlimited number of names later — that has allowed us to spread the cost of the program out over two years, since at the rate we collect data we’ll have well over 200 names by next fall.]

1 thought on “Guerilla marketing for churches, pt. 3

  1. ms michelle

    you need a business card, with your title;

    Dan Harper
    Designated Guerilla

    or perhaps,
    The Rev. Dan Harper
    Designated Gorilla

    love ya man,

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