Guerilla marketing for churches, pt. 5

I’ll still be on the train when this appears, and I’ve posted this in advance pending a full wrap-up of General Assembly….

More from Jay Conrad Levinson’s Guerilla Marketing Excellence, as adapted for church marketing. Part 1 of the series has a general introduction to Guerilla Marketing. [Link]


The danger of originality, Guerilla Marketing’s golden rule #23:

Don’t invest money in originality when the investment should be in generating profits.

Originality. It’s what collectors look for in fine art. It’s what entrepreneurs avoid in guerilla marketing.

This golden rule of marketing works somewhat differently in church settings. In liberal churches, we are not looking to increase profits. But as religious entrepreneurs, we are trying to grow our churches by increasing the number of active members and friends. (Remember that an “active member” is best defined as someone who shows up for worship services; if you want to know how many active members you have, calculate the average worship attendance for the past year.)

In spite of the differences, this golden rule of guerilla marketing for religious entrepreneurs still holds true. Avoid originality in your marketing materials! Or as Jay Conrad Levinson says:

A guerilla repeats what works. Whenever you run a successful ad, run it again. Whenever you engage in a profitable promotion, engage in it again….

Oveer the years, by talking to newcomers to churches, I have learned which guerilla marketing materials actually work. Although there will always be differences from church to church, probably these same things will work for you:

  • The church newsletter
  • The “Wayside Pulpit” posters in the signboard by the street
  • A content-rich Web site, updated weekly
  • Word-of-mouth, including “Bring-a-friend” Sundays
  • Sunday school brochures
  • Attractive, visible church signage that tells who you are (actually, your whole building is a kind of sign

(Notice what’s not on this list: newspaper ads, direct mail, telephone solicitation, billboards, radio ads, TV ads.)

If these are the marketing materials that work best, doesn’t it make sense to pour more energy into them before you try some new kind of marketing? Before you rent space on a billboard, make your church newsletter truly excellent. Before you buy air time on NPR, make sure your Web site has the information newcomers want, and that it’s updated weekly. Before buying in to an expensive newspaper ad campaign, spruce up your church signage (and the exterior of your building while you’re at it). Don’t invest money in originality until you make sure the marketing materials you already have are the best they can be.

Since you’re starting to think like a guerilla marketer yourself, I’m sure you’ve already started asking every newcomer who walks in your door how they heard about you. So:

What marketing materials work for you right now? How will you repeat them again and again and again? How will you resist the temptation to be original?….

3 thoughts on “Guerilla marketing for churches, pt. 5

  1. Carol Wolf

    Interesting…especially what is “not on the list” of effective marketing materials.

    Our building is on a side street that is not a high traffic, so our already lovely signage doesn’t get seen very often. I had thought of suggesting a billboard somewhere in town, just to get some visibility. Perhaps I’ll rethink before making that suggestion though.

    We are going to be in the town’s (exceedingly popular) Fourth of July parade, however. We thought that would be a nice way to raise awareness …maybe it will generate some new visitors. We will all be wearing t-shirts that say “The Unitarian Society of Ridgewood” on the front, and “110 years in Ridgewood” on the back.

    I’ll let you know how it turns out…

  2. Administrator

    Hey Carol — Be sure you do let the rest of us know how it works out.

    I’ll tell you what we just discovered works for us — For years, we have been running ads in the local daily paper, even though it was quite clear that absolutely no newcomers ever mentioned having seen that ad. Now there’s an example of advertising that did not work, and we should have dumped it long ago (after all, the point of the post is that you keep doing advertising that *does* work). So we recently advertised the annual book sale in the weekly shopper that’s distributed free around twon — and got a tremendous response, with twice the total income as last year. Since that worked, we’ll try advertising in that weekly shopper again!

    Love to hear what marketing has actually worked for other congregations — and when I say “marketing that has actually worked,” I mean you have solid data that it has worked.

  3. Carol

    Hello Dan,

    Well, the 4th of July parade was a terrific success! About 30-40 of us to showed up in our bright blue shirts, with a wide range of ages represented from toddlers in wagons on up.

    Whether or not it will bring in any visitors or not, we will probably never know for sure (there are no Sunday services until September). But thousands of people did get to see us and our banner….hopefully a few of them will be curious enough to check out the web site. The funniest moment was when some clown (no really, an actual clown) pointed out that we were walking on the wrong side of the street. We were all clustered in the right lane of the road, and he had expected us to lean more toward the left. ;)

    Anyway, even if it doesn’t turn out to be the most effective marketing effort, it was a great time for getting together as a group and being part of our local community celebration.


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