Guerilla marketing for churches, pt. 6

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].


Strategic alliances, Guerilla Marketing’s golden rule #28:

To assure your marketing success in the future, become more oriented to cooperation than competition.

As the owner of a business that engages in marketing, you’re out there amidst the competition all by yourself. It costs more to operate that way. And you options, as a loner, are more limited. So is the service you are able to provide. This is not good in an era when customers require more than ever in the way of coddling and follow-through.

Recently, we’ve been seeing groups of Unitarian Universalist congregations band together to buy billboard space, underwriting on public radio, regional Web sites, and so on. So far, many of these cooperative ventures have been pretty successful. Slowly, we’re getting over the idea that your Unitarian Universalist congregation is a cut-throat competitor with all nearby Unitarian Universalist congregations (to say nothing of liberal Christian and Jewish congregations, the local Buddhist group, etc.).

But I don’t think we’re going far enough. Beyond Jay Conrad Levinson’s broad assertion that you have to cooperate to survive, there’s an added factor for us: Liberal religion has its back to the wall right now. If we keep trying to cut the throats of other liberal religious congregations and groups, we’re all going to die.

For small businesses, Jay Conrad Levinson offers a list of potential partners in strategic alliances. I’ve modified his list to apply to liberal congregations. Consider making strategic alliances between your congregation and these groups:

  • Denominational and district authorities
  • Other Unitarian Universalist congregations in your area
  • Unitarian Universalist congregations outside your area
  • Other liberal religious groups
  • Other churches, synagogues, and places of worship on your street
  • Huge national organizations
  • Private individuals in your community
  • Your staff
  • Businesses and banks in your community

How can you make alliances with these persons and groups on the above list? Use this guiding principle:

In the book Guerilla Financing, co-authored by Bruce Blechman and me,… we define partnerism as “combining all the necessary resources to make a business successful.” A key point we stress is that you must consider everyone you deal with on a business basis as your partner — as a potential ally for a strategic alliance.

I’ve started thinking this way, and here’s what I have done so far:

(1) My denomination, the Unitarian Universalist Association, wants to build strategic alliances with congregations to promote growth, and they do this by offering lots of resources, so I take them up on their offers. Maybe what they have to offer isn’t exactly what I’d like to use, but I can’t afford to turn down the high-quality ad materials they offer at cost. Like the big banner we bought from them for $100 that says “Civil Marriage is a Civil Right” — if we got our own banner made, it would cost twice that.

(2) We’re beginning to cooperate with the Unitarian Universalist congregation in the next town as we plan advertising. In the past, the two congregations saw each other as competitors. Building an alliance helps us see how we can pool resources — for example, we’re working together on a campus outreach program at UMass Dartmouth, and already that strategic alliance has raised the visibility for both of us in the community.

(3) Recently, I heard from Donnis, who is a member of a Unitarian Universalist fellowship in Puerto Rico. She pointed out that their Spanish-language Web site gets thousands of hits from all over North America. She asks rhetorically: Why doesn’t every Unitarian Universalist Web site put a prominent link on their Web site to Unitarian Universalist Spanish-language materials [link]? So what if you can’t offer much to Spanish-speaking people in your area — you’ll still build additional credibility in your community, which can only benefit you.

(4) I’ve just begun talking with other liberal religious groups in our immediate neighborhood. We’ve just begun to explore how we can pool our resources to promote liberal religion in our area. With a big evangelical mega-church going in just a few miles away, we’re going to have to build alliances just in order to get our liberal religious message out in the community.

OK, now it’s your turn. How are you building strategic alliances? I’d especially like to hear from people who have organized successful regional ad campaigns — but feel free to share anything you want.