Church marketing 101

“Change something significant about the appearance of your church at least once a month.” –Standard advice from church marketing experts.

First Unitarian in New Bedford sits right at a busy intersection, the corner of Union and County streets. While you’re waiting on Union Street for the traffic light to change, your car is right next to a huge building made out of granite, with a sign saying “First Unitarian Church.” Yet over and over again, newcomers tell us, “You know, I’ve driven by this building for years and never really noticed it.”

We need to follow advice straight out of Church Marketing 101: change something about the appearance of our site and/or building every month, something significant enough that people will notice our building. Otherwise, our building blends in and becomes just another unnoticed historic building in historic downtown New Bedford.

Problem is, we have very little in the budget for this kind of thing. Even so, we have already managed to plan a few things that won’t strain our budget:

  • April: We hung new signs on our fence. The new signs are easier to read, and they (finally) have our Web site URL prominently displayed. Due to budget constraints, we had to go with relatively inexpensive plastic signs which we plan to replace in another fiscal year.
  • May: We’re planting bright spring flowers under the new signs.
  • June: We planted Dutch iris bulbs that should start flowering in June.

We’re also going to take a look at our other sign that’s right at the intersection of County and Union — maybe we’ll wind up hanging smaller seasonal signs under it, or perhaps displaying a rainbow flag for a month. It’s going to take some creativity to come up with ten or twelve inexpensive ways to change the appearance of our site and building!

7 thoughts on “Church marketing 101

  1. Jaume

    The problem with busy intersections is that they are, well, busy. People don’t have the time to stop and look. Buildings in city centers, unless they are truly remarkable or practical, tend to go unnoticed.

    Which is the most successful shop or business in your street? Check what they are doing or showing to attract customers, and you will have an idea of what catches the attention of people in that area.

  2. Administrator

    StevenR — We actually have a Wayside Pulpit, but it’s badly located. Part of what we need to do is relocate that. Even so, even though we’d change the saying weekly, I think the setting is busy enough that it would be ignored — unless maybe we changed the color of the paper the saying is printed on or something.

    Jaume — Actually, downtown New Bedford doesn’t have much — three courthouses, lots of professional offices (lots of lawyers because of the courthouses, a few doctors), lots of banks, a handful of little bars and coffeeshops and restaurants, and very little in the way of successful retail. There’s not much downtown, to be honest — and the most successful ones are probably places like MacDonalds, which we don’t exactly want to replicate. My theory behind the flowers is that they will be so unexpected, and so welcome, in the downtown neighborhood, that they will attract attention. We’ll see….

  3. Anna Belle

    You might want to consider at some point one of the signs? Oh, and I was reading about a church that’s put their URL in absolutely huge letters on the side of their building. The latter wouldn’t work at most churches I know, but still, it has me thinking.

  4. Administrator

    Anna Belle — Very cool! (I’ve gotten a couple of days behind in reading your blog, so I missed this when you first put it up.)

  5. Shelby Meyerhoff

    Hi Dan,

    This is a great question. One thing that came to mind is balloons. Another general idea I had is that you could set up a sign-making table for children and adults during coffee hour every few weeks. Obviously handmade signs won’t last forever outdoors, but they will be fun and put a personal face on the church. And simply having such an activity at coffee hour might get congregants thinking about other ways to make the church facade more eye-catching.

  6. Administrator

    Everyone — I’m going to be turning this whole project over to our membership development committee. We just had a new member join today (another person with a background in PR and marketing!), and they are looking for low cost ways of promoting the church. I’ll be passing along all your ideas to them — thanks, everyone!

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