Church Marketing 101: Know Thy Audience

Church Marketing 101: Know Thy Audience
May 1, 2019 Jon Vaughan

By Jon Vaughan

Marketers of top brands like Nike and Apple live by a cardinal rule: “Thou shalt know thine audience!” I think Jesus was the ultimate marketer. He knew his audience intimately, and he knew how to change his approach and message based on who they were, not on who he wanted them to be.

I talk to pastors who tell me story after story about how their members don’t volunteer, don’t bring others to church, don’t participate in important committees. In short, they “just don’t get it.” I listen intently and nod politely, but what I’m thinking is “Maybe you, my dear pastor friends, are the ones who don’t get it.”

Can you imagine how my marketing leader would react if I went into his office and told him the reason people aren’t buying our products is because they “just don’t get it?” Well, I can, and here’s how it would go: He’d look at me intently and nod politely. Then he would pick up his phone and ask HR to escort me, pink slip in hand, out of the building.

So I have a few words of marketing advice for pastors and church leaders.

Step 1 – Go talk to your folks. Talk to them a lot. Ask a lot of questions. Listen to what they say, how they say it, and what they don’t say. And take notes (literally, take notes). Get your entire leadership team to have at least seven of these conversations a week.

Step 2 – They’ll know if you’re faking it, so don’t. Be genuinely interested. I’m always interested because my career is on the line with every marketing effort I produce. If it helps you to be more genuine, remind yourself that the success of your church is on the line. When you get past surface conversations, you’ll learn more about your people, and you’ll find out what they really think of your product (a.k.a. your church).

Step 3 – Come together as a team and share. In the sharing process, group members of your congregation by age, marital status, education, interests, life story, ethnicity, profession, and even pastime or hobby. You’re “creating your segments,” which is marketing-speak for “starting to know your people.” Identify three or four primary groups (segments) based on commonalities. These, my friends, are your primary audiences.

Step 4 – As a team, agree upon who your primary audiences are, and start making strategic decisions that move your church forward. By making decisions based on who your congregants really are as opposed to who you thought they were, you’ll start doing ministry that will engage them on a whole new level.

You’ll be amazed at the ways in which your church and leadership team will begin to grow. For what you once knew in part…you will begin to experience in full. So, get out there and have deep conversations, identify some segments, and “know thy audience.” I double-dog dare you.

Many churches claim that they are attracting young people, specifically the Millennial Generation (those born after 1980) but they are still using old traditions and methods that don’t match up with that generation’s felt needs. According to a study by the Barna Group, Millennials are looking for ways to participate in their faith, rather than sit and be lectured. That is why we created Lifetree Cafe and Fearless Conversation, both of these resources are designed to get people talking and participating in their faith.

Download a Sample of Fearless Conversation

Learn More about Lifetree Cafe

Jon Vaughan is the Marketing Champion at Group Publishing. He has spent over 25 years in fundraising, e-commerce, product development, and digital marketing with some of the top nonprofit organizations in the country.

Marketing Champion at Group Publishing. Jon has spent over 25 years in fundraising, ecommerce, product development, and digital marketing and has worked with some of the top nonprofit organizations in the country.

1 Comment

  1. John Wilder 4 years ago

    Here is my analysis on why the churches are dying. They are not reaching peoples spiritual and emotional needs.

    First of all the divorce rate in the churches are almost as bad as the secular world. The main reason is that the
    churches are not teaching couples good conflict resolution skills the lack of which is the main reason for divorce
    and break ups in our country.

    Churches teach kids especially girls “that sex is bad, dirty and wrong and that good girls don’t do it.” This often negatively conditions women for life from fully embracing and enjoying their sexuality. They are filled with needless
    inhibitions that are harmful for good marriages.

    The churches never teach all the sex positive messages. As an example of that, there is a ministry mandated in the New Testament in Titus 2 where it commands that: “The older women of the church are supposed to teach the younger women of the church how to love their husbands (sexually) so that the Word of God is not blasphemed”
    Show me a church with a Titus 2 ministry today.

    Now as far as sex is concerned, men complain about too little frequency and women complain about lousy sex.
    This according to Kinsey statistics is widespread and 72% of ALL MARRIED WOMEN OVER THIRTY WITH KIDS AT HOME HAVE THEIR HUSBANDS ON A STARVATION DIET OF SEX ONCE A WEEK OR LESS. This leaves men masturbating alone to porn. It is not really the woman’s fault. Most men are lousy at sex and completely clueless about women’s sexuality.
    This is because there is no “school for sex” to teach them how to give their wives great sex.

    The churches give no guidance on how to have a blended family and step kids.
    The step kids cause subsequent divorces by sabotaging the new marriage.

    Churches tell men to be the spiritual leaders in the home but don’t begin to show or teach them how to do that.

    Many churches don’t really help their members and it has been said that the modern day
    church is the only army that shoots its own wounded.

    It is my conjecture that if you answered these questions and problems you would fill
    the churches to the rafters and have to build new buildings.

    I am planning on doing marriage seminars to address all of these subjects. My book also addresses all of these concerns and gives practical realistic solutions .

    I am very curious as to your opinion of my analysis and would like to work with you to help resolve
    these problems

    John Wilder

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