Marketing ministry efforts isn't always easy, not because marketing is hard, but because there's a fine line between promotion and self-promtion. Marketing ministry efforts feels weird. For many years, it was basically taboo to mention the word “marketing” and anything related to “church” in the same sentence. Today, with new social media platforms popping up almost daily, that ideology is certainly a thing of the past. The devil is a marketer, and a world-class promoter. Our message is better … and we must promote our story! Marketing ministry efforts is critical, you just have to do it in the right spirit, with the right motive.
I’ve probably made about every single mistake a leader can make with ministry marketing because I didn’t grow up with a marketing or promotional mindset. For many years, I was focused on church growth and preaching. Marketing was something I had to study on my own.
To be honest, I’m fascinated by it at times. Seriously … how can you not be fascinated by why something like the Ginsu steak knife can make a monetary killing, and yet a far superior knife like a Buck, has to work hard to compete? Is NIKE the best running shoe? Absolutely not. Ask any runner and they’ll tell you … New Balance, Brooks, or Saucony is the breadth of your search when looking for running shoes. NIKE, however, has far superior marketing, and we all know it.
How And Why.
Let me read your mind for a minute. When it comes to your outdoor ministry, and specifically your marking ministry efforts related to reaching hunters, I’ll bet you know that you must be on Facebook. After all, 8 out of 10 people on planet earth have a Facebook account. You know your ministry must have a presence there … but has it ever occurred to you as to WHY you should be on Facebook? Or, as to HOW you should be on Facebook?
As a hunter, you’d never dream of shooting up into the sky with an arrow and somehow expecting to hit a deer when the arrow gives in to gravity, yet we do that very thing every day when it comes to promotion. Here are a few insights I can give you related to mistakes I’ve made with promotion with the hope that you can avoid the pain, frustration, and the money spent that always goes with poor decisions:
Ruthlessly Hone Your Outdoor Ministry and Its Purpose.
Outdoor ministries are notorious for being as wide as the blue sky with their audience. There are roughly 13.7 million hunters in the US. Don’t you think you might want to pick what kind of hunter you want to reach? Hone your ministry. You can’t reach every hunter. Know who you are as a ministry, and equally, know who you are NOT as a ministry platform. Knowing who you are not tells you what and who you can say “no” to in the end. It weeds out wasted energy on wasted projects that take nothing but time that you’ll never recover.
Connect Your Purpose With Your Social Media Platform
Pick One. Before you go launching all out war with creating Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Google+ accounts, think about which platform best fits who you are as it relates to your ministry’s stated purpose.
Are you trying to reach youth and engage them through the outdoors? Then why would you market ministry efforts to them using Facebook, when most kids left Facebook long ago? It's not cool to have a "community" that your parents hang out in, too. Try Twitter. It's far more effective for people under 25. Instagram may be even better for teens than Twitter in many cases. The bottom line, know WHY you do what you do.
Marketing Ministry On Numbers Alone Is An Infected Approach.
People often judge how well an outdoor ministry's social media platform is doing based on "followers" or sheer numbers of "likes." That's crazy. Think about this: would you rather have 11,000 likes on your Facebook page, which you can easily pay to attain with little effort, or would you rather actually engage 1,100 people within the zip code of your church through a strategic campaign on Facebook or Twitter, with your message about the upcoming wild game dinner, the new skeet shoot, or the upcoming small group study for hunters? I’ll take the 1,100 engaged followers every time - without hesitation - if I’m trying to reach men for Christ through my local church ministry for hunters.
You have very little money to spend, typically, if you are in outdoor ministry leadership at your church. In fact, most of you barely have a budget at all. Before you spend money on promoting something, slow down and think it through. I can promise you, you won’t regret it.
Before you launch a social media platform, choose one wisely, then work hard to build it, push it, frame it, interact with it, and all out master its usage footprint before you go putting your media everywhere at once.
Interact With Your Audience.
On Twitter, if you reply to me, I'll reply back. That's why it's called SOCIAL MEDIA! That’s the goal of social media, but you can’t do that if you’re all over the place trying to get attention on every platform out there. Root your outdoor ministry in a platform, and engage people.
NEVER Forget Lo-Fi.
We live in an HD world, but I’m telling you, low-tech ways work well. I never speak at an event where I do not gather email addresses of the audience. I can send them a message about anything I want, and they signed up for it! The return is far, far better many social applications. Just ask Seth Godin. He's the most followed, most read blogger on planet earth; and it's all about capturing email for Seth.
Bottom Line: I'm not a marketing expert. Marketing ministry efforts to hunters and trying to grown an outdoor ministry is, however, something I've done for well over 15 years. I do know, however, that the tighter your aim, the more likely you are to hit your intended target. I know my purpose, my crowd, how they think, and when it comes to purposefully reaching hunters, I ruthlessly stick to my target. Strategic momentum like that pays off because it maximizes both your dollars and your energy.