Church Internet Marketing Strategy – Why We Need It
Churches improved the quality of their web content in recent years, by embracing the technologies that enhance the user's multimedia experience. We are still not quite courted up to the business world, but most churches are taking better advantage of this truly blessed, low-cost delivery system that provides instant extension of the Gospel both across the globe and into the living room of our next-door neighbor.
However, we are not living in the Field of Dreams where "If we build it, they will come." There is a fatal flaw dooming the Internet Marketing strategy of many churches. We do not have one.
The Internet is a marketing medium, just like print, radio, TV, and word-of-mouth (evangelism included here). Each medium requires a unique vision, skill-set and plan of action. Unfortunately most churches (and businesses – we're not alone on this one) operate on supposition and dated information that is then implemented with the wrong resources, by the wrong personnel.
Fortunately, there is a silver lining to this cloud. We can quickly learn how to utilize Internet Marketing strategies to support our incredible communicators, artists, and musicians working by the Holy Spirit to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Internet Marketing is "Easy"
Internet Marketing is not overly complex. It follows the 80/20 rule like most undertakings in life. The first 80% of material may be learned in a few weeks, if not days. The next 20% could take the rest of our lives, but if a church correctly implements the 80%, we will still be head and shoulders above the rest of the locally-competitiveness churches.
An Obvious Benefit of Internet Marketing for Churches
Let's use a real-world example of how Church Internet Marketing works for us.
I conducted a study of searches last month in the major three Search Engines (Google, Yahoo, and MSN) for the amount of times their users looked for information related to churches within the Charleston, SC metro area (*):
- Church Charleston South Carolina – 1,523
- Church Charleston SC – 242
- First Baptist Church Charleston SC – 221
- Charleston SC Catholic Church – 221
- Church in Charleston SC – 126
* Data extrapolated from Overture Search Data usage comScore Media Metrix for Search Engine Distribution
That is 2420 searches just last month for just a small subset of all the search terms people used. We get even more searches if we look into data for the suburbs, people spelling out "South Carolina," etc. Imagine if our church was properly positioned to be in front of these people seeking a church home? Of course only the Lord knows where their church home will be, but not even trying is like the parable in Matthew 25: 14-20, where we bury our talents in the ground.
I ran some of my analysis tools on the top 10 websites appearing in Google for these searches. Most achieved their high rankings through a little bit of common sense, and the rest was luck. There are actually much larger and "more influential" churches in the area that should be in the search engines' top 10. Information like this is good news for our churches, because we know there are low barriers to entry for our church to enter and dominate this niche.
Embarking on such a groundbreaking and often daunting task gets many church staffers running for the rectory, Starbucks, or where you hide for some peace and quiet. Remember that I said Internet Marketing is easy? First let's walk through our limiting thoughts and remove each one:
Removing Impediments to Progress
- "We are doing just fine." – I am astonished any business or church would utter this phrase, but they do. To these organizations I would ask the following questions.
- How do we know what our potential is?
- If we are getting an awful number of unique visitors to our site, how tainted is our data by visits from current members? Do we know how to determine that?
- What relevant user searches is our site showing for in the major search engines?
- What quality and quantity of referral traffic are we getting?
Even if 100 people each month were filling out contact cards that we found on the Internet, would we stop? A good steward would think, "Hey there might be 200 out there!"
- "We do not have the money." – Most Internet Marketing strategies churches initially implement low-to-no cost. It's not like we are competitive against mesothelioma advocates and the porn industry. We work on our "sales" process and then step up our advertising into the paid realm. The second point is that we have to start thinking like Christian businesspeople – with a drive for success. What is your ROI (return on Investment)? In my business, if I had the opportunity to invest $ 1,000 that returns $ 1,001, would I make the investment? You bet I would! If we start small, we will learn how to accurately predict our ROI for Internet marketing investments – it is one of the only mediums where you can do this.
- "We do not have the time." – True, but that is only because we are using the wrong personnel to implement these strategies. God willing, I'll cover this in a future article.
- "I do not know what to do." I want to weep sweet tears of joy when I hear that last limitation. This means we are ready to add another marketing technique to your church's repertoire that reaps returns that are only limited by electricity, and works 24×7 without taking coffee or bathroom breaks.
In the next article, I will cover the greatest mistake that even Fortune 500 companies make concern Internet Marketing strategy, and how it will revolutionize the way we think about reaching people over the web.