Word of Mouth: The Forgotten Hero of Church Marketing
When the church was born, word-of-mouth was the best church marketing tactic available. At its simplest, evangelism is word-of-mouth marketing. It’s people sharing their experience and faith in an effort to influence someone else’s perspective.
And it’s still your best tool for church marketing.
A Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising survey found that 92 percent of people trust recommendations from friends above any other influencer. In close second—at 70 percent—was consumer reviews, which is really just another form of word-of-mouth marketing.
Here are some steps you can take to improve the grapevine marketing for your church:
1. Get people to invite friends
The people in our churches need to understand the power of an invitation. In keeping with the Nielsen survey, a North American Mission Board and LifeWay research study found that 67 percent of Americans say a personal invitation from a family member would be effective in getting them to visit a church.
Despite this fact, people seem less comfortable inviting friends, family, or coworkers to church than ever. This could be for any number of reasons:
- Insecurities about their church. Sometimes people have small criticisms about the music or preaching that stop them from inviting others.
- Fear of rejection. They’re afraid that the relationship might be negatively impacted.
- Anxiety about change. Sadly, there are a lot of people who don’t want to see their church grow. They’re comfortable with how it is.
- I don’t know how. Many people who’d be willing to invite others don’t know how to get the conversation started.
Churches serious about growth need to address these concerns and give people tips and tools for overcoming their personal obstacles. Maybe that means doing a survey to see how people feel about various service elements. You could also provide invitation cards to make the process easier, or offer classes to help people get over their awkwardness.
2. Improve your social media strategy
You need to think of your church’s social media platforms as word-of-mouth marketing tools. Once you get your church on board with your strategy, you can create content with significant reach and potential for influence.
Getting people to interact with your content has a similar impact to getting a personal recommendation from them. Your information, updates, tweets, and images end up in the feeds of their friends and family. Not only do they get to see the content you’ve created; seeing that their friend is sharing or interacting with it gives it even more credibility.
To have this kind of an impact, you can’t simply shoot for going viral. You might be able to share a beautiful image with a Bible verse and get thousands of shares, but that doesn’t help people understand who you are.
Instead, you want to be very intentional about communicating inspiring, revealing, and evocative information about who you are and what you’re about. People should be able to get a strong sense of what you’re about from your social platforms.
3. Encourage people to write reviews
Imagine you’re a military spouse, and you have to find a new church every time your husband or wife is reassigned. It used to take months to try out churches in your area, but now you can instantly discount some options (or move others higher up the list) by reading online reviews.
If customer reviews are the second most trusted form of word-of-mouth advertising, it’s important to ensure your review game is strong. This means you need to make sure your church is listed on Yelp and Google+. If it’s not, add it and make sure all of the information is accurate.
Once you’re ready to go, encourage people to review your church on Google, Yelp, and even your Facebook page. These reviews can have a real impact on someone who is looking for a church.
4. Do good in your community
Your church exists for your community, so you should already be devising ways to serve it. The natural outcome of helping people in your community is that you’re building a relationship with people who will say positive things about your church—even if they’ve never visited.
Obviously, this isn’t the reason to do good deeds, but it is a byproduct.
When you make a difference in people’s lives, they talk. Your church should be involved in the kind of work that makes it impossible to ignore, but it means that you need get out of the pews and onto the streets.
The more involved you are, the greater your influence. If your church is really involved in your community, you can begin to create inroads with important community members like the mayor, city council members, teachers, and business owners. But this is a long-term strategy that requires a real vision for infiltrating and blessing your city.
Becoming a Church Worth Bragging About
If you want to get serious about improving your word-of-mouth marketing, become a church that people love to talk about. Spend some time discerning the areas where you can improve, and look for ways you can make a real, positive change for both the people in your congregation and in your community.