Church marketing on a shoestring budget
The size of your church staff and your community plays a huge role in communications. If you serve a small church, you may not have the money for splashy marketing, and your members might balk at using significant funds for that use. Thus, marketing on a shoestring budget is a valuable skill to learn.
You’re looking for the ministry equivalent of force multipliers — people and resources to amplify your efforts. That means you must live by this question: What can I accomplish at little or no cost?
Actually, you will discover many useful answers. Let’s explore.
You can’t hire an ad shop, but you can get volunteers
Even with a small membership, your church probably has members with creative skills, such as writing, design or public relations. The question is: Do they know the needs of your ministries and how to get involved? Finding a clever way to “make the ask” is a big step toward getting their buy-in.
Once they express interest, consider another key element: maintaining the morale of your volunteers and avoiding burnout. Because these are volunteers, limit your requests on their time. Ongoing demands with no end dates can cause even devoted volunteers to drop out, while recognition of individuals and the success of the group keeps everyone motivated.
Every voice counts
You would think every voice would be heard loudly and clearly in a small church. That often isn’t the case, however, and some members are only comfortable sharing their ideas in a way that’s easy, quiet and anonymous. Taking a brief survey might help in rating your members’ satisfaction and the effectiveness of your ministries. Getting opinions from your members and attendees can lead to new ideas for ministry and communications. The best-known website for survey development is surveymonkey.com, and it does offer a free level of usage.
Meet people where they live — on their smartphones
If your members are taking your survey, they are online. A 2016 Pew Research Center study noted that nearly 60 percent of people younger than age 30 search online when looking for a church to visit. That percentage grows each year. A church without a website might as well not exist. Further, a church without a mobile-friendly website will actually frustrate seekers. Given the number of no-cost and low-cost web-design services available, every church should have a website.
Consider placing all of your church’s brochures and ministry information — except worship bulletins — in digital form. Because your online presence is always updatable and can carry video and audio, it’s more powerful than a brochure, and you’ll save the cost of paper and printing.
Create for the mobile experience
Most apps that can turn regular photos into amazing illustrations cost as little as a few dollars — or nothing. This gives you an opportunity to add creativity to your worship experience and build shareable content that becomes a force multiplier on its own. As for the photos, several free stock sites provide professional-looking visuals.
Facebook on the cheap
Quick: Try to think of five people you know who don’t have a Facebook page. This social platform is part of our lives and a surprisingly easy place to advertise. While it’s important to maintain your church’s page, it’s equally vital to be present in your community. In 20 minutes or less, you can learn how to use Facebook advertising to reach people in your area for a very small sum. Before you ask “Should your church advertise on Facebook?” know that we did the research. The answer is a resounding “Yes!”
Seek speaking opportunities
This isn’t about promoting yourself. This is about discussing faith beyond the church walls. When you volunteer to act as a guest speaker at a Chamber of Commerce event or other civic gatherings, you provide a valuable service. Even if your audience appears skeptical or isn’t seeking faith-based information, you can provide an excellent discussion ranging from ideas such as the value of Christian ethics in the workplace to social good as a business model. When you offer a content-rich presentation, you expand your church’s visibility and credibility and gain potential visitors.
Not all advertising is paid
Know any church members with a background in writing? Their talent can help you develop a smart press release, still the cornerstone for attracting media coverage. However, because many churches don’t have publicists on staff, it’s helpful to locate guidance on how to craft a press release.
Your press release must carry more information than who, what, when, where and how. The point is to explain the “why” and give local reporters a compelling reason to care. Look up the names and contact information of the reporter(s) you wish to reach. Send your release and follow up with a phone call. You may land that interview that places your church on the nightly news.