I like oatmeal raisin cookies, and I believe everyone else likes them, too. Until next Sunday morning when I hear my pastor say he loves chocolate cake, my feelings are really hurt. Not once does he mention oatmeal raisin cookies. Understanding that we are all different is the key. I have this ideal in my mind that most people, churched and unchurched, think that churches are basically all the same. They really don't see evidence that this church is much different than the one down the street or across town.
One only needs to look around to see the "Me Too Syndrome" everywhere. Recently the auto industry, specifically General Motors, came out with the marketing campaign of Employee Purchase Price. Ads on television show Chevrolet cars and trucks touting employee pricing for everyone. The same prices employees of GM and the dealers receive when they purchased a vehicle. Well, it wasn't a week later that Ford, Toyota and the rest of automobile makers had their ads running too. The automobile industry has reduced themselves to a commodity, just like bananas – 39 cents a pound. They seem to have forgotten the things that make them different.
For those who never attend church, they most likely think the same way about religions – basically that they are all the same. But is that true?
I think not, and you probably agree. There are huge differences in religious beliefs, within denominations, even in churches within these denominations. So how do people know that you are different? That's the question you need to ask yourself. What makes your church different from all the others? What is it that makes you unique? In marketing terms we call that your differentiator. It is the single most apparent thing that describes what makes you stand out from all the others.
I worked with a church in Stephenville, Texas. The pastor thought that he knew what was different about them. I asked him to assemble a group of diverse members of the congregation. We discussed various topics and discovered that they had a sense, or a calling, to reach out to the members of the community. This was a literal "reaching out." Working together we developed a logo that gave the feeling of people locking hands together. From then on, all their conversation, advertising, and marketing materials have been developed using hands reaching out to the people in the community. The church has centered all their efforts and calling around this central theme, and it makes them different. The result is they have been very successful.
So what does this have to do with web marketing?
Everything! If you don't know what makes you different, then you will never have a clear direction in your efforts, and before long you will just blend into the rest of the community and few will notice.
In the beginning days of the web, everyone rushed to build a website. And there were millions of them built. Today the numbers are still growing. If the truth were to be told, even today a large majority of sites are no more than online brochures. Research shows that most church websites are static, sterile and rarely change.
Like the church in Stephenville, let me suggest you gather a group of diverse individuals together and discuss your core calling or callings. In the business world we call them core competencies. Make a list of the things you do best and things you don't do so well or don't want to do. Then go into the community and see if they think the same things. You may be surprised that their perception may be different from your own. Next time, we'll discuss what you may want to do with this valuable information.
If you find your church standing still or just going around in circles, then let me suggest you get the group together again and find your oatmeal raisin cookie. You already know not everyone will like what you find, and that's all right. It will give you a direction not only for your website but direction for the body of believers. Next time we discuss marketing, we'll talk about what to do when you find just the right cookie and the differentiators. We will discuss some marketing concepts and establish some easy ways to implement them, regardless of your size or budget.