This is the second post in a two-part series answering the question, “How might you capture the attention of those looking for a new church in your neighborhood?”
In Part I, we looked at the data surrounding new church visitors, and we answered four questions:
- Why are people are looking for a new congregation?
- How do they find a new congregation?
- Upon what criteria do they judge a new congregation?
- What is unique to your neighborhood?
In Part II, we will look at how can you leverage the insights gained in the previous post to market your church to new visitors.
1. Know the New Visitor Journey
This is one of the biggest misses for churches: they don’t know their target audience, so they lack the knowledge required to empathize with the journey one takes to select a church. A new visitor may start with a Google search, ask Facebook for recommendations, call a friend, and listen to a sermon before they step foot in your doors. They’ll then show up at your church with a set of unspoke criteria for evaluation. If you meet those criteria, there is an additional set of steps they will go through to research your church after their first visit. If they decide to attend regularly, they will continually re-enter an “evaluation” loop over and over. That’s normal and to be expected.
This is why building church marketing personas, visitor journies, and knowing your neighborhood’s demographics is so critical. If you haven’t yet identified and mapped your audience, I teach you how in the Church Marketing Workshop. Also, you can download a free chapter from the class workbook, “Identifying Your Audience” at the bottom of this post in which I cover this topic in more detail.
As a side note, not understanding the visitor journey and persona is why so many churches websites are talking to themselves, and this is also why the majority of your church’s website should be geared toward new visitors rather than members (more on that in a later post).
2. Be Findable
You absolutely must be Search Engine Optimized (SEO) for your city to ensure young people who move to your area can find you. Start with your page titles and meta descriptions (i.e. “Church in Asgard, MV”), and ensure you are registered on Google Local Business (Google Maps) .
Second, get familiar with Google’s Rich Snippets and Structured Data. What are those? Have you ever Googled something and seen a fancy result (such as a recipe and video) displayed on the search results page itself? That’s Structured Data. You should at least use the “Local Businesses” card, and I would also consider the “Podcast” card (more on that below). A nice primer on this topic can be found here and implementing this will require getting under the hood on your website.
Third, buy search ads if you have the money for them. Don’t go crazy, just buy a few ads for location-specific keywords such as, “Churches in City Name.” Create one campaign with a geographic limit to your local region, and another at a national level. This ensures you are visible to people who already live in your city and can optimize your budget for that audience, while also reaching people who are considering moving to your neighborhood from another area and optimizing your budget for that audience separately.
If the last three paragraph intimidated you, you should take my class.
3. Physically Welcome People Who Moved
This one is a bit of a stretch, but just hear me out: Zillow, Trulia, and many other sites contain a trove of information about your neighborhood. Note the “Sales Closed” houses in your area, cross-reference the locations against the location of your church leaders, and ask a nearby church leader to stop by and welcome them to the neighborhood. No tricks, no lame flyers, just a nice “Welcome” and an organic conversation.
4. Publish Sermon Audio Online in Podcast Format
Remember in the last post when I wrote that sermons matter to 83% of new visitors? Sermons are the #1 thing for many people, so make your sermon’s front-and-center online. Don’t force someone to attend just to hear your preachers preach. By publishing sermons online you’re allowing them to get a feel for your church from home so they can focus on other things when they arrive – such as “feeling welcome,” which is the second most important factor. Also, be sure to publish your sermons as a podcast across the major podcast platforms (Apple, Google Play, Sticher), because that helps with search engine rankings, and it also enables your current members to subscribe – boosting engagement. Check out Blubrry and Podbean to distribute your podcast to multiple platforms from one tool.
5. Establish a ‘Welcome Experience’ Strategy
Because 85% of all people looking for a new church visit the congregation to get a feel for things, and because 79% deem “feeling welcomed” as an important factor in their search, it’s important you have a well-structured ‘welcome experience.’ Identify a group of lay-leaders in your church who are easy to talk to, and give them one simple task: strike up a conversation with every new face in church. Your goal should be to have a volunteer team large enough that no new visitor comes and goes without having a real conversation with someone – in other words, more than a “hello,” more than an info table with one lonely person sitting behind it, and more than a list of strangers someone can email to “Get involved.”
Push vs. Pull
You may have noticed I haven’t talked about “push” advertising – flyers, social media posts, marketing campaigns, etc. Those things are important, but in my 15 years of doing this, I have seen very few churches do the above “pull” advertising with excellence – or at all. And, if you haven’t done the above things well, it doesn’t really matter how awesome your Facebook posts are.
Interested in Honing Your Skills?
If you’re ready to lay a long-lasting foundation as well as learn specific marketing tactics, the Church Marketing Workshop is an online church advertising and marketing class that covers topics ranging from, “How to identify your audience” to, “How to use Facebook, Twitter, etc.” View the course outline, and be sure to subscribe to this blog for more free tips and resources!