Church attendance is steadily decreasing, especially among millennials. In their efforts to attract new attendees and reach a younger audience, churches have often mistakenly used misleading marketing tactics that are more of a turn-off to the target market. More than any other industry, authenticity is the single most important element of church marketing. Instead of focusing on flashy, disingenuous messaging, successful churches are making the switch to honest digital marketing strategies.
Your church growth is monumental to sustaining your belief and vision for your organization. Growth provides your local church with the resources to be able to expand real estate, cover rent and utilities, support aligned causes, and more. Internet marketing is one of the best church growth strategies for increasing your church attendance.
What to Do First When Planning Your Church’s Online Marketing
A solid marketing plan starts with understanding the difference between goals, strategies, and tactics. Here’s what you need to know.
- A goal is the specific result you want to achieve. For example, your goal may be to increase attendance during week days by 40%, or it could be to grow your facebook audience by 1,000 likes.
- Strategy is the general path of how you’ll achieve your goal. Yours might be to share faith-based content online, or show people what’s unique about your church.
- Tactics are the concrete actions you’ll take to achieve the strategy. So, if you’re going to share faith-based content, your tactics may be to create 3 videos per month or to write a blog article once a week.
Take some time to think about what goals you’d like to set for your church. Then consider the strategies and tactics that will take you there. Putting in the time to do proper planning will go a long way in making sure you’re not wasting time on church online marketing tools that won’t serve you or your audience.
Determining and reaching your target audience
The term “target audience” might immediately make you think of the business world, but reaching your target audience is equally as relevant in the church world. There’s a reason that there are so many different types of churches with unique styles, cultures, and messaging and it’s a good thing. If every church was trying to reach the masses, the result would be watered down, middle-of-the-line, unremarkable churches. And, if we’re being honest, there are plenty of those kinds of churches already.
What we need are more churches with clearly defined visions working as hard and as smart as possible to reach a specific group of people with the life-changing message of Jesus Christ. Here are three easy steps to get you started on reaching your target audience for your church.
1. DETERMINE WHO YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE IS
This may sound obvious but, unfortunately, so many churches try to skip this very important step. Or they make the mistake of thinking that their church is for absolutely everyone. Take the time to think of who your church is truly intended for and who your message most resonates with.
Ask yourself specific questions like:
- How old are they?
- Where do they live?
- Are we targeting the younger or older generation?
- What’s their background?
- Their ethnicity?
- What are their values?
2. UNDERSTAND WHAT YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE NEEDS
To do this, you really have to figure out how to spend time with the people you feel called to reach. Get some face time with those who are in your target audience and are far from God. Talk to someone who just recently accepted the Lord and ask them about how they felt before starting to attend your church. However you do it, just be diligent to understand the needs of your target audience.
Ask questions like:
- What are they missing in their life?
- Is something keeping them from a relationship with God?
- What are their hopes and fears?
3. RESEARCH THE BEST METHODS FOR REACHING YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE
Knowing who your target audience is and what they need will help you determine the best methods and the best time to connect with them. If your target audience are young adults, try using social media platforms such as Instagram, FaceBook and TikTok. The younger generation are always on these platforms, you can get their attention by posting short videos of the Church, or videos containing short religious messages or bible quotes. However, if your target audience is for the older generation or another audience, your approach will be based around what’s best for that group.
The most important step in reaching your target audience is starting to discuss and research it. Take the time to have a brainstorm session with your team to ask yourself these questions. Then, you can move forward with a clearer and more efficient approach to spreading the message of Jesus.
Digital Marketing Strategy Plan for Church
Working with a limited budget, limited time and minimal experience, many people feel overwhelmed at the idea of embarking on a digital marketing strategy for their church. Fortunately, you don’t need to employ each and every digital marketing option available. You can start with just a few strategies to see an increase in online traffic and in-person visits.
- Social Media Marketing
Today, there are billions of social media users worldwide, and that number is growing every day. With the number of social media channels that are available, it is now easier to reach and gain new audiences online. An effective church Instagram strate for instance, allows you to invite people to see and visit your church by using photos and videos. This is especially effective for millennials who are very fond of visiting beautiful places.
Tips for Social Media Content for Churches
Social media content for your church keeps you connected to your community and prospective followers. As you generate more interest and engagement with your posts and content, you can address questions or comments from followers and get a better understanding of what they expect from you.
Here are some tips to keep in mind with your church’s social media accounts:
- Use visuals. Instagram photos, YouTube videos, infographics and other highly visual content are generally more popular than text, so work to include a lot of visual content into your social media campaign to catch the eye of your followers.
- It’s not necessary for a church to have a profile on every social platform. Depending on the size and diversity of the church, a few accounts can be enough. Finding the right platforms requires a deeper look into your audience and the followers you want to target, and then choosing platforms based on where you can have the most impact.
- Ensure that your entire church is on board with the changes. There are numerous churches in every community, so feel free to ask members of your congregation to share your church profile page within their network, share posts and invite family and friends to upcoming events.
- Website Design
Websites are not only for businesses. Non-profit organizations and churches can benefit from having one too. By having a church website, you can provide first time visitors with the contact information they need to know more about you, your church leaders and your community. Doing so will also be an advantage to your church when raising funds or giving people the option to tithe online.
Ideally, your website should have a simple, straightforward design with compelling graphics. You should also include the following valuable information for your visitors:
- Service times: Most church website visitors are looking for service times. Keep this information as current as possible to encourage people to visit your church in person.
- Location details: In addition to listing a physical address, provide basic directions from major roads in the area, embed a map and list any satellite locations. If your address causes issues with GPS and takes people to another location, be sure to note that on your website to help people find you easily.
- Contact information: Make sure that anyone with questions or concerns knows how to reach you. Include your email address, phone number and an inquiry form on your site that’s easy to find to help your visitors get the answers they need.
- SEO – Organic Traffic
Over the last few years, searches with the words “near me” have increased by over 900%. And the only way to be found when someone searches these keywords is if you’re implementing an SEO strategy- a church local SEO strategy, to be specific. There are also a number of keywords that can help your church website to be found on Google. Keywords such as children’s ministries, word of God, spiritual growth, sermon series, and more.
- Google My Business
Google My Business is the online platform that allows your church to show up on the Google Map Pack. The Google map pack is the map that shows up at the very top of the search results for local searches.
It’s very important to include as much information as possible when filling out your account. Be sure to use all the fields you possibly can. How well your account is filled out can impact how often Google will show your church at the top of the results. Another factor that determines how well you rank is what you do with your comments. Google considers it good customer service when your church responds to EVERY comment that is left on your Google My Business profile.
- Google Ads for Churches
Google Ads is an advertising platform owned by Google that allows advertisers to show ads at the top of the Google Search Engine Results (SERPs).
If you have a designated advertising budget, Google ads can be a great way to get your church in front of people already looking for you nearby.
Google Ads works by showing your ad to search terms you choose in advance. If you add “church near me” or “Catholic Church near me” to the list of keywords in your Google Ads account, then Google will show your ad to people looking for “church near me” and “Catholic Church near me” on Google.
The Internet makes it possible for any church to reach their local community and the rest of the world. If you Implement this list of strategies, your church will see more online and in church visitors, more conversions, and a larger audience that can’t wait to hear from you.
Written by: Patience Iroala, Digital Marketing Analyst at International Institute of Digital Marketing™.