Categories
Church Leadership Marketing

Dear Church, You Can’t Buy Followers

There are dozens of services online that let people buy followers.

Prices start at about $15-$20 per thousand, with bulk orders costing less – 50,000 followers will typically run less than $500. Those followers, though, are often dummy accounts run by computers, some in a very obvious way, some in a more sophisticated fashion.

“If you’re not familiar with Twitter and someone says I can have 10,000 people follow you, that sounds great,” says Mack Collier, a social media strategist and trainer (and frequent speaker at events like South by Southwest Interactive). “They’re not going to talk to you about how to use Twitter to meet your goals and objectives. … When we don’t really understand something, we go back to ‘what’s the number?’ The biggest number always wins until we understand how something works – especially with social media.”

Follower for Sale: Buying Your Way to Twitter Fame, USA Today

While no church would attempt to buy Twitter followers, churches who want to grow often think that a really slick marketing campaign is the difference between their growth and their demise.

Church! You Do Not Have a Marketing Problem

Unless you are a brand new start-up, plenty of people in your community already know you exist. Marketing isn’t your problem.

You do a marketing campaign for one of three reasons:

  1. You have a product or service that is new to the market.
  2. You are trying to remind people who have used your product or service and not returned that you have something new.
  3. You are trying to convince people who already know they don’t want your product of service that they really do.
SAT Question: Which of the speakers in this set does not match?

In the past two days church leaders from around the country have voted on who they’d like to see speak at an online leadership conference called, The Nines. Scrolling down the list from the top you’ll see a bunch of pastors and theologians until you come to #14… Seth Godin. A marketing blogger and conservative Jewish man.

The last thing church leaders need is to be convinced that they need a better marketing plan for their church.

Spending money on marketing without changing the reason people already aren’t coming to your church is just validating the message people already know about your church– That’s not for me.

Church! You Do Have a Follower Problem

We have bought into a lie that the way to grow a church is one of two extremes. (And our inability to grow is a marketing and not a discipleship problem.)

Extreme #1 – To lower the expectations we place on people who attend and follow us. Come as you are, listen if you want, that’s between you and God.

Followers are free but the cost of following is high. In John 6 Jesus fed five thousand people and walked on water and as a result had a whole slew of people who wanted to become his disciples. So Jesus held a quick disciple orientation class to explain what the cost of following him was.

Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. John 6:53-56

Yeah, that wasn’t going to work. They just wanted to follow Jesus for the free lunch and magic show. John 6:66 says, “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

In reality… that’s what a lot of people come to church for. The free lunch and magic show your church is offering. When you actually challenge them to count the cost and follow Jesus they just move on.

Extreme #2 – To raise expectations to a non-Biblical level by adding things to the Gospel message. To be a part of our team, you have to meet these 26 extra-biblical requirements as laid out in our church constitution… 

Followers are free but you keep raising the cost. Acts 15 documents a case of this.

Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”  This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. Acts 15:1-2

This isn’t unlike what we see today in many churches. They add extra-biblical requirements to being on board with the church. You have to be baptized in a certain way, attend certain classes, volunteer a certain way, on and on. While none of those things are typically “bad” they are extra-biblical requirements which weed people out falsely.

In Acts 15:28-29, the council replied to these extra requirements that people were teaching with this, “It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.”

You don’t need a new marketing campaign to grow your church. The best growth plan you could ever have is to start eliminating the extremes. (Too little or too high.)

Question: If you have an existing congregation and the community has already decided they don’t need you. How do you change that perception?

Categories
Marketing

Are they tired of your narrative?

Most individuals, organizations, and companies underperform to their potential. Others miraculously live up to or exceed their potential.

Why?

Each tells a story every day and validates it with their actions. Their audience either likes that story (and repeats it) or they don’t.

Take the example of Wal-Mart. Here’s their mission statement:

Wal-Mart’s mission is to help people save money so they can live better.

They are the largest retailer in the world. They are the largest private employer in the United States. Why do they continue to grow? Because people understand their mission and like the narrative that Wal-Mart tells. Even when Frontline did their infamous expose`, “Is Wal-Mart Good For America?” all the film did was validate the company’s narrative. Lowest prices, guaranteed.

People like the narrative, it works for them, and it’s profitable for Wal-Mart. So they keep feeding their narrative with everything they do and their customers keep feeding their cash registers.

A new product idea or a new narrative?

When people struggle they tend to swing the pendulum. They drastically change things about themselves or spin their wheels creating a new initiative. Unfortunately, what they are often doing is validating a story that is spinning things further out of control.

They take the pig that nobody wants, put some different clothes on it, and try to sell it as a different pig. But the world knows its the same stinking pig!

Take the example of the Big 3 auto makers:

Through the 1990s and early 2000s they made cars the market didn’t really want but was willing to buy because of brand loyalty. As market share dipped further and they ran out of working capital, a mantra went around that they needed new designs, new models, and they could engineer their way out of the problem. That just validated the story that they made cars people didn’t want.

Their narrative became outsourcing and layoffs. They hid from their Detroit roots. And when people thought Ford, Chrysler, and GM they thought about out-of-control overhead, plant closings, and unions.

In truth, they are making the same cars with the same people they always have. (And the same problems.) But they are telling a new story that people like. (and are repeating)

Are people tired of your product? Are they tired of you? Or are they simply tired of your narrative?

Categories
Marketing

When companies listen

I think the most powerful thing I do at YS is listen. Sure, I know what it’s like to be a youth pastor. Sure, I know some skills and tricks for building websites. Sure, I know a little about engaging with people in the realm of social media.

Above all else… I am careful to listen 10x’s more than I speak. I read hundreds of blogs. I monitor dozens of Google alerts. I scan through thousands of tweets and Facebook status’ every day.

How else am I supposed to tell the difference between someone complaining about a flight to Miami starting too late and an opportunity to host a cross-Atlantic dance party?

Too many people/companies/brands/organizations/churches/celebrities use Twitter and Facebook like a customer list. They do whatever they can to build massive followings because someone in their marketing department thinks that making money has something to do with the size of your lists.

In fact, the single most powerful thing any organization can do is listen.

ht to The Next Web & Carol Phillips

Categories
golf management Marketing

3 Qualities of Successful People

Photo by SearchNet Media via Flickr (Creative Commons)
I have a lifelong obsession with golf. It started in 2nd grade when my parents scraped together enough money for a starter set and a series of playing lessons at a local par 3 course. Even though neither of them were serious players– I guess they thought I’d enjoy it. And I did. A lot.

Don’t read that the wrong way. I’m not a country club kid. I’ve never belonged to a course where I got my own locker or had an account on file with the restaurant.

Instead, I grew up playing city-owned munis and family-owned courses. In middle school, my first membership to the local golf course cost my family $50. That also included an annual pool membership, ice rink membership, and anything else the Mishawaka Parks Department charged money for. I didn’t grow up playing with kids named Chip or Trevor. We were more of an Adam, Mike, and Tim kind of crowd. But golf was my obsession. All summer long, every day, I play 27, 36, or 45 holes of golf.

Here’s what I learned about success in golf that translates to life: We don’t have equal access to success

One fact that I love about golf, especially professional golf, is that anyone can become a professional in 7 days. Unlike any other professional sport on the planet I can start on Monday as a nobody and win a million dollars on Sunday. Just about anyone can enter a qualifier. And if you manage to qualify you are in the same tournament as the card carrying professionals on Thursday. And if you make the cut on Saturday, then manage to win on Sunday– they will hand you a big check and a Tour Card for the rest of the season.

Fat chance trying that in baseball, football, or basketball.

But that almost never happens. While there are several PGA Tour members who rose from poor backgrounds to earn their card on Tour I can’t name a single person who is currently on Tour who started as a Monday qualifier and turned a good 7 days into a career.

It can happen, but it is nearly impossible.

Instead, if you look at those who made it, you’ll see that their success is a combination of 3 qualities.

  1. Talent – Talent is the constant. Talent is the difference between learning skills well enough to be pretty good and being a winner. Over the years I’ve played with and coached hundreds of people. But when you walk the course with a person who has a natural talent for the game… it’s amazing. Most amazing is that these players can rarely describe to you the mechanics of what they are doing. They just try stuff and it works.
  2. Ambition/hard work – Talent isn’t enough. I’ve met plenty of talented players. Each high school team of 12-15 young men had 3-4 players with enough talent to take them to the next level. But if they aren’t single-focused enough they won’t advance in the game. An ambitious person never stops practicing. They putt in their living room. Hit wedges in their backyard. Keep a 7-iron and a bag of balls in their trunk to practice between meetings. They play 9-holes before work and chose vacations with great practice facilities.
  3. Environment/resources – This is the X factor. This is the difference between a good local golfer and a professional. They have access to amazing resources. In most cases, their family has invested in them from a very young age. They played in expensive junior tournaments. They have great equipment. They have great coaching. And it results in opportunities to get to even better tournaments, more finely tuned equipment, and the best coaching.

You can be pretty good, above average, with two out of the three. But you’ll never be excellent. There are millions of guys putting their clubs in their trunks right now who have endless talent and ambition but aren’t in the right environment with the right resources to make it to the next level. And this weekend will be full of guys who pull up their Mercedes at a country club, with access to the best environment and resources and absolutely no talent for the game.

I don’t care about golf. What does this have to do with you or me?

We each have something we were created to be amazing at. There is something in our lives that we have talent, ambition, and resources to be the best at.

Identify that thing… no matter how obscure the niche`… and you’ll find the success you know you deserve.

Categories
Marketing

The Resurrection of the Cottage Industry

Photo by James Whitesmith via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Is this the best time ever to start a small business? It sure seems like it!

  • Countless brilliant minds, long cooped up in boring corporate jobs, are on unemployment and unable to find new corporate jobs.
  • The internet has made the world pretty flat. You have a good product? You can move it online for about the same per unit price as the big guys.
  • Culture has a distaste for big business. Enron, big banks, BP, Monsanto, Wal*Mart– we’re all questioning if we can trust giant. But we know we can trust local.
  • The genie has left the bottle. With all of that knowledge leaving big business… these folks know how to run a business, are well networked, and know all the tricks of their trade.
  • It’s never been cheaper. Seriously, in a bunch of states you can legally start a business for less than $100. Using existing free tools like Craigslist, Etsy, or Ebay you can advertise a product for free. (Or darn close to it.)
  • People are more willing to buy thoughts, ideas, designs, and concepts than ever before! Consultant isn’t just a fancy word for unemployed anymore.

If you are thinking about it, let me encourage you on two quick things.

  1. There is no time like the present. I started my first company in 2005 and sold it in 2008. It wasn’t scary. It was fun!
  2. While I don’t agree with all the MBAs out there that you need a business plan to start a small business, I do think you need to do the 30 minutes of work in setting everything up legally. Get a Tax ID, get a business bank account, get a business license if its require, form the right tax entity to protect yourself. None of that is hard and you don’t need a lawyer to do any of that.

Here’s a bi-product I love. All of those small businesses need a website. Which supports my cottage industry.