May 19, 2011

Marketing 101

Guess who is running Vacation Bible School at my church this summer? Yours truly. It gives me the opportunity to get back to basics on marketing that I used to advise other churches to use when I was the Missioner for Communications Ministry at the Diocese of Olympia. Here goes.

Theme. We picked Back to the Garden: Renewing God’s Earth because an environmental theme will be very attractive in our area. The RENEW curriculum from the Lutheran Church will provide great support materials as well as good graphics for our marketing.

Audience. Who do we want at VBS? We decided on 90 children spread out across grades Pre-K through 5th grade. We want to reach about 60 of our own children and 30 newbies. For the new ones, we want them to have a positive experience of St. Andrew’s that gives them an honest feel for our parish. Again, this is where the environmental theme is key since it is such an important part of our DNA at St. Andrew’s.

Strategy. For the home audience, we will do the standard stuff. Newsletter article. Posters on bulletin boards at the church. A direct mailing. A repeat of the direct mailing as an email with electronic copies attached. Then a month out, we will do a telephone follow up to anyone that we have not already ascertained whether they will be coming or not. “Working the list” after doing the broadcast effort is absolutely key.

For the new folks, we will spend a little money. A really attractive banner in our front yard right on 80th Street, a major thoroughfare. A paid ad in the North Seattle Herald. A run on our color copier of 100 posters that we will then ask parishioners to put up in grocery stores, coffee houses, telephone poles, etc. Now the truth is, all of this effort will attract only a handful of people, so is it really worth it? Yes! Because it put a positive impression of the church out to the wider community so that other efforts – special music concerts, homeless relief programs, etc. – will more likely be responded to because neighbors will remember the cute flyer with the fun theme for children.

Product. What will make or break our effort to reach new families, however, will be whether we can convince our families to invite their friends, neighbors, school mates, extended families, and perhaps even casual acquaintances to take part. For this to happen, our people need to trust it will be a dynamite program. Luckily, that is a done deal because of the teaching team we have put together and our track record of success. This WILL be a good time, guaranteed. That will make it easier for our members to forward the email info to their own distribution lists and perhaps print out the flyer and post it around their own stomping grounds.

My hope is this plan will get us the 90 kids we seek. The keys are:

  1. choosing a good theme for a program that is attractive to your audience.
  2. knowing the exact audience you are hoping to reach.
  3. developing strategies tailor-made to those audiences.
  4. offering an excellent product.

Whether it is VBS or a new transitional housing program or a stewardship drive, the basic principles are the same. Marketing 101.