Church Marketers: Understand and Use "Micromoments" to Prepare Your Field
In Mathew 13 Jesus tells a crowd:
“A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
FINDING "GOOD SOIL" ONLINE - THE PROBLEM
Church marketers today are often struggling to find good soil in their digital and social efforts. Think of soil as engagement by your audience. And when somebody is in front of you, when the encounter is “in person” it is easier to know when the crowd is engaged. A simple hand raise, or an “amen,” shouted out tells the preacher that the message is falling on fertile soil.
But when the focus shifts to online engagement, it can be difficult to understand if the crowd is engaged, and even more difficult to make that authentic relational connection.
Whether you are an earlier adopter or a “laggard” at having an online presence, the time has arrived for screens to be part of the ministry.
CAUTION: DON’T JUST THROW MONEY AT THE PROBLEM
When there’s a screen involved it’s much harder to tell if the audience is engaged. And too often church marketing strategies throw seed (money) on fields that are scorched and where roots are shallow.
One popular seeding strategy is boosting. But here’s some bad news, boosting a social media post is not an engagement strategy. In fact, too often it could be a recipe for disengagement. It could be a major turnoff and a barrier toward finding those folks who are thinking about “coming to church,” but haven’t figured out where to go yet.
Here’s the bottom line: Understanding Micromoments
To answer the question of online engagement, church leadership must first understand a few digital marketing truths called “micromoments.”
Micromoments - What Are They?
In a world of increasing digital connection, where each consumer has 2.5 screens, a significant disruption has occurred. Past marketing curriculums taught about a liner model of consumer decision making. It started with a stimulus via advertising or promotion, which then created awareness about the brand, the product, or the service. Additional frequency of messaging moved the consumer toward consideration, and then ultimately they came to a brick and mortar (physical location) to ask questions and to validate the experience of that brand, product, or service.
This is no longer the case.
Google’s study on the Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) has revealed that consumer behavior is non-linear, with consumers jumping in and out of the decision-making process creating moments of decision called “micro-moments.”
These small moments are the engagement moments you seek. And they can happen at 2 am just as easily as they can at 10 am on a Sunday morning.
MICROMOMENT ONE: I WANT TO KNOW
Online audiences want to know what they’re getting themselves into before they show up in person. They want to understand the values and beliefs of the church. They want to hear a sermon or the worship or see if there are programs for the whole family.
When you understand the motivation of the online audience you can better equip them with the information you want them to know about your church.
So, as a church marketer, how do you embrace this micromoment? At a minimum, make sure that you have audio of your sermons. This sermon audio should be published on your website for people to hear. You can also create a simple visual asset and upload this audio to YouTube.
Now you have created an on-demand experience for those “seekers,” to have access to your sermons.
If you have the ability to do so, post as much video content on your website, Facebook Page, and YouTube (or Vimeo) channel as possible. Make sure you organize this by theme. Some suggestions include: full sermons, sermon series, one-offs, lives, worship, classes/teachings, youth and etc.
“Consumers” in this micromoment will also want to be able to easily identify your values and beliefs on your website, see your kids or family ministry staff and teachers, and read biographies on as many of the public-facing people that they can find. They’ll visit every social media asset you have to get a sense of who they might expect to see at a service (online or in-person).
The more you can embrace having transparency and visibility the more likely you are to create a meaningful, authentic connection even before meeting somebody face to face.
MICROMOMENT TWO: I WANT TO DO
“Doing” online can look like many things. This can be as simple as a comment on a post, a like or follow of a page, or a visit to a website. It can also be signing up for an event. It is important to understand that “doing” and “buying” are different things. An individual might be motivated to take an action that looks similar to one of your most loyal or actively engaged attendees. However, this is not an indication that they are “bought-in.” Think of this as sampling. A person in the “doing” micromoment is sampling your culture, your experience, your relationships.
One example of embracing this micromoment is to have a culture of connection and communication across the teams that most actively engage with people. A connections team that has moderators on social media platforms that are ready to respond to new followers and to new comments. A Prayer team that actively responds to prayer requests.
To embrace this moment you’ll need to make sure that you have ways for people to connect with you. Do you have a prayer page or button on your website? Do you have moderators on social? What about a chat feature for your website (Facebook has a great WordPress plug-in). When somebody takes an action you value do they hear from a staff member. Do they get a text, an email or a phone call?
Another perspective on this moment in the consumer journey is to think of the concept of wasted energy. If an individual can do a task without actually being there in person, then they’ll know that when they do show in person it will be worth their time and the trip. Consumers want to remain behind the scenes and invisible as much as possible before investing their time in person (and with people).
If you’ve never mapped out the experience that a new person goes through. . .all of the touchpoints they have with you and your team(s), this is a great exercise to reveal “doing” moments. And if you’ve only ever done this for the in-person experience it’s time to have an honest conversation about what it is like to go through the digital and social experience with you.
When you understand the value of your audience’s time, then they will gladly take action.
MICROMOMENT THREE: I WANT TO GO
In a linear model of consumer decision making, this desire could only be fulfilled from 9 am to 5 pm, or for churches, during one of your pre-defined service times. But now? We carry “church” with us in our pocket and we can go anytime we want, and to any church we want.
Maybe you haven’t realized this yet as a church marketer. Maybe you are still only thinking of the physical experience of church. The in-person experience of run sheets and set lists and parking staff.
That is no longer “going” to church. At least not the only way to do so.
As church marketers, we’ve reached a fantastic moment in time. We can offer church at any time. We can offer the experience of encounter 24/7.
Successfully embracing this moment means featuring content that is “always on.” In the industry, it is also known as evergreen content. This is content that always has value to your audience and that is always accessible.
This is your podcast, or a published study, an eGroup, a midweek teaching on Facebook, or some other “snackable” element that can be accessed on-demand and memorialized for all to come back to.
MICROMOMENT FOUR: I WANT TO BUY
Too often this is the only place where church marketers spend their time. This is the conversion, salvation, first time guest, tither, or whatever “hard metric” your church uses to measure engagement. But that’s selling, not buying. And while “churchenomics” are part of the reality of the business side of the church, they make terrible marketing strategies.
As we’ve seen throughout each of the micromoments, actual buying behavior happens way before the first tithe or the first visit. It happens when they shop your online presence. When they check out your Instagram account, your Facebook page, your website, your YouTube or Vimeo channel, listen to your podcasts or sermons.
When you realize that by the time somebody shows up for the first time, they’ve already know about you, then you’ll realize just how deeply you can go in your conversation.
To embrace this moment it is important to understand “what” they are buying. And it’s important to understand that that first “buying” moment could be super small. Buy-in and buy-ing are vastly different. Buying happens first. And buy-in comes from the constant choice that consumers make, to “re-buy.”
Understanding micromoments takes time. It takes an understanding of each moment, and the motivation of the consumer at each stage. Then it requires embracing that moment with an asset or a strategy. Even with all of this being said. There’s one final thought that will frame all of these moments, and that is your “brand.”
Because the truth is? Most people buy the brand before they product.