Christian Marketing: Understanding the Christian Consumer Journey

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.”

 

Later in Mathew 20 in the parable of the Vineyard Workers, he says

3 At nine 0’clock in the morning he was passing through the marketplace and saw some people standing around doing nothing”

Both of these illustrations speak to the current landscape of marketing, and more poignantly to marketing to Christians.  How many of us find ourselves on social media in the morning doing nothing? And how many Christian marketers struggle to find the good soil?

Reaching the Christian audience requires the right context, and it requires identifying good soil. 

Reaching the Christian audience, finding "good soil," online.

Christian marketing organizations often struggle to find good soil in their social media and online. There are so many options for Christians to choose from; and much of the time it is a distraction.

Concept 1: Think of soil as engagement by your audience.

Every marketing organization is after the same thing, time spent with their brand.  When the encounter is “in person” it is so much 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 or social engagement, it can often be difficult to understand if the crowd is engaged, and even more difficult to make that authentic relational connection. Sometimes it can be hard just to find the crowd.

The first step is to observe where the crowd is gathering.  The obvious marketplaces are Google, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook.  Each has billions of users.  Other platforms are opportunities too, but maybe not the priority.

But just being on the platform isn’t fertile soil.  It is using the features and tools that each platform provides to create a more intimate, engaging, and targeted experience.

Concept 2: 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.

Concept 3: Understanding the Christian Consumer Journey is really about four key moments

To answer the question of online engagement, church leadership must first understand a few digital marketing truths called “micromoments.”

Micromoments - What Are They?

Devices and platforms have allowed marketers with unprecedented access to consumers; they have also changed how consumers behave.

Digital and social connections can happen from anywhere at any time.   Past marketing strategies and curriculums taught a linear 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.

Today, consumers have access to an average of 2-3 devices that are considered to be their personal device.  Most typically these are their smartphone, their laptop or tablet, and their smart TV.

This digital disruption has drastically impacted how consumers behave and has rewritten “the book” on digital and social marketing.

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.

And these small moments are the most fertile ground and the best soil.