Why (and how) to develop a winning audience strategy
Know what church leaders and communicators like you said their two BIGGEST challenges are? STRATEGY and ENGAGEMENT. Knowing what to say, when and where to say it, and how to say it so that people respond. Here you’ll learn how you can further your church’s mission and level up on your church communications by getting whip-smart about the people in your audience. Or, in fancy marketing jargon, your audience strategy. Let’s walk through how to focus in on your audience, who they are, and how you can connect with them by knowing more about them.
To best serve, specify your audience.
To clarify: yes, the gospel message is for everyone. When those opportunities present themselves, share it!
It’s helpful to remember that God has called your specific church to serve within your community. Every community is different. Every church is different. That’s how God created us, and when we work together, it’s a significant impact.
How do you then focus? The most success will start with prayer and discernment. You likely have done this. However, no one likes to assume – including us! Discern that call and keep your heart, eyes, and mind open.
You can also get to know the people in your church’s neighborhood. And of course, those who regularly attend and show up.
Next, start listening and researching to understand better a few key factors that will help you connect.
Gain clarity into who you are reaching.
When we dive into the subject of getting to know your audience, Tyler, as part of your Firm Foundations Marketing team, knows that being clear about who answers so many other audience strategy and church communications questions.
“When you have the clarity of knowing who you are reaching, you can begin to engage them in more meaningful ways.” -Tyler Harden, CEO / Co-Founder, Firm Foundations Marketing
First, start with understanding who they are. These are called demographics, and you’ll recognize these research points from any survey form you’ve filled out. Things like age, household information, where they live, how many kids they have, etc. These bits of information can often be found for free if you know where to look.
A great FREE TOOL to start with is the U.S. Census Data for high-level data. Depending on where you live, your state government or public universities may have public information as well.
Second, learn how they live and what’s important to them. Marketers call these “psychographics,” and they add depth to any free demographic information you may find. You can learn more by talking with people. One of my favorite ways to learn!. Or you may choose to acquire more formal research. Both provide valuable ways to gain clarity on who your audience is.
Lastly, for large churches, it’s helpful to break things down into smaller audiences. Focusing on your ministry audiences may make the most sense. For example, your children’s ministry audience will be different and have different needs than your young adult ministry audience.
Once you have a clearer idea of who your audience is, you can start to think about how to use these insights to show up for them differently and in more meaningful ways.
Begin to engage in more meaningful ways.
Once you’ve clarified who your audience is, how they live, and what’s important to them, you can start filtering through these insights and start refining your messages. How?
Understand what’s important to your audience
By focusing on what’s important to them, you can draw the connection between that and what you have to tell them. This mindset switch is a crucial part of audience strategy: not to get people to listen, but to say something that resonates and earns their attention.
What earns their attention? Encouragement in a difficult situation. A bible study that offers connection with others, or perhaps on a topic they are interested in. An opportunity to serve a group close to their heart in the community. We can be quick to want them to “sign up today” for an opportunity they “don’t’ want to miss.” Unless we can communicate – with clarity – why they don’t want to miss out, it’s unlikely to get much attention.
Where ever your audience is, be there.
The other benefit of getting to know your audience is learning their communication and media preferences. Knowing this helps map out your church communications strategy for years to come. In partnering with churches and other organizations, we’ve seen how some groups will respond great to a short text message. And then other groups want a detailed, printed they can hold in their hands. Neither is wrong if it works for your audience!
Also, know how they prefer to respond and make it as simple as possible. Let’s return to the example from before. If your audience likes to get information sent through texts, make sure they can text back with questions and that any links are mobile-friendly. For the audience that wants hard copies, they will likely also want to respond personally. You can make it easy for them by including a direct phone number, office hours, and instructions on where to drop things off.
Know who your audience is, what’s important to them, where they like to get information, and how they prefer to respond. These elements give you the framework for your audience strategy and a great way to engage with people in more meaningful ways.
Stay fascinated. Keep listening + learning.
Once you get started, keep listening, studying, and researching to understand the PEOPLE who make up your audience. From an organizational standpoint, you’ll develop a sounder audience strategy over time that helps you to have more effective church communications.
Translation: it’s about getting to know people and using marketing best practices to serve them well. As you get to know your audience and understand how they evolve as technology and needs change, you’ll be on better footing to change with people. As time goes on, you’ll be able to keep those connections strong and meaningful.
Improve how your church connects with your community!
You have a vision, but are you overwhelmed with how to bring it to life? Maybe you're second-guessing the tactics. Or simply don't know what you don't know.
Firm Foundations Marketing helps churches cut through the clutter to develop effective messaging strategies that help your church reach, engage, and retain people for the gospel.