Life is filled with interruptions. The phone rings in the middle of dinner; someone knocks at the door while you are deeply focused on an important project; a person interrupts you in the midst of a conversation with someone else.
We have come to expect a certain number of interruptions in our lives, but as the number of interruptions increases our attentiveness declines. When we hit the breaking point, we may leave the phone off the hook, ignore the knock at the door, or move our conversation behind closed doors. This is what is happening in our culture today. We are bombarded with hundreds of interruptive messages every day. The clutter becomes deafening and we stop listening.
Historically, marketing has been all about interruption. Commercial spots interrupt programming on radio and TV. Billboards interrupt your concentration while driving down the road. Over the years traditional marketing has used interruptive advertising because it worked.
However, these days, it is not working as well as it used to. The culture is changing rapidly. The marketplace has changed more in the past five years than in the previous fifty. The consumer is taking over the controls. They no longer want to be force fed information – they are tired of the interruptions. Consumers now seek to control the information they receive, as well as how and when they receive it.
I find myself rarely watching television in real time any more. I watch programs recorded on my DVR at home or view them on my I-pod as I fly from city to city. I am in control.
If you want to continue to get your message out to the marketplace, you need to creatively move toward “Engagement Marketing”.
Engagement Marketing uses a whole new set of rules. It recognizes that the consumer is in control and respects their opinions and choices; it does not attempt to force conclusions but allows the consumer to draw their own; it is a dialogue not a monologue.
How do we do this? I’m glad you asked!
Engagement Marketing involves two components: (1) meeting people where they already are and (2) allowing people to participate in the process.
To meet people where they already are, your church or ministry must become a familiar ingredient in people’s lives. This may require some not-so-traditional advertising methods like sponsoring community events, joining the Chamber of Commerce and other community organizations; participating in local festivals; reaching out into the community on a relational level.
Some examples: one church in urban Pittsburgh provides a weekly meal for the neighborhood; another church in Illinois gave away free water at a large street festival; a church in Los Angeles offered $1 lattes and cappuccinos to the people in businesses around the church; a church in Texas provides High School equivalency classes and computer training for the community…
All of these examples provide opportunities for the church to effectively integrate their brand into the lives and conversations of the people of their community.
How do we allow people to participate in the branding process? We start by listening and observing. Most churches have a website – yours probably does. What pages are people visiting? Is there a reason for people to keep coming back? How often do members of your congregation use the website? When was the last time you were on there?
Begin to think of ways to engage people on your site. What would you need to do for members of your congregation to make your website their home page? How can you make sure people visit your site again and again? How can you be sure that when someone is looking for your church, they find it quickly and easily? How can your website become part of people’s daily lives? Answer these questions and you will be moving from interruption to engagement.
Keep your knees down – your chin up – roll with the punches – and give God the glory!