Codes and Secret Handshakes
You’ve heard the adage, “Find a job you love and you’ll never have to work another day in your life.” I want to offer a similar statement: “Find someone who’s passionate about your cause and you’ll never have to do another marketing campaign again.”
Before we go on, let’s get something straight. No matter where you are in the ministry spectrum, you’re a marketer. Need more volunteers? How about an increase in donor dollars? Want more people showing up to your events? Then you, my friend, are a marketer (and by “marketer,” I mean “one who recruits others to participate in a stated cause, belief, or purpose”).
If we’re all marketers, we need to think like a marketer. For instance, why do we collectively roll our eyes and change the channel when the TV commercial starring a local huckster hocking mattresses comes on, yet eagerly await the next installment of ads from a campaign like the “Mac vs. PC” commercials? The difference is this: we know, intuitively, when we’re being sold to.
The mattress king has one thing in mind: profit. He will be as loud as he needs to be to make a buck. In short, he doesn’t care about you, he cares about what’s in your wallet.
The “Mac vs. PC” commercials, on the other hand, told a story. The story was about the Mac tribe. Make no mistake, the end-game was still profit, but the onus of the commercials was on the community, not the company (Apple).
What does this have to do with ministry? Everything. Most of the promotion for church-related events sounds like the mattress king: loud and self-centered. No one likes to be sold to. Rather than begging, pleading, and bribing people to attend your church or show up for events, why not raise awareness by mobilizing the passionate members of your tribe to do the work for you?
This simple tactic is called “the awareness cycle” and it works like this:
Awareness → Engagement → Commitment → Fanatic
Let’s take a look at each step in-depth.
First, a person needs to know you exist (or, more specifically, your event exists). In the life of any given church, there can be dozens, if not hundreds, of events happening throughout the week. How will you leverage the voice of your tribe to get the word out?
A quick word about tribes – you need to identify who’s in yours and do everything you can to get them on board. For instance, at the church I used to work for, there was a ministry called “The Stichin’ Mission”. The women of TSM rallied around one common interest – yep, stitching – and used their gifts to knit quilts for impoverished youth all over the globe.
It wasn’t a large group and didn’t need to be. They were (and still are, to my knowledge) a tribe (a highly-focused group of people rallied around a common interest point) who would do anything to support their cause.
The women of The Stitchin’ Mission were intrinsically motivated to raise awareness for their group – both to recruit additional members and to further their cause. Folks who share a common interest in knitting won’t have to look hard to find them. Even if you don’t have an interest in the sewing arts, you know who they are and what they do. In short, they do a fantastic job of raising awareness for their cause by leveraging the passion of the tribe.
2. Passive Engagement.
Engagement occurs once an individual becomes aware and wants to take the next step. They’ve said, in some way, “I see what you’re doing and I want to take part.” Most people engage passively by taking part in the actual event.
For most ministry leaders, the cycle ends here – and that’s a shame. People engage a ministry event and leave, never to hear from the leader again. What makes it worse is that the ministry leader has to start from scratch the next time they want to host an event.
Passive engagement is like a first date. You aren’t headed down the aisle yet, but the person liked what they saw enough to want to spend more time with you. Nothing kills a first date quicker than either (1) trying to close the deal too early (i.e. begging for volunteers), or (2) appearing disinterested.
Passively engaged folks aren’t ready to start marketing on your behalf, but they need to make a pit-stop here before continuing on. The key is to remain aware of who’s participating, why, and whether you think they’re a good fit for your tribe (more on this later).
3. Active Engagement.
One of the best examples of active engagement comes from Vince Marotte at Gateway Church in Austin, TX. Vince leads the online campus for the church and recruits members to join his Internet street team.
The way he recruits is somewhat unconventional. When someone checks in at Gateway Church using the Foursquare app (passive engagement), Vince follows up personally and asks that person to join the street team. If someone is engaging the church via Foursquare (a geolocation app that lets users “check-in” to a physical location), chances are high they’d be a good fit for the tribe Vince leads.
Once on the street team, a member has access to the weekly batch of tweets, blog posts, and Facebook status updates Vince writes for team members to post to their own social networks. This way, the communication tone is consistent since it’s coming from one source. Vince also gets the added bonus of venturing into online communities he wouldn’t normally have access to – thanks to the varied individuals on the street team.
By leveraging the online community of Gateway, Vince has mobilized real, flesh-and-blood people to do the work of getting the word out. He doesn’t have to mindlessly beat the same drum over and over again – hoping someone new will hear about the online campus. His online influence grows as he gives a small group of individuals the tools they need to communicate on his behalf. Genius.
The last step in the journey is really a bi-product of active engagement. When someone spends enough time as a tribe member, they become fanatical. (That’s a good thing, by the way.) In short, they’re the people you couldn’t do ministry without. They’re in, no matter what.
Your fanatics will be the ones who consistently raise awareness for the event or ministry. They’ll be the ones handing out fliers, calling their friends and family to come, and staying after service to staff the booth at the ministry fair. In this way, the awareness cycle literally perpetuates itself. You, as the leader, provide leadership to the tribe through consistent messaging, and they, as the community, do the work of raising awareness. It’s a beautiful marriage, really. Almost like it was designed that way…
Ask yourself as you plan your next event: am I the mattress king or am I Apple? Am I telling our tribe’s story or am I screaming at the top of my lungs, blathering indiscriminately? Your success lies in the answer. Choose wisely!