An online magazine for pastors and church leaders.

How long does it take you to make a decision? If it?s the newest iPhone and you?re an Apple fanatic, the decision is easy. Buy that bad boy. But when it comes to other things, decisions take time. There?s a decision-making process you go through.

I?ve seen this in the online world of marketing. Many advertisers track the results of their ad campaigns on my websites, expecting one month of ads to equal ten sales. It?s the ROI that make sense. Unfortunately, it rarely works like that. Usually, the first month yields no sales. The second might show one or two. But it isn?t until the third or fourth month that sales finally come streaming in like they were hoping. Unfortunately, many advertisers give up and think the ad process was useless before they hit that stride.

I worry churches sometimes do this same sort of thing. They send out an announcement for an event, asking for registrations, and lose hope quickly when nobody signs up. The problem is, communication takes steps, because decision-making takes steps. In fact, there are four or even five steps people go through before they make a decision.

Understanding this will help you communicate better.

Step 1: Deciding Something Needs to Happen

Before someone makes a decision, they have to decide that something needs to change. Either they need friends or need to improve their marriage or learn how to pray or? You fill in the blank. If you?re lucky, people have already made this decision before you advertise your event or product or sermon series. If you can take into a need people have already identified, you can breeze past this step. But if you need to establish a need people haven?t even been able to put words to yet, you need to be aware that this step happens first.[quote]Before someone makes a decision, they have to decide that something needs to change.[/quote]

Step 2: Figuring Out if an Opportunity Accomplishes That Need

Once they?ve identified the need, they need to decide if what you?re offering actually accomplishes that need. Will this sermon series really be the solution to their financial problems? Will this conference really fix their marriage? Will that youth group service really help them make friends?

This is where the selling happens and hopefully also where you set reasonable expectations. You tell people how the thing you?re marketing will meet their need. But the decision-making process isn?t over yet.

Step 3: Calculating the Opportunity Cost

Everything you ask your church to do costs them something. Either it costs actual money or it costs their time or it costs their emotional energy. Your congregation has limited resources. If they devote their money, time, or emotional energy to what you?re advertising, it means they won?t have it for something else. They might not be able to watch that football game. Or they won?t be able to buy that Pumpkin Spice Latte. Or they will be too tired to go to that party afterward.[quote]Everything you ask your church to do costs them something.[/quote]

Whatever you?re marketing has to be good enough that they?re willing to give up their limited resources in order to be part of this. But this decision also takes time. You can?t expect people to make the decision on the spot when they have to check their budget and calendar first.

This step is often the longest waiting period you?ll experience. If the ask if big, the wait is long. If the ask is small, the wait might be much shorter. But be sure you don?t try to rush the process.

Step 4: Deciding, and Hopefully Action

The fourth step is the decision, but it?s not the last step. They have to actually act on that decision. This is where your call-to-action comes into place. This is where you make it easy to sign on the dotted line.

If they make the decision but don?t follow through on that decision, you lost the marketing battle.[quote]If they make the decision but don?t follow through on that decision, you lost the marketing battle.[/quote]

So as you plan your communications and marketing strategies, make allowance for these steps. Be sure you transition people cleanly from step to step, and capture them when it?s time for them to make the decision. Make it easy to attach action to their decision, and you?ll see great results.

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