Churches should be the greatest content marketers of all time.
What is content marketing? Content marketing is the practice of engaging and interacting with customers online by creating and sharing useful content. Pay attention to the word “useful.” This type of content is not merely promotional. It is not material designed to sell a product. It is intended to create engagement, build an audience, and create a level of trust in a brand.
People in the church world are not used to thinking in customers. Often the terms marketing, promotion, and brand are frowned upon in church circles. So, let me translate content marketing for church people.
Content marketing is the practice of engaging with people online by offering them information that is useful to them. At any given moment, information about your church may or may not be helpful to the average person. Instead of merely providing information designed to get people to visit our churches, we can share things that invite people to interact with us. This can build an audience of people who listen to the church about important things and build (or rebuild) trust in the church.
What Type of Content?
The content of content marketing can be anything that can be shared online: blogs, social media posts, videos, podcasts, and websites. The specific type of content depends on the audience you are trying to reach and what you have to offer.
Example One: Home Depot
In my post, “What Can the Church Learn from the Home Depot?” I pointed out some of their content marketing. They give away how-to guides and videos for free. That makes sense. They are trying to reach do-it-yourselfers, and they have a lot of information to offer regarding home improvement.
It is their hope that people who take advantage may decide to purchase their materials from the retailer. Or, at least, it will continue to build trust in the brand.
Whole Foods Market is another great example. Sure their website offers store information and advertises specials. But it also features information on healthy eating, saving money, and eco-friendly cleaning. Whole Foods is trying to reach grocery shoppers and specifically health-oriented and earth-oriented shoppers. Because of the business they are in, they have a large body of useful information.
This information is given away knowing that some people may decide to come and buy their groceries or cleaning supplies at Whole Foods or at least begin to think about the name Whole Foods when they think about healthy eating.
What About the Church?
As I wrote in the beginning, “Churches should be the greatest content marketers of all time.” Why? Because churches should, by definition, already have content to share. And the content churches have is already distinctive in that it is not designed to sell a product.
While some denominations and individual churches do see the gospel as transactional, others see it as relational and transformational. We want people to join a tribe, be part of a movement, adopt a set of beliefs, be transformed.
Some marketing savvy brands have begun seeking the same thing. However, Apple, Google, Nike, and Coca-Cola want you to join their tribe and be a part of their movement in order that you might buy their product. Because selling products is what they do.
Not Just About Bible Verses
Remember, content marketing is the practice of engaging with people online by offering them information that is useful to them. If we are trying to reach people who are not already involved in the church we must create content that is “useful.” People who do not attend church may not find Bible verses “useful.” To engage with new people, we need to look at their needs and pain points.
So What Content?
What information are people in your community looking for that your church can provide? What areas of help and expertise does your church already excel at that could be valuable to the wider community?
One way to get at this would be to look at the search trends in your area to see what people are searching for. You can do this using tools like Google Trends, which will show you statistics for search terms by geographic region.
A better place to begin is with content your church already has access to. This goes back to the question, “what areas of help and expertise does your church already excel at?”
What Are You Good At?
Does your church offer a food pantry or other feeding ministry? You should list that on your website. But even better, do you have volunteers or staff that could post regularly about nutrition, or healthy eating for families on a limited budget? Could someone keep an updated list of all the places in your area that offer food pantries or free meals?
Is your pastor gifted at premarital counseling? People are always searching the web for information about weddings and marriage. What if she wrote a blog about things couples can do before tying the knot?
Does your church offer English as a Second Language courses? It is great to have information about those classes on your website. But even better, would it be possible for your instructor or team to write some content about the challenges of learning a second language? What about an article on what to look for in an ESL class? Maybe a post on frequently asked questions about ESL. Or even a current list of, not just your offerings, but all the quality ESL classes offered in your area.
Churches also shouldn’t avoid the topic of faith and the Gospel. Christians know how the Word of God can speak to the questions and struggles people face daily. However, in doing so, remember that we need to start with the questions and pain points of the people we are trying to reach. It is okay to point people to the transformational nature of the Gospel, the value of a church community, and the power of prayer. Just remember, that might not be what they think they are looking for. Your content will need to be a part of guiding them there. Faith development mostly happens in relationships, so focus on the relationship first.
I have given just a few examples but the best ideas will come from churches that consider what they have to offer. Maybe it is about parenting, finances, time-management, healthy living, community resources, foster-parenting, legal services.
Whatever it is, put it out there. It will lead people to you. Once they have found you, they may explore your website, they might even come and visit. They may not do any of those things. But, in the long term, they may begin to see the church as helpful and relevant. That is a good thing.