I graduated college with a degree in Marketing, then immediately began working at a church. Marketing is still somewhat of a dirty word in some church circles. So there was a mixture of rebellion and self-loathing I brought to the job. I knew there was business wisdom I could bring to my church to help it be more successful, but there were also some marketing concepts that seemed, well, non-Christian.
One of those concepts was targeting or market segmentation. You choose a few determining factors you’re going to reach out to, then you dismiss anyone outside of those factors. It felt exclusive and unloving. Like the opposite of what the Body of Christ should look like. How could we hope for diversity in our churches if those diverse people were outside our demographic target?
Demographics were troublesome to me. What I failed to realize was that there was a better factor I could use. It was actually far more successful than demographic targeting, and it allowed for diversity in race, age, political stance… Everything.
Psychographics. Demographics are numbers. Psychographics are mentalities. They’re interests. They’re common ways of thinking. And when you can tap into this type of metric, you’ll get a much better target audience.
Of course, it still feels exclusive. I address this issue more in my new book, The Come Back Effect (Amazon affiliate link*), but think of it like this: In 1 Corinthians, we see how the early church was already dividing into sects. One group of people were proud to follow Peter. Others to follow Paul. Others, Apollos. And of course there were those “super spiritual” people who only followed Christ.
Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, fought against this: We’re all in this together.
At the same time, we can’t deny the fact that some people seemed to relate better to Apollos, other to Peter, and others to Paul. In fact, some people straight up didn’t like Paul—he was a salty character at times.
Focusing on identifying your guest is quite simply acknowledging the people who will relate best to your pastor and your church. Is your pastor an Apollos? A Peter? A Paul? It’s about identifying your typical guest and creating an experience that will best reach the people you’re naturally going to reach. It’s not about competition—that’s what Paul was fighting against in 1 Corinthians. We are all in this together, but God gave us many types of churches and many types of leaders to reach all the different types of people that follow Jesus. It’s actually the opposite of competition when you help people find the right type of church by knowing who they are before even marketing to them.
When you create an avatar of a person—using psychographic data—you leave people out. But that’s the point. The periphery rarely stay around, because there’s someone else they’ll relate to better. But the profile does stay, along with the people who have a vision for reaching that profile.
There are many churches still struggling with the idea of market segmentation. This might be the rhetoric you need to start dipping your toes into the water. One simple way would be through Facebook ads. Does your church sing songs from Hillsong Young and Free? Does your pastor preach similarly to Steven Furtick? Do you reach primarily upwardly mobile professionals? You can specify all of that in your Facebook Ads. And while it seems like you’re excluding people, you’re actually getting the most from your money. You’re identifying the people who will probably like your church instead of the folks who love 90’s Hosanna music, John Piper, and spend their leisure time watching wrestling. (I’d love to meet one of those people.)
When you target your service to the right type of people and reach out to them, you can trust that they’ll reach out to all the people you inadvertently excluded from your targeting. When you create an experience for a guest where it feels like you know them, it’ll stand out in their mind. And they’ll be quick to tell their friends about the experience. By seeing your guests with clarity and reaching them with intentionality, you’ll find your efforts are much more effective.
*The Church Communications Group makes a small profit at no cost to you if you purchase The Come Back Effect through our link.