Personas During the Pandemic: An Interview with Trey Sheneman, Executive Marketing Director at Ramsey Solutions

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Tune in today as Katie Allred talks with Trey Sheneman, the Executive Marketing Director at Ramsey Solutions. Hear more about Ramsey Solutions, and visit daveramsey.com/ccwebinar for more details!
This episode is brought to you by Ramsey+, a money plan for real life. You can start a free trial of the Ramsey+ system over at daveramsey.com/ccwebinar


Katie Allred:                 So today you’re going to meet Trey Sheneman. Trey works at Ramsey Solutions. We’re really excited to have him. He’s the executive marketing director there. But Trey doesn’t just preach these principles that we’re going to talk about. He actually lives them with the rest of the Ramsey Plus team. They would love to give everyone in your church or organization the tools that they need to budget, save and take control of their finances and money.

Katie Allred:                 A Ramsey Plus site solution is the most flexible, efficient, and cost effective way to bring Ramsey Plus to your team. And you’ll get a dedicated relationship manager to support you every step of the way. To learn more, you can watch a demo webinar. This is exclusive just for us. Okay? So just for our community.

Katie Allred:                 We’re really excited to have partnered with Ramsey Solutions for this season; season five of our podcast. We’ve come a long way since we began just a few years ago.

Katie Allred:                 So this webinar, you can actually go and watch it. It’s a demo webinar of Ramsey Plus. It’s a brand new product that Dave Ramsey just launched, and we have an exclusive webinar. You can go to daveramsey.com/ccwebinar. Again, daveramsey.com/ccwebinar. Go check it out, watch the webinar, give us some feedback, let us know what you’re thinking and how you’re going to use it. Really excited for this episode. Let’s just jump on in.

Announcer:                  … To the Church Communications Podcast. We want to help you become a church communications expert. We understand it can be a challenging and ever changing role because we’ve worked in the church too, which is why we built a community with over 25,000 church leaders that are ready to support and cheer you on.

Announcer:                  Your hosts for the show are Katie Allred and Kenny Jahng, who want to help equip you to reach more of your congregation and community. This is the place where we’ll talk shop with fellow practitioners and professionals about what’s working, what’s not, and what’s next.

Announcer:                  Are you ready? Let’s get started.

Katie Allred:                 Welcome to the Church Communications Podcast. So excited you could join us today. I am excited because we have an amazing guest, such a wonderful human; Trey Sheneman. And he works with Ramsey, Dave Ramsey. You may have heard of him. Just a small corporation, a little thing that helps people with Christian finance, personal finance. And Trey is the executive marketing director at Dave Ramsey. Really excited to have him today.

Katie Allred:                 Today we’re covering something I love, which is the topic of persona. So Trey, what do you think? What is a persona?

Trey Sheneman:           Well, Katie, first of all, it is a joy and a pleasure to be here. I love the church, serving the church. Now cut my teeth in communication and marketing in the church, right out of the seminary. So I feel like I’m talking to my people today, and it’s awesome to work with Dave.

Trey Sheneman:           Personas are an integral part of how we actually do what we do as communicators. So to me, personas are characatures of the ideal person that you’re trying to communicate with; a set of messages or a messaging framework.

Trey Sheneman:           And normally when you’re thinking about a persona, it’s always, to me, based around a couple of key factors. One is the demographic profile of the persona, you know, age, income, way of life, kids, no kids. It’s like … Build a list of, who is the persona? When I think about the person that’s going to have this message resonate with the most, who do they like, who do they read, what brands do they follow? It’s demographic and psychographic.

Trey Sheneman:           But I think the key part to really mapping a good persona is understanding the felt need and the problem that they have that you’re ultimately trying to solve with whatever the message is. And I’m sure we’ll get it.

Trey Sheneman:           Some examples of that; the, “Come to church” message, “Because you need Jesus” message is a very different felt need than, “We have children’s ministry, we have this discipleship”, we have this, we have that. So I think one of the gaps that I see sometimes when I talk to my brothers and sisters that work in the church is they might’ve thought through a persona, and what I would argue is that it is the catalog of persona development that is really what you need to work on to kind of take the outreach of your ministry to the next level.

Katie Allred:                 For sure. Yeah. So when I think of persona, I actually really think of the seeker journey, which is something I learned from Media Impact International, which is a ministry group I worked with. And they kind of just talked about, you know, you go through the four phases of awareness and consideration, decision, and then we go to into discipleship. And so to get somebody to even go to awareness, we have to realize their needs. So I know you said just a little bit about felt needs. Why is that important and what kind of felt needs would be important for the church to focus in on?

Trey Sheneman:           Yeah. So I’ll put my church hat on for a second. I think [crosstalk 00:05:16] of the user journey or the seeker journey in a very similar way. I just use alliteration because it helps you remember them all. So I say awareness, attraction, acquisition, activation, advocacy.

Trey Sheneman:           And so to that awareness point, to me, the awareness question is, “I have a need. What are my options?” That’s generally the question that you’re trying to answer. You want to become an option that is on their radar, that they could consider when it’s time for them to step into step two, which is consideration, as you said, or attraction, as I call it, which is more of the educational and nurturing kind of step of the funnel where you’re trying to put the right set of information in front of them so they can know why you’re the best option of their options.

Trey Sheneman:           So when you’re thinking about awareness, I think the primary goal that we go for in the awareness stage of our funnels that we build, that I think a church really should consider when it’s starting this, is really attention. Is the increase of your attention share in your target persona growing on a monthly basis?

Trey Sheneman:           So what do I mean by that? Attention, to me, it’s a measure of time. You know, our time is our greatest currency that we give out to people because we can never get it back. We can’t replenish it. And so I would, at the awareness stage, one of the things I encourage my marketers with and that I would encourage anyone in the church communications space with, especially in this kind of pandemic world we live in where digital is such so much more of a cornerstone of our strategy right now, I would be really focused on what sort of time measures can we put on the personas that I’m tracking with some of my digital outlets of time on site, you know, from a website standpoint?

Trey Sheneman:           [inaudible 00:07:07] metrics on ads, if you’re running any sort of Facebook strategy; time consumed with a video, especially if you’re running a video of the funnel, or if you’re even doing sermon snippets or things of that nature, being creative. I would be really going, “Okay, on average, I’m trying to see my time of engagement start to increase and sort of net new viewership.” So I know that something where I’m constantly adding new people within that persona into the awareness level, helping them understand that I’m an option, whether it’s for a Sunday morning option, if it’s for a small group option, you know, whatever it might be that we’re trying to promote.

Katie Allred:                 Yeah. So we talked about this term, felt needs, and for our viewers who do not know what “felt needs” means, what exactly is a felt need?

Trey Sheneman:           So the way I talk about felt needs is I say, felt needs are always thought needs before they’re felt. And so to me, if I were going to go to Germany and live for a year and I wanted to share the gospel with people when I got there, whatever it was I was going there to market, you know, I’m not downplaying or distilling the sharing of the gospel down to marketing, but there are a lot of similarities there; if I was going there to do that, one of the greatest things I could do in order to win some people over to the Lord would be to learn German before I go so that I can actually speak the language that those people speak.

Trey Sheneman:           And so I think when we’re starting to talk about our personas and we’re starting to talk about felt needs, we actually have to figure out a way to kind of, in theory, sort of enter the conversation people are already having with themselves in their own heads about that problem and say it back to them in a way that they can understand and they would even talk about it, so that we can build trust [inaudible 00:08:54] move down the funnel and we can start to have them participate in the conversation we want to have.

Trey Sheneman:           So a felt need to me is recognizing and identifying, “Okay, in our target market [crosstalk 00:09:05] right now, these are the common struggles we think the large majority of our persona are thinking about, feeling and experiencing. And these are ways that they’re probably talking about them right now. How do we start talking about those in the same way with a soft invitation at the end to just start becoming a part of the conversation?”

Trey Sheneman:           So it’s thoughts, it’s feelings, it’s emotions that plays itself out in decision-making and stresses and all of those things.

Katie Allred:                 Yeah. It’s really those Maslow hierarchy of needs.

Trey Sheneman:           That’s right.

Katie Allred:                 And I like how you said common struggles. But then how are they searching for the answer to those common struggles? I think that’s the question that we should really phrase this as, is, “How do people Google, how do they search for the answer to their struggles? And then does your church have an answer for those struggles available online at the end of that content funnel?”

Trey Sheneman:           Yeah. To that point, that’s just a great way to kind of call it out, I would say, in that very search specific example, one of the things that I’ve seen that’s started happening a lot more is people search like they talk now more than ever-

Katie Allred:                 100%.

Trey Sheneman:           … Because they’ve gotten conditioned to talking to these guys and getting them to bring the answer up. And so voice driven search is really becoming one of the leading edge kind of strategies, that we can actually write and provide content that’s human first and for humans. And in today’s world, we don’t have to solely serve the search engines anymore to be found online.

Trey Sheneman:           And so I do think it’s important that when you’re thinking about video snippets, a YouTube page … YouTube’s the second biggest search engine on the planet after Google [crosstalk 00:10:47].

Katie Allred:                 Right. It’s part of Google.

Trey Sheneman:           That’s exactly right. People don’t ever think of YouTube as an extension of that; somewhere that you go to be found. And so I think to that point, being able to think like people are thinking and then talk like they’re going to talk, and then talk like that in several different mediums, whether it’s on your social channels, on your website, in your search engines, or your blogs, if you’re doing blogs, in your emails, when you send your emails out using headline copy and subject line copy, that’s really going to resonate with those felt needs in that way.

Katie Allred:                 Yeah. And Google prefers a local answer. I think that’s the important thing to say here is that you don’t have to spend … I mean, first off, Google does have an ad grant for nonprofits that some churches might or might not take. It just kind of depends. And you could use that to definitely start your funnel. But the thing is, you don’t have to spend a dollar. The thing is, Google will prefer a local answer if there is one. So for the felt need of prayer, which skyrocketed during the pandemic … We’re going to talk a little bit about the pandemic, like what those felt needs were, but one of them was prayer, and so the question is, did your church have content to the search question, “How do I pray?”

Katie Allred:                 And the thing is, Google and YouTube both would have preferred to give someone a local answer to that question. They would have shown it first. And we probably have, that’s the thing that you were just speaking about, like sermon series’ and stuff on YouTube, we have those answers in sermon series’, but are we naming our sermon titles correctly so that people can go back and find those answers? Are we just naming it the date and Romans? Romans and the date is fine. I mean, it totally is. Or like Matthew, I don’t know, 28 or something. That’s fine, but it’s not really telling the people where. And that would be great if I was a theological scholar and I was looking for something on Romans in July of 2020, but there’s a better way to do it. Right? So that people who are seeking, who are seeking answers can find our church so they can actually consider it.

Katie Allred:                 Ramsey Solutions has definitely been pivoting lately. 25 years ago, Dave Ramsey started teaching Financial Peace University from an overhead projector. And now they have an all access membership course to their best money content and tools called Ramsey Plus. Now you can give everyone in your church or organization the tools that they need to learn how to handle their money, God’s way. Budget so that they can take control of their finances for good and track their progress in an all in one digital package. So visit daveramsey.com/ccpodcast. Again, that is daveramsey.com/ccpodcast for this exclusive offer just for our community.

Trey Sheneman:           Yeah, it’s interesting. I do this too, and look, I’ve been in this game for a little bit and I still do this. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I’m a consumer too, and there’s certain ways I actually go out and behave outside of my day job. And sometimes it’s like, “Hey, what would you be looking for right now? How would you say it?” And I wouldn’t go and say, “John, chapter six, verse three.” I would go and say, “How do I find this answer? How do I find this answer?”

Trey Sheneman:           So I think what you brought up is great. And to your point, the church is one of the most natural content creators on the earth. [crosstalk 00:14:26].

Katie Allred:                 Right. We do it every week.

Trey Sheneman:           Every day, every week. And so there’s got to be some sort of a, how do you keep a piece of your time in sort of a rapid response mode where you can say, “Oh, this is a trend. This isn’t going away for a while. How can we be opportunistic and capitalistic while showing the love of Christ in a really unique way? We have this content. How can we spice it up and serve it up?” So I think that was really creative.

Katie Allred:                 Yeah. So I guess the next question I have for you is, what’s one common persona trait that churches can zero in on?

Trey Sheneman:           So I think no matter where people are, and I’m going to put my money hat on because I work for a money brand, but I think no matter where people are on the spectrum, they always have some sort of a concern about money. I just think that that money concern ranges from, “I’ve had it. I’m dead broke. I don’t know what’s going on”, to, “My kids are about to go off to college and I’m ready to retire and move on to the next season, and I’m not really sure what to do.” And so for us, you’re the treasurer of your heart in that issue of money, and being able to actually look at money as an object that is freely given and freely taken away, instead of as an idol, to me, no matter where you are in church, that is going to be a common denominator for a large percentage of your persona. So money fears and money worries would be one.

Trey Sheneman:           And in this year … Man, what a year this has been. I think another kind of felt need that people are experiencing is security about tomorrow. And I think those two things are really intimately connected to each other. Just fears of the unknown and what’s going to happen. Maybe, “I didn’t have a plan and now I want to have a plan. I want to feel secure.” And we all know we should want to feel eternally secure. That’s kind of mission critical zero here.

Trey Sheneman:           I think those are the two this year that have gotten really poked a lot in people.

Katie Allred:                 Right. Yeah, I completely agree. So we have to think about, you know, with that, what’s missing from many churches’ playbooks about raising funds, especially during times of crisis? Because I know a lot of churches are dealing with the loss of tithing during this time. So how do we respond to that as church leaders?

Trey Sheneman:           Yeah, I think having a plan is kind of the critical thing here. Many people went into this year and have been super reactionary. To me, a reaction is emotional. It’s in the moment, it’s sometimes unguided. It’s very like, “We have to react. This happened.” And I think where we have to move is from reaction to response. A response is calculated. It’s thoughtful. It weighs out the pros and cons and then it makes a good decision. And I think both the church and its parishioners, the congregants, right now have been in reaction mode and it’s time for us to really take a step back and say, “This thing isn’t going away. It’s going to have a lingering impact … ” I don’t know, Katie, for years, probably?

Katie Allred:                 Years. Yeah.

Trey Sheneman:           Certainly is going to have lingering impact and geographical impact; with physical distancing and how we do church.

Trey Sheneman:           But I think the big one we don’t talk about is the psychological impact that is going to linger in the church. And so one of the ways you ground that psychology and that sort of uncertainty you experience in life is to come up with a plan and then go and stick with it. And I think the church, whether it’s a extra carve out in your budget moving forward that’s like a defense fund, pandemic defense fund, if it’s really thinking about finally making the decision to get out of debt as a church in that period, [inaudible 00:18:12] notes anymore, I just think that’s a big thing we teach, I think there’s got to be something that you have to do differently. It might not be exactly what it is we teach, but it’s not just going back to how you were before this happened. That to me is the big thing I would encourage [crosstalk 00:18:26].

Katie Allred:                 There’s no way we can go back to before.

Trey Sheneman:           Yeah.

Katie Allred:                 I mean, it’s so sad. I have to grieve it almost every day, the fact that I’m pretty sure life is never going to be the same, right? Like restaurants and church and live events and school. I’m a teach, I’m a professor, and we’re in in-person right now, and it is so weird. It’s just so very odd. It’s not bad, it’s just different. And so we have to grieve those kinds of losses, like what this looks like going forward.

Katie Allred:                 So I know you mentioned getting your church out of debt, like amateurization schedules and whatnot. I actually just refinanced my house, which was a major wind since the pandemic has caused interest rates to go down.

Trey Sheneman:           [inaudible 00:19:20] right now.

Katie Allred:                 Yeah. Yeah. So it was good. It was a good choice for me. I saved like, I don’t know, $50,000 or something, by doing that in interest.

Trey Sheneman:           Yeah, we got our 15 year down almost a full point. Saved about 60, $70,000 [crosstalk 00:19:34].

Katie Allred:                 Isn’t that nice?

Trey Sheneman:           [inaudible 00:19:36]

Katie Allred:                 Yeah.

Katie Allred:                 Anyway, this is not about this.

Trey Sheneman:           It’s not about loans. [crosstalk 00:19:40].

Katie Allred:                 This podcast is not about refinancing, but it’s a great time to do that. I don’t know. Don’t take financial advice from me.

Katie Allred:                 But we were talking about getting out of debt, getting your church out of debt, getting people out of debt in your church. So I know that y’all just launched a whole new product. It’s crazy. You kind of completely changed the way Ramsey does things. And I am excited about it because, for me, I am a millennial who grew up 21st century first, smartphone first, TV, computer, you know, that kind of stuff first, and [inaudible 00:20:16] second, you know? So I’m intrigued by what this model is. So why don’t you tell us a little bit about Ramsey Plus?

Trey Sheneman:           Yeah. So February of last year, we kind of could see the writing on the wall that we needed to be a little more digital. At the time we were saying digital friendly. We now have made the decision we got to be digital first [crosstalk 00:20:39] culture here.

Trey Sheneman:           So we started building the chassis underneath our flagship product, which is Financial Peace University, to kind of be able to take it digital. And then thank God, you know, a year later, March of this year, whenever everything started hitting the fan, it was like, “Well, we were sort of in this slow crawl, we’re doing this digital thing. What if we just went all in?” And I got to tell you, the response has been really special. So as of the spring of this year, we now have a suite of digital first products called Ramsey Plus, one of which Financial Peace University is in there.

Trey Sheneman:           But honestly, Katie, there’s so many other things that are in there now. It’s super valuable. The cool thing is, is a Ramsey Plus subscription is a similar price to what Financial Peace used to just be on its own. So we try to keep the value where it was, but we’re essentially building a digital suite that we believe is everything you need to win with money personally, whether you’re an individual. And then the cool thing is, is we now, in September, we’re launching the version of it for churches. So Ramsey Plus for churches. Kind of a blend of FPU, RightNow Media and Excel, like keeping your church finances and budgeting, helping your people etc.

Katie Allred:                 Oh wow, so there’s even church budgeting involved.

Trey Sheneman:           We’re getting there.

Katie Allred:                 Okay.

Trey Sheneman:           So the first [crosstalk 00:21:51] we’re kind of in beta on that side of it now, but we’re hoping to be [crosstalk 00:21:54]

Katie Allred:                 Yeah, that’s a big need, for sure. I get people asking me all the time, do I have any resources on church budgeting? And I’m like, “I have no idea. I’m not an accountant.”

Trey Sheneman:           Yeah. Amen. And so, again, to temper that [inaudible 00:22:07], we’re super early in these conversations, but we believe if we can help the pastors see the way that their people’s finances are changing, and then get the pastor’s finances to change on top of it, the necessary next step is then for the churches’ financial approach to [crosstalk 00:22:22]

Katie Allred:                 So get a taste of it by trying Ramsey Plus first, and then [crosstalk 00:22:24]

Trey Sheneman:           So [crosstalk 00:22:27] by making it digital, we’re able to give it away for free for a couple of weeks to everybody too, which is something we always struggled figuring out how to do with a physical product. Like how do you just give it away? When do you get it back? What are we going to do? So it’s just opened a lot of doors for us that weren’t open before.

Trey Sheneman:           And honestly, it’s helped us change lives. Like right now, we’re seeing about one out of every two of our trial starts that’s coming in is somebody who’s never considered doing something with Ramsey before. And ultimately, for us, many people know, you know, Dave is obviously a strong evangelical Christian, many of us here, nearly all of us here, are as well. And so for us, finances is just a means to an end. You know, we’re ultimately trying to [inaudible 00:23:08] Jesus and let them find him, the peace that he provides. We’re just using money as the doorway to get there. And so I’m stoked about the next two or three years and what God’s going to do with this product as a way to open doors for people, the church.

Trey Sheneman:           Yeah. So COVID kind of forced our hand a little bit, but it’s actually turned out quite well.

Katie Allred:                 And so how could you use Ramsey Plus as part of a small group?

Trey Sheneman:           Yeah. So we made the decision in the spring to add in a … I know that a lot of people have Zoom fatigue right now, but we did connect in a Zoom chassis into the Financial Peace portion. But truthfully, we have people that are doing small group classes online right now around all seven of the different classes that are inside of Ramsey Plus, not just [crosstalk 00:23:51]. And so the idea is we provide you with the guides, the curriculum guides, the questions, how to actually lead a small group. And so just in the last 60 days, since we started soft launching it [inaudible 00:24:03] the churches before we go public with it next month, we’ve had 80 churches sign up in the last 60 days. They kind of used this as their small group ministry chassis-

Katie Allred:                 That’s awesome.

Trey Sheneman:           Just to say, “We know money is a common struggle right now. We’re going to get it on board and let you all kind of go through it together.”

Trey Sheneman:           And we’re even doing Zoom launch parties with churches, where they get on and get everybody on. We do a big celebration, and it’s like, “Hey, we’re breaking out from here and everybody’s going to go and start their small group.”

Trey Sheneman:           So it’s definitely something that we’re trying. It’s still super early, guys. It is not perfect. But we’re enjoying it so far. It’s a very different kind of … Right now I use the word, it’s a very “ecclesiastical” approach, [inaudible 00:24:41] season kind of approach right now. But I actually think it’s going to be the way we do it from now on.

Katie Allred:                 Yeah. I think it’s such an interesting approach and different, but I definitely see where it’s going to serve churches really well.

Katie Allred:                 I actually did FPU online in an online small group as well in March. Right when the pandemic began, my church decided … They had like a hundred books that came with the login for the access online and all that stuff, and they were like, “We’re just going to give them away. So whoever in our church wants to do FPU, we’re going … ” And so I signed up and I did that through March through June, I think, or at the beginning of June. And yeah, it was fantastic just to really … I don’t know. I’d never done FPU. I’d read FPU by myself or whatever years ago, I think during college. And so it was so interesting. And I read Dave’s book about business. What’s that one?

Trey Sheneman:           EntreLeadership.

Katie Allred:                 Yeah. I’d read that one in college as well. And I’ve always enjoyed his curriculum, but it was fun to do it as a group, and it was fun to do it I think via Zoom. It was just a totally different experience. And at the moment I was so desperate for community that it was something kind of really needed. And so …

Trey Sheneman:           Talk about a felt need in the world right now.

Katie Allred:                 Yeah. 100%.

Trey Sheneman:           [crosstalk 00:25:59] people to connect with.

Katie Allred:                 Yeah. It was just nice to see people’s faces, not mass faces. Yeah, it was good. It was so good. And so I think churches really could … I mean, just an amazing small group curriculum, something that’s really, I don’t know, interesting to talk about. People loved … They love and hate to talk about finance. You know, it’s one of those things that is a notorious and greatly [inaudible 00:26:24] price. So it’s just … Yeah. What an interesting felt need and definitely one that people need to answer during this time.

Katie Allred:                 Well, Trey. How can people connect with you if they want to connect with you?

Trey Sheneman:           Yeah. I think the easiest way to find me is on LinkedIn. That’s kind of my social network of choice. So I’m the only Trey Sheneman on LinkedIn. S-H-E-N-E-M-A-N. If you want to find me on Facebook, you’re more than welcome to. You’re going to see it a lot of pictures of my kids, if you do that. If you want to talk shop, you can find me LinkedIn. You can also email me at trey.sheneman@daveramsey.com.

Trey Sheneman:           If there’s any questions out there about persona mapping, you’re starting to really take that on for your church, I’d love to throw you the bone. We do get ministry time here in Ramsey, so I get five days a year to give away to nonprofits. So if you need some help, I’m happy to help.

Katie Allred:                 Yeah. Love that.

Katie Allred:                 Well, thank you so much for joining us today, Trey. I feel like we walked away with so much information that churches really can start applying right now. So just thank you so much.

Trey Sheneman:           You’re welcome. Always a pleasure. God bless you, guys.

Announcer:                  Thanks for listening to the Church Communications Podcast with Katie Allred and Kenny Jahng. If you liked our show today and want to learn more, you can join our Facebook group with over 25,000 church leaders. Simply search for Church Communications on Facebook. And if you liked today’s episode, please consider subscribing and leaving us a review. It’s the most impactful way you can help us reach more church leaders and equip them to become better communicators for the church. And finally, don’t forget to check out our website at churchcommunications.com.

Announcer:                  Thanks for listening.


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