A church’s sign out front is there to advertise. By presenting upcoming events and faith-based messages a church seeks to educate the community about who they are and why you should want to attend. Just like a regular business, these signs out front are meant to catch the eyes of people passing by and convince them to come in and buy into what they have to offer.
Now, as many people can attest to, some churches do not do a great job with this advertising opportunity, which is in keeping with businesses at large – some do a great job marketing themselves and some… don’t. But I would like to focus on one example of a church sign done correctly.
Keeping it Fresh
Church ABC’s sign is updated all the time! They never leave one message up there for too long. The result is that every time I drive by, I look to read the new message. Signs that have the same message hanging out there for weeks at a time just get ignored, but this sign always makes me look.
And nothing stops this sign from being updated! Last year we had the second highest snowfall ever in Michigan history and even though this sign has to be manually updated, the guy/gal responsible for it still kept up with trudging out there and updating the sign in all of the snow. In fact, he/she used this fact to form one of the messages, which read: “I wish I had an electronic sign.” It was great!
The Lesson: As a business, you need to work hard to keep your audience engaged because if you just get into a rut, they will stop paying attention and then your marketing will go unnoticed.
Using a Positive Tone for their Brand Voice
Church ABC uses a brand voice on the sign that is loving and encouraging and makes you want to stop by and check it out. Unlike the churches that come off as aloof or judgmental with their signs, Church ABC is never disparaging. They don’t take the angry fire and brimstone approach, they take the approach of acceptance. As an example, they recently had one message that read simply, “Need hope? Find some here.”
The Lesson: Don’t focus on what your competitors lack or what they’re doing wrong. These negative messages are likely to turn people away. Center your brand voice on what you have to offer and why someone should choose your business.
Tapping into Universality
Nothing is more fractured than religion/spirituality, which means that if Church ABC wants to appeal to people looking for a church, they need to find some common ground to unite all of these people. To do that, they post seasonal messages from time to time to tie them into the local community – like “Spring is finally here – Amen!” and “Congrats to all the grads.”
The Lesson: Determine what unites your target audience and use that in your marketing to cast a wider net.
Providing a Targeted Message
Obviously if every message that Church ABC posted was generic and universal, then they wouldn’t be able to really reach out and appeal to a specific group, which is important for a church to do. This is why some of their messaging is much more targeted. On occasion they will speak to people dealing with a certain hurt or hang up and offer help so that people in the community know that there’s a place for them to go.
The Lesson: Don’t get caught up in always trying to be everything for everyone. Take the time to address certain groups and appeal to their specific needs.
Being Clear and Concise
Most church signs are not very big and people driving by do not have much time to read them. This means that messages cannot be too wordy. Church ABC keeps their messages short and clearly communicates their point. Take, for example, a recent message from Church ABC: “Autumn leaves - Jesus doesn’t.” Whether they’re deep and meaningful or fun and witty, you know exactly what they’re trying to say as you pass by.
I once saw a church sign elsewhere that said “Ever hear of hell? Come hear our pastor speak this Sunday.” This sign is hilarious, but that’s probably not how that church intended to have their sign interpreted. Chances are, if someone else had read that message before it went up on the sign, they would have suggested a few edits!
The Lesson: Have different people look over your messaging and branding to see how it’s perceived. You want your message to be clear and not misinterpreted. This is especially important online, where people have even shorter attention spans. Have a concise message that resonates with your audience.
Kate Pierce is the owner of LionShark Digital Marketing LLC, a West Michigan internet marketing company. Her areas of expertise include Paid Search, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media, Web Consulting for small businesses, Copywriting and Local Online Marketing. She lives in the Grand Rapids area with her husband and enjoys cooking, watching sports and spending time outdoors. Like a true digital marketing expert (i.e. geek), she loves talking about marketing theory and SEM trends… so don’t say you weren’t warned!