In part one of this part three part series, Pastor Wirth talked about how Relevant Church uses creative marketing ideas to cause a buzz and increase the effectiveness of the marketing. Then, in part two he discussed using multiple layers of marketing to greatly increase the effectiveness of the marketing effort. In the third part of my interview with Pastor Wirth, he talked about creativity in marketing, how it can be used, and what that means to different churches.
Part 3 – Being Creative in Your Church Marketing
Kurt: Let’s talk about some of the marketing ideas you have used, not so much the forms of marketing like SEO or Adwords, but the messages you’ve used. I know you did the 30 Day Sex Challenge
Pastor Wirth: With our 30 Sex Challenge. Obviously, that had some buzz because it’s sex and the church is telling people to have sex for 30 days. That had some buzz to it.
And we had over a million hits to our website during that 30 Sex Challenge thing. So, that was a huge deal for us. It created a huge buzz, but all of our billboards, all of our signs, all only said 30DaySexChallenge.com. That’s it. And that drills into a website which gave them more information about our church and what the series is about and everything.
Kurt: Giving people enough information to get their attention and get them to act, but leaving them wanting more information.
Pastor Wirth: It’s a hook And some people say, “Well isn’t that bait and switch?” and I’m like, “No, it’s not bait and switch. It’s just a hook.” If people go to the site and it’s not what their looking for, they click off of the site. It’s that simple. But if we can get people to stay on the site and peruse it, they may think, “Wow! If I was going to go to church, I would definitely want to go to this church.” Hopefully, that will spark someone’s interest.
Kurt: I know I’ve seen a lot of other creative church marketing strategies. Some that come to mind are the My Lame Sex Life campaign, I saw a billboard the other day that said “Boycott such-n-such church. – Signed Satan”, and you had the 30 Day Sex Challenge. How have you found that those are effective? Do you find that those kind of “creative” marketing campaigns are more effective than the more traditional marketing ideas that churches use.
Pastor Wirth: Well, you tell me. We got over one million hits in thirty days during the 30 Day Sex Challenge. Ask any other church if by just putting my picture up on a billboard going “Come and listen to Pastor Paul Wirth on Sunday morning.” They would get that kind of response. Here’s the deal, unless you are looking for a church, why in the world would you even look at that billboard (of Pastor Wirth’s face) or website. It just doesn’t make any sense. Anyone who does a billboard, whether you promoting Mountain Dew, Google, or liposuction will tell you you’re trying to get someone’s attention. So, I think it’s foolish for the church not to try to get people’s attention when we really have the greatest message of all time to give to people. And for us to think that we are going to get their attention by the same means we did 50 years ago is foolish. I think, yes, for us it works much better.
I don’t think every church can do it. You have to make sure it fits the demographic and the people that you are trying to reach. If someone is trying to reach 60 year olds, I don’t know that putting up a flashy billboard for the 30 Day Sex Challenge would be beneficial for them. That’s not going to market to their people. You know what they should do? If they are marketing to 60 year olds, they should figure out what do 60 year olds like to do and they should market to that. If that’s giving free coffee away for all the walkers in the mall that walk every single morning at the mall. Well, that’s 60 year olds. So, why not go market to them and do something that’s going to be beneficial to that age group and that demographic. I think that’s where the creativity comes into it. How do you market to your demographic? Well, you have to know you’re demographic and know what their needs are and then shoot it that way.
Kurt: So, you don’t think the marketing message has to be crazy or outlandish, it just needs to fit the demographic that you are trying to reach.
Pastor Wirth: Absolutely. That’s the thing. You’ve got to know your demographic and then market to them. Outlandish works for us because of who we’re trying to reach. Outlandish wouldn’t work in St. Petersburg for 60 year olds because it wouldn’t reach them. Just be creative in your own environment.
I don’t try to knock people who do things more traditionally in their creativity because they are trying to reach a more traditional market. But, on the flip side of that, getting real negative feedback from lots of other churches because we are being creative in marketing to our demographic seems to be foolish as well. You know we had more negative feedback from religious people than we did from mainstream media, just because they didn’t understand what we were trying to do and didn’t think that we should try to do it even if they would understand it. They say, “That’s still wrong.” Well, ok, that’s your opinion, but we’re seeing people trust Christ and that’s what it’s about. It’s about reaching people for eternity.
Kurt: Staying on that point. You mentioned that you got over a million hits on your website during the 30 Day Sex Challenge. Have you seen that with all the attention that you got is it just attention or does it translate into reaching people for Christ?
Pastor Wirth: Well, we’ve grown by 20% through that challenge. That’s not exponential growth, but it’s manageable, sustainable growth and about 3 times what the average church is growing in America today. And during the 30 Day Sex Challenge we saw 13 people trust Christ. I’m talking about sex and their getting saved. They are beginning their relationship with Jesus Christ. So, those are the things that we look at more. Some people ask, “Man, did you double or triple is size?” And I respond, “No, we just have manageable, sustainable growth, which that is good and we consider that successful.”
Kurt: As we finish up the interview, are there any lessons that you’ve learned or tips that you have that you’ve learned through either your online or offline marketing that you could share with our readers?
Pastor Wirth: I think the main thing in any kind of marketing is “know your target.” If you don’t know your target, if you don’t know who you’re trying to reach…and quite frankly I think too many times people in church work try to shoot with a shotgun and say “We’re here to reach everyone.” Well, you can’t reach everyone because you are probably going to reach people who are most like you. So, find out who you are. Find out what you do well and do that and then market to those kinds of people who would fall into that same category. Secondarily, spend some money in actually marketing. I still consider myself a church planter. I hear too many church planters say, “Well, if I had the money that you had, I could market too.” Well, we spend a thousand dollars on a billboard and we spend a hundred dollars a month on some other stuff. We’re not spending a ton of money on marketing; we’re just trying to maximize the marketing we’re doing. So, call around, but do something. Doing nothing is not optional. If we’re trying to reach people for the Kingdom, doing nothing is not optional. We have to do something.
Kurt: Well, I think that’s it. Thank you taking the time to talk with me.
Pastor Wirth: No problem, any time.
I want to thank Pastor Wirth again for taking the time to share with me and our readers. If you would like to learn more about Relevant Church or visit them, please visit their website at: http://www.relevantchurch.com/