Find Your Profit in the Church Market

Have you ever thought of the church and Christian marketplace as a tangible source of new buyers for your products and services? Those who have worked in a church will tell you that it is as complicated as running a small or mid-size corporation. And what about the church members, those Christian consumers? Have you ever thought of these potential prospects as a segmented group of people who share common interests, gather to socialize and pass along their purchasing experiences? This social network of like-minded people is the perfect environment for word-of mouth advertising.

For business-to-business mailers, churches may offer a new market to penetrate. Like any other tests to new markets, you should data-mine your own inhouse customer base. If you’ve appended SIC codes to your file, look for those 8661’s, or keyword search on church, temple, Baptist, Catholic, etc. What information do you know about these buyers? Many church database companies can profile them for you for a nominal fee.

There are approximately 320,000 churches in America and we estimate that 225,000 are active buying churches. The size of a church usually directly relates to its purchasing power. Among church list providers there are two methods of reporting size: average Sunday attendance and membership. Since contributions come from the Sunday attendance, average Sunday attendance is much more accurate when determining the purchasing power of a church. Membership is often misleading because members come and go, move away and stop attending, and many times they are still on a church’s membership roles.

Here are some product and service ideas you may not have thought about:

• Employee benefits. Churches with large staffs have personnel issues to deal with just the same as a small company.

• Pastors in large churches are well-paid and need financial services.

• Hi-tech audiovisual equipment and software for enhanced worship services.

• Electronics such as TVs and VCRs, which are used in teaching.

• Child-care products for nursery programs.

An equally important demographic within a church list is denomination. Different denominations may respond differently from one offer to the next. When you test different lists, you will want to get the denomination when possible. Again, this type of information can be appended to your file by church database companies.

Every aspect about churches can be found in the lists that are available on the market today. There are churches with daycare and preschools; churches with counseling programs, with senior ministries, singles ministries, youth ministries, children’s ministries; churches using hi-tech audiovisual equipment, using specific software; churches ready to expand with building projects; and the lists go on and on.

How do you know which church list to rent? When considering a church list compiler, it is crucial to obtain some history of the database. You should ask: “How was the list generated?,” “What data can I select that will indicate a more mail-responsive church?,” “How is this list kept active and current?,” and “How tightly can I target this list?” Several compilers mail their file multiple times a year with an Address Correction Service Endorsement with card decks. Some gather information by conducting surveys in addition to obtaining corrections from their clients.

In addition, you need to define whom you should reach within the church. Available staff positions include the senior pastor, associate pastor, youth minister, music minister, business administrator, and secretary. Many marketers have more success using just the title in the address instead of an actual person’s name.

In short, churches are a fertile market for many types of non-ministry products. The economy is booming and so are church contributions. Churches are doing more and more to make their office run efficiently, provide better for their staff members and enhance their worship assemblies to make a greater impact on their members and the community.

For consumer mailers, look at the Christian consumer lists available on the market. You’ll find that this group is family-oriented and looking for family forms of entertainment. Christian consumers are where you’ll find the largest segment of home-schoolers. Many of these lists have demographics on children, head of household, occupation, homeowner and credit card data, computer usage, etc. Christian consumers are one of the largest groups for charitable donations and contributors to conservative political parties. They are highly educated, growing in wealth and care deeply for family, community and country.

Before spending your test dollars in this market, contact a broker with experience in the church and Christian marketplace. A qualified broker’s experience with what lists work and why, can mean the difference between finding a new customer base or marking it off as unprofitable. And remember, churches and their members offer two viable buying audiences to direct marketers offering business and consumer products!

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