Church Marketing: Why Felt-Needs Matter
Table of Contents
Fear Is A Felt Need — A Big One
Let’s be honest, no one wants to read anything else about COVID-19, especially in a church marketing post. But, sometimes it seems there is nowhere else to turn other than the media as we wait for the next shoe to drop. Our country has endured tough times in the past, yet we often forget how we got through it. Those with significant life experience know that the storm we find ourselves in will pass just like the others, however many still experience freak-out mode, yet again.
So, why are we in all-out panic? The simple answer is FEAR — that is, fear for our children, fear of losing jobs, fear of losing loved ones, and fear of the unknown because we aren’t in control. Fear causes illogical behavior and fear is commoditized now more than ever through endless streams of media available to us at all times. As followers of Jesus, we have an advantage because we already know we’re never in control anyway.
I always liked what infomercial guru Tony Robbins said about fear. He uses a F.E.A.R. acronym “False Evidence that Appears Real.” He’s right. While COVID-19 is real, the overwhelming majority of us, many who are frozen in fear, will not experience the worst, and the exhausting emotion of it all will have proven unnecessary in the end.
What Does the Bible Say About Fear?
Quite a bit! In fact, fear is mentioned 365 times in the Bible. You’ve heard your pastor preach about fear and you’ve read about fear in your devotionals. Even the most courageous of those among us experience fear because it is part baked into our DNA. However, the Bible makes it VERY clear that fear is not of God as the Apostle Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 1:7.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” — 2 Timothy 1:7
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” — Isaiah 41:10
“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” — Psalm 56:3
So Where Is the Church In Crisis?
The church is right where it has always been, comforting its people, helping communities, and leading the church family through trying times.
Now ask yourself the question: Is your church website content and church communications campaigns doing enough to communicate the same message to those outside of the church family — the message that there is a solid rock to stand on in times of trouble?
We know from data that many (really most) who are suffering will not turn to the church in trying times, but will turn their eyes toward the world for answers. Isn’t now a perfect, if not opportune, time to let your church website make a real difference?
Church Marketing For Those Who Do Not Know Him
As Christians, we know that God is greater than the fear we experience. He gives us the power to live without fear, even when things going on around us tell us to be afraid. His truth guides us and keeps us strong.
We want others to know these truths, but sometimes we overlook the tools right in front of us that could make it happen — you know, all of those church marketing tools you use every day. We know that God doesn’t need the internet or marketing campaigns to get His work done, but I do not believe He would have made it available if it wasn’t to be used as a tool to reach those who do not know Him. As digital marketers, that’s where we come in.
There is a large millennial audience that relies heavily on Google and social media for answers. Data tells us this is the same audience most likely to be unchurched. The question is, why do we use most of our online marketing expertise and bandwidth to reach those who already know Jesus and are familiar with the church? Shouldn’t we be targeting the audience that hasn’t yet been introduced to the goodness of God? Isn’t that where the battle needs to be fought and won?
Fighting For Felt-Needs
First, what is a felt-need? By definition, it’s a need experienced consciously that may relate to a sense of deprivation or a discrepancy with the affective ideal. An example might be difficulty in being a single parent.
Your church may already have a ministry or group for single parents, but who knows about it? Do you have a church marketing program to reach the unchurched in your community? Again, the data tells us that most churches are great when it comes to communicating with the church family, but not so great it comes to everyone else.
What about those who have felt-needs and go looking for answers online? If you don’t believe they do, just try a few Google searches for things like marriage counseling, raising difficult teens, substance abuse, or any number of felt-needs subject matter. You will likely find a plethora of secular solutions from therapists and clinics at the top of Google search results. Why shouldn’t your church be right up there at or near the top? The better question might be, why shouldn’t the church be fighting for the chance to address this audience?
Churches already build organizations around ministries to address felt-needs, and churches direct significant resources to these ministries. So, why not start reaching out to the people who need it most?
Does Your Content Rank
Even if you have created a page that describes an outreach ministry on your church website, it may not be nearly enough. Is your church website content ranking in Google search results for felt-needs keywords in order to attract searchers? Statistically speaking, probably not.
So, what’s the solution to this dilemma? At Delegal Digital, we call it felt-needs landing pages. You can call it whatever you want, just do it. How does this relate to church marketing or church web design? I thought you’d never ask.
Marketing Through Felt-Needs Pathways
The felt-needs pathway is just that: a path that leads someone who expresses a felt-need through a journey that leads to church. By using what we already know as digital marketers, we can create content that is optimized for the topics and keywords people are searching for. The resulting SERPs will attract the searcher to your content and gently guide them to the answer they are seeking. Your content will also help them to understand that the answer is likely part of a greater unfelt-need — that is, a deeper spiritual need that can only be met by knowing Jesus.
By creating specific felt-needs landing pages that are optimized for the right keywords, and addressing the users’ search intent, you can effectively attract people to your content and begin to help them understand there is a bigger, better answer. You can also begin to help them understand that what they are experiencing as a felt-need may just be masking a much deeper need.
Understand that the intent here is not to diminish the felt-need. Our life experience leads us all to perceive things a certain way, and it is detrimental to assume that anyone (other than God) has all the answers. That is the very reason we create specific ministries in church and put significant resources behind them.
What I am suggesting here is to take the lead online and do what is necessary to reach the unchurched with your ministry messaging and to do it in a way that acknowledges the issue, addresses it, and doesn’t diminish it in the eyes of the reader.
The Opposite of Church Growth
I know, from conversations with pastors, church officials, and many others in the church ranks, that growth means different things to different people. They may not agree with Pastor Rick Warren’s harsh assessment, but what they all agree on is the fact that we are called to reach more people with God’s word and the love of Jesus. Whether you see church growth as qualitative or quantitative, or both, we know we don’t want whatever the opposite might be.
Because many churches already put significant resources into marketing communications, it only makes sense that using these efforts to reach non-churchgoers and those who don’t even know Christ is the right thing to do. So, here is how you start.
10 Steps to Success
Select the most organized ministry in your church (probably the one with the most participants and stable leadership).
Gather everything you can that has been written internally about the ministry as well as any images, graphics, and other assets that can be used in a marketing-style campaign.
Recruit someone from the ministry’s leadership team to help guide you in distilling the purpose of the ministry, who the ministry helps, and how it helps. It would also be helpful here to glean profiles of the typical members or participants in the ministry. For you marketing nerds, this would be your personas.
Identify keywords that are relevant to the personas and campaign intent, and start your keyword research. Find out how others are searching online for related topics and make sure your content covers the best keywords and phrases that represent the ministry, especially in the context of felt-needs.
After you have identified the relevant keywords, write the content for your landing page. Remember who your audience is and don’t assume they know Jesus or anything about church, especially yours.
Make sure your landing page makes an emotional connection based on the chosen topic — acknowledgement that the reader is facing a challenge, and they are not alone. If you can create a short video that speaks directly to the reader, even better.
As the reader moves through your landing page, introduce the idea that your church offers ministry support for this felt-need. If you happen to have a relevant message from your pastor or video of an entire church service with a relevant sermon or message, you can add that too.
If your church supports small groups, life groups, or something similar you can offer an opportunity for the reader to connect by providing a summary and contact info.
Make sure that you begin to introduce the church as the reader moves into the landing page’s content. Even a relevant verse from the Bible can make a huge impact in the right place.
Finally, introduce a call-to-action for the reader to make contact with your church. This could be a contact capture form to receive a more detailed topical resource like an eBook or a follow-up email communication with more information about ministry or counseling. The call to action should also include an invite to church as well as a link back to your main church website, hopefully to a page for planning a visit to church.
Repeat the Process
You can repeat the ten steps above for each one of your church ministries that address felt-needs. This really is an incredible opportunity to use your online marketing chops to reach the unchurched population who are searching en masse for answers to their questions.
I recommend creating landing pages on a subdomain like need.yourchurch.com or help.yourchurch.com. You can maintain your church branding on these pages, but the most effective felt-needs landing pages are stand-alone and don’t contain the main menu and other global navigational elements of your main church website. Just make sure you have a relevant call-to-action and linkage back to a Plan-A-Visit page on your main website, or something similar.
That’s it. Making this effort will create growth in your church and will help scores of those who do not know Christ find a way to Him. We are provided the platform and the tools, so using them for this purpose — His purpose — should be part of your marketing mission.
Our agency, Delegal Digital, specializes in digital marketing and web design for churches and nonprofits. We would be delighted to speak with you about felt-needs landing pages or any other church marketing initiative you need help with.