Marketing for Missionaries

Let’s face it. Most of us are a little uncomfortable with the idea of combining ministry with marketing. There’s just something about that term that can make us feel uneasy. What is it about these two terms that can make us hesitate to use them in conjunction with each other?

Here are my top three ideas on why Marketing for Missionaries (and Ministry in general) is such a challenging concept, along with my three points to understand how and why marketing and ministry can work together.

Reason 1: The Used Car Salesman 

I HATE Sales. In a previous job in a web design company, I was asked to sell websites. For months, I struggled with my role. Sales was practically a 4-letter word in my mind. Every time I would meet with a potential customer, I hesitated, mainly because I thought I had to be a used car salesman. (“What do I have to do to get you in this website today, ma’am?”)

One of the most damaging terminologies out there is the phrase, “Sales and Marketing.” Somewhere along the way, these two terms became intertwined in our vernacular, and it has brought a lot of distrust and hesitation to the latter term. In reality, these two fields can work together, but they are vastly different concepts.

Redefining Marketing for Ministry

Sales is about getting someone to “buy in.” Marketing is all about telling a story. Sales can be pushy. Marketing should be informative. Sales is about a transaction. Marketing is about a relationship.

In ministry, especially for missionaries, mission agencies, and parachurch organizations, there is certainly a fundraising aspect. We have to find ways to fund the work God has called us to. Know this: Fundraising is not Sales. It is a purposeful act of partnership with supporters who believe in the work and the calling. But, that doesn’t just happen. It takes planning, strategy, and–yes–marketing.

Remember, Marketing is about telling a story, informing, and building a relationship.

Reason 2: We’re Bad at Marketing (or at least we think we are)

One of the worst things to ever happen to ministries was Microsoft Publisher.

There. I said it.

I remember when the software rolled out, and how suddenly–and as Microsoft would promote–anyone could create a flyer, a brochure, or a poster. What a great tool! Suddenly the cost of creating materials began to drop. It became easy to put something together thanks to the emerging technology. I remember using it for my first attempts at design. I loved it.

But, since it rolled out to the masses back in 1995, it has remained a primary tool for those who just wanted to create something “in-house.” I’m all for doing it affordably, but I also see how many ministries have become stuck in old strategies and styles because of this. As a result, we’ve not helped ourselves in the realm of promotion.

Redefining Our Methodology

But that doesn’t mean we’re failures at marketing our ministries. Some of us excel at storytelling, relationship-building, and informing. Many of us do this naturally as part of our calling. We can passionately talk about how God has shown up in our work, the lives that have been changed, and the impact someone’s support has made. Yet, there’s a disconnect between how we talk and how we share.  The passion we have doesn’t get translated well to our materials, our presentations, or our external message.

But we can do better.

My passion is in helping take the passion, the stories, and the information and finding a better way for you to share it. I want to help you tell the story of what God is doing, so that others can engage and partner with you.

Reason 3: We Can’t Afford It

There’s an old saying in the Advertising business. When times are tough, the first thing a company drops is its Marketing budget, and it’s the last thing to come back when times get better. It is obvious that, if we only have a certain amount of money, and we have top-priority expenditures, we need to pay those bills first.

This one I completely understand. When my wife and I were serving as the directors of a member care ministry, we gained a lot of insight into the struggle of fundraising and budgeting. We needed to keep the lights on. We needed to prioritize. It was hard to say that we could spend a large sum of our budget on promotional materials, conference exhibits, and marketing. Even with the benefit of having my experience and skills, there were still times we had to question whether we should take that leap of faith.

Redefining Our Investment

There’s another saying, one that I even hesitate to say at times, but holds true: Sometimes you have to spend money to make money. I think there’s a similar truth when it comes to marketing for missionaries and ministries. We have to invest time, effort, and funds into how we share our story. It takes these investments to reach out to those with whom we build relationships and partnerships.

There is a cost. But, it doesn’t have to be astronomical.

I developed Missionary Marketers as a way of partnering with missionaries, sending organizations, and other ministries who understand the value of good marketing, and how it can benefit their calling. I recognize that God has gifted me with skills and abilities to help put voice and image to the stories and work. I believe God has called on me to use those skills specifically to work with missionaries and to provide not just affordable options, but to go the extra mile (or two, or three, or…) as part of my service to Him.

So, let’s work together to tell the story of what God is doing in your ministry.

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