Most churches are constantly looking for new ways to get new people through the doors. But when you think beyond the how, do you know what they’ll do once they’re in? Have you planned all the ways the church can find, engage, minister to, and retain them?
Thankfully, we can use 21st century tools to the glory of God and help people get (and stay) connected with the church. One of those modern methods is the marketing funnel.
What is a marketing funnel, anyway?
In the secular marketing world, a marketing funnel is an illustration that outlines a customer’s journey all the way from awareness toward the purchase of a product or service. It usually looks something like this:
And it typically does three things for businesses:
- Provides a visualization of the customer journey that helps a company clarify the process and convert more leads into customers
- Serves as a map that companies can follow to strategically plan each step of their customer’s decision-making process
- Presents ways for companies to measure progress, set goals, and modify strategies depending on where in the funnel they typically gain or lose customers
For companies and for-profit organizations, the marketing funnel is all about outlining the stages in a potential buyer’s journey, aiming to turn their website visit into a completed purchase. Churches have a need for a similar process, but with a purpose that impacts eternity and is much more consequential than leading people on a journey to purchase a pair of sunglasses.
Why would a church need a marketing funnel?
The Church doesn’t do or need “marketing” in the same sense that businesses do. We’re not exactly trying to sell Jesus like a self-improvement product. But we do have something in common with the goals of a traditional marketing funnel—we’re trying to move people from point A to point B. We’re trying to help people make a decision. And we want them to stick around after they’ve made that decision.
Additionally, churches can use a marketing funnel to…
#1 – Get people connected.
We’ve already established how critical, life-changing, hope-giving, etc. that being a part of the body of Christ is. Because it’s so important for people to get connected with the church, so is having a plan to guide them through it. Great things don’t always happen by chance; write out how people can best take a next step.
#2 – Establish a solid process.
When you’re new to a church (or new to the Church as a whole), there are few things more discouraging than feeling like no one knows or cares about your presence, problems, and needs.
By creating a marketing funnel, churches can build a process that ensures no one falls through the cracks. You can establish not only why you want people to engage, but specifically how they can engage with the church and what should come next for them.
#3 – Engage people at every step.
Bombarding people with messages that only serve us is much less effective than providing helpful resources that build relationships and credibility. But without a plan, you’re shooting into the dark when you create and share those resources.
With a marketing funnel, you have outlined, specific, strategic steps where you can meet people where they are. You can refine ministry goals and follow up effectively. Do they not even know that the church exists? Here, on your marketing funnel, is how you’ll help people discover your church. Are they just finding out about the church? Here, on your marketing funnel, is where to lead them next.
The Funnel: Church vs. Business
You may be asking, “What’s the difference?” or “How can we safeguard our church from leaning too heavily into marketing and forgetting about people?”
For churches, it’s important to remember that marketing is about people. And “marketing” itself isn’t a dirty word for us. According to the dictionary.com definition, to “market” something is simply “to advertise (something) to a target audience.” And what could be more important to advertise to the world than growing in Jesus and getting connected with His people?
Funnels for businesses are all about conversions—converting people from a prospect to a customer, from a website visitor to an event attendee, from a social media follower to loyal brand advocate.
Well, funnels for churches are all about conversions, too—converting people from a bystander to a participant, from a church service attendee to a church member, from an email newsletter subscriber to a small group leader.
Every step of a person’s journey in getting connected with a local church is important, and every step of getting connected is a big, intimidating step to some. That’s why it’s essential for the church to put care and planning into the process.
We can utilize tools like marketing funnels to build relationships, develop goals, and establish credibility in our community. And ultimately, in being intentional about mapping this journey for people, we can utilize a funnel to further the kingdom of God.
We created a Church Marketing Funnel resource that you can use as a guide to build your own. It’s shaped just like the traditional cylindrical marketing funnel that businesses use, but it’s tailored to the needs of the church. Here's a glimpse of it.
This resource not only helps your church define a pathway for getting people connected, but also suggests the channels you should use to do so and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that your team can use to determine effectiveness.
Click here to join Church Fuel to get the full resource and instant access to our members-only Lab where we help you Create a Marketing Funnel for Your Church.