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What is your product? An analysis of future Church marketing.

Updated: May 27, 2020

We are just beyond one month in the Coronavirus quarantine, and in this time I have noticed a very important distinction with adapting marketing efforts that could effect the ministry approach of any Catholic organization, particularly Catholic parishes.

Let me explain...

As an adjunct marketing professor, I have the opportunity to go back to the fundamental concepts surrounding the industry often. One such concept is the Marketing Mix, or The Four Ps. The Marketing Mix is a tool that helps an organization analyze its marketing objectives in relation to its target market through these four basic elements of the brand:

1. Product: What is your product or service and how does it meet a need or want of the consumer?

2. Place: Where is your product or service made available to the consumer?

3. Promotion: How can you demonstrate the value of your product or service to meet your target market’s needs or wants?

4. Price: What is a reasonable price point to set for your product or service that accentuates value for the consumer?

Before we jump into the Marketing Mix, let’s take a moment to consider the marketing objectives of the Church. While we are called to serve our engaged audience, defined in this case as Catholics who attend weekly Mass, is that truly enough? Considering recent Gallup data that suggests less than 40% of Catholics attend Mass every week, a decline from 75% in 1955, it’s obvious a great opportunity exists to introduce Jesus to a broader audience through additional means.

With that, let’s begin an analysis of the marketing mix by exploring the product itself. In the case of the Church, I would argue the product itself has become misconstrued...and the current pandemic has brought this to light for many of us.

Consider this - what do you identify as the Church’s “product?” Sunday Mass probably comes to mind as the ongoing service that is offered. No question it meets a need for the engaged population. It’s irreplaceable. It’s comfortable. It’s contained. It’s safe. And it reaches only the core target audience which continues to shrink. So, the marketer in me asks, have we become too content with that one-day-a-week routine alone?

And while our core group experiences the source and summit of our faith through the Eucharist during Mass, and it is the most significant “place” where we experience the Church, I daresay this is not our sole “product” as it only speaks to a portion of our target audience. There are additional segments we aim to reach who aren’t ready or willing to come to us every Sunday - they require a different level of engagement through different mediums.

The ultimate product of the Church that is available for everyone, no matter their position in the sales funnel, is directly tied to Her mission and will never change no matter the current conditions of the world - it’s Jesus!

[I will pause here to acknowledge, under our current circumstances, the loss of physical Communion is painful for so many of us. It hurts, as it is pivotal to our identity as Catholics; however, we can, and should, experience Jesus through additional “places” in our lives beyond the Sunday liturgy.]

As we aspire to help each other get to Heaven, we are called to reach our “consumers” by providing our product in locations that are convenient and accessible. COVID-19 has compelled us to stretch beyond our comfort zone, the normal routine, and challenge the status quo. We are given this opportunity to be more creative in how to bring Jesus into the homes of our fellow parishioners and beyond.

Daily Masses are now being live-streamed and we are seeing more participation than normal. Faith-based presentations, bible studies and praise and worship are being shared through digital mediums, bringing Christ into the homes of Catholics everywhere. We see the clergy making themselves vulnerable and available in new spaces and laity taking on more responsibility to keep their faith active and present without apology.

Through this added convenience, our brand, the Church, will grow.

I recently heard, “The Church is not empty, it is deployed.” While I don’t know whom to credit with this quote, this speaks to the point of our mission. The Church is not the building, it is the people. We all have a Baptismal responsibility to bring Jesus into the world, we are called to be missionary disciples, so we shouldn’t limit our product to just one day of the week in just one location.

Jesus is everywhere, so we must make Him available and accessible to everyone. As our ”place” becomes more sophisticated and expansive through new distribution methods, then we allow ourselves the ability to be more innovative and creative in how we promote our product. This situation allows us to share our product, Jesus, with more breadth and depth to a larger variety of audience segments.

And as any brand is able to build out additional touch points and expand its reach, the perception of value becomes more clear.

Generosity follows value.

The Church, as with many brands, has been forced to adapt in this current situation. We have lost a vital component of our “product” temporarily, but we have identified a great marketing opportunity to expand our reach to additional audience segments through expansive distribution methods. This is an important lesson for the Church as we eventually return to the pews.

Ultimately, I pray we never return to normal, rather adopt what we have learned, expand our scope and take advantage of the virtual landscape that is available for us to share Jesus with others.

Let KP Consulting Group help you work through your best approach for this in the long term. Contact us for a consultation!

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