Creating a Marketing Budget for Your Church | Jason and Bart

Bart Blair Leave a Comment

This week Jason and Bart discuss how to create a marketing budget from the ground up and how to effectively use that budget

Podcast Transcription


Hey, welcome to season two, episode seven of Missional Marketing’s podcast, where we talk about things to help church leaders, church communications professionals, reach more people online. I’m Bart Blair, I am one of the coaches for Missional Marketing, and I’m joined, as always, by the big coach, the head honcho coach at Missional Marketing, Jason Hamrock.

Hi Bart, how are you doing today, man? It’s good to see you.

I am doing well. That’s the first time you’ve been referred to as the head honcho today?

I know, I know, that’s kind of odd, but OK, that’s cool.

Yeah, it is.

We have a lot of great coaches.

Yeah, we do, we have a growing team of coaches. So if you happen to be one of our partner churches, you might have had the opportunity to hang out with some of our folks, like Gordon or David or Mattie or Jen or Robert. Like, we’ve got a growing team of coaches helping churches reach more people online, that is our primary objective. And one of the things that we want to do with this podcast is take time for Jason and me to have a conversation once a month or so on a specific topic that we believe will hopefully help you as a church leader, a church communications professional, leverage the tools at your disposal to be a more effective church communicator, church marketer, church outreach specialist, a digital outreach specialist, whatever your role is. And today we’re going to have a conversation. I’m going to kind of interview Jason on the topic of budgeting, budgeting for church marketing, and digital outreach. This is something that we get to talk about with churches all the time in helping them navigate this landscape.

And so I thought I would lean into you today Jason, as a guy who’s served on staff at a church in communications, had to oversee a budget. I did so as a senior pastor in a small church, you did so as the communications director in a large church. So we can kind of compare and contrast the difference between budgeting in a large church versus budgeting in a small church. So as we take off, I’m going to get you to do one thing before we talk about church marketing budgets, I want you to review for our audience the three rings of communication that we always talk about at Missional Marketing.

Yeah, thanks, Bart. Because these three rings that we talk about, it really relates to everything you do, including your budgeting, right? So you’ve got to keep that in perspective when we talk about budgets, and how to budget and build a budget or, you know, all that kind of stuff, it’s all around these three rings.

Ring one are people who already go to your church. So just consider that, they’re there. They are either Christmas and Easter people they come only twice a year, to they come every week, they’re faithful, and everybody in between. That’s Ring one, people who go to your church.

Ring two are people that are looking for a church, right? They move to the city or the town, maybe their old church kind of had a split or they were kind of fed up, we don’t know, maybe it was a divorce situation. Regardless, it’s people that are looking for a church, and so we talk a lot about digital tools, and local SEO, and things of that nature when it comes to people looking for a church, ring two.

Ring three is a huge ring, it’s people that are searching for help with a felt need. They’ve got an issue, they’ve got a problem, you know, their marriages in trouble, their parenting needs to be sharpened, right, they’ve got an addiction, they’re overcoming stress or grief, maybe it’s a faith related thing they’re searching for, they’ve got a felt need problem and they’re googling it and we know this, and so we want to help churches reach ring three people, but that’s the three rings.

Ok, that’s great, I love setting that foundation for people, so they really understand that. So, you know, let’s just start with the good, the bad, and the ugly. Actually, let’s start with the ugly, the ugly of budgeting for church marketing, church outreach, digital outreach, Jason, what are some of the common mistakes that you see churches make when it comes to budgeting for their online marketing, their digital outreach, or any of their marketing?

Yeah, so a lot of churches, they don’t have a budget, right. they just maybe spend some money here and there. They have an idea, so they go ask for some money, there’s no clear plan. And that’s not a good approach to focusing on church growth. Right. And so the first thing is, what is your plan, right? Here we are in November of 2021, and a lot of churches that I work with, they have already started their conversation about what 2022 looks like in terms of budgeting and their marketing plan, what they’re going to use with those dollars, and what that looks like. And so it’s not hard, you have to think ahead a little bit, but that’s the biggest problem is most churches don’t have a clear marketing plan for the future.

Another thing that they don’t do, is they don’t consider all the ministry activity that’s coming up. Right? And often, this might sting a little bit, but often we build things around our own people, we create events, we think about our own people, ring one. What we really need to be thinking about is ring two, but more ring three, right? People that are outside your church, they’re either unchurched or they’re de-churched, and we have to give them, and share with them, and connect with them, the benefit to get engaged with this event. So understanding what ministries are doing and building a plan around connecting with them, it’s pretty good, it’s an important one.

And then this is another big one, most churches lock themselves in. Ah, well, you know, and I know, almost two years ago, COVID changed everything and you had to pivot on a dime if you wanted to keep your doors open. Every church had to do that, and a lot of businesses. Why I say that is because it forced you to react, most churches don’t leave any kind of margin for creativity, for unexpected things that are going to come up. Right? And so they just move from one thing to the next without any kind of margin of going, let’s let creativity seep into our thinking, and let’s also be ready to have to pivot in case something like COVID happens again.

Yeah, I like that. I think having that margin in your marketing budget is pretty important because there are things that will occur over the course of the ministry year that you didn’t plan for, and all of a sudden you realize, hey, this would be a great opportunity for us to run some Facebook ads, or to create a YouTube ad, or something of that nature, but we’ve already got our money kind of locked into certain things.

The other thing, too, is sometimes just experimenting. You and I are working with a church that we’re really pushing the boundaries and trying to be creative with some advertising techniques that we heard a guy try, he told us about in a podcast. He didn’t know he was telling us about it, but we listen to this podcast and this guy explained this strategy that he used with some experimentation. We happen to have a church that we work with that had some money to experiment and some try some things, so we’re throwing some stuff at the wall to see what sticks. It may stick, it may not stick, but kudos to the church for having the money in the budget to try something new and entrusting us with it.

So let me ask you a question, so one of the things is going into a year with a plan. And it is difficult, especially depending on the size of the church, to know exactly what you can plan for. But there are a couple of things that we know are essentials for every church when we hit the new year. And you just mentioned a moment ago that you’re already, you’re talking to churches that are already talking about what they’re going to be doing in, you know, in the next year in 2022. The truth is, though, you and I both know we will be on phone calls with churches in February, and talking to them about their Easter plan, and they won’t even know what their budget for Easter marketing is going to be. Ok, so let’s drill down on a few of the things that are essential, that every church should actually go into a new year, whether it’s a fiscal year or a calendar year, what are two or three things that every church has to have in their marketing budget every year?

Well, first and foremost, a solid website, right? If you think of the church, and the steps as a house, right, our goal is to get them into the kitchen area, right, the family room because they’re part of the community. And you know, you don’t end up, that’s not your first step, right, people don’t show up at my front door and they get to the kitchen, right? Usually, they’re on the porch, right? And then they walk in, and now they’re in like the foyer, and then they’re going to the living room, and then it’s to the family room and the kitchen. So from that perspective, think about your website. Ok. Your website really isn’t the porch anymore, it is really kind of inside the living room. And if you’re living room is a mess, and it doesn’t look the best, I’m probably not coming back to your house. It’s like, whoa, stay away.

I’m certainly not going to come and sit at your kitchen table and eat if you’re living room is messy.

Oh, my goodness, no, I’m going to politely decline. So I say that to say that your website is such an incredibly important tool. And if it just, yeah, we built it six years ago, it’s good enough, that’s the wrong answer. You are literally thinking like Blockbuster thought, right, let’s just build more Blockbusters, we’re in good shape, man, we are the king of the mountain. Uh, uh, Netflix came along and crushed that, right? So you have to think of your website is probably one of your most, not the only one, but it is one of your most powerful tools to help grow your church. Ok?

The other thing I would think about is Christmas and Easter, Christmas and Easter, like those are two times of the year, people will come to church if invited, right? And so you want your people, your congregation, to extend that invitation and bring in their friends, and family, and coworkers, and in-laws, and everybody else. But you want to supplement that with some digital ads around Christmas and Easter, it’s the two times of the year that we, as churches, have an opportunity to bring a lot of new people into the church. And so those are just a couple of them that I think are really, really important.

Yeah, I think those three points, I’ll just recap them quickly. A website, having an effective website, you and I before we started this conversation, we’re talking about an advertising campaign that didn’t perform as well as the church had hoped it would, they were trying to draw people into a specific event, they were really disappointed. The truth is, we were able to deliver a lot of eyes on their website, and a lot of eyes and ears on their YouTube video campaign, but their website was just really lackluster, and it really didn’t communicate effectively to their audience and compel people to want to engage with the event and the activity that they were promoting. So it is an essential place to start, a solid website. And Christmas and Easter, I mean, if you don’t budget as a church for anything else, set aside some funds to promote Christmas and Easter because there are people that are looking to engage with the church those two times a year.

Let’s go back to something you said just a minute ago, you said, OK, I built my website six or seven years ago, you’re thinking like Blockbuster. How often do you think the church ought to consider rebuilding, revamping a website?

Well, your website’s never finished, it is a growing living thing. And so every week your website is growing and changing. However, I would say that about every two years, two to three years, you’re wanting to think about rebuilding your website. You’re like, Jason, we can’t afford that. Yeah, you can’t afford not to. Think about it, technology advances all the time, right, and just, I mean, just two years from now what technology is going to be. Look at what Facebook just did, right, Meta, they are going to go into the virtual reality world, that’s what they’re doing. And it’s not stopping, and you can’t just go, well, you know, we built our website last year, we’re good for four years. No, you really want to build it into your budget, and this might take time, especially if you’re a smaller church, it takes time. You’ve got to build into your budget, some money to be working on, or redoing, your website every two to three years. So maybe you’re saving money right for three years, and then you’re going to go spend that money. And this isn’t a lot of money, I’m not saying to spend tens and tens of thousands of dollars, it could be as simple as just like, you know, five or ten thousand dollars, which maybe sounds like a ton of money for churches, and it might be, but it’s your best growth tool that you’ll have digitally speaking.

I know a lot of small church pastors that don’t drive vehicles worth $5,000, and so to spend $10,000 on a website seems like a lot. However, it is true, it is easy to drop ten, or fifteen, or fifty thousand dollars on a church website. It’s not always necessary. It’s not always necessary, we think it’s really important that when you’re looking at building a new website, you look at different companies, and you compare and contrast the gifts, and the talents, and the abilities of each of those companies. For the normal size church that probably isn’t going to spend ten, or fifteen, or twenty thousand dollars on a website, Jason, what are some cost-effective ways that a normal-sized church can and should budget for a church website?

Yeah, you know, we build all of our websites on WordPress, just because it’s open-source, and it’s the most popular by far, it’s the most supported system platform by far. But you know what, if you don’t have a whole lot of money, and yet maybe you’ve got a little bit of money to hire a designer or you can do some things, I’d encourage you to do that. I’ve seen a lot of websites I cringe at when I see, a lot of church websites, I’m just like you might as well not have a website. You actually do more damage to your reputation by what I’m seeing online, I’d rather not see anything online. But I would recommend Squarespace, it’s fairly easy, you can get in there and build templates, at least you can do some stuff in Squarespace. You don’t have to be a computer programmer or a website programmer, you can get along just fine with Squarespace. We also offer a lot more cost-effective, like a ready-made website for churches. We’ve got three, I think, three different, or four different, versions of websites that you can literally launch inside 30 days, right, and with your images and your content, but it’s already all structured. We offer that, so that might be something.

Or, you know, just kind of a thing where you either do it yourself or you outsource it, there are a lot of people who will do web design. Now, I would caution to make sure you don’t hire somebody, you know, just because they’re a good designer doesn’t mean they know how to build a church website, that’s a different…We’re not talking, just user experience. we’re talking about actually leading people down a path. So it’s a totally different thing when you’re going, well, I’m just going to find a company and pay them some money and they’re going to build our website. They need to know what they’re doing in terms of church websites, not just building a website. So I always tell churches, like you said, do your homework, ask us. We really, I’m going to say this, I probably shouldn’t say this, we really don’t care if you choose to hire us or you hire somebody else. What we care about is the product that gets established and launched that it is the best product for you, and it’s one that Google is going to be watching and paying attention to, and the users actually have a path to get into a seat. We care more about that than we care about getting a new client.

Yeah, I think that’s well said. I mean, we have built websites for churches that have cost tens of thousands of dollars, but you talked about our ready-made websites, which are WordPress websites with no restrictions in them. So there are other companies that build WordPress websites for churches, they package them in a way that you don’t actually have full access to the WordPress platform, it’s kind of restricted. And they do that mostly to keep you from breaking it because you can, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can break it. But part of that is to create a dependency on the relationship with them, because you’re probably paying them a subscription to have access to that. So we have readymade websites, they cost just under three thousand for a website that can be up and running and typically less than 30 days, depending on a few factors there. It is a full-on WordPress website, which you can then continue to add to, build on, and use it as sort of a foundation. We actually even have a single-page WordPress website that can probably be launched in a matter of a week or two if you really need one. And again, it’s full, it’s a few hundred bucks, it’s a full WordPress website, and that can be launched pretty quickly.

You did mention Squarespace, which I will say, you know, we are not sponsored by Squarespace and we benefit nothing if you decide to go use Squarespace. We prefer Squarespace as a subscription template site because it’s probably one of the most search engine optimizable platforms there are. Some of the others, like Wix and Weebly, have been making improvements in the last year or two. But Squarespace, we find to be the most Google-friendly, and we want a Google-friendly website. So that’s the primary reason we like WordPress, but Squarespace is a close second.

And, you know, doing it yourself versus hiring someone, I would say this, you’ve always got to count the cost. Sometimes churches think that they’re going to save money by doing it themselves, but in the end, it ends up costing them more time than it would have if they had just spent the money on it in the first place. We’ve got a church that had an internal staff member build a website, designed the website, spent the better part of a year, the church launched the website, and less than a year later, he’s left the church to take another ministry position with a different ministry, and they’re already rebuilding that website. And it wasn’t worth it, it would have been better for them to have hired somebody from the outside to help design and develop that site.

Ok, let’s move on. So we talked about the three essentials for every church in their budget. You’ve got to have a website in your budget, it doesn’t have to be every year, but you need to be thinking about it every year. You need to have Christmas and Easter on your website. We talked about cost-effective ways of doing a website. What are some cost-effective ways for me to advertise Christmas and Easter?

Oh, well, you know, interruptive campaigns, for sure. So when I say interruptive, it’s utilizing like Facebook and Instagram, Google Display Network, YouTube, like Tik Tok, those are interruptive ads, right. because you’re interrupting them and you’re getting something in front of them. Video or static image. they’re fantastic, they work really well. they’re super cost-effective, and you’re driving people to your website, your landing page, your website, that’s awesome. Nothing against traditional, I still like traditional ways of advertising, we’ll talk about that, but those digital ways, like that is great low hanging fruit, you get to reach people in a geo targeted area, and they’re landing on your website. Right> So that’s a no-brainer, you could run those campaigns for like 30 days, or we’ve got churches that they’ll run campaigns every month. Right? They know they’re going to do something, they’re inviting people to church, or they’re going to promote something, and so building that into your budget is just smart. Not that you have to use us, I’m just telling you, this is what I would do if I was a communication director and my church said to me, we’ll put together something, I would put money into an ongoing, interruptive digital ad campaign. Right? I might boost that for Christmas and Easter, but I might say, you know, if I had a few hundred dollars or five hundred dollars a month, that would be awesome. Now that may be too much, maybe it’s only one hundred dollars a month and you want to do it yourself. You can, but do it, have that built into it. And we’d love to coach you up on what that looks like, but that’s what I would do with\ digital ads.

And Jason, if all I was going to budget for, if I knew all I had was I’m going to throw some money at Christmas and throw some money at Easter, how much would you suggest that I set aside for that?

Probably five hundred bucks each, right. So a thousand dollars for those two events. I mean, that’d be like a minimum, you know, I mean, obviously, if you can add more, you’re just going to get more ads out there and you’re going to get more clicks. Right? So at a minimum, I’d say five hundred bucks per.

Ok, that’s a good place to start. And like you said, I like to look at a church’s overall calendar and say, well, you know you’re going to do Christmas and you know you’re going to do Easter, and you should probably have at least five hundred dollars for each of those. Are you going to do vacation Bible School? Because if you’re going to do vacation Bible school, you might look at trying to set aside five hundred dollars for Vacation Bible School. Are you going to do a fall harvest or some kind of fall kick-off, maybe you want to set aside five hundred dollars there? So at the bare minimum, I think almost every church, if you are intentionally trying to engage with the unchurched unreached church people in your community, starting with about two thousand dollars a year in your budget, which translates to about forty dollars a week, it’s like like forty dollars a week. You’re not going to spend forty dollars a week, you’re going to spend five hundred in each of those seasons, but that’s really all it would take. If you could carve out forty dollars a week out of your weekly offering and set that aside for digital advertising, you can have four nice big bumps in the year with a couple of thousand bucks. Right,

Jason, there’s a whole lot of other stuff that we encourage and coach churches on doing. You know, what are some of the other things that a church ought to at least consider, talk about, think about, in terms of their overarching budget. We don’t need to get into the weeds of that, but what are some other bullet points?

Well, yeah, I won’t get into the weeds, but you’ve got to think about local SEO. So Google your church’s name and you’re going to find your Google My Business, right, you’re going to see that. Making sure that in Google local PAC, when somebody is looking for a church, we can talk to you. Go research our website about local SEO. it’s one of the most important things that you probably don’t know about that you need to do this coming year, right away. So go check that out, that’s the first thing.

Google Ad Grant, right, Google gives ten thousand dollars a month, ten thousand dollars a month in Google search ads. And so we get to manage a lot of churchs’ Google Ad Grants, we love to teach about it. And so if it’s something you can do, awesome, you may not even know about it. So the Google Ad Grant is another one that I really love. We talked about those ongoing interruptive campaigns. Those things are phenomenal. Or paid Google search, right, you can use a Google Ad Grant, or you can have a paid campaign. They are just some of those tools that if you think about it, and if you plan for it, you can get really creative. And they’re fantastic to drive a lot of traffic to your website, and that’s the goal because you want to get them from your website into a seat.

Ok, the last question, and then we’re going to wrap this up. This has been kind of an abbreviated podcast, and in case anybody is wondering why we’re not rambling on forever, it’s because we have another meeting that we have to get to and we already have people waiting in our Zoom room. So we’re going to wrap this up, and I’m going to ask you one last question. When I’m looking at my overall budget, obviously Missional Marketing, our perspective is that you get more bang for your buck with digital ads, anything online, you need to advertise online because that’s where people are. But let me ask you a question, where do things like print ads, and postcards, and newspaper ads, and billboards, and things like that, how does that fit into the big picture in the plan for my annual marketing?

Yeah, you know, I am a fan of like direct mail pieces to new home buyers, I would do that, I would do a series of them to let them know they’re invited to church, that’s easy. I’m not a huge fan of newspapers, I think it’s had its day. I do like billboards, you know, because you can communicate something, everybody is going to see it. I personally don’t get a newspaper, I haven’t gotten one in years, right? And so I think with billboards, you’re going to see a lot of people. So if you have extra money, I would do direct mail pieces to new home buyers. You know, I wouldn’t, I had a church that spent fifty thousand bucks a year on direct mail, and they do two direct mail pieces a year. What a waste, like, you transfer that to digital and you break that down to some billboards and some direct mail pieces, you can have so much more for that, so I would do that.

Otherwise, you know, I’m not like TV and radio, maybe, it’s just not a lot of people have that kind of a budget, and I would make that very special, like maybe a Christmas, or an Easter, for a TV spot. Again, digital is so much better because so geo-targeted to people around you, everybody. Not everybody is on Facebook, but everybody uses Google, everybody uses Google. You’re searching for stuff online all the time. you’re always on websites, and different games, and different apps, youq can advertise to people.

So, yeah, I just want to piggyback on a couple of little things there. Number one is, newspapers, most people don’t read the news in the newspapers, they read them on websites. Who puts the ads on websites? Google, Google Display, right? We talk to churches all the time about what’s called the Google Display Network, which if you’ve ever been in an app or on a website and you’re scrolling through the article and you see these little ads that pop up, there’s little x in the corner and it says, why am I seeing this? Well, you’re seeing that because you are in the geo-targeted area of somebody pushing a Google Display Ad out. And so we can help you, as a church, use Google Display Network to actually get in those news feeds of where people are actually reading their news. And then YouTube is really the television advertising of today, right? People watch, I think I read an article recently that said, you know, the average American spends about eight hours a week watching video content online. And of course, that’s all platforms, that’s everything from Instagram, Reels, to Tik Tok, to YouTube. But you can advertise on YouTube for pennies on the dollar of what it would cost to run ads on television, and geo-target and reach the people that you’re trying to reach, and give them a direct click from the YouTube platform right to your website, which makes it super easy.

So, I just think that’s a really effective way for you to use those dollars. We’re going to wrap up here. The last point that I want to make, is that if you are church communications professional, maybe you’re a senior pastor, maybe you’re an executive pastor, and you’d love to have some conversation with Jason or me about how to actually budget long term,q short term, we can help you budget for websites, your marketing strategies, we’d love to meet with you one on one, no obligation, no cost to you. We’ll put a link in the show notes that you can click to our website and schedule a meeting with one of us, and we would be happy to just sit down with you, look at some numbers, share some best practices, things that we see other churches doing and how that’s being effective at helping them reach more people online.

Thanks for taking the time to listen to this podcast, or watch it on YouTube, we appreciate your time, we know that you have a lot of options out there. If you haven’t subscribed wherever you’re consuming this content, make sure you do that, leave us a rating, leave us a review, let us know if you like what we do. If you don’t, we’ll just delete your comment. I’m just kidding, we won’t do that, but we’d love to have your feedback, Jason, any parting words?

No, just be thinking ahead, it’s going to pay off huge for you, lots of dividends for doing that.

Thanks, Jason.

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