Churches need to be E.P.I.C. (Experiential, Participatory, Interactive, and Community).
Experience is the new currency. Marketing experts are skilled at staging experiences. Starbucks is not about coffee. It is about the coffee-drinking experience.
In New York City, Nike’s 55,000 square foot store in SoHo is one of the company’s flagship stores. This amazing retail store redefines what it means to have “experience-driven retail.” Nike’s innovative approach is a game changer.
A church on Sundays is also a theatre experience. With a well-defined theme, we strive to eliminate negative cues that hinder engagement (slow website speed, poor audio or lighting). What memorabilia are people taking home? Giveaways, call-to-action (CTA) and free offers are put together to create engagement for retention (first 90 days) and engagement for spiritual formation (beyond 90 days).
People are no longer consumers. They are now “prosumers.” People not only consume but also produce. They share and retweet. They post about you on their twenty plus social channels. What people say about you is more trusted than what you say about your church.
C.K. Prahalad and Venkat Ramaswamy, in their book, The Future of Competition, warn organizations against ignoring a “prosumer.” Prahalad states it this way:
“The power of consumer communities comes from their independence from the company. In the pharmaceutical industry, for instance, word of mouth about actual consumer experience with a drug, and not its claimed benefits, is increasingly affecting patient demands. Thus, consumer networking inverts the traditional top-down pattern to marketing communications.”
Utilizing technology does not mean that we are conforming to the culture. Rather, it means we are recognizing where people are. By using technology, we are helping people interact, respond, and grow. Our channels of communication need to be interactive. Generational marketing requires that we promote to a specific generation of people based on their individual communication preference.
Church leaders need to embrace omni-channel and multi-generational marketing. Leaders can no longer ignore the way Millennials, Gen Z, and Gen X absorb information. We are now working with 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24. It is the highest ever in human history. This number will continue to grow.
Church automation will have to embrace omni-channel marketing. Most North Americans check their mobile phone an average of 34 times per day. Only 27% of millennials follow the news, compared to 46% of Gen X and 61% of baby boomers. (PRC)
We face the unique challenge of managing five generations of communication amid our ever-changing digital environment. Generations are going to get shorter and more compressed. Soon, Church leaders will be working with seven to eight generations in North America.
Without a building (a physical location), you need an online community. Contacts that used to be managed in person can now happen online. Chatbots, text messages, and social media channels provide greater opportunities for engagement. You do not have to invent something new. We can learn from what is proven and works.
The 3 C’s of an EPIC online ministry are Celebrate (Sundays), Connect (Small groups and pastoral care), and Contribute (time and resources). Without an unrelenting focus on Discipleship, Engagement, and a Faith-building Community (DEF), hunger for likes, followers and “busianity” will replace Christianity. Losing the spiritual focus and valuing the wrong things are dangers that Church leaders need to avoid. Counting the wrong things, the trappings, will not get us anywhere.