The success of
the book The Purpose Driven Life defies everything most business
people believe about marketing. How could a book by a Southern
Baptist minister on a seemingly narrow religious topic go without
national advertising or publicity for a year and a half following
its release and still sell 26 million copies in three years to
become the fastest selling hardcover book in history?
The answer seems as unlikely as
the book’s success. Truly effective marketing, it turns out—the kind
that creates success stories like PDL—does not try to reach lots of
people all at once. In fact, mass marketing cannot create mass
appeal on the scale of The Purpose Driven Life.
Greg Stielstra was the marketing
director for The Purpose Driven Life. He has identified a four-step
strategy that made the Purpose Driven Life a success. He describes
it in a book called PyroMarketing.
Greg has kindly agreed to
augment this article. His comments are in
- Gather the driest tinder:
Focus your promotions on those people most likely to buy,
benefit from, and then enthusiastically endorse your product or
service. They are the only ones whose ignition temperature is
within reach of your advertising. They light easily and burn
hot. The driest tinder is where word-of-mouth wild fires begin.
Jesus didn’t begin by speaking to
crowds of 5000, he called the twelve disciples. Those men were
so inclined toward his offer that they left their families,
their possessions and their occupations after a single exposure
to Jesus’ message. “Put down your nets and follow me…”
- Touch it with the match: To the extent you can, give people an experience with your
product or service. If you want people to laugh, don’t tell them
you’re funny, tell them a joke. Experience is the shortcut to
product understanding. It touches people deeply and generates
more heat than advertising, igniting even the mildly interested.
Jesus didn’t walk around
claiming to be the Son of God, instead he performed miracles and
gave people an experience with things only the Son of God could do--he
restored sight to the blind, healed the lame, and made lepers
clean. Is your church claiming to be a place where people can find
help and hope or are you demonstrating those facts through
- Fan the flames: Fanning
the flames means giving people tools to help them spread your
message throughout their social network. People spread messages
more effectively than advertising. The fire is hotter than the
match. This is why the process that spreads your marketing
message must be different than the one by which it began.
Leveraging the power of personal influence is the only way to
expand your marketing fire beyond its point of origin (the
driest tinder and mildly interested) to the masses. By
understanding the process you can equip people with tools to
exponentially increase their reach and influence.
Jesus gave his disciples the
great commission, but he also equipped them for effectiveness by
sending his Holy Spirit. Properly equipped, the disciples were an
unstoppable force. They walked to the ends of the known world and
most died as martyrs passionately spreading a message that was not
originally their own! How are you equipping the saints to spread
news of your church?
- Save the Coals: Saving
the coals means keeping a record of the people you encounter
through your marketing so you can quickly and easily reach them
to fan the flames or to tell them about new products that match
their interests. This allows your marketing to build equity and
keep pace with the needs of your growing business.
Does your church have a
registry of guests? Do you keep a record of regular attendees?
Businesses know that their most frequent customers are also their
best. Do you know who attends your church each Sunday? If you did,
you could quickly identify those people most likely to serve, or
evangelize, or give in a time of need.
Jesus has a record of people and their deeds from the beginning of
time called The Book of Life. Yes, Jesus has a consumer database
and, no, you cannot rent his list.
I would like for us to think
about these four principles as they relate to growing your church.
Gather the driest tender.
The principle here is to go after
the reachable. Too many churches spend too much time on the hard to
reach and not enough time on the reachable. The most reachable
people for your church are:
- Recent visitors. By far and away, the most reachable people in town
are recent visitors to your church. Most churches can grow just
by taking really good care of the visitors you have. (Read
how one church did this and tripled in size.) If you
want to attract more visitors, consider the services of Chris
- Absentees--especially those who have recently slipped into
inactivity. I read somewhere that if we contact people within
the first four times that they miss, we have a real good chance
of getting them back. If we wait 6 months, chances are we will
never see them again. And, it is the right thing to do. God
scolded the shepherds through Ezekiel in this passage: "My sheep
wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They
were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or
looked for them." Ezekiel 34:6 [NIV] No one searched or looked
for them. May it not be said of us.
- Friends of members.
- People who attend special events. My church will do the 10th Annual
Living Christmas tree this weekend. Some 3000 people will show
up. (Our average Sunday School attendance is about 600.) These
are the driest tender.
marketers waste millions of dollars trying to convince
“attractive” audience segments to buy their products rather than
speaking honestly to the people who already need what they
offer. Is your church making the same mistake?
Who are the most needy people in your community? How can your
church meet their needs? Is it single mothers? Is it the
homeless? Is it divorcees? Is it people with Aids? Is it
The deeper a person’s need, the more quickly they will accept
help. The more profoundly you help, the more satisfied they
will be. The more satisfied they are, the more people they will
tell. The more people they tell, the larger your church will
become. By this view, marketing is nearly indistinguishable
from ministry. Ministering to your community is also the
quickest way to grow your church. If you want to double your
size, then double your ministry impact.
Touch it with a match
The idea is to let people sample.
Greg tells the story of watching countless razor commercials and
being completely unmoved. Then, he got a razor in the mail--a
Gillette Mach 3. This wasn't just a video of some sexy women
watching their men shave in a bath towel. This was an actual razor.
Greg tried it, loved it and told multitudes about it through his
book. Now, I am telling you about it.
Mel Gibson did this with the
phenomenally successful movie, The Passion of the Christ. It grossed
more than $550 million in its first nine weeks despite an R rating,
English subtitles and the lack of a major distributor. How did it
happen? Mel Gibson touched it with a match. He gathered pastors
together and invited them to view the entire film. They went home
and told their congregations.
Greg Stielstra has done this in
spades. The entire, unabridged PyroMarketing book is available
www.pyromarketing.com Download it, share it with your staff,
apply its principles to growing your church, and enjoy.
I have put this principle to work
in my ministry with an extensive download page. See
www.joshhunt.com/downloads.htm I am providing all kinds of video
and audio samples of my material. Try before you buy.
How could a local church put this
too work? Here are some ideas. Share your ideas online at my blog at
- Make your pastor's messages available online. Converting to MP3 is
easy. It is a way people can sample your messages. If you do
video, all the better.
- Put together a promotional DVD that includes a good deal of your
- Let people try the fellowship. Invite outsiders to join you at
fellowships. Here is a concept: invite every member and every
visitor to every fellowship every month. When people come to
your fellowship and see what wonderful people you are, they are
more interested in coming to your other activities.
won’t come to your church to get an experience, then take the
experience to them. That’s what Jesus did.
What about letting people experience your choir or your praise
and worship team through a series of free concerts in public
settings and familiar venues? People who have never been to a
church may be afraid of “what goes on in there” but would gladly
listen to your musicians in a local theater or concert hall.
Do you only
provide a nursery for people who attend church on Sunday
mornings? Why not offer a nursery on a Saturday night so
married couples in your town can go on a date? If they
experience your church on a Saturday night, they may come back
on Sunday morning.
Fan the flames
Make it easier for people to talk
about your church. This is the reason behind Willowcreek's seeker
service. Some have mistakenly thought that this is a replacement of
a "go and tell" strategy. It is not. Willowcreek seeks to cooperate
with its own members in providing a next step after people share a
verbal witness. It is a way to fan the flames.
In a way, fanning the flames goes
with touching with a match. If you make it easy for people to
sample, you also make it easy for them to share those same samples
The truth is, people--all
people--are incredibly influenced by the opinions of others. We are
receiving so much advertising messages that we are jaded. We don't
know what to believe, so we turn to ordinary people to verify the
claims that marketers make.
I found myself doing this just
recently. I was looking for a DVD burner to transfer my MiniDV and
Digital8 Tapes to DVD. In addition to checking the specs and
prices, I looked at
www.buy.com where I can read online reviews of the products I
was looking at.
Greg provides extensive evidence
of the power of word of mouth in every arena of life. Fanning the
flames empowers customers to be evangelists.
What if your Sunday morning
bulletin was a self-mailer that doubled as an invitation? Describe
the next week’s service and sermon topic and provide a space for
people to write a personal note and place their own stamp. Then
encourage the congregation to send it to an unchurched friend Monday
morning. Imagine the impact if every bulletin on a Sunday morning
turned into an invitation to the next Sunday’s service and at no
Save the coals
The idea here is simple: make
sure you keep the names of people who are the result of your
How does this apply to Sunday
School? Keep a prospect list. Not a novel concept, I know. But, for
every class that has an active, accurate prospect list, I could show
you ten that don't.
One way that churches sometimes
struggle at this point is getting the names of visitors. Churches
have tried a number of things to address this. At Saddleback, they
ask every person to fill out a card every week. This way, the
visitors are not singled out, and, in fact, there is social pressure
to go along with the group in filling out a card. Other churches
offer free gifts if visitors will stop by an information booth and
fill out some information.
Another key is to be honest about
what you are and are not going to do with the information. If you
are not going to visit at their doorstep, tell them that. Tell them
they can expect to get some letters or a phone call about their
experience, or an invitation to a Sunday School class, or whatever
they really can expect.
My last point might seem
counter-intuitive, if not contradictory: don't try too hard. If
people don't want to give you their names, don't try to hard to get
it. Respect their privacy. You might also want to explain this when
you greet the guests. Explain that they can fill out a visitors card
after they have been attending for a while.
My dream is to see a group
multiplication movement--the rapid explosion of groups growing and
dividing, growing and dividing, growing and dividing. PyroMarketing
can help that become a reality.
However, we need to always be
careful to remember one more thing. Jesus taught us to be shrewd
(Matthew 10.16) and for that reason, I think we do well to read
books like PyroMarketing. But, we need to read them with some
humility that understands that without Christ we can do nothing
Share with me your ideas about
how to use PyroMarketing to double your group or your church. Go to
my blog at