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5 Marketing Lessons from a Baptist Church

October 7, 2013

I moved into a new house a few weeks ago. Since then, I’ve been getting offers via mail almost daily. Today, this was in my box…

Baptistchurch envelope

I’m not Baptist and have no desire to attend a Baptist church, so this wasn’t exactly the kind of thing I’d normally open. Strangely enough though, I attended an event by Jon Acuff at this very church last month, so that got my curiosity up…

Don’t Do This

Normally in this series, I share ideas I think would be good to implement in your business. This time around, I’m going to talk about things you shouldn’t do. I’m going to break this into two parts — the envelope (my first impression) and the letter inside (the offer).

The Envelope – A Big Ass Mess

1. The Address Label – In the world of direct marketing, there are few things less personal than a typed, stick-on address label with “Or Current Resident” under your name. It’s the kind of thing that makes you think, “These guys don’t care about me – any warm body with the ability to open up this envelope and respond to the offer will do.” 

But that’s just what I got…

If you’re looking for maximum response on a direct mail piece, especially for something as personal as a church, when it comes to the addressing the envelope, you’ll be much better off writing everything by hand and sending it directly to the person you’re trying to reach instead of the one-size-fits-all “Or Current Resident.” This will also get your letter opened more often as people will be less likely to think of it as a business solicitation.

Basically, if you want a letter opened, you want it to look like it came from your grandmother. Surely there are some little old ladies at this church who could help with this!

Which brings up the next problem with the envelope…

2. The Postage – Who the hell uses a postage meter to send letters? Not your grandmother!

The red ink in the top right of this envelope screams business. It looks no different from an envelope containing an invoice to pay. Not very exciting.

You know what else isn’t exciting?

3. The Envelope – Black on white. It’s been done and it looks like every other letter I got that day. The only thing worse would have been a “window envelope.”

The Letter Inside – It Only Gets Worse

Baptistchurch letter

1. The Greeting – “Welcome to Nashville!” is nice, but it’s generic…and it’s wrong. I’ve been here since 1999 — I just moved down the street!

What do you do when something doesn’t apply to you? You stop reading. This is great if you’re looking to be exclusive and attract a very specific type of person, but nothing about this offer so far has made me think that’s their approach. And even if it is, there are better ways to do this.

Look, I get it that this church purchased a mailing list of people who had just moved, but working in the marketing business, I also know that mailing houses have the technology to get a lot more personal when it comes to a greeting. A simple, “Welcome to your new home, David!” would have been a lot more effective. This isn’t a technology issue — it’s a laziness issue.

2. The “One-Size-Fits-All” Message – “Transitions can be challenging.” What does that mean? It sounds like they think I’ve just gotten divorced. Or had gender reassignment surgery. Or both.

And is this a letter for a “young adult’ ministry? That’s what the stationery says. And that’s the site they link to. But the letter also mentions coming whether I’m single or married, whether I’m in college, whether I’m 40, or “somewhere in-between.”

Yeah, “somewhere-in-between.” The gender reassignment references keep on coming… Kudos to a Baptist church for being so open-minded though!

The problem is that all of this sounds like a big, “one-size-fits-all” cesspool. And this church is nowhere near me — it’s in a different county. Do I really want to put in the effort to be part of that?


“Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Did Jesus didn’t ask for everybody to come to him? No! He requested little children only. So listen to Jesus and get specific in your marketing!

Final Thoughts – The Biggest Mistake

Probably the biggest screwup in this whole thing is the “generic” feel it gives off. It’s signed by a single person, but he talks about “us” and gives an email address that starts in “info” with a phone number that’s for the main office.

I know if you went to this church, you’d probably see something different. Aaron is probably ultra-hip, shaves his head, and wears a soul patch. Does he work out? I’m going to say yes. You’d see him and ask yourself, “Is this a church or a gym?”

Whether or not I’m right about Aaron, this is the personal vibe you want to come through in any letters you send out. Don’t give an “info” email address or a main office number — give your personal contact info. You want to make people feel like it’s just you and them and you’re going to personally take care of any needs they might have.

ABOUT THIS SERIES: Every Monday, I analyze the good, bad, and ugly about the marketing behind a common business or famous personality. See other posts in this series here and, if you have a request for something (or someone) you’d like me to analyze for this series, contact me via Twitter.