How Televangelists Achieve Brand Success

Emmanuel ProbstMay 19, 20173 min

How do leading religious brands (televangelists and megachurches) drive a thriving business in a decimated market (church attendance has been on the decline for 40+ years)? What can you learn from their marketing efforts? A note before I answer that…the following thought piece is written with respect for everyone’s faith and beliefs and does not discuss the legitimacy of megachurches. It solely focuses on their successful marketing strategies.

Here are 5 marketing practices Televangelists excel at that can be applied to almost any business.

1. Establish A Brand Name, A Punchline And A Pitch Team.

Take Joel Osteen’s brand. It is made of a brand name ‘Joel’, strong punchlines such as ‘discover the champion in you’ and ‘ask big, receive big’, and his signature smile (he is nicknamed ‘the smiling preacher’). Then, there is Joel’s pitch team made of his wife Victoria, his kids Alexandra and Jonathan and his mother Dodie, who survived cancer. Joel could not appeal to all demographics on his own, so he relies on his family to reach women, youth, seniors and the ill.

When putting together a team for an important pitch, select associates from diverse backgrounds that will appeal to everyone in the room from your client’s side. Rather than bringing 4 sales people, bring the account lead, a creative, a statistician and a project manager.

2. Focus On The Experience More So Than On The Product.

All faith leaders rely on a book none of them has written. Televangelists differentiate from smaller traditional congregations through the way they deliver the message. Anyone can read the bible at home on a tablet or hear the same message at one of the 300,000 churches spread across the United States, for free. If people are willing to pay and travel to attend televangelists events it’s not so much for the message itself, but to hear how the message is delivered. Just like televangelists, politicians and performers, don’t try to re-invent the wheel, work on the messaging of your offering, rehearse your pitch tirelessly and create a compelling customer experience.

3. Understand And Leverage The Strength Of Different Media Channels.

A sermon broadcast on TV or via webcast is an upper-funnel marketing message, aimed at peaking people’s interest. The website of a megachurch is a lower-funnel platform that converts prospects into clients through the sale of event tickets, books and merchandise (a ‘you can, you will’ mug, anyone)? Make it easy for your prospects to shop and pay. The Saddleback church for example has developed the Saddleback giving app, ‘an easier Way to give’, available for Android and Iphone. Signing up for online giving enables clients to schedule recurring payments, view their giving history and print statements. Know the strengths and weaknesses of your media channels and use them strategically.

4. Listen To Your Market.

Christianity itself is not declining, people just worship in a different fashion. Weekly worship attendance has declined across the country, but most megachurches experience double digit growth in membership. Churches that are successful distribute the same content in different formats. A Sanctuary setting is best suited for older age groups. Young professionals are more likely to worship in a small group environment around coffee and donuts. Webcasts will appeal to millennials.

CEO of Blockbuster Jim Keyes once said “Neither RedBox nor Netflix are even on the radar screen in terms of competition”.

People still watch a lot of movies. Blockbuster went bankrupt because Jim Keyes and his team did not pay attention to how consumers wanted to consume the content. Your market has most of the answers and all of the money. Are you listening?

5. Last But Not Least, Practice What You Preach.

Joel Osteen proclaims “It’s God’s will for you to live in prosperity instead of poverty’. He certainly practices what he preaches, enjoying life in his $10.5 M, 17,000-square-foot stone mansion. Billy Graham, Rick Warren and Creflo Dollar’s net worth is above $25 M. Kenneth Copeland and Jesse Duplantis are unapologetic about flying their church funded private jets. Whatever business you’re in, make sure to use your own product and deliver on the promises you are making with relentless consistency.

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