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Marketing 101 for Pastors
By: Mike Vitamvas

The Internet has changed so many aspects of our lives, including how churches connect with their communities. The changes have taken place so fast that it is sometimes difficult to stay current. Here are 10 steps that you can take to fulfill the Great Commission.

Step 1
Get on the Internet.

People are using the Internet to look for a church home. If you are not on the Internet, you are missing people who are actively looking for a church. 

So, how many people are searching for churches in your community? You can find out by using this free tool from Google: www.adwords.google.com/select/KeywordToolExternal.  Type in the search term you are looking for and the city and state. Google will also give you other related terms. I typed in: churches, Greensboro, NC and got a total of 49,490 results.

That is a lot of people searching for churches. More people searched for churches than plumbers, electricians, and home repair. The search results represent just Google's information, which is about 70 percent of the results and does not include other related search terms.

Step 2
Get listed. 
It is free, so all you need is a little bit of time. First, see if your church is showing up in the local search results. The results will vary depending on whether you are searching on a computer or mobile phone.

Smart phones have GPS, and Google can use your specific location to serve up churches that are close to you. I am going to be talking about desktop results here.

Go to Google.com and type in: churches, your city, your state.  One of the first results will be the local listing.

So, how do you claim your listing? Go to www.getlisted.org and type in your church name and the zip code.  It will give you the results for Google, Yelp, Bing, Yahoo and Best of the Web and a link to create or claim your listing for each site.

There is also a button on the right-hand side named "Enhance your listing," which will give you other options.

Most of the additional listings are very reasonable, and, if you have the budget, I recommend listing in the local directories. The reason is that Google also looks to them for information about your church. If you are listed on the local directories, Google will put more stock in your listing and give you a higher rank.

Step 3
Place your listing on Google.
Google is by far the most important, so make sure you update your listing there. When you click on the link from Get Listed, there will be a button on the right-hand side that says "Claim this listing" or "Update listing," depending on whether anyone has claimed your church's listing before. 

Google allows you to create a great mini-website. You can put in keywords, which are terms that people would search for when looking for your church.

Be sure to include terms such as: youth group, children's church, VBS, Vacation Bible School, Sunday School, singles ministries, outreach programs, and anything else that you offer. 

Now, add in a description of your church, service times, and ministries at your church.  They also allow you to upload photos and videos, which you should do.

Once you have completed Google, be sure to finish listing with the rest of the search engines. Google will want to confirm that you have the authority to update the listing and will ask for either the church's phone number or address. You will find that by doing this your church will move to the top of the search listing.

Step 4
Get reviews.
Google and several of the other search engines allow you to post reviews. Ask some of your church members to go to your Google maps listing and post reviews. People will take a look at the reviews before heading to your website for more information.

Step 5
Keep your website up to date.
There is an excellent chance that a prospective visitor will check out the website before showing up the first day.  In fact, 84 percent of people go to the web for more information on any local business prior to visiting. 

If your website is hard to update, take a look at some of the companies that provide websites specifically for churches. Most of them will also have some reporting tools that will let you know how many people are visiting your website.

Step 6
Consider advertising on the web.
By doing the steps above, you should be in the top of Google's search results, but you will not be there for every keyword or event. There are a number of good, inexpensive tools available that can help you reach your community.

Step 7
Start a Facebook fan page. 
Facebook can be an incredible evangelism tool because of the number of people you can reach. If you have 100 members on Facebook, and they have 100 friends each, then you can potentially reach 10,000 people. 

If you set up a Facebook fan page for your church and post on a regular basis, you will find visitors will move from Facebook visitor to actual visitor to active church members. 

Step 8
Send out postcards.

Bill Easum and Bill Cornelius in their excellent book, Go Big, Lead Your Church to Explosive Growth, write that direct mail is one of the most effective ways to invite people to your church. 

Step 9
Set up a system to collect visitors' names and a way to keep in touch with them.
You probably have more visitors to your church than you think. If you think of visitors as everyone who enters your doors who are not members, you'll find the number of people your church comes in contact with is actually pretty large. 

Do you have a fall festival, trunk or treat, day care, or VBS program? They all attract visitors to your church. While they may not have come to worship, they are open to any messages that you send them.

Step 10
Get your church involved in the community and cross market whenever possible.
If you are having a VBS program this summer, what other events can you invite the parents to? Many people who live a mile away from your church have no idea that your church is even there. Figure out ways to reach out and touch them. 

Mike Vitamvas has been involved in helping companies get their message out for 24 years through print, Internet and social media. His passion is helping churches use new media to fulfill the commission of Christ to go into all the world and preach the gospel, www.GrowingChurches.net.

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