The Price of Free


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It can be tempting to chase after “free” opportunities

  • A volunteer is willing to start a new ministry idea
  • An organization is offering to sponsor an initiative on your behalf
  • Someone is willing to include your ad on their website, magazine or newsletter
  • A partner wants to send a summer intern/assistant/extra-hands-and-feet-to-do-work-for-you

Sounds great, right? I mean, who doesn’t like free?

Before jumping on board, remember everything has a price. Sometimes it’s actual, physical dollars & cents. Other times it’s time. Or relationships. Or how much it impacts your brand or reputation.

So be sure to ask first:

  • Is the timing right for this opportunity?
  • What will it really cost?
  • Will it ultimately help accomplish what we’re supposed to do?

“So often people are working hard at the wrong thing. Working on the right thing is probably more important than working hard.”

The Dangers of Prioritizing Tools Over Training

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Recently, I read an article about how United Airlines plan to improve its connection to passengers through technology… primarily mobile.

United has been my go-to airline for the past 13 years. The vast majority of my work has been here in the states, so to achieve Gold status—living in the middle of the country, no less—is no easy feat. I’ve had A LOT of experience with gate agents, customer service reps, & flight attendants. Some were good, most weren’t.

Technology isn’t going to help in the way they’re hoping. People are. 

People who act like they care. That my problem matters to them & they’re willing to do whatever is within their power to help.

Technology (at best) is just an extension of the customer experience. Not the foundation of it.

Instead of investing in tech, invest in service training. Or better yet, in hiring & recruiting strategies that attract people who actually do care in the first place.

Whether in the marketplace or in ministry, the very people we’re hoping to serve get shortchanged when we elevate tools over training. Every. Time.

RFP Questions to Ask

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1) How would you help us solve this problem?

2) Who else have you helped?

3) What will it take to get us there? (time, budget, resources)

That’s it.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand where a Request for Proposal comes from and the purpose it can serve. But oftentimes an organization believes it needs to know HOW to solve the problem when creating the RFP and subsequently compares costs against executing that solution.

But it doesn’t matter which car we drive if we’re headed in the wrong direction. Don’t feel the pressure to figure out the how—That’s a big part of what you’re paying for.

Instead, tell them what needs to be fixed and look for a team that truly seeks to understand your needs, your culture and has the experience to back them up. Chances are high the proposed solution may not be what you expect but you’ll be delighted with the results.

The Price of Being a Sheep

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I love this piece by Hugh MacLeod, as it seems so relative—especially in the world of ministries.

It’s easy to follow the crowd. To imitate what everyone else is doing. To want a website/logo/outreach program/fill-in-the-blank just like Big Name Ministry has.
(Side note: If I see one more website—or get one more request—for a website that looks just like Hillsong’s, I’m going to poke my eyes out with pencils)

But I believe the price of being a sheep is much steeper than mere boredom.
We’re robbing the world of what it is we’re uniquely wired to offer.

Don’t get me wrong. I love getting inspired by others who’ve gone before me and look for ways to build upon those ideas to make them my own. But as my friend Mark Batterson has so eloquently put it, “When inspiration stops short & becomes imitation, it’s suicide.”

Discovering your purpose and braving new trails is hard. It takes work, and yes, it can be very lonely. But I think the reward is worth it.

Six Lies About Logos

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Okay, “lies” might be a bit extreme, but it’s true they’re often misunderstood or misperceptions.

When done right, brand identities can be an instant way to communicate the vision, values, and what someone can expect at your church or ministry. They can break down barriers, pave the way to connect new people, and focus your culture. When done wrong, it can reflect an inaccurate image, create divisions, or even be misleading.

So without further ado, let’s cover six of  the most common misperceptions ministries have about brand identities.

Lie #1 : Identities Don’t Matter Much

Brands, logos, and marketing are basically all just fluff anyway, right? Wrong. We live in a visual culture and how we communicate matters. People form impressions about who we are and what we do based on how we communicate. Having an identity that accurately reflects the heart, vision, and culture of your church can go a long way in reaching people and overcoming misperceptions.

But before you start sketching up ideas, be clear about what you want to communicate, and who you’re communicating to.

Your identity is a channel for connecting people to your vision and needs to be viewed with a strategic lens.

It’s less about which color or font you like best, but what these things say to the people you’re trying to reach.

Lie #2 : It’s Critical to be Literal

I mean, how will anyone know this is a church if we don’t include a cross, dove, and a picture of the building? And of course we can’t forget adding a globe to reflect our heart for missions… Stop it. Just stop it. Your church is more than your building.

The best marks are the ones that allow room for you to fill it with meaning and point people back to the vision.

Embrace simplicity and create conversations, remembering the identity will always be delivered in context. If the logo is on your business card, chances are you’re handing it to someone. The sign on your building? People are on the campus. Your website? There are lots of opportunities to tell the rest of the story. The Nike swoosh is one of the most recognized identities on the planet and it’s not a picture of a pair of shoes.

Lie #3 : Copying is Okay

If we just copy what another church created, it’s not a big deal, right? What they’re doing seems to be working, so it’ll probably work for us, too, right?

Don’t get me wrong—it’s okay to be inspired by others. But when inspiration stops short and becomes imitation, you’re robbing your church of the unique identity God intended for your ministry. Invest the time to make the ideas that inspired you your own.

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Lie #4 : The More the Merrier

Some churches may think an identity isn’t important at all, and then there are others infected with logo-itis. It almost feels like Oprah showed up one day and stared handing them out. “YOU get a logo, and YOU get a logo…”

Unfortunately, when every ministry has its own identity, it splinters the collective identity of the church.

Worse yet, we’re setting these ministries up to compete with each other for the congregation’s attention. When everyone has their own look, feel, and voice within the same church, it runs the risk of brand schizophrenia.

There’s enough already trying to compete for people’s attention—the last thing we want to do is compete with ourselves.

A simple rule of thumb that’s worked for many churches is to draw a clean line in the sand: If a ministry has its own weekend worship service, it’s okay to have its own logo because they’re serving a distinct audience with distinct needs. (For example, Children & Students = Yes. Ministries such as Men’s, Women’s, and Redheaded Knitters Named Marge = No.)

Just remember to include your church’s primary logo on any mailings or communication tools these ministries use so everyone is clear your student ministry is still part of the church and not an island unto themselves.

Lie #5 : Rollouts Can Be Random

It’s painful to think about, but there are ministries large and small that have invested a ton of time, energy, and resources into creating a new identity but then completely dropped the ball when it came to introducing their bouncing new baby brand to the world.

One pastor thought if he just started casually mentioning the new name during his weekend messages, people would somehow subconsciously get used to it and be more open to the change. Another very large church thought it’d be okay to just start using the new logo on envelopes containing year-end giving statements before the new website (or anything else) was ready because, “It was just sitting there not being being used.” The congregation had no idea a change was even on the horizon in both cases.

When something as visible as your identity changes, there’s a powerful opportunity to cast vision and celebrate stories.

Don’t let it slip by. Take time to think about when the best time might be to roll out your new identity, how it might align with other opportunities, and above all, tell people WHY it matters.

Lie #6 : A New Brand Will Fix It

This happens a lot—Attendance is flat or has started to decline, the church wants to do a better job of reaching younger (or different) people than they’re currently reaching, the people in the pews aren’t as friendly as they should be, or perceptions need to be shifted to emphasize a focus on serving.

The solution? Maybe creating a new identity that feels more hip, diverse, friendly, outward-focused, or fill-in-the-blank will magically fix these problems and change who they are on the inside as well. Ah, if it were only that simple.

It’s true that a new brand identity can go a long way in recharging the batteries of a ministry, but ultimately changes need to happen on the inside as well for it to be effective. (And authentic)

 

Does this make sense? What misperceptions have you run in to?

What Does Mickey Mouse Have to do with Ministry?

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I recently had the privilege of participating in a series Church Marketing Sucks created, “Church Communication Heros.” Each author was asked to write a post about who inspires us and could be viewed as a “hero” in church communications.

One of my favorites is Walt Disney. I’ve been a huge fan since I was a little girl. His vision, imagination, standard for excellence and attention to detail are traits we can all aspire to.

The rest of the post can be read here. Who inspires you?

Stuff to Check Out :: unSeminary

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A lot of the folks in my circles tend to be leaders. Oftentimes Lead Pastors, Executive Pastors and Communication Directors. And some of these leaders have huge hearts to help others—and others really need to know about it. So if you haven’t already heard of unSeminary, this is a resource you definitely want to check out.

Founded by Rich Birch, Operations Pastor at Liquid Church, (and all around great guy) he offers up some great, practical resources to guide your church communications. Here’s a highlight reel of some of the goodies you’ll find:

I honestly haven’t come across another one-stop-shop that offers so much free, quality stuff as unSeminary. Rich was a fellow speaker at Collyde last year when we first met, and he did a great job of helping me keep the crazy at bay before my session started. He’s continued to impress me ever since.

** Side note ** This is not an endorsed post. unSeminary is just a great resource and the world will be a better place if others know about it. 

Making a List & Checking It Twice

So you’re getting ready to launch a new brand.

You’ve got your new name, logo, signage, website, and social channels all locked up. Or do you?

It’s important to snag ALL the domains and social channels related to your brand that you possibly can. Even the ones you think you don’t need.

Otherwise you run the risk of what happened to Carly Fiorina, former president of Hewlett-Packard, who just announced her bid for the 2016 presidential race.

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Doh.

By failing to secure http://carlyfiorina.org/, someone else snagged it and is using it against her.

The devil is in the details, so make sure your resources aren’t being used to fight battles you can control.

Are We Providing Hurdles or Open Doors?

(Throwback Thursday :: This post originally published 4/08)

How easy is it for your “customers” to go deeper in their relationship with your organization? Are opportunities to get even more involved and committed intentionally accessible? Not just the get-’em-in-the-door type of intentional, but what about for those already on board?

I just spent [versus invested] a pretty painful amount of time trying to upgrade my Comcast subscription. No dice through my online account [which should have giant “upgrade today” buttons, but alas, no], so I bit the bullet and called the 800 number. Got halfway through the endless prompts aaaand had my call dropped. Tried again, waded through more prompts, sat on hold & finally connected to a service representative. She was friendly and got me set up, at which point the Internet in my bundled service immediately goes down. More teleprompts & disconnected calls.. lather, rinse, repeat. I was so sorry I tried to upgrade.

Contrast this experience to one with a Sirius telemarketer who called earlier today— I had a 3 month subscription that came with my car and over those few months I came to the conclusion I couldn’t live without an All Blues All the Time station ever again. I’m not a big fan of telemarketers in general, but they already had my attention, called when my free subscription was nearly up and made it easy for me to take it the next level. The whole thing took about 5 minutes. No interruption in what I already had. No pain.

“So, Dawn,” you say, “Enough with the whining. How does this have anything to do with me?”

The best customers are the ones you already have. And they help find new people for you when they become raving fans, which typically happens when the organization invests in them. This can come in flavors like an easy to navigate website, customer service that goes a little bit further than expected, making exceptions to the “rules” when it makes sense… you get the picture.

And yes, this absolutely applies to churches. Every time someone steps forward to volunteer, get involved with a small group, sign their child up for MOPS, participate in a class, etc., let’s ask ourselves, “Did we make that easy or hard for them?” Or better yet, let’s ask them.