Permission Marketing and the Church

Permission marketing is one of the great buzzwords of internet culture, particularly e-commerce.  The general idea is that I ask permission before I take your email address or other information and bombard you with ads and content.  It requires that I take the time to establish a “relationship” with you where you are actually interested in what I am sending.  Unwanted email is bad.  And sending someone unwanted email does not do anything to bolster the relationship.  It puts you in the same category as those guys who send emails about Canadian prescription drugs, African political figures looking to move some money, and magic pills that will “make you more of a man”.  No, you don’t want to be that  guy….

The trouble is finding the balance in the church.  There are several reasons. 

By our nature, we are compelled to go and reach out to people.  Especially people who are not interested in us. 

Then there are the folks who are just discovering marketing, who think that if they send you just enough postcards with their logo on it you will succumb and join their church. 

My family and I recently visited another church in our city.  It was a great experience with lots of really neat people.  They have a great environment and you can tell that people really enjoy being a part of the family there.  It would be a great place to attend church.

I always fill out the first time visitor card.  My theory is that I would like people to do that at my church, so I reply in kind.  There was the requisite thank you and information pack about the ministry.

Just the other day, though, I received another letter from them.  This time it was about their upcoming Vacation Bible Camp.  I thought that was cool until I started reading the letter.

Included with the letter were several door hangers.  The letter started at the top by asking in big letters, “What can your family do to make our Vacation Bible Camp successful?”.  It was suggested that we put the door hangers around our neighborhood to advertise. 

We had been to that church one time.  And now I was being asked to go to the other people where I lived and advertise for them.

Now I certainly want their VBC to be successful, but I am not the right target for this letter.  Send me something inviting my kids to attend.  Instead of ads, maybe include a neat little trinket.  I’m sure my kids would’ve been begging me to let them attend.

But I do not have that type of relationship with that church. 

Before you send that next email blast, postcard, letter, or whatever ask yourself these questions: 

  • Do I have permission to use the information I have received from this person?
  • Will the person on the other end be glad to hear from me?
  • Do I have the relationship I need to present a “call to action”?
  • Am I presenting something of value or am I adding to the noise?

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