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Stop Wasting Money on Offline Advertising For Your Church

I hold online office hours every Wednesday afternoon. We talk about social media, church communications, church websites – you name it, we've probably covered it. People stop in from all over the country just to chat or discuss something they're learning.

Last week, a question came up about the YellowPages. Yes, those giant, old, clunky tree-killing books that are slowly losing their purpose in the larger part of society. (I don't know about you, but the first place the YellowPages goes in my house is the recycle bin! Is there any way to opt-out of those things?)

The question boiled down to this: Someone asked how to shift their church communications budget from the YellowPages to online avenues like Google AdWords, Facebook Ads, etc. The church was spending an enormous amount of money on the YellowPages and, surprisingly, weren't getting the results that they wanted.

Can you relate?

We're in an era where nearly every young person aged 18-34 is online in some capacity. In fact, people aged 12-44 would choose the Internet over television if they were forced to pick between the two. That's not an insignificant number!


In my opinion, churches have no business spending money on the YellowPages. It's a slowly-dying, broadcast-based medium that, with any luck, will transition out quickly in the next few years (and save some trees in the process!).

Simply put, if you're spending money on YellowPages, you're wasting your money. I know there are good people who work for YP, but that's the cold, hard reality. We're online, people!

Churches and ministries need to take the typically small budget set aside for publicity and communications and put that money towards advertising online. It's much more effective, easier to control and, in most cases, cheaper! If you're spending offering dollars on offline advertising like YellowPages, here's how to make the switch:

1. Assess how much you're currently spending. Like an alcoholic who doesn't know he has a problem, you have to figure out how deep a hole you're in before you can start digging out! Do an advertising inventory of sorts and get a real, tangible dollar amount that's going towards YellowPages (or newspaper ads, etc.).

2. Re-allocate those funds. Now that you know how much you're spending, do a three-month experiment and sink those same dollars into online advertising. Pick Google AdWords and Facebook Ads to start with. Split the total you found in step one right down the middle and put one half to Google, the other towards Facebook. This way, you're not out on a limb yet. You're just shuffling already-budgeted funds around.

3. Write your ads. The ad writing process for Facebook is dead-easy. They make it simple for a reason: So you spend more money! They'll even write it for you, all you need to do is provide a URL. AdWords has a little bit of a learning curve, but you can find helpful tutorials all over YouTube.

4. Tweak as necessary. Write your ads and let them run for a good 2-3 weeks. If you're not seeing the results you want, change up the copy, headlines, pictures (Facebook only) or all of it! What would be really helpful is to have YellowPage data to compare to. (And, no, circulation numbers don't count! That's how YP gets away with charging what they do! They think that dumping a large tome of information on someone's doorstep counts as exposure. It doesn't. Online ads aren't perfect, but you can measure a little more precisely than with circulation numbers!)

If, after the experiment, the powers-that-be still aren't convinced, you either need to:

  1. Try harder and ask for a longer experiment. I believe time will be on your side and get your organization to the place that you want it to be!
  2. Go somewhere else. It's not worth beating your head against the wall! You'll get a headache and get nowhere in the process. Some people have to learn the hard way!

Have you ever experimented with Google Ads? Facebook Ads? Are you still using YellowPages? Why? Let us know in the comments below.

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