In many small businesses, sales are all that matters. Sales = revenue. Sales = top line. However, the more sophisticated a marketplace becomes, marketing comes into play. Marketing is often viewed as the processes that support sales, but that’s a rather insufficient definition. Rather, Marketing is everything that you do to reach and persuade prospects. The sales process is everything that you do to close the sale and get a signed agreement or contract. Often, these two dynamics in an organization can create a lot of friction, as evidenced by this article where it opens with the stereotypical debate:
Marketers generally think of salespeople as lowbrow monkeys or pushy parrots whose sole calling is to repeat the same sales pitch ad infinitum to new prospects.
Salespeople generally thinks of marketers as lazy liberal arts graduates who use the word “branding” to describe activities that are in actuality “a colossal waste of money.”
Ultimately each function needs the other if the company as a whole is to succeed. What’s less obvious is how they should work together.
And this is no simple or localized debate. Nor is it limited to the business world. It seems that while we haven’t named it as such in the context of church, I think we have a similar struggle when it comes to evangelism. Is it sales or marketing?
And then furthermore, who does what? Is the church a marketing organization or a sales organization? Are you about getting the word out? Or do we exist to close the sale? Perhaps the debates that are being pitched back and forth between denominations and movements like the emerging church are from one perspective critiquing the other? When in actuality, it appears we need both sides.
In my experience with business (albeit fairly limited and sporadic), there is a mentality change that occurs at a critical juncture when in product marketing the focus shifts from sales to marketing. A failure to do so is to underestimate the activity of the competitve landscape, an assumption that you have to “dance with the girl that brought you” to succeed.
I recently went to an afterparty (don’t know if that’s the right word) to this conference (where I met Bruce Reyes-Chow in the flesh). While there were many Presbyterians around, some of them were very confused by the emerging conversation, asking, “What’s the big deal? We’ve been talking about contextualization for a long time. This is not new.” But Bruce quickly responded, “No, it’s not new to us, but Emerging is giving us language to reach out to the culture. The focus is outwards.” One conversation partner responded, “Oh yeah, we don’t do that very well. I mean we’re open and people feel comfortable once they come in, but they do have to stumble in on their own.”
To my “marketing” ears, that translates to poor marketing, great product.
That mentality persists in business because the underlying notion is — the product is so great, it should sell itself. But that’s a false assumption because in a crowded, mature marketplace, that’s not true. The “best” product doesn’t always win (see betamax). Good products demand a strong investment in marketing in order to ensure its success.
I think this is the fundamental thought process behind the success of megachurches across the country. While you might detest the commercialization of it, at least its putting production quality to the most important message ever told. After all, what is a non-Christian supposed to make of legions of churches that go bankrupt or simply subsist?
And yet, I think that ultimately, if we are the church–we are the product. If God cannot create forgiveness or generosity in me, then those whom I might approach in my everday relationships about Christ, will simply not buy. I am the sales and marketing department, I am the church, and the greatest irony of it all…is I am broken merchandise. Try marketing that.