The healing power of faith-based advertising
CHICAGO (Reuters.com) - Massage therapist Dan Snyder has discovered it's better for business with God on your side. The 62-year-old owner of Dan's Hands Therapeutic Massage and Body Work picked up 10 new customers with just one business-card sized ad in the weekly newsletter of the local Catholic church in his Emporia, Kansas community.
Now he's a believer.
"The response was almost immediate," said Snyder, a member of the monotheistic Baha'i faith who was raised in the Protestant tradition and doesn't even attend the church. "Before I hardly knew the advertising was up and running, I had people commenting."
After running the small, month-long promotion in the back of the bulletin for Sacred Heart Church, where it was flanked by callouts for a carpet cleaner, an electrician and the local McDonald's, he saw his daily massage roster get a steady boost.
"There's a strong Catholic community in this town," said Snyder, who had experimented with other forms of print advertising with limited success. Snyder, who also relies on networking at local festivals where he offers free samples of his services, said the ad cost $345 and has already paid for itself.
"Anything for the rest of the year is gravy," he said.
Snyder's experience is not unusual. Proponents of marketing in religious publications said there are a variety of benefits. The ads can be purchased for just a fraction of the cost of traditional newspaper advertising, which can run in the thousands of dollars on an annual basis, depending on size, frequency and circulation.
There's less distraction for readers; the promotions are typically limited to just a few pages in back of the publication, where there are few direct competitors. And for a select block of time each Sunday, every week of the year, church newsletters provide congregants with the only other reading material available beside Scriptures and hymnals.
"It's kind of like the in-flight magazine; it's a captured audience," said John Jantsch, a Kansas City-based marketing specialist, who runs the website Duct Tape Marketing. "That kind of targeting is what makes it effective."
Jantsch, who advocates religious marketing as part of an overall mix of promotional tools, said the ads are more effective when they are not blatantly self-serving. Including some form of community service, such as a promise that a percentage of a consumer's purchase will go to a local food pantry, resonates better with a religious audience, said Jantsch.
Even so, not all denominations favor direct advertising. For those that do, including Catholics, Lutherans and many Jewish congregations, marketers have access to a pre-selected geographic audience that is especially effective for service-oriented businesses looking to pick up more sales.
"That's one of my secret weapons," said Bob Knowles, the owner of a residential roofing business based in the Detroit suburb of Auburn Hills, Michigan. "I've done very well with it."
Knowles, a practicing Catholic, estimates he pulls in some $40,000 to $50,000 worth of annual business from print ads running in St. Anne's, his church in Ortonville, Michigan, as well other regional churches. Since beginning a church-oriented marketing campaign more than a decade ago, Knowles has branched out to the airwaves, sponsoring a local Christian radio station, 103.5 FM, a move he said adds an extra $50,000 to $60,000 worth of business per year.
Like many marketers in this genre, Knowles began running the ads as a way to support his church, which can produce its bulletin for free if it collects enough sponsors. Knowles said he never suspected the ads would lead to a significant increase in business.
"I really hit onto something," said Knowles, whose $500,000-a-year construction business specializes in roofing, gutters and insulation.
Like everything else in the media, church-based marketing is spreading to the Internet, making it an even more attractive choice for advertisers looking to get the most bang for their religious buck.
One of the companies making the transition is Liturgical Publications Inc., a Milwaukee, Wisconsin provider of advertising services throughout the country on behalf of churches like the ones used by Snyder and Knowles. Liturgical now offers nearly all of its church bulletins online and has created a directory of sponsors for each, similar to an Internet yellow pages, which gives congregants the ability to search for businesses by specific category.
"It's really helpful to the advertisers; it gives them better exposure," said Paul Knaapen, Liturgical's president. "Going forward, we realize we're going to have to have a variety of media to get to those parishioners. And we want to get to them when they are decisional about a service to use."
Advertisers such as Dan Snyder and Bob Knowles said they really don't need any more convincing.
"From my perspective it's a matter of cost," Snyder said. "I have had an increase in business as a result."
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