I love the movie Field of Dreams – especially the line, “If you build it, he will come.”
While these prophetic words may work for a baseball field in the middle of a remote Iowa corn patch, it doesn’t hold true for VBS. Just because you create a potentially fun and life-changing week for your community doesn’t mean people will just automatically attend.
As you are building (planning) your VBS, make sure you are building your promotion (marketing) plan at the same time. How devastating to work so hard recruiting and training workers, collecting supplies, and preparing the building, only to realize at the last minute no one has told the community.
Here are six steps to insure your message reaches your target audience.
1. Start Promoting Now!
Actually you probably should have started telling people about VBS 2013 during VBS 2012. But never fear, you still have time to create a successful promotion strategy if you begin now.
First you need to check church and community calendars to make sure you are not scheduling your VBS on top of any major events that will compete for workers and kids. Now you want to make sure the congregation is reminded often of the date and time of not only VBS but any training opportunities that will be provided. You do not want to give the members of the congregation the excuse of not having adequate information early.
2. Put Someone in Charge of Promotion
As the pastor or VBS director you already have more responsibility than you can shake a stick at. (I’m not really sure what that means, but my grandmother said it often.) Refusing to delegate responsibility for promotion will insure that you get so busy with all the other details of VBS you run out of time and energy to make sure the community – and especially unchurched families – know what is going on. For you, promotion is just one more detail. But if you delegate the responsibility it becomes his primary detail and focus.
Encourage your promotion leader to build a creative team who can help dream the possibilities as well as do the leg work. Promotion is a great job for the person (people) who might not be available to work during the week of VBS but are available during the weeks leading up to VBS.
3. Know Your Target Audience
Blanket promotion (banners, newspaper advertisements, store posters) may appear to be telling the entire community about VBS, but you might be spending a lot of time, money, and energy yet never get the word to the families you are trying to reach. Target audience means the specific group of people you are trying to reach – the families most likely to attend your specific church or VBS.
Once you determine your target audience you can then target how you promote to them. For instance, if your target audience includes preschoolers you need to find out where parents of preschoolers congregate, where they shop and eat, and how they best communicate with each other. It’s not hard. Just ask parents of preschoolers what you would need to do for them to hear your message. You can then target your target audience.
4. Use a Variety of Promotion Methods
Try to calculate for a moment the number of messages that are directed at you each day. Make sure you include mail, newspapers and magazines, posters in store windows, phone calls, and electronic messages such as e-mail and social networks. Don’t forget to include billboards, bumper stickers, and conversations with co-workers. In reality you receive hundreds if not thousands of messages each day. If you receive that many, then so do the people you want to attend your VBS. One postcard or banner quickly gets lost and forgotten.
To truly get your message heard and remembered you will need to broadcast it often and in many ways. One of the reasons you need to start promoting now is to allow enough time to utilize a variety of methods. Create a promotion calendar that insures you are broadcasting your message to your target audience in repetitious waves.
5. Be Creative
First you need to know that being creative does not have to mean expensive. Some of the most creative marketing of all has cost little if anything. Your very best promotion is going to be one person telling another person, so make sure you give them something fun and engaging (creative) to talk about. There will be a lot of churches in your community hosting VBS – many during the exact same week – so it is important that your message is heard and remembered. You want to do something that creates a buzz, or as my boss says, a sizzle!
Effective promotion must grab attention within three seconds. The more creatively you convey your message, the better chance you have of getting and holding the attention of your target audience.
Bring a group together to brainstorm fun and unexpected ways to broadcast your message. Remember, the first rule of brainstorming is there are no bad ideas. Every idea has potential. Start with the question, “If money was not an issue, what could we do to tell people about VBS?”
Of course money is an issue, but if you never allow yourself or your team to dream bigger then your budget you will settle for promoting the same way you promoted last year, and most likely miss out on an extremely creative (yet inexpensive) way to target your target audience.
6. Make Quality a Priority
The quality of your promotion is going to signal the quality of your VBS. Again, quality does not have to mean expensive, but it does have to meet the standard expected by your target audience. Once you have determined your target audience you will be able to determine the quality they expect and respond to.
So what do you need to do to get started? Enlist a promotion leader. Today!