Monday, July 10, 2017

When Marketing Leads to Ministry

by Lori Roeleveld @LoriSRoeleveld


When I began this writing adventure, I had an attitude about marketing and sales. You see, I wasn’t going to concern myself with such worldly ideas, because, like The Blues Brothers, I was on a mission for God. I may or may not have harbored some unkind and judgmental thoughts about people who invested significant energy discussing branding, platform building, and target audiences. I was simply going to write and trust God to be my marketer. Boom. Mic drop. Thank you, very much.

Ah, the journey from “holier than thou” to “wow, I have so much to learn” 
is a bumpy and brutal ride for some of us with harder heads than others. It took several rounds of rejections from publishing boards that were based NOT on my writing (which was praised), nor on my projects (described as worthy and relevant), but by the marketing department (“we have no idea who her target audience is or how to sell her idea”).

Now, before you do exactly what I originally did and blame the marketing department for their lack of skill, let me help you understand something vital. I didn’t know who my target audience was, and I was clearly incapable of adequately articulating my own message to the small group of people who sat on those publishing boards! How could I expect them to do it with the material I provided?

Writing for God wasn’t going to do anyone any good if it remained locked inside my laptop forever. I had to do something. I am, after all, a fisher of men. I criticize congregations who sit back waiting for fish to “jump into their church boats,” so why did I imagine I wouldn’t need to shove off from the shore myself?

So, several years into my writing journey (I’m ashamed to admit), it finally occurred to me to learn something about the people God wanted me to find—namely, my readers. This was pivotal—not to my writing success, but to my spiritual maturity as a Christian communicator. This transformation was facilitated at one BRMCWC conference through two eye-opening encounters.

First, I spent fifteen minutes with Susan King, editor of The Upper Room, as she showed me how to edit three short pieces. Those fifteen minutes revolutionized my writing for many reasons but, primarily, because Susan repeatedly referenced the reader. She urged me to write for a specific reader. To write with clarity over cleverness. To keep the needs and culture of my reader foremost in my thoughts.

Second, I got to know a kindred soul, best-selling author James L. Rubart, and appreciate the depth and breadth of his relationship with Jesus. Then, to my annoyance, I realized he was a marketing genius. What originally seemed incongruous to me – a Jesus-loving marketer – was now laughing beside me and praying with me in the lobby of Mountain Laurel. That year, I decided to invest a portion of the money I normally spend on an annual writing conference in coaching sessions with Jim around learning to articulate my message.

Through that process, myriad rounds of prayer, lots of scriptural and soul-searching, I now understand that part of my mission as a Christian writer is to locate the people God wants to receive the message I’m called to write. And, not just to locate them, but to pray for, listen to, develop God’s heart for, and serve them with humility and zeal.

I’ll tell you a secret I haven’t shared with anyone. Marketing research is the reason I haven’t given up on writing when it’s gotten really tempting to quit.

That’s the truth. It’s kept me writing, because it’s in marketing research that I’ve come to know and love my readers. God has used the cries of their hearts to spur me on to become a better writer, a better reacher, a better follow of Jesus. Not so I can sell more books, or enlist more subscribers, or increase my platform (although, that’s a by-product of this process), but so that I can be with them in this Jesus adventure.

They're More Than Just Numbers
You see, behind every number in the platform section of my book proposals, is a name, a face, a heart, a soul – someone seeking courage to endure, someone waiting to be challenged to deeper faith, someone wanting confidence to speak up for Christ. God wants to reach them in many ways, but one way is through what I write. Part of my job as a writer is to locate and love them in Jesus’ name.

We are called together, this band of readers and I, and I won’t rest until I find them, every one. They may be small in number. They may be spread far and wide. But, I need them as much as they need me. I’m no longer as interested in selling to them as I am in serving them. That heart transformation occurred through the process of discovering my brand and marketing research.

Go figure.

TWEETABLE
Behind every reader a name, a face, a heart, a soul - @LoriSRoeleveld on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

When marketing leads to ministry - thoughts from author @LoriSRoeleveld (Click to Tweet)

Lori Stanley Roeleveld is an author, speaker, and disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians late for dinner. Biblical, funny, and real, she inspires courage and Christ-centered confidence. Blogger. Wife. Mother of adults. Part-time giant-slayer. Not available for children’s parties. To join the adventure, knock on her door at www.loriroeleveld.com and through Facebook and Twitter.

19 comments:

  1. Lori, Thank you for this. I struggle with this whole area of marketing, "self-promotion", platform, numbers, etc. You gave a great perspective. Thank you!

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    1. Thank you, Crickett! Blessings on your search for your people!

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  2. Thank you, Lori for such a great post reminding us marketing starts with yourself and it is not a numbers game.
    Have a nice day!

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    1. I have enough problematic numbers in my life, Ingmar. God always has a way to show us what's behind the numbers, doesn't He?

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  3. Lori, Thank you. I struggled with marketing also. As one of your readers, I am glad your post showed up in my feed. Your writing has changed me for the better. I praise God for you.

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    1. I'm so glad we re-connected through the blog, too, Cherrilynn! Wonderful to have your friendship.

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    1. Nothing I love more than a "wow," Jennifer. You made my day.

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  5. Target audience and marketing. My worst thing! I can write til the cows come home and have a myriad of book, program, and product ideas. But getting all that into the hands of the people I seek to serve is an albatross around my calling as a writer. It's been a slow growing thing to articulate and make headway. But, I'm thankful for the slow grow as it has fine tuned my skill and message. "Growing into greater things with patience for the prize."
    Joy!
    Kathy

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    1. Slow-growth is highly under-rated. I'm with you!

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  6. Thank you so much for this, and all your posts. I'm just starting the journey of writing and building a platform. And as much as I try not to harbor the holier-than-thou attitude, God uses you and others to point out where I'm doing it anyway. Like with marketing. 😏

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    1. Clearly, I've been there! The gift of being a writer is that along the way, God uses it to make us more like Him. (and maybe that's the real plan all along ;))

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  7. Beautiful post! Thank you for reminding me of why I feel called to write: Not to build a name for myself or gain material profit, but to make an eternal impact. Bookmarking this. <3

    Tessa Emily Hall
    www.tessaemilyhall.com

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  8. Lori, I loved this article. We have to do our part, don't we? How did you do the "marketing research"? Did you reach out to your followers/subscribers or is there another way to learn more about your audience? Maybe I need to hire Jim! LOL! Blessings!

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  9. You wouldn't be wasting your money to consult with Jim! I've done formal surveys on my blog asking demographic questions, but also about reader's values, fears, and needs. I pay attention to which posts receive the most attention and analyze why. When I meet anyone in my target audience (which I do all the time), I listen to them, ask lots of quesions, and pay attention. I also pray for my readers and have a team that supports me and them in weekly prayer.

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  10. Lori, I needed this today. I just signed a contract with Elk Lake to publish my first book. Hooray! I'm over the moon excited until I think about the dreaded marketing. Interestingly, I ran into one of my 14-year-old beta readers at church. She hugged me and told me how my book made her feel. God lit a fire in me. SHE is why I write, and others like her. Your article was another reminder from God.
    I'm still nervous. Gulp. But I know I'm not promoting myself. I'm promoting the message that God gave me. I guess you can see we are all on a mission from God and we better get busy doing our part! People need to hear about the stories God has given us to tell.
    Many blessings, sweet sister!

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    1. Many prayers for word to spread to just the right ears about your book, Beckie! So happy for you!

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  11. Well communicated, Lori. Thank you for encouraging us to serve our reader "peeps" and to never stop discovering who they are and how we can serve them better. Great read! You always keep us coming back for more.

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