While their missions may grow from a similar root, faith-based organizations vary in message and motivation, and for promotional consultants this can be a challenge. However, with the assistance of promotional products and a targeted marketing plan, the efforts can bear some fruitful rewards for the consultant and the client.
Ronn Allen, CAS, executive partner at King of Prussia, Pennsylvania-based distributor Allen & Goel Marketing Co. (UPIC: AGMCo), says while religious organizations often share the same types of marketing goals as corporate entities, the decision making is done by committee rather than by an individual. Consultants should be prepared to take extra time with clients who operate in this manner, he says.
“When working with church committees, some consultants may try to include everyone’s ideas, and that can be time consuming. We have seen many great opportunities and promotion plans go by the wayside because the church was paralyzed by its own structure,” says Allen.
And while the goals of faith-based groups may be similar to for-profit, non-religious companies, Allen says consultants must define the client’s desired outcome of any campaign—something the clients themselves may not even know how to do.
“The point person may not have experience buying promotional products or building a promotion that includes them,” he says. “You must have a willingness to educate the client and take the time to find out what they are trying to do. It’s our responsibility to dig deep, to find out what they really want to achieve.”
The goals of a faith-based group may be encouraging stewardship, welcoming new members or increasing community visibility. But don’t make the mistake of limiting products to religious-themed items, warns Allen. “Churches, like everyone, are looking for useful, effective items to get their messages across. The design and decoration usually make or break an item’s effectiveness.”
Alyson Salz, owner of distributor Righteous Clothing Agency, Inc. (UPIC: RCHQ) in Clackamas, Oregon, agrees that a product doesn’t have to be religious in nature to be an effective delivery system for an organization’s message. Rightous Clothing’s longtime clients have included The Salvation Army, Medical Teams International and World Vision, and Salz says what matters is whether they can provide clients with items that have a high perceived value that recipients will appreciate.
“We do a lot of writing instruments, drinkware and bags for faith-based clients,” says Salz. One client in particular places orders for custom quilted bags in the range of 10,000 to 20,000. “For nonprofits, because they have to get so much out of what they’re giving, we try to source things that are value-driven.”
Of course, the nonprofit status often means financial limitations, but Salz encourages consultants to focus on the mission and vision of clients when selecting products. “It’s more about effectiveness than the bottom line,” she says. “They are value conscious, not necessarily price conscious.”
That being said, clients may limit the decorating options to fewer colors and more traditional (read: lower cost) apparel styles. “We’re going to source things that are value-driven, but not necessarily fashion-forward.”
As with other clients, speaking to prospective partners in faith-based groups means getting a general understanding of how they work, who they are trying to reach and how they have segmented their own market. Following this strategy helped Righteous Clothing secure a system-wide contract with a Catholic hospital system. “We spoke to them using their vernacular, and we showed them how we can support what they believe in.
“It comes down to how you support their vision and mission,” she says.