If Darwin was the chief marketing officer of today’s Christian bookstore and for-profit organization, your community would look like “Planet of the Apes.” You know, ape breath all in your face and the kids would go crazy looking for action figures with that real half-eaten banana odor too.
But put a [COUGH] “Christian executive” in charge, and it’s more like “Planet of the Dolls” causing store owners to cry “Mama” daily. There’s no thinking outside the box, but rather all marketing & PR efforts stay confined in one.
Jobs are getting cut, product is lessening and interest is waning. Why? Because Jesus Christ just isn’t trendy?! You know, his shelf-life has lasted more than 2,000 years. You would think that’s something to buy stock in, but not so much – at least not according to this story from the Washington Post.
“Christian stores used to be destination stores because . . . they had the dominant selection of product in the marketplace,” said Bill Anderson, president and chief executive of CBA (formerly the Christian Booksellers Association), which hosts the annual show. “And we are teaching them they still must have that, but that alone is not enough. . . . To be a destination store, they have to offer that customer a total shopping experience that is rich and rewarding in and of itself.”
OK, so what’s the difference between a Borders and [enter your niche Christian place name here]?
- Coffee – Both. Edge: Borders because they taste more like Starbucks and less like you know, coffee.
- Multi-media – Mostly one-sided. Edge: Borders. Just because you have one set of headphones for folk to listen to CDs doesn’t make you multi-media.
- Selection – Depends on what you are looking for. Quantity? Edge: Borders. Quality? Edge: Your place, BUT just because “Not of this world” is the trendiest apparel out there, doesn’t mean everything they put out rocks. Some of those shirts would get put back on the rack at a Goodwill store.
You see the problem? There’s no differentiation, so it comes down to sex appeal. What catches my eye immediately? Big box stores have the nice decor, wider selections and even that nice smell marketers use that mysteriously invade your olfactory system the second those doors open. So, what do Christian companies to do support “Your Place” – not much.
Last April, Thomas Nelson cut about 10 percent of its staff, after previously deciding to halve the number of new titles this year. “You don’t talk to any retailers that are saying what we need is more books,” said Michael Hyatt, president and chief executive of Thomas Nelson, which sells about 35 percent of its products through Christian retailers. “What they’re all saying is, ‘We need better books.’ ” Zondervan, another big Christian publisher, owned by HarperCollins, cut five executive positions and a dozen others as a part of an organization streamlining in May.
So instead of offering a plethora of selections that may entice readers, you limit the selections to those raggedy names only seen on TBN and DAYSTAR?! You need “better books,” but the future of Christian writing (and toys, apparel, et cetera) is languishing out there without representation because you are focused on Big Box mentality – quantity, not quality. Better does not always mean “new and improved”. Sometimes, it simply means NEW. More of those folk is not always the path to success. Sometimes you have to MARKET a different path BETTER!
MEMO to Christian Wanna-be Big Box Organizations: Christians do not watch TBN and Daystar exclusively! As a matter of fact, CCM radio may not even be a pre-set on their car radio. They aren’t necessarily compromising, they find a fix that doesn’t put their faith in question. And guess what y’all? You don’t cut it.
“Your Place” typically either looks like a downtrodden, retro 80s convenience store or a condensed version of Wal-Mart, except without you know, the quality. If I am not a fan of ‘Televangelist X’, then having end caps of ONLY those folk will not entice me. Who else is in your store? We have no idea, because you don’t market them effectively.
Oh, by the way, there is more substance to Christian marketers than using a popular brand and placing a cute scripture in it?! MUCH MORE. You should use it sometime.
Ingenious sites like “Church Marketing Sucks” exist for a reason. So, ask yourself Pseudo Jesus-in-a-Big-Box store, why? It’s because of that shelf-life mentioned earlier. Name a brand, ANY brand. None has equaled the market share, recognition and faithfulness among consumers than Jesus! If I sold pools, I would find every way in the world to market my product, from the construction to production, design to differentiation.
But if I followed the “Your Place” business and marcom plan, instead of publicizing pools, I would just end up taking a bath. Wake up, Church! Please?