Two weeks ago we took Marketing Smarts on the road once again and recorded the podcast live in Los Angeles. Our guests were Eric Granof, chief marketing officer at AIA, and Brad Abare, communications director of the Foursquare denomination and founder of the Center for Church Communication.
Our two guests offered an interesting juxtaposition. First up was Eric, who works for an organization that underwrites more bail bonds than any other in the US. He talked about the unique challenges of marketing the services of bail bond agents—particularly when many people have negative associations with the industry—and what he has done to educate the public about the purpose of bail and the very real contributions that many agents have made to their local communities and to the people they serve.
Though many people may think of Dog the Bounty Hunter when they picture a bail bond agent, the licensed agent in the family is actually his wife, Beth (Dog is technically a "fugitive recovery agent"), a detail that illustrates a startling fact that Eric shared with us: Over 50% of bail bond agents are women. Of course, that fact becomes a lot less startling when one considers that the bail bond customer is frequently the mom, the wife, or the girlfriend who is called when someone lands in jail.
The main educational vehicle that Eric and AIA use to provide people with the real scoop on the bail industry and to help them find a reputable bail agent is ExpertBail.com. Along with a ton of detailed information on bail-related terminology and blog posts about the criminal justice system more generally, the site features numerous profiles of agents from around the country.
The main lesson one takes away from those profiles is that bail agents, rather than mulletted fellows in bulletproof vests, are primarily small business owners who are truly devoted to providing a valuable service and helping people who, for one reason or another, have hit a rough patch.
Our second guest was, as I mentioned, Brad Abare, and we talked with him about church marketing. Now, just as people may be surprised to discover that the majority of bail agents are women, they may also be surprised to find that Brad has for many years been associated with a website called Church Marketing Sucks.
I kicked off our conversation by asking Brad why he thinks church marketing sucks (or, if you prefer "stinks"). In his view, the main problem is that churches in general don't take their marketing as seriously as they should: that is, on the one hand they can have less than professional websites, for example, and on the other they don't have a clear conception of what makes their particular church unique.
In other words, though churches may have a clear message in theological terms, they quite often do not have a compelling message that differentiates them from other churches in the community.
Brad suggests that to formulate this message churches need to spend time thinking about the attributes that make them unique, that define their personality, and then focus on effectively communicating their uniqueness. Along the way, he says, they also need to realize that they can't be all things to all parishioners. As he put it, "Don't try to be the church on the cover; be the church on the corner."
Understanding what you are, what you stand for, and what you have to offer, he insists, is how you "connect with community," a lesson that many businesses, too, could take to heart.
You can listen to both my conversation with Eric and my conversation with Brad (which starts around minute 31) above. If you'd like to attend a future live recording of Marketing Smarts, we will be in Miami on May 16, Minneapolis on June 13, and in Boston on July 11. For full details, go here.
Finally, if you want to make sure that you never miss an episode of Marketing Smarts, you can always subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.