Leveraging Research to Drive Design & Communication Insights at Crossroads Church with Vivienne Bechtold
Thanks for tuning in to this week’s unSeminary podcast. We’re excited to be talking with Vivienne Bechtold, the Director of Studio and Leadership Development at Crossroads Church in Ohio. Crossroads has been one of the fastest growing churches in the country for several years, but this growth hasn’t happened without being intentional about reaching those who are far from Jesus. Listen in as Vivienne shares how Crossroads has used data to make informed decisions about how to be increasingly effective at drawing more people into a relationship with Christ.
- Use data for marketing. // Most churches try to collect some sort of information from the people who visit or attend. However if you don’t dig into that data, you won’t know how it can help you understand your audience better. Vivienne has spent 27 years in the marketing industry and now runs Studio, an internal agency at Crossroads that interprets data, handles research, design, marketing, social media and other digital products for the church. Their ultimate goal is to help the church more effectively reach people who are far from God. Learning to market to people using the data you collect isn’t just about numbers, but about being curious about people and the insights behind the numbers.
- Understand who you’re reaching. // Initially Crossroads didn’t have a team handling their data and marketing, but rather started with two people that would do focus groups and one-on-ones to gather research on what attendees were looking for. The church then built an analytics team that mined that data about who was coming, what areas they were coming from, what their demographics were, and so on. Using these insights, Crossroads started to put together a picture of who was drawn to the church and what they needed. This information led to them targeting a group of a dozen 25 to 35 year old men who didn’t go to Crossroads. Church staff went to where these people hung out, interviewed some of them, and invited them to attend two services and then offer feedback on their experiences.
- Implement changes. // The information Crossroads received from these new guests helped them to see the Sunday experience from the perspective of a visitor. As a result, they were aware of what people connected with and what turned them off. They made changes in training their teams how to recognize new people, right from the parking lot, so they could serve guests better. Crossroads also altered the order of their service. Rather than starting with worship, they started with something that would help connect people coming in with what was going to happen the rest of the time. Seekers often didn’t understand the value of worship and instead wanted to hear a message, so the church wanted to make sure their visitors stayed to hear the teaching.
- Your strongest marketing tool. // Crossroads discovered that when their people knew the topic of an upcoming message, or some sound bites that would be interesting to their friends, they were much more likely to invite others to church. When your people invite their friends or family to church, it is the most powerful marketing strategy you can use. Empower your people to share about the church and what is coming up in a sermon series by providing tools for social media or email that can be shared. Consider direct mail pieces leading up to Easter or Christmas and work with the natural dynamics of how people interact with your church.
- Use data to rebrand. // Churches tend to plateau after 20 years and in order to get over that, they need to reinvent themselves. Crossroads found that the seekers coming to their church today were different than ones from 25 years ago, and generally had no experience with church at all. So the church began to ask how to be relevant to these people today and reevaluated its branding. Crossroads realized their branding was very corporate and wanted it to be more unfiltered, fun and and fearless, which better represented what the church had grown into. So Crossroads rebranded in 2020 to better capture who they were as well as target that group of 25-35 year old men they are trying to keep in mind. The rebrand includes new colors and visuals, but also new vocabulary that everyday people use. Crossroads talks about themselves as “Spiritual Outfitters” that equip and guide you through this adventure that you were made for as you follow God. Consider your church’s current branding and if it’s serving to help reach the people you are targeting.
- Look to the future. // As we continue to collect data and process our learnings from 2020, it can inform changes we need to make for the future. One lesson is that first impressions can happen a lot of different places, including online, and when people do show up in person, they are looking to connect more quickly. Pay attention to when people want to watch sermons online. For some, Sunday mornings may now mean family time. Are your people more likely to listen to a message and participate in worship online, but come to a physical location for groups or service opportunities? The pandemic was a time of isolation so think about how can you help people engage and serve together when they attend church at your physical location.
To learn more about Crossroads Church, you can visit them at www.crossroads.net or download their app at www.crossroads.net/app. If your church is considering a rebrand, check out the book “What Great Brands Do: The Seven Brand-Building Principles that Separate the Best from the Rest” by Denise Lee Yohn.
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Thank You to This Episode’s Sponsor: Chemistry Staffing
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