How Churches Can Effectively Work With Marketing Agencies

Working in church communications can be lonely and isolating. When I worked in church marketing, I was a one-person band; maybe you feel that same way right now.

Even if you’re on a decent-sized staff, you might be the only communications professional. You can collaborate with other leaders, but they don’t always understand the challenges of your role.

Thankfully, there are people who can relate. Regardless of whether or not your church is ready to grow your marketing team, you can still collaborate with outside professionals.

Yep—I’m referring to marketing agencies. They come in different sizes and specialties, but their goal is always to make you look good and achieve your goals. Has your church ever considered working with an agency? If not, this is your introduction to how that could look.

Does your church need agency help?

The first question you need to answer is whether you could benefit from working with an outside agency. Partnering with an agency requires an investment of finances and time. The right agency takes that investment and removes work from your full plate while elevating the quality of that work.

Brainstorm what work you’d most benefit from handing over to an agency—anything from web development, graphic design, copywriting, or video production. Agency professionals are specialized in their trade, meaning they often do better, more focused work than you’re able to on your own.

After considering how you might benefit from outside help, gauge if you have the budget to accommodate this partnership. There’s no sense in getting started if you’re going to run out of money quickly or not invest enough to get any return. The costs vary from agency to agency, but starting with $1,000 per month is a decent rule of thumb.

It’s also critical to have a conversation with your church’s leadership early on to see if they’re on board. An agency partnership won’t go anywhere without the buy-in of your leadership. You’ll likely be the main point of contact, but senior leaders will be paying the bills and have expectations for what they get in return.

How an agency can help your church

We’ve mentioned some creative services a marketing agency might be able to provide. These services can cover nearly any need your church has. You could outsource practically all of your responsibilities, so ask: why is this worth considering?

  • Elevate your work. Working with specialized professionals means the output is better. You might know the basics of graphic design, but you can find someone who does it full-time.

  • Get some margin. Doing all of the work yourself leaves you busy and burned out. Get some of your time back and get to do more of the work you enjoy doing.

  • Share the load. Collaborating with an agency means you’re not alone. You have a team to ask questions of, pass work to, and commiserate about your challenges.

  • Gain outside perspective. You know your church, but sometimes the insider perspective impacts your work. An agency brings new ideas with an outside approach.

  • Reach new capabilities. Sometimes an agency takes on work you’re already doing. Sometimes they tackle new projects you couldn’t do yourself.

These are a few benefits that hiring a marketing agency offers your church. It’s worth noting that perhaps the person most benefiting from this partnership is you. As a result, you can do better work and take your communications to new levels.

Choosing the right agency

Choosing the right marketing agency could be the difference between a successful relationship or pure disaster. Not every church can benefit from hiring an agency, and not every agency is ready to work with a church. This partnership requires a delicate balance.

Start with some research online. Talk to other churches to see if they work with agencies. You may even talk to some marketing professionals in your church or community. Gather a list and collect information on each organization.

Consider these areas as you research and narrow down the field.

  • Match capabilities. List the areas you most need help. Match those needs with the best agency for each skill. It’s helpful if they’re good at the things you aren’t.

  • Experience with churches. See if they’ve worked with churches or faith-based nonprofits before. This is a unique industry that is best learned through experience. Many agencies also offer nonprofit discounts on services, so be sure to ask.

  • Location. Many churches likely will want a local agency because proximity matters in the church. Having someone who can visit you in person might be important to you.

  • Size. How big is the agency? What is their team size? Bigger agencies have more capabilities but might be more expensive. Find the fit that works best for you.

  • Responsiveness. Pay attention to how quickly an agency follows up with you during the research process—this could be an indication of how easy (or not) they will be to work with.

  • Culture and values. What are some of the agency's core values? Are they active in the community? Even if they’re not faith-based, it’s good to ensure you align on things like ethics.

Use these criteria to narrow down your list of possible agency partners. Aim to find 2-3 agencies you can reach out to, then schedule meetings with these top choices to learn more.

Ask them further thoughts on how they could help you and request some references from other clients. In your conversations, check if they require a long-term contract or if you can pay monthly.

Working with an agency

Choosing the right marketing agency is just the beginning of your working relationship. Marketing agencies don’t operate in a vacuum but will need some input from you and your church leadership. These are some tips for getting the most out of this partnership.

  • Onboarding. Let the agency get to know your church and how they can help. Simultaneously, you’ll want to learn about their team and processes. Both of these will take some time, but proper onboarding will help to build the foundation of your relationship.

  • Set goals. Be upfront with what you expect and hope to get out of the agency. Establish clear goals and know how to measure that progress. You can expect the agency to track those, but not unless you let them know about it first.

  • Mutual respect. Trust is crucial in any working collaboration. Teach your team to respect the agency’s process and meet their set deadlines. Doing that will help them return the favor and respect your input to the process.

  • Communication. Find the proper channels for exchanging files and ideas. The agency will likely have the preferred methods and platforms. For example, that might mean using Dropbox for sharing files and Slack for sending messages.

  • Give feedback. Be prepared to let the agency know what you think. They’ll use that input to do a better job in the future. This includes involving the right stakeholders. For example, if the senior pastor cares about the outcome, involve them in the process from the beginning.

These are just a few suggestions from my experience working in the church and at a local marketing agency. I’ve seen it from both sides and know what makes the best partnerships. However, you’ll also learn from your own experience. The more time you invest, the better the results will be.

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