So you’re a Christian publisher marketing pro.  And for decades, the demographic you have carefully cultivated relationships with, invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in, and lavished the majority of your attention on are dying off so quickly you can’t keep up.  Now what?

That’s the dilemma Christian marketers are facing as their target market, the brick & mortar Bookstore Retailer, continues bleeding customers, and going out of business left and right.

For years, you’ve viewed your marketing job as driving consumers to your true customer, the retailer.  And you knew how important it was to know your retailers really well.  Because they could make or break your sales by in-store positioning, endcaps, p.o.s positioning, word-of-mouth, etc.

Your sales team had spreadsheets full of notes about what they liked, what they didn’t like, best time to contact, their previous buying behaviors, their birthday, their store’s anniversary, their anniversary, their political beliefs, etc.  You gave them massive discounts, and you spent countless thousands of dollars on training their employees to champion your product, and gave them every tool necessary to properly showcase your product so the end consumer who you drove into the store would buy your product.

Boy, you sure knew how to sell to those retailers.  And back then, consumers had no other choice but to buy your products at your friendly, faithful retailer.  So it worked – well, at least enough to sustain a relatively young, growing industry.

But now, you’re faced with a stagnant, bloated industry along with the task of building relationships directly with the end consumer yourself – or, depending on your size, slowly or swiftly going out of business.

What to do? How will you sell your Christian products?

Ahhhh, social media!  You’ll launch social media sites and hammer away at them with daily Bible verse memes along with your latest product announcements.  How has that worked out for you?

Ahhhh, online marketing!  You launch a PPC campaign targeting females, ages 35-55, who attend church regularly, and have 2.5 kids.  And?

Ahhhh, QR codes! You put QR codes on all your products so the reader can get extra cool content.  How did you get the reader to buy it in the first place in order to access the cool content via the QR code? Oops.

Ahhhh, cause marketing! Millennials love that, we need to attract the next generation! You team up with World Compassion (they merged, didn’t you know?) to do a can’t miss campaign to capture the attention of Christian Millennials. You got a lot of impressions, some anecdotal sales data, and… yep, no sales.

Ahhhh, email lists! You double your efforts, blasting high quality html emails that beautifully display your new products even on the latest smartphones.  You get your open rate up from 25% to 30% with extra special subjects.  Click thru’s were still in the 2-3% range, but at least more people opened your emails, right? And the sales needle barely moved.

Ahhhh, an Advocate campaign, that’s the ticket!  You just need to get your really fired up people telling 10 other people who tell 5 other people who all purchase your product.  Wait, isn’t that multi-level marketing?

You know that repeating the same types of effort, over and over again, and expecting a different result, is the definition of insanity.

So you long for the old days, when you and your sales team knew your customer, the bookstore retailer, really well, and even had a sales team that visited your customers at least once a sales cycle. You sold them all your new products in person.  Those were the days when you lavished time and attention, and hundreds of thousands of dollars on her in order to differentiate yourself from the other publishers. You invited them to new product showcases and flew the larger ones to your home offices for special events.

Ahhhhh, those were the days.  Now, not only do you not have those flush budgets, but you don’t have a sales team to help either.

You know what? The principles of building relationships haven’t changed.  You know how to build relationships – you did it with your retailers, your colleagues, friends, your wife, kids, and dogs.  Now, you just have to use those same relationship-building principles to build relationships with your new customer, the consumer.

Three questions:

1.  Do you have a spectacular, documented, actionable, and accessible knowledge of your current customer? What their likes/dislikes are, what communication channels they prefer to hear from you on, what they are passionate about, what their shopping behaviors are, why they prefer your products over another brand, what they think about spirituality, politics, and other topics, what causes they support, if they are having a baby, how old their children are, etc.

2.  Do you create an amazing brand experience when consumers shop with you that differentiates you from competitors? They feel known and welcomed every time they come in contact with your brand, you recommend new products based on their interests/shopping history, you communicate to them in terms of their interests – not yours, more often than not, they hear from you about useful, timely, and shareable content that doesn’t sell them on a product, you recognize them no matter what device they find you on, and can continue their experience with you regardless of switching devices halfway through a conversation.

3.  Do you have the technology and process infrastructure to manage thousands of personalized relationships and to identify new consumers who match the profiles of your best customers?  This technology exists.  And most of it designed for marketers who don’t know a bit of coding.  It’s actually not terrifyingly budget busting, either.   It is much more a matter of a mind shift, than a budget shift.  A shift to thinking about your real customer, the consumer, first, and investing the bulk of the dollars you used to invest in shouting at them via ads and in building relationships with retailers, to building relationships with them. If budget is a huge issue, you can also ramp up, starting with a small budget and using mostly free or low cost month-to-month tools to cut your teeth on direct-to-consumer relationship building.

Contact us if we can help.

About The Author

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Over the last 30 years, I've consulted leading faith-based organizations on marketing strategy, branding, and execution of campaigns to the Christian marketplace. Seventeen years ago I founded Kyros to help give voice to the disenfranchised born-again college students by helping them connect in relevant experiential ways with faith-based brands, causes, and organizations. I'm a sinner saved by God's unbelievable grace, married to my best friend, proud father of three kids I adore, and full-on marketing geek.