Thursday, February 06, 2020

Maybe that weird religious mail is all just sensible marketing after all

After I posted recently about unsolicited religious mail (and how outlandish it tends to be), my friend Stewart (of late entry into the Christmas card audit fame) asked me if there was a possibility that I was on a database of people whose faith was "up for grabs".

That amused me. But then I thought about it and I thought, actually that would make sense. After all, marketing tends to work on  people who are susceptible to the product and anyone who has known me for any length of time will know I have an interest in religion. It makes a lot of sense to pitch religious ideas at people who are already known to have an interest. They are much more likely to buy into it.

I still don't know who sent me these

This is something that strikes me about the church planting craze. It seems to have slowed down a bit in Cardiff now, but one point it felt like people were moving here to plant churches every other week. But what I noticed from those is that a new church plant seemed to attract people who were already disaffected with their current church, or who were looking for a new experience, or who were between churches for whatever reason.

Having been a distant observer of my parents' church plant for a long time, I know that several of the "new" people who joined that church over time had come from other church traditions, or had moved from other areas and were looking for somewhere to call home. I don't know what the figures are for church plants comparing transfer growth with completely new conversions, but I bet the figures for transfer growth are higher than church planters would like to admit.

It's just simply easier to make sales to people who are already interested in the product. This is true of anything - it's why Amazon and other online retailers keep advertising stuff to you after you've bought something. I know people often say how stupid it is if, say, you buy a new headboard for your bed, and Amazon then keep targeting you with adverts for headboards. It does seem daft. Like how many of those will you need? But, what if you aren't happy with your purchase and decide to return it? There's a fail rate in all sales and those companies now know that you may be in the market again if your purchase doesn't work out. There's literally no other way of predicting who else would buy a headboard, so it makes sense to target that demographic.

Apply the same logic to religion, and every religious organisation looking to score 'sales' should be targeting people who are already religious, who may be feeling disaffected, alienated or bored by their current church, or even their current religion. It's got to be easier than convincing people with no interest in religion and who are doing fine without it.

So, maybe I am on a database somewhere. The question now is, how do I get off it?


  1. I don't think there was any hiding of the fact that much of the growth was transfer growth, and certainly much higher than 'new' faith additions. And they were never claimed to be otherwise. It's a bit like buying a secondhand car. It's not new, but it's new to you and that's OK.

    While that might not be the intended outcome of a church plant, I don't think it's all bad. A sort of church revitalisation of an area, bringing some fresh energy and investment into an area even if the majority of people are those moving in from other areas.

    1. Is transfer growth addressed in church planting seminars/ courses/ training? I've never been on one so don't know.