Friday, 1 August 2008

Church marketing - get a grip guys!

I'm just picking up on some thoughts from journeyman posted earlier this week.
I can really understand the desire of Christian marketeers to get the marketing of the message just right; and I haven't read the book Church Marketing 101 referred to by journeyman yet, but it appears to come from the a similar start point as many written on the subject. it's that start point that I would take issue with.
The start point will make the case for one of two options either use the 'science' of marketing to target your audience, or tinker with the message to make it acceptable/palatable to our perception of the audience's reaction to the message. Both options are in my opinion trying to make the Christian message fit the marketing package.

We aren't called to be targeting who we tell, we are called to take the message into all the world. That sounds like we are supposed to be using nets and not fishing rods when we are 'taking the message...'(Acts 10:9?). We use the nets and bring 'em all in, and let God do the sorting... Mission is part of what we do, it is defining. If we are too sensitive about the sensitivities of those we would invite to church to hear this as part of the message... then we need to check out why we are... mission is something we should shout about and celebrate not want to hide away from. Otherwise we become a bunch of folk afraid to tackle and fess-up to the tough questions.

If the message is going to be tinkered with... who are we to tinker. The truth is the truth. What we can do is take responsibility for the clarity of its delivery today. It is here, utilising language, visual and non verbal communications that we as marketeers should best spend our efforts, ensuring that the delivery of the message is always the truth, 100% undiluted. People tend to buy the real thing when it is positioned and clearly delivered in ways that they understand - ask Coca-Cola.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

It's life Jim... but not as we know it

It's a month to the day since my last post. The lack of posting stuff is not due to having nothing to say, more about the busy-ness of life getting in the way... to caught up in the doing... and holidays.

But there are a few things that have struck me over the past 4 weeks that deserve comment... we are, if we are not careful, with a massive encouragement from the media, talking ourselves into a recession.
Having experienced the downturn of the early 90's I'm seeing and hearing the same merchants of doom nudging us closer to the downward spiral. Left to its own devices the market would sort itself out. But the need for news stories 24/7 sees the media commentators speculating and magnifying the minutiae... pushing real fear, where there should be none.
However if all you have known is easy credit and 'have it now why wait' as a lifestyle...the position many under 30 are in, then a lack of reference points to the current situation will cause fears to rise. The media feed on the fear that they create.
What we are experiencing is a re-adjustment in the money markets caused by greedy banking lifeforms mostly in the US but here in the UK too. Hedge funds and 'product wrappers'... (the junk bonds of the early 21st century) are vehicles for speculation and making the emperors new clothes, they produce nothing, there is no wealth creation... only seven and eight figure profits for a few individuals. The recession of the early 90's was fuelled by the junk bond markets of the mid eighties. What goes around comes around... where there is money to be made, history is a poor teacher and greed is the BIG temptation.
The biggest issues we will all face as Christians (apart from the fears of recession - we too are consumers in this consumer society whether we like it or not) is that the people we do life with will become very 'me focussed' and turn in on there financial problems... the lack of funds will become as big an issue for them as the 'what shall I spend my money on' issues of recent times... both sides of the same coin of consumer addiction. They will become harder to reach.

The Lakeland Florida Healing Outpouring - Todd Bentley. I'm always amazed at this type of phenomena. I don't have a Pharisaic approach, my Christian teaching has been to question and test preaching and teaching with the Bible as my touchstone. When such an outpouring can be a force for real revival, I just find it sad that what I have seen in probably 20 -30 hours of watching the God channel broadcasting of Lakeland over 5 or 6 weeks is so Bible lite. I have also been struck by the way that the leaders with the mic have 'ordered' the Holy Spirit to do... which cannot be right. I've spent a good deal of the past 25 years working in fields where presentation to large audiences in the secular world have been a major part of the work. I know the tricks of the trade in manipulating audiences, and creating mass hysteria and 'buy-in'. Whipping a bunch of people into a frenzy is not difficult if you know what buttons to press and when to press them... I recognise a great deal of the manipulation stuff happening... it's so sad... even sadder if God was at the heart of the original outpouring.

My wife Yvonne and I had just the best holiday at the beginning of July on the Italian lakes, lake Garda in particular. It is the first holiday we can remember that there was nothing to fault just seven days of real pleasure and 100's of photos of God's amazing creation as memories. We felt really blessed.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Measuring church success... the lists

An interesting list of measurements for success has been circulating from, I think Backyard Ministries. I've picked it up on both Eddie Arthur's Kouya Chronicle and the Unite site. Journeyman has also posted a couple of items in June, linked to this theme of measuring success.

I find lists like these both helpful and unhelpful at the same time. Helpful in as much as there are usually actions/activities listed that aid the thought process, make you ponder. They can however, all too easily become 'wish lists' to add to the 'let's try this new idea to be seen to be doing something this year/month/week' list.

The real issue in all of this stuff is measurement... Over 30 years in business management has shown me that you measure what is meaningful, meaningful is hard, quantifiable stuff like numbers... how many in how much time; the finite stuff.

The problem that arises for us as Christians and church is that we have no handle on the 'how many and how much time'...
The task is all the world, how many is that..? We also don't have a fix on the time period we have to complete the task in... So, we start to judge what the hard stuff is we should measure... from cigarette butts in the car park to number of souls saved this week ... hmm.

We measure hard stuff because most of us relate to the models that we know... business for the vast majority of us, because that's where we work, and therefore what we know. But the model doesn't work very well when the measurements are really about character, personal growth, christian communities, care and justice in the places where we do life and the people we do life with. These measurements are about the mundane day-to-day stuff of doing life. They are about momentum and prayer for God to be in that momentum. They are about listening to what the Holy Spirit is saying and guiding us to, personally and as church. They are about asking what you/your church can do for God and not what God can do for you... (a cliche I know, but a truth none the less).

So, the beginnings of a list of these measurables might look like:
How can I get better at my conversations about Jesus/church with the people I do life with in the workplace?
Measured by... I'll know I'm getting better at it when more people listen to me/don't run away from me...
How can I get better at being involved in the care/social stuff in my community?
Measured by... I'll know when I am getting better at it when I am actually involved actively and contributing (as opposed to talking about being involved)...
And so on...
Who knows we may be so caught up in God's momentum for us and listening to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and doing this stuff... to have time to measure the positive contribution we are making... or obsess about it.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Cut out for the job part II

Following up on the previous blog...
The exit interview went really well, far better than I expected.
There was a genuine sense of relief, of a massive weight being lifted from the guys' shoulders.
Having covered all of the points and questions on a fairly unimaginative Exit Interview form; where the emphasis is skewed more to protecting the company's HR and training processes and ensuring that CYA(cover your ar**) is in place for our ever growing litigious employment culture in the UK. I took the opportunity to explore how he had gotten into sales and where he felt he would look to develop his career now. It turns out that his dad and older brother are both very successful in sales and that it was more than expected that he would follow in their footsteps... where have I heard that before... doctors, lawyers follow on in the family tradition. Massive pressure, an awful way to treat your offspring. And he just can't do it... it's been screwing him up for all of that time, and finally he is free because someone has actually bother to care enough to tell him. His skill set makes him well suited to face to face customer relations, helping people resolve issues and problem resolution, all associated with sales skills but without the pressure of closing deals to deadlines and target achievement. He is going to take a break with a holiday in Greece coming up and look at a career in this field, away from B2B capital goods... probably more retail focussed. I've offered to help him put his CV together to reflect where his skill set can be of real benefit to prospective employers if he wants.
Always a sting in the tail though... not from the interview but just another manager's reaction to the time I took on the exit interview itself.
'You were a long time in the meeting room with James, I thought it was an exit interview?'
'It was'
'Only takes me 15 minutes to do them'
'Don't you think it's your job to help them, counsel them if they need it?'
'Nah, just get 'em out the door mate, and move on'
Mind you probably explains why he has a staff attrition rate of almost 50% in his team... hmm.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Cut out for the job?

Strange week this week, from recruiting a natural salesman on Monday to letting one go who should never have been taken on by my predecessor. The new hire has a presence, calmness and reassuring approach coupled with a steely determination and an instilled moral base. The vacating guy has none of these attributes - in fact the complete opposites in terms of personal makeup; and will just take his inabilities and problems with him to another sales position somewhere else.
I have the opportunity to conduct an exit interview on Monday and will try to counsel him to look for an alternative career, he simply is not cut out for the job. He has been in sales for six years with three positions in that time, why have these shortcomings not been spotted before? This poor guy has pretty much wasted six years of his working life in pursuit of a job role he can't do, why has no one cared to help him realise why before? He had been through the company sales training academy in the first six months with us and no one appeared to notice his inability to get the fundamental stuff right. What is it that makes managers believe they can recruit (particularly those new into the management role) It is probably the most important part of the people management task and paradoxically the area least well trained.
I'm sure this rolling problem is one of the reasons that sales as a profession has such a poor perception in the UK, guys like the one leaving my team keep getting hired by managers with poor recruitment training and the bad sales techniques are perpetuated. These failures cost companies and the economy billions in lost time and sales. Selling is one of the toughest choices for a career, why do so many people believe they can do it?

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

ethical business...

Interesting discussion with my boss today. We both agreed that there is no place for 'the black arts' of sales practice in our operation. He having seen it in action in other teams and taken steps to remove it prior to my arrival with organisation; and me seeing the results of such practices in some of the deals that have been done in my team over recent years... none of the practitioners remain in situ... Sales activities that are tantamount to fraud, doctoring of documents etc. All good and proper to have agreement on important moral and ethical issues like this... However, being economical with the truth appears to be OK for him... need for further discussion. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Inspired to get back to basics

Service in church tonight had a really simple structure - the leading by Tany (who improves every time she leads) and a steady older hand Brian just creating space to worship and pray and allowed the evening to focus on the sermon. Andrew, the minister preaching, was returning from a week out with a back injury. The message, on the Holy Spirit and the Bible, was so clear and inspiring. It was a call to the obvious for every Christian... to read the Bible... and the Holy Spirit's involvement.
Andrew should perhaps be laid up more often!

Friday, 23 May 2008

It's the economy... stupid

Politics is a funny old business. It has probably always been at the mercy of events and the current 'air pocket' type drop in popularity of the New Labour government and Gordon Brown in particular is certainly driven by events, but I think there is more at play here than just events.
There appear to be real parallels with John Major's Conservative government of '95 - '97 that seemed to run out of ideas after so many years of Conservative control coupled with too few cabinet members of genuine quality and vision. Brown's cabinet is equally weak in strong ideas people with genuine resolve... however the all pervasive eye of the media, and the perceived 'image' requirements the spin guys believe is required to front up to the media are a far heavier and concerning factor.
The influence of the fourth estate and equally the fact that media ownership is now concentrated in too few hands is to my mind the biggest danger.
The media dictate what the key issues are and politicians no longer control the agenda. The importance of what receives coverage and where in the story list issues fall (I was in media for over 15 years and have really seen how this has changed).
This week has seen the attractiveness of the sound bite dominate the story list with image stories - the merits of Gordon's appearance and demeanor and redecorating his kitchen and bathroom assuming higher prominence than the economy, abortion and parenting.
The by-election result last night was a predictable protest vote given the current global economic events and people's need for a pressure valve to let off steam about the higher costs of living driven by these events... The reaction in the press from left to right has been a like a feeding frenzy as they push to influence the removal of the prime minister. My political leanings are not towards the beliefs of Gordon Brown... I would however like the opportunity to vote against him in a general election and not have the politics of the country managed by a clique of media owners.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

intention and delivery

So, I thought... get set up and start blogging... interesting stuff happens to you everyday and how difficult can it be to stick some thoughts down daily... INTENTION.
Hmm, well my last post was on Sunday 18th and here we are at Thursday 22nd and i've just sat down... how bad is that at keeping the intention going!
The fact that I've had 3 days on the trot up at 5.00am with a drive to Bristol... I certainly shouldn't mention the one hour and twenty minute door to door trip last night from Bristol to Copythorne to watch Chelsea with a few CFC fans (we wuz robbed by the woodwork before the penalties)... I know I drive a Saab by didn't realise they had a wings function like their airplanes till last night! But this is diversion and obfuscation... I must get better at delivering a daily blog.

On Wednesday the management team had an update on Diversity policy and Equal Opportunities law.
We used a number of real case studies that were frankly quite frightening. In each case both the company and the manager concerned in the tribunal were found to have breached the law and the managers were found personally responsible and liable to the tune of up to £40,000 in awards against them! In one case it led to the manager losing his job and his house to pay the award.
On the face of things in each case, the managers had behaved reasonably and even 3 years ago would not have been held responsible... but the litigeous approach to life on the 'other side of the pond' is being reflected in the UK.
Over 50% of the case studies were examples of religious discrimination of muslims.
In the slides (inevitable death by powerpoint) Discrimination against Muslims, Jews, Seikhs were listed. I asked what about Christians? The answer? You can't discriminate against Christians can you? Hmm... I continued the discussion over lunch. The HR trainer, a well educated and quite persuasive lady could not see how in a 'Christian country' (she professed no faith but thought there was a God) Christians could be discriminated against in the workplace. We have real problems when global organisations (I work for one) employ folk to train their managers with these beliefs...

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Awesome praise and worship

Christians obeying Jesus and being baptised is, for me always, a special occasion... and tonite was no exception in the auditorium at the church we belong to in Southampton. There were very few empty seats and you could feel the Lord's presence as three friends, Louise, Isabel and Brian gave moving and real testimonies about what Jesus has done in their lives. I was leading the worship along with John, one of our ministers. It went well I think, Jo and a six piece band with three singers led by Phil were right on the money hitting a strong groove for all of the songs which enabled the worship to meet the 'our utmost for His highest' goal that we sometimes achieve...

Tony Watkins, one of our regular preachers opened a new series on the Holy Spirit, with a well structured and engaging evangelistic presentation based on John 3. He managed to plug his Macbook into the lectern and make it work... which is food for though for future presentations I do there... keynote is just so much better than powerpoint for slide work.

Jesus does amazing things in peoples lives... Praise the Lord!

Thursday, 15 May 2008

First blog... Really felt a part of the company I joined at the end of January, for the first time this week. Just taken time to get used to the culture change I suppose. Having come out of 7 years driven by the demands of a global Japanese corporation the expectations of a global French operation are well... different. Toughest thing to get used to is having more time and a far slower pace... It's great, I think!Spent most of today recruiting for a sales vacancy. This is the third day of interviews and have seen some interesting candidates. It's a fairly complex process these days needing to balance team dynamics, ability to do the job and staying this side of legislation that appears to change on a daily basis. Have shortlisted a 53 year old bloke and a 27 year old girl... so they can't say I am not complying with the diversity stuff!
Spent a couple of hours in the early evening with Andrew, one of the ministers at our church going over planning for training courses over the next few months. He has a fabulous sense of humour... I look forward to time with him and know I will always leave our meetings with a smile on my face.Typing this whilst watching a terrific DVD called 'into the wild' directed by Shaun Penn... well worth a look.