The main objectives of churches are to attend to the spiritual needs of their flock, and, as far as possible, help the needy in society. They are therefore registered as Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). They are not-for-profit establishments.
Through the medium of churches, society has raised a lot of business entrepreneurs, who own these churches. “Churches for Money,” as they can be referred to, are now a phenomenon, and growing with rapid succession in virtually every locality in the country, giving rise to “entrepreneurial pastors.”
These business pastors, especially those with sprawling and mushrooming tiny gatherings, some of whose educational backgrounds may be questionable, seem to be more market-oriented than many business firms.
Marketing is all about identifying customer’s needs and requirements and satisfying them, often for some fee-based consideration that can lead to the bottom line profits.
Kohli and Jaworskip (1990) identified that “market orientation entails one or more departments engaging in activities geared towards developing an understanding of customers’ current and future needs and the factors affecting them.” This means that various institutions must be designed with tailored strategies to meet selected customer needs. In meeting and satisfying customer needs, these “entrepreneurial pastors,” sometimes, possibly unknown to them, apply textbook marketing strategies like relationship marketing, sponsorship advertisement, public relations, and segmentation, among others.
Gronroos (1990) defines relationship marketing as ‘to identify, establish, maintain and enhance relationships with customers and other stakeholders, at a profit, so that the objectives of all parties are met, and these are done by a mutual exchange and fulfillment of promises.’
Every Sunday, churches invite new members or those visiting for the first time, to come forward; such new members or visitors have their personal data, in terms of name, residence, location, phone numbers, occupation, etc, collated for follow-ups later. Some of these pastors also give their numbers out freely on radio and television in order to gain more memberships. However, recently, I went to a pharmacy shop and after buying the drugs, I asked for the phone number of the pharmacist in charge but was told that they have been warned not to give their numbers to anyone. In some other companies, secretaries do not give their bosses’ phone numbers out.
On another occasion, I asked some employees of the customer service department whether they have ever called, sent a text or WhatsApp to a customer about the business and they responded in the negative. In the implementation of these strategies, it is common practice for church management personnel to pay routine welfare visits to members in their homes, obviously, as a way of showing concern, particularly in times of ailment or infirmity. Communion may even be brought home and shared with the aged and the sick, so as to cement that bond of belonging to the same family.
Within the cross-section of churches, some level of segmentation – dividing the total market into sub-markets with similar needs so that different strategies and products can be tailored to satisfy each homogeneous segment – is practised, as members are encouraged to join various groups, often on the basis of language, sex, age, common interests and even income. This ensures that every member belongs to one identifiable society such as youth groups, women fellowship, Akan Group, etc. These segmentation and relationship marketing strategies are geared towards retaining members as a sustainable source of generating and maintaining membership and the much needed profit.
Other dimensions of these practical relationship marketing strategies are the running of seminars, talks, praise and worship, with very attractive themes, aimed at educating members and generating revenues. It is interesting to note what may be perceived as ‘competitors’ in the same church industry forming strategic alliances in organizing seminars, coupled with joint adverts in the print and electronic media, thus, drawing important synergies for the attainment of common goals. With the frequent erratic power supplies, I expect cold stores to enter into strategic alliances with their competitors who have power freezers and vice versa to reduce cost.
Since they are into inseparable and intangible service, their leaders dress well to attract, and own handsome properties. These are all strategies to enhance their ‘corporate image’ and help build their brands. They gain customer retention which is a panacea for growth and increased profits.
These are some of the reasons why churches are making more profit and outnumbering commercial entities; after all, they have strategic drive.