What Jesus Knew About Marketing – And Why It Matters
What Jesus Knew About Marketing – And Why It Matters
If you’re about to tune me out. Don’t.
I’m pretty sure I can guess what a few readers will be thinking with a title like that. If you’re not religious, you might be expecting a bunch useless fluff. And if you are a Christian, you are thinking that I’m about to say something about Jesus that is an abuse of the Bible and embarrassment to the faith.
I hope you’re both wrong.
The truth is Jesus was a master marketer. The proof is historical. Jesus managed to take an ancient tradition called Judaism, make it relevant, and initiate a movement that has lasted for 2,000 years.
That’s a decent track record if you ask me.
Two worlds that surprisingly overlap
I’m a pastor and a marketer and my two vocational worlds overlap to a surprising degree. I was actually surprised when this dawned on me. It makes sense as both my worlds deal with effective communication. Pastoral work is evangelism – communicating about faith to engage people, and marketing is brand-gelism – communicating to create brand engagement.
(By the way, I just made up that brilliant word, “brand-gelism”; watch for trademarks soon.)
Have you ever noticed how when you are thinking about purchasing a car, you start to see that make a model everywhere? The same thing happened to me. When I started my marketing company, I started to see messaging everywhere, including in the life of Jesus.
Here are a few of the lessons Jesus can teach us to help us market our message better than we currently are!
Before I do, here are two caveats.
1. If you are a Christian, don’t worry, I don’t actually think that the Bible is a book on marketing. I do think it’s a book that teaches a lot about influencing people towards better choices – and that is what good marketing is as well.
2. If you aren’t a Christian, please don’t be put off if I use some Bible verses. I simply want to show that I’m not making this stuff up!
Jesus Knew His Mission
If you want to convince people that you have something valuable to offer them, you need to know your mission. The clearer you know your mission, the more aligned your values will be with your products and services.
Furthermore, Jesus knew how to articulate His mission with clarity. One day He was hanging around the temple and He got a chance to read the writings of the prophet Isaiah. (The Jews followed an annual reading plan.)
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. And the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on him. He began by saying to them, “Today as you listen, this Scripture has been fulfilled.”
That last statement is the ancient equivalent of a mic drop.
The point is that Jesus knew what He was about. He had something to offer people and He could tell them what it was.
Whether or not you believe that Jesus could deliver on that promise, evidently many people have. Like billions of people throughout history.
By the way, if you wonder whether the people listening understood what Jesus was saying His mission was, it ticked them off enough that they tried to kill him.
They got it.
Lesson 1: People respond to a clear mission.
He Engaged People with Questions
People didn’t like Jesus. He was extremely polarizing; He still is.
As a result, the folks who disliked Him the strongest would try to trick Him into saying something that would get Him thrown in prison.
The way Jesus responded to these confrontations was to ask a question back to those confronting Him.
For example, in Mark’s biography about Jesus there is an exchange between Jesus and some religious leaders. These religious leaders had a lot of power and could mess up Jesus if they could get Him to slip up. So, they asked Him whether they should pay taxes to Caesar or not (Rome was the dominant power in the world at the time).
Jesus responded by asking if someone had a denarius (a Roman coin), and then asked whose image was inscribed on it. Obviously, it was Caesar’s. To which Jesus remarked, well then, give Caesar what is his and give God what is God’s.
The leaders who were trying to trap Jesus were astounded by His answer.
I’m not trying to reteach the lesson Jesus was teaching, I’m merely pointing out that Jesus saw the power of questions.
But there are strong questions and weak questions.
Weak questions often illicit a cheap “yes” or “no” in marketing.
For example, how many times have you read a headline like this, “Would you like to know the secret to your first $10K month?”
“YES, I WOULD!”
Who wouldn’t? If you can show me the secret to effortless $10K months, I’ll give you an easy yes and read on.
But that’s kind of cheap and feels insincere because it assumes a positive answer.
A stronger question is, “What stands between you and your first $10K month?” Now, I’m forced to pause and engage. It might take more work to get someone to pause, but the person who clicks to read more, will be far more likely to engage with you.
Lesson 2: Use strong questions to engage potential leads.
Jesus agitated problems and offered a real solution
Jesus’s MO was to take a problem, amplify it, and then offer a solution.
For example, Jesus knew that the love of money was going to be a problem for some people. Jesus didn’t believe that money in itself was a problem, but the love of money was. When people love money, they make suspect decisions that often harm relationships.
In his book, Profit First, Mike Michalowicz shares that the last words of Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, were “I blew it.”
“How could that be? He was a full-time, always-there businessman! He would do anything to grow his business, and it gave him immense fame and fortune! But that’s where the problem lies because when it came to the rest of his life, Sam wasn’t nearly as dedicated. He was never really “there” as a father, husband and friend. He had the wealthiest pockets, but the poorest soul. And in those last minutes of his life, he realized where he had failed.” Mike Michalowicz
In Luke 18 we see Jesus agitating this problem with a rich young man. Unfortunately, the young man is so dejected that he wanders off without hearing Jesus’s solution. In fact, Jesus’s own disciples begin to question whether Jesus has asked too much. To this Jesus responds with a profound spiritual solution, “What is impossible with man, is possible with God.”
The solution to this very difficult dilemma is God.
Again, whether you agree with that conclusion or not, billions of people have. When faced with problems too great to solve on their own, they have turned to God as a solution.
Your product probably ranks a little lower than “God” as a solution. But it should fix a real problem.
Too often, we present the solution before people recognize their need for it. If people don’t feel the need for your product or service, they likely won’t buy.
Lesson 3: Agitate a real problem and then offer a sound solution.
Jesus made it memorable
Say what you will about Jesus’s tactics, He was a memorable character. He engaged with emotion and authenticity. When He was ticked off, you knew it. (There’s that time when Jesus tossed tables around the Temple and then rat-tailed the merchants right out of there!)
When He was sad, you knew it. The shortest verse of the Bible is those two famous words, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)
Emotion makes a statement. It makes someone memorable.
Granted, you want to be remembered for the right kind of emotion, but if you can attach emotion to your product or service, you will be more likely to land the sale.
Tap into that feeling of powerlessness that a pandemic elicits and offer the solution!
Help a parent remember the feeling of holding their newborn for the first time, and you’ll get a hold of the heart in a powerful way.
Show a before and after picture that a charitable donation can make in the life of a child and people will engage!
Lesson 4: Emotion makes marketing memorable
No one buys from silent salespeople
There’s this verse in the Bible, “How, then, can they call on him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about him? And how can they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14 CSB)
In other words, people can’t believe in something they have never heard about.
Seems obvious. But guess what? It’s not obvious enough for people to do it.
Maybe that’s religion, but the same applies in sales. No one can buy from you if they don’t know about your brand or company. Furthermore, they won’t buy from you if they don’t understand what you’re selling.
Say what you will, words sell.
Correction. The right words sell.
So, use the right words, in the right places, at the right time, and you’ll land the sale. It works in religion and in marketing!
Lesson 5: The rights words are necessary to land the sale.
So, there you have it. Five marketing lessons that we can learn from Jesus!
Your 60-second assignment is to take one of the following questions and create one task to improve your game this week.
- Write out the mission statement of your company from memory. If you can do this, ask someone else in your company if they also can. Is it clear?
- Look at the copy of your latest social media posts. Do they ask questions? How can you strengthen the question?
- Look at your last sales pitch, does it start with a problem? Does it move to the solution too quickly? How can you agitate the problem you solve?
- Review the last blog posted on your company website, does the heading contain emotional words?
By the way if you aren’t sure whether your messaging is clear and strong enough, I have a free assessment you can take at thomvandycke.com/brand-message-assessment/.