The Price of Free


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It can be tempting to chase after “free” opportunities

  • A volunteer is willing to start a new ministry idea
  • An organization is offering to sponsor an initiative on your behalf
  • Someone is willing to include your ad on their website, magazine or newsletter
  • A partner wants to send a summer intern/assistant/extra-hands-and-feet-to-do-work-for-you

Sounds great, right? I mean, who doesn’t like free?

Before jumping on board, remember everything has a price. Sometimes it’s actual, physical dollars & cents. Other times it’s time. Or relationships. Or how much it impacts your brand or reputation.

So be sure to ask first:

  • Is the timing right for this opportunity?
  • What will it really cost?
  • Will it ultimately help accomplish what we’re supposed to do?

“So often people are working hard at the wrong thing. Working on the right thing is probably more important than working hard.”

The Dangers of Prioritizing Tools Over Training

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Recently, I read an article about how United Airlines plan to improve its connection to passengers through technology… primarily mobile.

United has been my go-to airline for the past 13 years. The vast majority of my work has been here in the states, so to achieve Gold status—living in the middle of the country, no less—is no easy feat. I’ve had A LOT of experience with gate agents, customer service reps, & flight attendants. Some were good, most weren’t.

Technology isn’t going to help in the way they’re hoping. People are. 

People who act like they care. That my problem matters to them & they’re willing to do whatever is within their power to help.

Technology (at best) is just an extension of the customer experience. Not the foundation of it.

Instead of investing in tech, invest in service training. Or better yet, in hiring & recruiting strategies that attract people who actually do care in the first place.

Whether in the marketplace or in ministry, the very people we’re hoping to serve get shortchanged when we elevate tools over training. Every. Time.

Stuff to Check Out :: unSeminary

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A lot of the folks in my circles tend to be leaders. Oftentimes Lead Pastors, Executive Pastors and Communication Directors. And some of these leaders have huge hearts to help others—and others really need to know about it. So if you haven’t already heard of unSeminary, this is a resource you definitely want to check out.

Founded by Rich Birch, Operations Pastor at Liquid Church, (and all around great guy) he offers up some great, practical resources to guide your church communications. Here’s a highlight reel of some of the goodies you’ll find:

I honestly haven’t come across another one-stop-shop that offers so much free, quality stuff as unSeminary. Rich was a fellow speaker at Collyde last year when we first met, and he did a great job of helping me keep the crazy at bay before my session started. He’s continued to impress me ever since.

** Side note ** This is not an endorsed post. unSeminary is just a great resource and the world will be a better place if others know about it. 

Making a List & Checking It Twice

So you’re getting ready to launch a new brand.

You’ve got your new name, logo, signage, website, and social channels all locked up. Or do you?

It’s important to snag ALL the domains and social channels related to your brand that you possibly can. Even the ones you think you don’t need.

Otherwise you run the risk of what happened to Carly Fiorina, former president of Hewlett-Packard, who just announced her bid for the 2016 presidential race.

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Doh.

By failing to secure http://carlyfiorina.org/, someone else snagged it and is using it against her.

The devil is in the details, so make sure your resources aren’t being used to fight battles you can control.

Are We Providing Hurdles or Open Doors?

(Throwback Thursday :: This post originally published 4/08)

How easy is it for your “customers” to go deeper in their relationship with your organization? Are opportunities to get even more involved and committed intentionally accessible? Not just the get-’em-in-the-door type of intentional, but what about for those already on board?

I just spent [versus invested] a pretty painful amount of time trying to upgrade my Comcast subscription. No dice through my online account [which should have giant “upgrade today” buttons, but alas, no], so I bit the bullet and called the 800 number. Got halfway through the endless prompts aaaand had my call dropped. Tried again, waded through more prompts, sat on hold & finally connected to a service representative. She was friendly and got me set up, at which point the Internet in my bundled service immediately goes down. More teleprompts & disconnected calls.. lather, rinse, repeat. I was so sorry I tried to upgrade.

Contrast this experience to one with a Sirius telemarketer who called earlier today— I had a 3 month subscription that came with my car and over those few months I came to the conclusion I couldn’t live without an All Blues All the Time station ever again. I’m not a big fan of telemarketers in general, but they already had my attention, called when my free subscription was nearly up and made it easy for me to take it the next level. The whole thing took about 5 minutes. No interruption in what I already had. No pain.

“So, Dawn,” you say, “Enough with the whining. How does this have anything to do with me?”

The best customers are the ones you already have. And they help find new people for you when they become raving fans, which typically happens when the organization invests in them. This can come in flavors like an easy to navigate website, customer service that goes a little bit further than expected, making exceptions to the “rules” when it makes sense… you get the picture.

And yes, this absolutely applies to churches. Every time someone steps forward to volunteer, get involved with a small group, sign their child up for MOPS, participate in a class, etc., let’s ask ourselves, “Did we make that easy or hard for them?” Or better yet, let’s ask them.

Pro Church Podcast Interview with Brady Shearer

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I had so much fun doing this interview with Brady. (You can also listen on iTunes here) He’s fun, personable, and has such a heart for helping others. If you haven’t heard about Pro Church Tools yet, it’s chock full of great resources to help churches communicate better. They’re doing a fantastic job. Highly recommend ’em.

PS: This was my first time doing a podcast, so if you have any suggestions of how it could be better I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

PPS: What OTHER questions do you have about branding that we couldn’t get to in the podcast but you’d love me to cover in the future?

The Price of Being a Sheep

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I love this piece by Hugh MacLeod, as it seems so relative—especially in the world of ministries.

It’s easy to follow the crowd. To imitate what everyone else is doing. To want a website/logo/outreach program/fill-in-the-blank just like Big Name Ministry has.
(Side note: If I see one more website—or get one more request—for a website that looks just like Hillsong’s, I’m going to poke my eyes out with pencils)

But I believe the price of being a sheep is much steeper than mere boredom.
We’re robbing the world of what it is we’re uniquely wired to offer.

Don’t get me wrong. I love getting inspired by others who’ve gone before me and look for ways to build upon those ideas to make them my own. But as my friend Mark Batterson has so eloquently put it, “When inspiration stops short & becomes imitation, it’s suicide.”

Discovering your purpose and braving new trails is hard. It takes work, and yes, it can be very lonely. But I think the reward is worth it.