Recently, Bryan contacted me, asking for any resources I might have on doing marketing from a Christian perspective. Sadly, I don’t have any, but I did tell him that I’d write up my thoughts on the topic. This is based purely on my thinking about the issue as I’ve had to do marketing and such for Dark Omen Games.
I think that two overriding principles need to control a Christian’s thinking on marketing. First, he must tell the truth. Second, he must look to serve his customers’ interests.
Tell the Truth
Tell the truth. This is the bane of most marketing. We see an advertisement, and we instinctively believe that we are being lied to. That is not acceptable for a Christian in business.
“A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is his delight.” (Proverbs 11:1)
“Can I forget any longer the treasures of wickedness in the house of the wicked, and the scant measure that is accursed? Shall I acquit the man with wicked scales and with a bag of deceitful weights?” (Micah 6:10-11)
Keep reading Micah 6 to see what God has to say about those who lie in their business dealings. So, above all, tell the truth.
However, in order to tell the truth, you need to know the truth. Here are some areas that the Christian marketer needs to know:
Know the truth about your company and its products. What is your product actually capable of accomplishing? What is its areas of strength? What are some areas that have been considered weaknesses? How do you or your current customers compensate for them?
Know the truth about your competition and its products. What do they do better than you? What do you do better than them? Are you actually in competition? Why would a customer want to choose them over you?
Know the truth about your customers. What do your customers need? What do your customers want? (These are not necessarily the same thing.) How does this particular customer differ from your normal customer profile?
Pursue the Best Interests of Your Customers
In addition, you need to pursue the best interests of your customers. I know that this sounds totally cliched, but you really should attempt to form a partnership with a prospective customer. He has a need, and you want to help him fill it.
Note: not “fill it with your product”. I don’t think that’s the point here. Rather, you seek to serve the prospective customer in meeting his needs. Now, ideally, you would like your product to be the best way to meet his needs, and your company should be constantly striving to improve its product so that this can be true. So, do be trying to apply your product to his needs. However, you also must be an advocate for the customer, serving his needs. You are bringing your expertise to bear for his good. This works the best in a face-to-face setting, to be sure, but I think that this can apply to other forms of advertising and marketing.
Maybe this is idealistic. However, it’s how I’d want a business to interact with me.
I have a couple of examples from my personal experience.
The first is related to the local Verlo Mattress Factory. When Crystal and I went bed shopping, I already knew what we were getting: a Tempur-pedic memory foam bed. All the other shopping was just due diligence to justify this decision.
By the end of the day, we had decided to purchase a latex foam bed from Verlo. What happened?
What happened is that we encountered the salesman from Verlo.
Now, he made a big deal out of not being a salesman. “I build the mattresses,” he said repeatedly. And that was one of his selling points: a relationship between us and him. Not “his company”, although that was part of the deal. Him, personally. He makes the bed, they do the service; if it’s wrong, he’ll have to fix it.
His other selling point was his expertise. He explained why he, personally, would purchase a latex foam bed instead of a memory foam bed. Now, don’t misunderstand; Verlo sells both. But he explained that latex has a longer history in the market, so it’s a known quantity. Memory foam has only been out for a few years, so who knows what problems will come down the line?
His pleasant manner was helpful, but ultimately he told the truth about his product and company, and then he put his expertise to work for us.
Result: a sale and a happy customer.
I tried to do the same when working the Forge booth at GenCon last summer. The booth is a collective effort, so I tried to approach it in this way. Sure, I wanted to sell my game, but I was there to help the group and meet the needs of the customers. So I did my best to get to know all the available games and to match them to customers. When we would discuss my own game, I would be sure to identify it as such, so that the customer knew that I had additional bias. And, in the end, I didn’t try to pressure people into making a purchase.
Now, there were the little “tricks of the trade” that I figured out. Be sure to start the game demo with a book from the rack. Then, if you close the deal, you can put the book right into the person’s hands. (I learned this from Fred Hicks.) And, if you don’t, ask him to put it back for you. That gives him a little longer to reconsider his decision. (I learned that one from watching Ron Edwards.) That’s just being persuasive by making it as easy as possible for the customer to make a purchase. But, this was after providing a service to the customer of meeting his “need” by matching him to an appropriate game.
I’m hardly an expert on these matters. I’ve just recently arrived at the point where I’m comfortable singing the praises of one of my games. But these are the principles that I’m working from.
And, honestly, these are really just ways of applying the Golden Rule. How would I want someone to sell to me? I’d want them to be an advocate for their product, to be sure, but in the context of telling me the truth and seeking my best interests. Ultimately, this leads to a better business relationship with the customer, and God is honored in your treatment of this other human being.