The Meatball Sundae Goes to Church

Seth Godin’s 2007 book The Meatball Sundae examines fourteen trends of the realities of what he calls New Marketing. As with all of Godin’s books, it’s a fairly quick read that will have you wondering “Why didn’t I think of that?” So, with apologies to Seth Godin, here is a quick analysis of the fourteen trends in The Meatball Sundae as applied to ChurchWorld.

  1. Direct communication and commerce between producers and consumers – The Internet; need I say more? Organizations hear more, and more often, directly from consumers. Church leader, you may hate that word consumer, but your church is full of them, and there are many more in your community that you could reach. Are you listening to them?
  2. Amplification of the voice of the consumer and independent authorities – In a market where everyone is a critic, the need to create products and services that appeal to and satisfy critics becomes urgent. The same is true for after-purchase issues of service and quality. Your church probably doesn’t have a guest experiences department, team, or even single person. Why not?
  3. Need for an authentic story as the number of sources increases – Consumers hear about organizations from many sources, not just one. As a result, you have to get your story straight. Saying one thing and doing another fails, because you’ll get caught. Wait a minute – didn’t the church invent hypocrisy?
  4. Extremely short attention due to clutter – The death of mass marketing is partly due to the plethora of choices and the deluge of interruptions. As a result, complex messages rarely get through. Does your vision take a wall to display – or can you put it on a t-shirt in large type? Do you communicate one big idea every week – or dozens of unconnected thoughts?
  5. The Long Tail – it’s a book by Chris Anderson, but it also demonstrates that in almost every market, “other” is the leading brand. Domination by hit products is fading and consumers reward providers that offer the most choices. Wait – doesn’t that contradict number 4? Maybe; maybe not. You’ve got to figure out the difference and do it.
  6. Outsourcing – it’s not just possible to find someone to make/code/do something for you quickly and cheaply; it is now easy. The means of productions of physical goods and intellectual property is no longer based on geography but is based on talent and efficiency instead. The biggest resource for churches is surprise, within the church; it just may not be your church.
  7. Google and the dicing of everything – No one visits a Web site’s home page anymore – they walk in the back door, to the page Google sent them to. By atomizing the world, Google destroys the linear, end-to-end solutions offered by most organizations (churches). It is being replaced by a pick-and-choose, component-based solution. Chaordic is a term I’ve come to like very well; church leaders might want to get comfortable with it!
  8. Infinite channels of communication – New forms of publishing, communication, and interaction are arriving by the second in an already cluttered world. Some organizations will thrive from this increased chaos, some will be unprepared, and some will merely fight it and lose. Which will you be?
  9. Direct communication and commerce between consumers and consumers – eBay and Craig’s list on the commercial side, social networking on the personal communication side. As these networks become more powerful, consumers will gravitate to each other, not just informing each other about their experiences but banding together into groups that will pressure organizations for more of what consumers want. How do you know if someone is talking about you? To someone else?
  10. The shifts in scarcity and abundance – your organization is based on exploiting scarcity. Create and sell something scarce and you can earn a profit. But when scarce things become common, and common things become scarce, you need to alter what you do all day. Okay, this one really messes with my head. Churches don’t “sell” – or do they? They don’t make a profit, right? What are the things that are becoming ever scarcer? How can the church leverage these things? Here’s a biggie to get your brain spinning: time.
  11. The triumph of big ideas – in the industrial society of commoditization, little ideas are the key to success. Small improvements in efficiency or design can improve productivity and make the product a little more appealing. New Marketing in a noisy marketplace demands something bigger. It demands ideas that force people to sit up and take notice. The Church is happily humming along, tweaking ideas, practices, and policies from the 50’s – the 1850’s. Have you checked your calendar lately?
  12. The shift from “how many” to “who” – organizations used to market to the mass: shovel attention in the top of the funnel, and over time, sales come out the bottom. The funneling process sorts the wheat from the chaff, separating those who can buy from those who aren’t interested or can’t afford to participate. That works if you assume all consumers are pretty much the same, or if you can’t tell them apart. Unfortunately, they aren’t, and you can. Now we need to focus on who is hearing and talking about our message, and reach out to them.
  13. The wealthy are like us – rich people used to be all the same, just different from the rest of us. Now they’re not just different from the rest of us but different from each other. As the number of people considered rich increases daily, the diversity of the rich increases as well. It may not seem like it in this troubled economy, but we in the US are filthy rich in comparison to the rest of the world. Even in the US, there is a growing gap between groups of people. How will this play out in ChurchWorld?
  14. New gatekeepers, no gatekeepers – one way big organizations got bigger was by working with the other big guys. It was who you knew, and what they could do for you. There were channels to work through, gatekeepers to work with. Not now; it’s YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and dozens of other social networking options. It’s you going to the world, and the world discovering you.

Movements are at the heart of change and growth. A movement – and idea that spreads with passion through a community and leads to change – is far more powerful than any advertisement ever could be. ChurchWorld – or at least what it could be, what it started out as – is all about that kind of movement and message. After all, it’s the Good News we have.

How are we sharing it?