Tagcreative marketing plan

Marketing the Shul: What’s Working and What Needs to Work

Presented to The Future of Jewish Non-Profits Summit, July 11, 2011, Chicago, Ill.

When it comes to synagogue marketing (and very possibly marketing churches, too), technology is trumped by the old stand-by: personal contact. Paid newspaper advertising doesn’t seem to work well, and the jury’s still out on the effectiveness of social media.

As a lifelong professional communicator, and former president of Beth Hillel Congregation Bnai Emunah in Wilmette, Ill., I constructed an informal survey (using Google Docs) which I sent to Chicago-area synagogue executive directors and randomly selected rabbis, as well as Conservative synagogue presidents on a national listserve.

Facing competition from the Internet, iPads, the golf course and other non-religious distractions synagogue leaders are eager to find marketing techniques that will engage current members and attract new people, without draining the temple’s resources.

What’s working and what isn’t

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A creative marketing plan to help Panera Bread maximize free Wi-Fi ROI

“Help us continue to offer our free Wi-Fi.”

Free Wi-Fi at Panera bread

Portion of the Panera Bread splash screen displayed when users log on to the Internet. My PR plan could help Panera Bread maximize the benefit of their free Wi-Fi

On a beautifully sunny (but freezingly cold) weekday afternoon, I’m sitting at Panera Bread in Skokie, Ill. using the free WiFi. There are at least a dozen other people doing the same thing.

At that table, three people are having a business meeting, reviewing printed documents and gazing at the screen of their laptop. At the next table, two women are having some kind of meeting involving something on their computer screen.

Several years ago, Panera made me a customer for life by establishing the trend of offering a free wireless Internet connection to diners, office-less road warriors and work-at-home types who were bored by their basements.

It became so popular, that now the fast-casual restaurant chain must remind me at every login not to stay in the cafe too long and not to single-handedly hog a table for four. That’s cool.

Here’s my creative idea, a sample marketing plan outline offered for discussion at your favorite business school.

These creative marketing ideas might help Panera expand on their popularity with the Internet-addicted masses, specifically the business folks.


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