About a year ago I spoke at the first-ever Faith-Based Marketing Summit in Dallas where marketers and ministries gathered to discuss the convergence of those disciplines. Such a conference raises the question of whether faith and marketing should converge at all? Or, should there be a line separating the two and, if so, how do we appropriately draw that boundary?
The idea that marketing and ministry shouldn’t mix has its roots, I believe, in the divergent views of two competing schools of economic thought: the mercantilists and classical economists.
Mercantilism was the economic philosophy held by statesmen and merchants of the 16th and 17th centuries. They believed that wealth came from finite resources; primarily gold and silver. In order to acquire wealth, nations without these resources had to trade for them by giving up more goods than they received in return. By this view, the person trying to acquire wealth (gold) was always at a disadvantage when trading with those who already possessed it. And so every commercial transaction involved a winner and a loser--the exploiter and the exploited.
Were mercantilism true then marketing and ministry would be incompatible because marketing would be the tool by which unscrupulous people exploited others. Not exactly what Jesus had in mind when he said to love your neighbor as yourself.
In 1776 Adam Smith offered another view of economics when he published his epic work The Wealth of Nations. Smith’s “classical” view of economics exposed the mercantilist position as fundamentally flawed and supplanted it as the favored explanation of economic behavior. According to Smith, “The ideal economy is a self-regulating market system that automatically satisfies the economic needs of the populace.”
Assuming this is true, as most modern economists do, “Every transaction in a free market economy,” as I point out in PyroMarketing, “is a voluntary exchange in which both parties make a profit. In fact, the only reason people or businesses undertake the exchange at all is because they expect a profit. By profit I mean that each party values what they acquire in the transaction more than what they gave up. What’s more, whether the parties repeat the exchange in the future depends on whether they got the benefit they were expecting. If consumers consistently profit, they will continue doing business with your company. If they don’t, then they will stop. The mildly startling consequence of this is that your most valuable customers are the people who consistently profit from doing business with your company”
It may be five hundred years since the Mercantilists first proffered their warped view of economics, but there are still plenty of them running around trying to exploit people today. Some even succeed in tricking unsuspecting consumers into buying things they don’t want or need. And while they may exploit someone once, because they can rarely do it twice, mercantilism is no way to run a business. Classical economics, instead, provides the only sustainable approach to commerce.
And that is why I say that marketing and ministry are compatible. Marketing is simply this: Identifying people with needs and connecting them to the product or service that will meet those needs. The deeper the person’s need, the more receptive they will be to your offer. The more profoundly they are helped, the more satisfied they will be. The more satisfied they are, the more people they will tell. The more people they tell, the more you will sell. Marketing then, by my view, is nearly indistinguishable from ministry. Not only do marketing and ministry converge, we should work tirelessly to fully integrate them, to the mutual benefit of each discipline and the weary consumer’s great relief.
Spread the fire. GS