Generating Word of Mouth for Your Ministry

A few weeks ago we had a wonderful guest post from my friend Heidi McLaughlin, writing about how her ministry got started and began to fluorish. Here’s something she said:

A few years ago I was in Atlanta, Georgia; surrounded with famous speakers and authors who had agents and were walking around with their leather briefcases and linking arms with their private publicists. I realized I was in over my head, and for me that is a good realization. When I went to bed that night I clearly remember the words of my desperate prayer, “God, I can’t do this-it’s too big. I can’t afford a publicist and I don’t even know how to get my speaking engagements. God, you are going to have to be my agent and publicist.”

To this day, my bookings come strictly through “word of mouth.” I believe if we have a powerful message, passion, and fully believe we are part of God’s Kingdom work, and are joining Him where He is already at work, God will open the necessary doors. Pray and wait expectantly for Him to orchestrate your calendar.

I can relate to Heidi! I don’t use a booking agent, either, though I have considered it. The truth is I’m too busy without one! And the reason I’m busy is not because I’ve mailed out slick packages to churches, or because I’ve taken out ads in big magazines about my ministry. It’s simply because of word of mouth.

In a survey I did of women’s ministry leaders recently, I asked how many had hired a speaker because they had received promotional materials from that speaker. Nobody said yes. On the other hand, one third had hired speakers based on word of mouth; one half because they had heard them speak somewhere else before; and the rest because they had been suggested by the denomination or a parachurch organization. Word of mouth is what clinches engagements; slick marketing materials do not. So please, don’t spend the money on them!

What you should do, I think, are two things:

1. Get good

2. Make it easy for people to find you.

That’s not so hard, is it? :)

Let’s take them one by one.

1. Get Good.

Get some training! Take my teleseminars, or invest in my e-course. They aren’t expensive, and you can get all  you need to start speaking for under $100! I’m trying to keep it really low because I want to help build the kingdom; I don’t want to get rich off of this.

Once you have the training, there’s no substitute for speaking. We need practice. We need to be able to tell our stories again and again so that we get used to telling them, without needing notes for everything. We need to realize where people laugh, and where they don’t laugh. The biggest laugh line I get in one of my comedy routines is something I don’t even think is very funny. It came out of my mouth once, and people were in stitches, so I use it every time now. I still don’t think it’s funny, but it works, and I never would have realized that unless I had had the opportunity to tell that story in a live audience.

Call churches in your area that have women’s Bible studies and volunteer to come give a half hour talk at the beginning of a new session. Do it for free if you have to, but get the experience! Find out what conferences are going to be in your area and volunteer to do a workshop or breakout session for free. People are often far more likely to hire new speakers for workshops, so consider those! Women’s camps in the summer are often looking for workshop leaders, or denominational retreats often need breakout sessions. Don’t forget about homeschooling conferences, either! You may not be a homeschooler, but there are tons of them all over North America, and you can still speak on household organization, family harmony, creating scrapbooks, or something else you’re interested in that gets you in front of an audience!

2. Make it easy for people to find you.

Have a website! It’s indispensable in today’s world, because when organizers are going to hire a speaker, the first thing they tend to do is to Google you. Take out the website in your own name, and own your name as a domain name, if possible, because that’s the first place people will check. Don’t use a book title for your main website, because when you write another book, it’s not natural to go looking for you under the title of your first book!

Create a blog, and use your name. Blogspot and WordPress allow you to hide your name, but don’t do that. Plaster it prominently everywhere, so that you come up higher in search engines. Even if you decide to name your blog something different, put your own name so frequently in all the information that you’ll appear.

Create a page on Facebook for  your speaking ministry, because a lot of people start their search on Facebook now, too.

And what should be on the web page?

  • Your speaking topics
  • Clips of you speaking (if you only have audio clips, you can still make a movie using Windows Movie Maker. Use still photographs for the visuals, and then have a 2-3 minute audio clip playing in the background). Upload the clips to YouTube or Tangle (create an account under your own name, again), and then you can use their links to embed your video into your website.
  • Testimonials from others who have heard you speak
  • Your speaking schedule so others can see where you have spoken.

Do not include your fee schedule. Most people don’t, and one reason is because it may turn off people who are looking for  you to speak for free, but it will also turn off people who are hiring for bigger engagements if your fees are too low. Discuss fee once you are already in contact with them about the engagement.

Finally, when you do speak, remember to help people stay in contact with you. Let them sign up for a newsletter. Hand out business cards. Keep your website and blog prominently listed on every page of your handout. If they like you, they’re going to want to recommend you! Make that easy, and you’re far more likely to generate word of mouth!

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10 Responses

  1. Great tips as usual, Sheila! Thanks!

  2. Thanks, Sheila. You always hit such relevant topics. We appreciate it so much. As the dir. of women’s min. at our church right now, I’ve received some “slick” promotional materials from speakers and I have to admit that I don’t know what to do with it. I guess I’ll make a “file.” But I don’t know these precious ladies, don’t know their style, their personality. I wouldn’t call them.

    I’m trying to do all the stuff you’re teaching us, your Sheila groupies!

  3. [...] let me also say that I am not surprised by this story in the least. As I’ve said in other blog posts, it’s word of mouth that matters when it comes to getting bookings, not slick [...]

  4. [...] Generating Word of Mouth for Your Ministry ( [...]

  5. Thanks for saving me postage for promo materials. I’ll hand them out at engagements, instead!

  6. [...] Top Posts Generating Word of Mouth for Your Ministry [...]

  7. Thank you so much great tips.

  8. [...] a Talk Entail? The Difference Between Teaching and Speaking Thinking About Your Audience First Generating Word of Mouth for Your Ministry Speaking Plan for 2011 Accepting Where You are in Your Ministry Creating a Fee Schedule for Your [...]

  9. […] speaking requests tend to grow from word of mouth, not just from doing a ton of marketing. So your calendar will likely fill up only because you have […]

  10. […] speaking requests tend to grow from word of mouth, not just from doing a ton of marketing. So your calendar will likely fill up only because you have […]

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