What Nigerian Churches Can Teach You About Business

You might not want to read this.

And I won’t blame you.

There’s been a lot of senrenre around Nigerian churches on social media that you’re probably sick of it.

I know I am.

But I’m the type of guy who likes to look for lessons in every brouhaha.

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And I’m also a crazy writer so this brouhaha was too tempting to resist.

Here’s what I learned from watching all the drama around Nigerian churches.

P.S. I’m going to take you to church for a bit… just not the type of church you may be used to.

#1. Thou Shalt Know Thy Customer

Have you noticed that for some reason most huge churches deal in miracles?

No?

You might want to look more closely at it.

They advertise this through videos that show people receiving healing, or a testimony of someone being the only one who got out alive in a car accident.

I saw a video in which some Catholic priest was praying for a man and later on claimed a lizard came out of the man.

I say ‘claimed’ because the video actually showed the moment when someone else planted the lizard and it was like basically a “debunking video” of sorts.

My point is “Why are they all trying to promote miracles in their churches?”

Because they know their customer.

The average Nigerian is very superstitious, and believes strongly in supernatural things.

While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, add to that the fact that the average Nigerian is also a bit lazy and wants things to be handed to him.

If you listen closely when people complain about the economy or the government, you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Knowing this, some Nigerian churches promote miracles, people getting rich, healing, and other things that will attract the average Nigerian to their church.

And the business lesson:

In your business, you need to get to know your customer- their world views, desires, needs and problems. Then use that to craft a message for your marketing campaign that would reach them. Also sell them what they want to buy, not what you want to sell.

#2. Thou shalt remember to “package”

I mentioned this in a post already.

“Packaging” is very necessary, especially in church.

In my first year of medical school, I attended a church set up by students in Ukraine.

Now, it started off as a church for international students, but then a Pastor from Nigeria came over and if memory serves me right, next thing you know, “packaging” became involved.

A Pastor in the church had to look a certain way. His suit had to be a certain quality.

The Pastor from Nigeria, during a sermon once, remarked (I’m summarizing here):

“Look at your Pastor’s suit.. It’s not nice. I need 5 people to sow a seed and get the Pastor a better suit.”

Why was he so hell bent on that?

Because he knew that when the pastor projects an image of affluence, it inspires the congregation to dress accordingly and then when people see these members outside, they begin to think:

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“Hmm.. people must be getting blessed and becoming rich in that church, maybe I should join.”

Think about it.

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When was the last time you saw a Nigerian Pastor in tattered rags?

If you can remember by the time you finish reading, please put it in the comments ‘cos I sure as hell don’t.

“How e concern your business”:

In your business, perception is everything. Dress your business up the way you want it to be addressed and perceived.

Sometimes the only difference between a company that charges more and a company that charges less for a particular service is just… the packaging.

 

#3. Thou shalt culture “exclusivity”

I’ve been trying not to name-drop, but… screw it.

Have you noticed how Christ Embassy has been creating some kind of exclusive community around their church?

I watched a video by Dr. Sunday Adelaja about a week ago where he mentioned how Christ Embassy has their own social network.

I was like… umm, okayyy.. a bit incredulous till I “googled” it and found Yookos. And they have their own Whatsapp too…  They call it KingsChat.

A friend once told me that back in Ukraine, they had their members over there creating dummy accounts to project the image of having a lot of members but that’s another story.

Members of Christ Embassy also seem to have their own buzzwords, usually of Greek origin, or whatever, and they kinda make you feel like you’re missing out if you don’t go to Christ Embassy.

Not me though.

I learnt a business lesson:

Nobody likes to feel like they’re missing out.

People want to be part of the “in-crowd”. People want to be a part of the cool kids club. Create exclusivity and a sense of cool about your brand, blog or community and you’ll draw people to you.

There’s a reason some of the most popular words in landing page copy are “Don’t miss out on…”, “Are you in?…” etcetera shmetcetera.

#4. Thou shalt always grow thy business

One part of the mission objectives of The Redeemed Christian Church of God (R.C.C.G) is:

“….we will plant churches within five minutes walking distance in every city and town of developing countries and within five minutes driving distance in every city and town of developed countries.”

Let’s face it.

R.C.C.G. is killing it at this goal.

On almost every street and in every “lungu”, there’s an R.C.C.G. parish. They make this happen by doing something my Dad once described to me as the fractal principle.

Every R.C.C.G. parish starts small, then grows and when they get big, they break off a section of their membership and go to form new parishes, sometimes located bare a stone’s throw away from the original parish.

R.C.C.G. parishes go through this cycle again and again, over and over. Growing each time, and spreading.

And the business lesson there:

In business, your company is either growing or dying.

Mark Cuban once said something along the lines of “Wake up everyday, go to work and try to put yourself out of business. If you don’t, somebody else will do it for you.”

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What he meant by that is to think up ways a competitor might use to take over your industry and preempt that by growing a business, or a service to cover that.

Whatever you do, keep growing your business. No matter what.

#5. Thou shalt make thy payment simple.

When I was growing up, when you wanted to give your offering or tithe in church, you basically were given an envelope, in which to put your offering.

After a while, checks were also accepted. And later on, bank transfers too.

Recently I heard about a church that has ATM machines. And a certain church allows you to pay offering through POS. Talk about multiple payment options.

Maybe it’s to make sure nobody can say “I can’t give offering because I didn’t come with cash.” Maybe it isn’t.

One thing’s for certain, there’s a business lesson in there.

In business (and especially in online business), you need to make it easy for your customer to pay for your services. Many sales are lost because payment portals didn’t work or some other senrenre.

Make sure you offer your  clients various payment options and ensure they not only work, but also that the process is smooth.

Because, if you make it hard for people to give you money, guess what? They won’t give you money.

#6. Thou shalt be honest and transparent in all thy dealings

I have a confession:

I haven’t gone to church in a very long time.

What?

Yes. I haven’t.

I could say it’s because I work a 24 hr shift on Sundays but that’s not the main reason.

It’s because I have a healthy distrust of most Pastors and churches in general.

I know it’s not just me. You can probably relate to it as well.

So why don’t I trust most pastors and churches? Here’s why:

  • A certain pastor in MFM raped a cousin of a friend of mine and the church covered it up.
  • The aforementioned getting members of the Christ Embassy branch in Ukraine to create fake, dummy accounts on their social media platform in the name of “helping the church”
  • That Nigerian pastor who came to Ukraine being more concerned with the appearance of the pastors instead of the well being of the congregation.

And these are just a few of the stories I know about.

When incidents like these happen, and people lie about them, or are secretive, it makes you ask questions. When you start questioning something you believe in, you’ll begin to doubt it.

When that happens in your business, people will begin to doubt your service and you’ll lose customers faster than you can say “Hallelujah”.

The solution – Be transparent. Be authentic and be real. When something goes wrong, don’t cover it up. Get out in front of it. People trust companies that show themselves to be trustworthy.

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And if they trust you, they will buy from you.

#7. Thou shalt take heed to testimonies as they are thy greatest marketing tool

I was watching The Synagogue Church of All Nations on TV once.

It wasn’t by choice, believe me.

It was almost about an hour of non stop testimonies ranging from people finding long lost contract forms, to “demons” being cast out, to people receiving healing through the use of some “miracle water” or healing water… I don’t remember what it was called.

Anyway, this “miracle water” had been packaged in something resembling a perfume bottle and when it was sprayed on one of the “sick people”, they’d either fall or shake or some other form of theatrics would occur.

If I had to guess, that “morning water” is going to be selling like pure water.

For two reasons. One, a huge amount of testimonials from many, different people are being used to market the product. And two, the product is demonstrated in action on TV.

But the very fact that many people have come out to say the “miracle water” has helped them is definitely the main driver of sales (or at least, requests) for that product.

And they’re killing two birds with one stone – marketing the product and marketing the church behind it.

I personally don’t believe in that “miracle water”. And I don’t endorse it, but I definitely believe there’s a business lesson to be learnt there.

As much as possible…

Get testimonials from your customers and use those in your marketing pitch. It ties into a psychology/sociology thingy known as “social proof”. People want to know that other people think your product or service is cool before they buy.

And if you can even show the people using it and getting their results, that’s even much better.

 

There you go – 7 business lessons I learnt from watching all the senrenre going around about Nigerian Churches.

Take heed to them that thou mayest prosper in thy business.

 

What are your thoughts?

Are churches really being run like businesses? Was this post a bit too much?

Is Tomi going to hell because of this blog post?

Let’s talk in the comments.

 

Keeping it 500,

Tomi Joshua

Author: Tomi Joshua

Tomi is a case.

A bit brash, at first blush. But ultimately, he means well. There are very few things he won’t say or do in the presence of tolerant company (especially when it could make for a good story later).

Tomi is a Doctor, writer, certified inbound marketer (Shout Out to HubSpot), Digital Hustler, and online business addict.

He is most likely to be found dancing to the beat of his own drum, even in accapella.

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