Tuesday, June 8, 2010

could less be more?

This is a straight copy and paste from the newsletter I get from the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce. I think this is right on and some churches ought to consider following suit. Love your feedback on this one. Leave a comment, please.

Retailers cut choices to increase sales

After years of tempting customers with ever-expanding arrays of brands, hues, sizes and flavors, retailers are now reducing the amount of choice on their shelves. Storekeepers are culling their product lines to trim costs, reduce consumer confusion and ultimately boost sales.

Reducing the number of products can help companies increase sales by as much as 40 percent while cutting costs by 10 to 35 percent, according to a 2007 study by consultant Bain & Co. However, it's important to be careful when cutting products and react quickly to customer feedback.

When Procter & Gamble Co. recently reduced the number of its soap and other skin care offerings by about one-third at one retailer, sales grew. Shoppers reported they felt that they had more choices because the selection on the shelf was clearer.

Source: The Globe and Mail


Josh Ploch said...

What does that mean to you? Like less services? Less trying to be everything to everyone? Curious as to the deeper thoughts.

Hubbell said...

Yes! I so agree with this.

I think some churches, in adopting the "shopping mall" model, have tried to create a plethora of choices for people to connect to and keep them in church. I think all those options can lead to a lack of intimacy in the church and turns our churches into a very stale, vanilla atmosphere (once you've seen one, you've seen them all)like many of our regional shopping malls nationwide. For example, if I go to my million square foot mall, it's not going to look much different than the million square foot mall in Tulsa.

However, I can look at church as a village (or farmers) market, one that may have less choices than the million square foot mall, but a place that has the staple products, which are probably not as well marketed, but certainly as good as, if not better, than what is found in the shopping mall. Additionally, rather than a stale, vanilla atmosphere where everyone is either a consumer or employee, the market has a very distinct atmosphere, where you're not just going there to buy or sell something, but rather have a vested interest in the people you see there, beyond making the buy or the sell. There is a big difference between my local farmers market and a farmer market in Tulsa...in both the type of products offered (you're not going to have Empire apples in Tulsa) and the people who show up.

On top of all this, the challenge with offering a diverse range of products is quality control. There is no way you can expect a high level of quality customer service to be maintained in a shopping mall (we've all had to deal with those people at the Piercing Pagoda). But at a market, it is typically one of the creators of the good that is selling the good. You might not get as many gadgets sold, but those you're selling to keep coming back - part of which has to do with the relationship with the seller.

Don't get me wrong...I love mega-churches. But there is a societal shift happening that is moving people away from shopping malls and more towards village markets and central business districts. Already, in the real estate market, we're seeing regional shopping malls begin to close up due to the increase of internet retailers and the buy-local movement. With the increasing cost of energy and shifts in housing and employment, the buy-local movement will only increase. Considering that the church is usually 20 years behind societal changes (post-modernism anyone?), it'll probably be 30 years until the church at large catches on. But for those ministry leaders who understand this and start shaping their models toward the buy-local movement, they'll be way ahead of the game when it comes to reaching the millenial generation as it heads into adulthood.

Of course, this is just my opinion.

Jason Fitch said...

Josh, Hubbell said it pretty well. I had not considered it in terms of the farmer market model like he described, however his first paragraph was exactly what I had in mind when I posted. I think the other unfortunate side-effect of a church "doing it all" is staff burnout. We have to face losing some people over time if our God-given vision does not connect with them and where they are. Example: someone who does not see leadership development and church planting as important, will never stick long-term at our church. I want to very gracefully, but unapologetically focus on who God has made me and us to be.

Maybe we can get that happening in under 30 years :)

Josh Ploch said...

I agree with that, but I also think it can be risky. You have to find the balance. You said that church has created a plethora of choices to connect. I agree with that, and agree it can be risky but also see the motivation behind it.

Why should church members not be able to connect around a certain thing or idea because it is not a staple product (which I guess depends on the definition of staple product).

There is obviously a benefit to limiting based on resources, and what your church is gifted to do well, but if resources aren't the issue, then what is the litmus test? Church softball isn't a core value, but who would cut the softball league???

The church has long been defined by a small core of ministries, but that is changing. I see some people digging into the stance that the church should be unapologetic that it sticks only to it's core mission (whatever that is to the church) and others who feel that the church should remove barriers to people coming to church.

A church can do anything as well as the huge malls, but each one has to find its voice. This (the voice) is often a reflection on the leader, or the vision, but I don't feel that either option is better or worse, just different. Andy Stanley's church places a high value on leadership, while a place like NCC has a high value on service. People are different. My wife and I have different feelings on what makes us comfortable in a certain church, as I'm sure my feelings are different then yours.

Love the conversation. Thanks for the post.

Jason Fitch said...

Certainly church members can rally around a plethora of certain ideas, however, if they rally around ideas that are not central to that church's vision they will feel a general lack of support and probably won't stick around too long.

This is one reason I love Nelson Searcy's small group model. It allows almost anything under the sun to take on life in a church within the small group system. In theory (and I realize theories don't always work out how we think) nearly any vision for a ministry can take shape as long as that can fit into the small group context.

There is a vast difference between a church with 50 ministries operating and a one with 50 small groups operating.

As a leader, if a person came to me saying they want to start a flag-waving ministry, I would say "well, good luck with that". However, if they want to start a small group for people who like to wave flags and actually possess the leadership charisma to gather people around that idea, I could celebrate that. Not because flag waving is central to my vision, but because small groups are.