In my “real” life, I provide marketing and strategic planning for technology companies. Here are some ideas and suggestions, based on my professional experience, that I believe may also improve our ability to market our temples.
You have to sell what the customer wants to buy
Many families thinking about joining a congregation are not focused on lifelong Jewish education or finding a comfortable spiritual home. They are focused on car pools, how often they must schlep their children to religious school, and the near term costs of joining a synagogue. Stage 1 of your marketing efforts has to be: Get them to know you exist. During this stage, you need to sell to people on their ground, and not ask them to move to your home turf. After you get them in the door can you start to sell the other values that you bring. But your initial focus has to appeal to people based on what they are looking to buy - not based on what you are trying to sell.
Don’t sell to yourself (e.g. you are not the buyer)
This suggestion is almost identical to the first one. Be careful about advertising and publicizing your congregation based on what appeals to you. You are already a member. If you are volunteering to help with marketing, you are probably already a happy, engaged member. You have found the value of joining a jewish community, and you have probably re-awakened certain charitable or spiritual feelings you may have forgotten that you had. But your potential buyers are probably not at the same place. Assuming most new members were previously unaffiliated, they haven’t yet discovered the joys that comes from being part of your temple family. So if an advertisement touches your heart strings, it may very well not mean much to the potential member. You are not the target audience.
Life is moving to the web - get on-board
These days, anyone searching to join a temple is almost certainly going to their favorite search engine and typing something like “[your town] jewish temple” or “[your county] synagogue judaism”. You need to focus on creating a web page that draws in these prospects, and results in a high number of people taking the next step (which is usually requesting membership information or asking to be called about membership). I strongly recommend the web site www.hubspot.com (and their great, free tool www.websitegrader.com) to help you optimize the web experience that these prospects encounter when they find you. And if you haven’t done so already, you should set up your page to use Google Google Analytics Google Analytics, a free service available from Google to help you analyze your web traffic.
If you have an advertising budget, you should spend your money on website optimization, making sure that you have the best possible home page with a clear call-to-action for prospective members. Pretend you just moved in to the area and found your web site via a Google search. How many clicks would it take to learn about the temple and obtain information about applying for membership? Is your current web site optimized for existing members (e.g. multiple photos of the children leading services; lists of upcoming committee meetings) or prospective new members?