Does Christian-Owned Change Buying Habits?

by Brad Harmon on February 4, 2010 in Sales & Marketing

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The question for this month is whether you are more or less likely to visit a business that advertises as “Christian-Owned and Operated.” Several months ago I asked the question Should You Advertise as Christian Owned? I pointed out some of the issues that may arise when one chooses to do so.  Now, I want to know if making that choice translates into more business.

What Factors Impact Your Buying Decision?

My gut feeling is that we make our buying decisions primarily on name recognition or price.  It’s why campaigns like “Buy American” don’t really work over the long run.  I wonder if it is really any different when it comes to the Christian community.

Given the lack of any significant differences in social behaviors in studies comparing Christians and non-believers, I have serious doubt that there will be greater loyalty when it comes to the pocketbook.

I Need Your Help

I’m having a difficult time locating credible studies showing the impact of advertising as a “Christian-Owned and Operated” business on a buyer’s decision making process.

If anyone knows of a study, or has any suggestions where I might find one, please let me know in the comments below or shoot me an email.

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

David Rupert February 5, 2010 at 5:22 pm

Bradley

Personally, i do shop with those who claim the name of christ. Not always satisfied, but I beleive in keeping it in the family
My recent post Are we all above average? Really?

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Brad Harmon February 11, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Interesting David. If you read some of the histories from the 1st and 2nd century you find that the early church very much kept to themselves. Some say that this is one of the reasons it was easy for the Romans to make a scapegoat of them with all of the persecution.

Personally, some of my worst memories as an employee and customer have come at the hands of "Christian-Owned" businesses. Most notably, my worst experience as an employee was when I worked for a Christian bookstore during college. It just goes to show you that just slapping a fish on your business doesn't really mean much unless you work hard to make it so.

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Laurie Neumann February 5, 2010 at 10:07 pm

Hi Brad,
Well, this may not help too much, but online, yes, I do tend to go to Christian owned sites more than non-Christian. While I do feel being a Christian adds credibility and helps in the trust factor, I also go there because that is who I market to. So I am also looking for other Christians to network and partner with.

To be honest, it doesn't make much difference in my offline world. That is only because I have been very disappointed with businesses that say they are Christian owned, and then go on to take advantage of you. I don't like that.

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Brad Harmon February 11, 2010 at 12:58 pm

I think my habits are very much the same Laurie. I think being an online business has two advantages. First, we only see what they want us to see so we have no idea how they actually behave as a business. Second, since the format of the business makes you write out your faith on your website if you want to be a "Christian-Owned" business which is more transparent than you would get with a traditional offline retailer.

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Mike Garrison February 9, 2010 at 3:08 pm

Personally, I am much less likely to shop at a new business because they advertise as christian owned. I am very concerned about Christians 'huddling up' and becoming insular. Go and make disciples…isn't happening if I only do business with other believers.

I do enjoy doing business with my friends that are believers AND deliver awesome service and support.

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Brad Harmon February 11, 2010 at 1:04 pm

There is certainly that concern, isn't there? We tend to see this segregation in larger cities too based on race, ethnicity, religion, and nationality. There is something in our psyche that makes us want to be around our "own people." As history has shown us though, there is a lot of hateful things that can occur when this happens.

In my reply to David's comments above I talked a little about the 1st and 2nd century church. They seemed to have "huddled up" and I wonder if that is such a good thing or not? It's definitely an issue that I should bring up on this blog in the future.

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Jason February 10, 2010 at 6:57 pm

Brad, thought provoking post!
If a company happens to mention inconspicuously in an ad that they are Christian owned I would honestly say it would have me leaning their way. However, if crosses and fish are plastered everywhere I that's a major red flag!
The same is true of the bible thumping salesperson….give it a rest bud.
There's a fine line between earning trust and going too far. My company does not promote itself as "Christian owned" because that has nothing to do with my individual faith and I'm not bashful about sharing my beliefs in person.
If you know of a business with an impecible reputation and later find out they are Christian you're like…."that's great, it figures."
But the business that self promotes as "Christian owned" has a lot more to live up to and is more likely to receive harsh judgment………no different than people, right?
My recent post Christian Business Owners: Who’s Your CEO?

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Brad Harmon February 11, 2010 at 1:12 pm

In the post I linked to at the beginning of this one, I explored some of these issues. It's something I want to get back to doing much more of this year, and I am writing my first book on this topic as well. There is a huge target that a business puts on its back by advertising as "Christian-Owned," and as you point out the bar is automatically raised much higher. I don't think this is a bad thing, but its one that deserves a very careful analysis of why you would want to slap that fish all over your business.

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Jason February 10, 2010 at 7:01 pm

Sorry, forgot to stick my latest post in here. It's really awesome you do that Brad. I would never do it without being asked.
Christian Business Owners: Who's Your CEO?
http://figliving.com/christian-business-owners-wh
My recent post Christian Business Owners: Who’s Your CEO?

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Brad Harmon February 11, 2010 at 1:23 pm

The CommentLuv addon does it automatically, but it looks like Andy (the designer) is destroying it with his monetization of it. If you post frequently it no longer picks up your last post, but only refreshes every so many days unless you spend some money with him to upgrade your account.

Maybe I should caveat that I have had my site registered for quite some time, but I do not get the option to select my posts like it says in the drop down. I could have done something wrong and there is still a free way to have more updated posts.

Either way, I look for another Andy to come along and CommentLuv to go by the wayside; however, maybe he will come to his senses. It was just too aggressive of an approach that did not seem well conceived from the start of the design process. It's similar to Twitter – very popular, but no way to monetize it without destroying what made it so popular.

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Alison Moore Smith February 16, 2010 at 7:26 pm

BTW, Brad, I post frequently and my latest post — just published a few minutes ago — showed up in my initial comment below. I've never had problems with that. (And, no, I don't have a paid account.) :/
My recent post 31DBBB: Day #1 Create an Elevator Pitch

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Brad Harmon February 23, 2010 at 2:27 pm

It very well could be my own ineptness at setting up my account with CommentLuv.

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Alison Moore Smith February 16, 2010 at 7:22 pm

I don't base my decisions on whether businesses are owned by other Christians. But if the known owner has a Christian ETHIC it makes a huge difference. If the owner is known to be honest and fair and decent, I'm more likely to buy AND recommend services/products.
My recent post 31DBBB: Day #2 Write a List Post

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Brad Harmon February 23, 2010 at 2:23 pm

I've been trying to find some research on this, but I have not been very successful. I wonder what type of response Christian yellow page directories receive from this question. It would seem that their business model is largely based on the assumption that at least Christians are more likely to buy from other Christians, but I question if, in reality, that assumption holds true.

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Sue Miley February 20, 2010 at 4:36 am

I think it depends on the service or product. As a Christian counselor and Business Coach I also search for like services from Christians. Without a God view a counselor or coach has a different set of resources to provide a client. I want a coach who understands my perspective may not always make sense in the world…I would feel the same about an attorney. if I am buying a product, I am always excited if I find out the owner has strong Christian values, but it isn't the initial decision factor. For example, Michaels and Hobby Lobby have similar product offerings. I like to purchase from Hobby Lobby because of their faith and values. However, if they didn't have the product I needed or it wasn't the best quality for the price, I wouldn't purchase just because it is owned by a Christian purveyor. The bar is even higher to have quality, service and value for Christians. We want the light to shine and God be glorified, not embarrassed. Love this question though!!
My recent post If Only I Had More Time….

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Brad Harmon February 23, 2010 at 2:26 pm

What a great point! Sadly, I had not really put much thought into the type of services/products being offered. Maybe that is a better focus of the question? After all, it is a selling point that differentiates some offerings dramatically and others not at all. Great examples and great comment!

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DiscipleshipGuy February 18, 2011 at 1:58 am

I have actually thought about this idea alot and I actually set up a site around the idea that Sue was talking about. My idea focused more on sales professionals and those who work for the businesses instead of the business itself. My idea is that when Christians buy from Christians (and the sales professional makes a commission) that it is a way to bless another believer.

As far as Christian businesses go, I went to the same auto mechanic a second time instead of somewhere else because they were Christians. I don’t know that I would do that in every situation, but for the smaller businesses (read: not corporations) I probably would.
DiscipleshipGuy recently posted..Matthew’s Mind- Who do You Think God is

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Laurie Neumann March 1, 2010 at 12:43 am

Since Sue brought it up, if I was going to hire a coach, I would want them to be a Christian. I want to know that I will get Biblical advice and perspective. So, yes, the services you are looking for can make a difference in whether you look for Christian or not.

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Christian October 24, 2010 at 10:32 am

I think it could change buying habits both in a positive and negative way, depending on the consumer. Like Sue mentioned, I think the kinds of products are a factor. I also think the demographics of the area matter. Some areas will be more densely populated with more devout Christians. Or how about a store that is very close to a church?

Also, some Christian owners may be willing to sacrifice some profits for that extra feeling of community.

I think an interesting experiment would be to do some keyword research with Google’s keyword tool to see the search volume for terms like “Christian Plumber” or “Christian Accountant”. I’ve definitely seen websites like that.

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