What Missions Taught Me About Marketing and Business


When I was 13, my mom let me drive our family truck around the farm. She would typically ride shotgun as we went to fetch her horse or clean out the stalls. On one particular occasion, she decided that she was going to ride the horse back to the barn and I could drive our 2003 Chevy Silverado to meet here there. You can imagine I felt like the king of the world. That feeling of joy and pride quickly turned to sorrow.

In my excitement, I didn't pay attention to where we parked and backed directly into a small tree which punched a fist-sized hole in the fiberglass tailgate. I made a promise to my mom that, "one day when I'm a very successful business person, I'll buy you the King Ranch pickup truck you've always wanted."

Crisis averted since my family understood that entrepreneurship was in my blood. My dad, grandad, and great grandfather were all entrepreneurs. I was the kid who hustled golfers to buy golf balls I'd found, sold lemonade, and started mowing neighbors lawns.

This family history is why it took some of my family by surprise when I decided I wanted to join a missions organization called YWAM right out of high school. To me, it felt like God was doing something in my heart, and he had invited me to partake with him in what he was doing around the world. My family was incredibly supportive, but I do remember my mom kidding with my me when I told her I wanted to join YWAM. "I guess I won't be seeing that King Ranch then."

Let's fast forward a few years to today. I founded Caffeine over two years ago to grow companies who make people's lives better through digital marketing and have been working at North Point Community Church for close to a year now. I'm still in Christian ministry, and I think God is using that innate gifting to bring people closer to him. Thanks to a supportive wife and an incredible workplace, I've successfully been able to do both business and ministry. What I want to unpack for you are the lessons I've learned overseas in missions that are essential to making you better at business.

If you want to learn more about my story, click here - 4 Ways Millennials Can Grow Their Influence.

Marketing Matters

To date, I've raised over $50,000 worth of support from sponsors for ministry work. Fundraising might be the hardest part for most missionaries. Every missionary I've ever met did not sign up to serve because they loved marketing; they did it because they had a dream and passion.

Do you know who else I think that sounds like? Business owners.

To accomplish your dream of making an impact as a missionary, you will most likely need to be effective at marketing. You need to grow the number of sponsors (customers) and retain them. The same is true for your business or the organization.

If you want to grow your company successfully, you should have an intentional marketing strategy. We help our clients design a marketing strategy that moves people from brand awareness to consideration then conversion, and grows retention.

As missionaries, we needed to make people aware that they could support us, help them understand why we are a good investment, and then finalize their support. After that, we would try to update them and keep them bought into the vision we had and the impact their investment has made.

If you're in business, you should consider a strategy to reach new customers and get in front of people who might want to buy your products or services. Thanks to advanced targeting through social media marketing, you can target your ideal customer. This approach is how you grow the top of your funnel.

The next step would be a form of a traditional call to action, such as a lead generating PDF. This PDF will serve to potentially onboard customers through an email sequence who may want to work with you like this PDF, which you should download. Additionally, you should have social media retargeting ads that are keeping your brand in front of potential customers so that when it comes time to make a buying decision, they choose you.

To retain more customers, you should be creating engaging content on social media and have an email newsletter that enhances your brand's perceived value.

Don't Play the Hero

A mistake that people make in missions is a common mistake people make in business which is playing the hero.

To have the maximum long term impact in mission work, you must partner with the people who live in that community. It might fuel your ego as a missionary to come in there and act like a hero who saves the day, but it ends up making the community dependent on you. There will also most likely be a strong disconnect between you and the community you try to serve because that community isn't looking for a hero, they are looking for a guide to help them get what they want or need. A successful way to partner with a community in missions is a great way to start to partner with new clients and sell in business.

As a missionary, If you come in guns-a-blazing, assuming you know exactly what a community needs in missions, you most likely won't have community buy-in. However, if you listen and ask the community what the felt needs or pains are, you'll capture the heart and minds of that community and then have the opportunity to share the good news of Jesus.

One way that we did this during my time in YWAM was partnering with a local church or organization everywhere we went. For example, in Chang Mai, Thailand, we collaborated with the pastor of a local church in brainstorming a plan to make the most significant impact in the community.

We asked him about the pain points he and his community were experiencing in order to develop a plan for our team to execute. We partnered with the pastor to have church gatherings every night in different parts of the village in addition to teaching English in local schools. Having us teach in the schools built relationships for this pastor with the school system and enabled the teachers to spend time in training to better serve their students. Partnering with him to have mini church gatherings in the evening helped him to engage in remote parts of the village for which he usually didn't have the margin to prepare.

Asking what the felt needs or pains are of your potential customer is a great way to engage their hearts and minds so that people buy from you. This process also gives you space to position yourself as the guide to help them get what they want.

When customers are looking to buy, they are not looking for a hero. They consider themselves the hero of their own story but are looking for a guide to help them get what they want. Position yourself as the guide in assisting them to get what they want.

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What Matters 100 Years From Now?

Missions are all about the long term, and I think business leaders would benefit from that same line of thinking.

In my opinion, there are only a few things that matter when faced with the realization that you're just one blip in the story of existence. This understanding doesn't just affect missions; it affects your business. One hundred years from now you'll most likely be dead, and you can't take your stuff with you. Additionally, your success or wealth won't matter after you're gone, but how you treated people will.

This idea isn't specifically a Christian thing; it's just a people thing. You don't have to believe that there is life after death, but you do have to reconcile the fact that we all die and that people have value.

At some level, building a massive business and making a lot of money is meaningless.

I am not suggesting that this is something that we should stop running after or quit working hard. I simply think it needs to be putting thoughts into perspective. If I'm only on this earth a short while, I want my actions to matter and bring me lasting joy.

When Jesus walked the earth, he said to the people that followed him and his disciples, "it's better to give than to receive." I'm not sure that Jesus was telling people as a command to give physically; he was simply stating a truth that was universal for all humans.

It's Better to Give than to Receive.

As I build and grow my wealth, I don't get the direct proportionate amount of joy. In comparison, when I give, I feel that there is more joy in my life than when receiving (or earning) something.

I'd venture to say that I'm just as driven as the next guy or gal and want to be extraordinarily successful, but people matter. This view is why being a missionary (even for a short while) was so fulfilling. I was able to give my time and talents to people on an everyday basis.

I view my role at Caffeine as the founder as a servant to people. I am first serving my team, then my clients. I'm for them and care more about them than the business. Does the business need to be successful? 100%! But I care more about my team than what I can get from them. I care more about my clients as people than the money they pay us.

Why? Because 100 years from now, how I treated people matters, not the size of my business or how successful I was or how much wealth I have. 


Invite People into a Story

People want to find purpose in their work. Most people will spend 1/3 of their lives at work, and unfortunately, most people don't get the opportunity to be invited into a story that matters.

As a Christian, I see myself as part of a bigger narrative that's going on around me. Thanks to the death and resurrection of Jesus, God is reconciling the world back to himself. He's made a way for people to connect back to him and I get to play a small part in that. This understanding is why missions are so fulfilling. You joyfully take risks to help play a role in God's reconciliation story. You can take some calculated risks as Christians or a missionary in attempts at divine reconciliation because you have confidence in life after death. The worst thing that can happen to you isn't that bad anymore because of the bigger story that's in play.

I’m not a fan of “finding your purpose.” I’m a fan of “living with purpose.
— Jon Acuff, Start Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work That Matters

What does this have to do with business? People want to find purpose in their work. Not only that, but they will work harder and more effectivity if they believe in the bigger story and that what they are doing matters.

At Caffeine, our mission is to grow companies that make peoples lives better. Does this look like working just with non-profits? Hardly. A couple of clients come to mind. 

One of our clients is a company who offers a superintendent peer group. You might wonder how this makes people's lives better. Superintendents have a lonely job at the top of their school district and become isolated in navigating complex challenges unique to their position in the school systems. This peer group offers community, development, and support for these supergiants to make school systems better and more effective in improving the lives of thousands of students across the United States.

Another example is North Georgia's best fly fishing guide service: Bowman Fly Fishing. Most of their clients are busy people that don't get the opportunity to get outdoors and experience mother nature to the fullest. For those who want to fish, this escape from the chaos of everyday life can be ruined by the frustration of not catching fish. With Bowman, they get the trip of the lifetime, every time and they can go back into the rest of their life with more joy.

Is your mission or vision statement inviting people into a story? Is it something that people can get behind and find purpose?


Don't Take Things for Granted.

I grew up in America with a pretty comfortable lifestyle, so experiencing extreme poverty firsthand rocked me. Often the streets of Bangkok were full of people begging, and many were disabled. On one occasion, I remember turning to walk up some stairs and smelling and hearing something weird.

Through the crowd of people, I caught a glimpse of a man whose face and arms were rotting, and you could see inside of his face to his bones and ligaments. Out of his entire face, the only feature I could make out was what was left behind of his nose. I was so shocked that I fell into my friend as I clung onto him, hoping not to pass out.

I had never experienced anything like that. I don't know that man's story or how he got there, but among other feelings at that moment, I realized I truly had no grasp what sort of advantage I had in life.

As a young white male living in America, I know that I've been given an opportunity that most have not. I've had my fair share of setbacks and obstacles such as substance abuse in my family, the deaths of my dad and step-dad, and fracturing vertebrae in high school that ended dreams of playing football in college. But all of that still doesn't really compare to some people.

I've realized that I don't fully understand what sort of opportunity I have. The same is true for you at some level as well. No matter what socioeconomic status or life obstacles you've had, there is someone who has it worse than you. Living life at the mercy of whatever factors you're facing doesn't serve you well.

What I learned in missions was to not take things for granted. I work my butt off every day because I don't want to waste any level of opportunity I have. If you're reading this, you've most likely have access to the internet. That's something you cannot take for granted. You've probably got more to be grateful for, so let that drive you

I remember that man on the street often. I will never really "get" how many opportunities I have, and neither will you but don't forget how fortunate you are.

If you found this helpful in any way, share it with a friend or post about it on social media. I'd genuinely appreciate it.

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Evan Knox