Whenever I meet a customer in person, or chat about my job at a party, people always ask me, “How did you get into this?”
When I tell them the story of dignify’s beginnings, I always include that my background was in marketing. That after the initial idea seed was planted (“Shelley, you should think about selling these blankets…”), what began to excite me as I lay in bed at night was thinking about what I would call it, how the logo would look, what the site would be like… etc.
Having adequate-to-good skills in a variety of marketing capacities (writing, photography, graphic design, ad-copy, etc.) has allowed me to do a lotwith dignify while spending almost nothing on outside sources. dignify most definitely would not have grown as it has without these skills (or without some serious $$$ borrowing). So, I am certainly not opposed to marketing as a tool or discipline.
And yet… I do still struggle with certain methods, tactics, and devices used in marketing. I really don’t believe that ends justify means, and some marketing means are just not… good.
When I began using instagram, I scoffed at hashtags used as anything other than as a literary device. They’re trendy, they’re annoying, they create rabbitholes of time-wasting, they’re shamelessly self-promoting… they’re also, as it turns out, tremendously effective at gaining exposure to your business.
A commonality I’ve seen among a number of “fair trade” or social justice-related businesses is a tendency to do great work that not enough people know about. As illustrated by this Joey Roth poster, they would fall into the second category:
Or, as described by Chris Guillebeau in my go-to book, The $100 Startup:
Substance without style = unknown
(Everyone who knows these people respects them, but not many people know them.)
Sometimes this is simply by a lack of experience or affinity: these businesses are often helmed by someone more passionate about the cause than the business. But in other cases (as it has been often in mine), it is an issue of reluctance. Strategic marketing just doesn’t feel… authentic.
I wrestle often with this concept of “authenticity” and what it means for my business.
Popular bloggers like Oh Joy and Oh Happy Day and Cup of Jo have a thoroughly authentic feel, which is why people love them! But, I had to admit at last that they have teams working for them and sponsorships and are bona fide brands; if I conflated “authentic” with “unplanned”, I was seriously naïve.
Ultimately, I want dignify to grow and grow, gaining more exposure, more sales, more work for women with dignity. This desire is 100% authentic!
It is undeniable that using hashtags on instagram increases exposure. Just like running ads on facebook to certain groups is very effective at finding new fans & customers.
So, I'm giving it a go. It's more important to me to grow this project into something that is sensible, sustainable, and impactful than for me to worry about seeming salesy. 'Cause guess what? The only way that vision will come to fruition is by selling!
Just as I manage through the tensions of shopping good, I will continue to wrestle with marketing good- hopefully finding some "authentic" success along the way.
This dignify post draws from Derek Thompson's October 7th article in The Atlantic.
Thompson's article explains the practical challenges in 2021 for consumers as well as for retailers.
Here's how some of these points relate to dignify right now and in the coming months:
Mystery novels have often appealed to people with jobs that are never fully resolved (doctors, pastors, social workers). In this cultural era of many-problems-few-resolutions, reading a good mystery can be a refreshing break.
Our 12-year old daughter is the most avid, prolific reader I know! We teamed up to create a list of mysteries for all ages of independent readers. The recos below are listed with increasing age levels in mind, but no specific age parameters (as a mature, well-read, near-teen, she has read up to Agatha Christie on this list).
Our 11-year old computer is showing creaky signs of age, just about ready to go to sleep (and never wake up). But, we feel that it has served us well. When I compare it to other expenses over the years, the laptop is — at about a $100/year investment — one of our best value-for-dollar belongings.
When shopping for items like this, how do we choose well? How do we discern what brand/style/variety is built to last? Or, how do we determine even if “built to last” is relevant to the purchase?