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.
Dignify’s origin story has long been included, in brief, on our about page, and I refer to it whenever I’ve done interviews or podcasts or if I meet someone in person who inevitably asks, how did you get into this?
I'd like to share a bit of a wider panorama of the story, and an update. I have heard some tremendous stories from customers about the meaning that their blanket has had in some aspect of their life or a relationship. I'm so inspired, I would like to share more of mine, too. The story of dignify is very intertwined with my friend, Kathy.
I've taken a Halloween approach (thus far) that is almost entirely of a free-for-all. As in: Go trick-or-treating, have fun, eat candy, keep it in your room, go wild... and usually by two weeks in, it's all gone, forgotten, or lost its lustre. This week, though, our three kids brought over 1200 candies & chips back into our house (!!!). It was, to understate things... a bit much.
When you find yourself with an abundance of junk food, the idea of throwing it away feels inconceivable (at least for me). Maybe it is that candy is non-perishable, and there is a sense that throwing something edible in the garbage is abhorrently wasteful?
A little behind-the-scenes insight here...
As a store owner, there are loads of resources out in the wilds of the internet, ostensibly to help me succeed in my business. Did you know that I start hearing about Black Friday (as in "are you prepared to break through on Black Friday?") in the summer?
It is SO EASY to find ourselves as consumers in the maelstrom of other people's (and corporations') marketing efforts, and not even remember how we got there, or even notice these (very intentional) forces working away on us.
Here are some actions we can take now to simplify the noise before the noisiest time of the shopping year: —