Thanks for taking the time to talk to me about Stitchcraft Marketing. You and I first met when you were working for Interweave Press as an ad manger for the knitting titles. When you moved on from there to start Stitchcraft Marketing, what were your original goals? As you formulated your business plan, back in 2008 what needs were you seeing in the industry?
Sure Courtney, thanks for this opportunity to share more about Stitchcraft. My original idea for the agency sprang from a Yarn Market News report about yarn company marketing and there was a compelling graph that ranked e-newsletters as the number one tool for generating sales and ranked print ads dead last. In that moment I knew I needed to change my career path. Around that same time I found myself on the phone with clients asking me about Facebook and wanting better tracking on the marketing dollars they were spending. So, in 2009 I left Interweave and opened the doors and offered both social media and newsletter services. I specialized in just knitting companies because that’s where my relationships were.
Ah, 2008. That was a time of great shift for a lot of small businesses, and I think we’re still trying to figure out where retail is headed. 2008 was also a crazy year for the US economy! Did you in part decide that going out on your own was a way to try to create stability for yourself in an unstable economy? The trend for DIY and entrepreneurship has been strong in and since the recession, I think in part because so many people lost their jobs and started their own businesses. Did you feel like part of your role was to help guide a lot of newbies into the industry, in addition to helping the old guard into the new digital world?
Your question hits right at the heart of it Courtney. At that time I was on 100% commission so when the bottom started falling out of the economy, it hit me especially hard. At the time it was terrifying but in hindsight, that freefall gave me the “what can I lose” attitude to try something different. Now that I’m essentially doing my dream job I can see it was a gift from the universe that I am grateful for every day. I’d say our agency focus from the start was really more on the “old guard” as you say. The majority of our clients are established businesses that don’t have the time or interest in learning digital and they want fresh ideas and guidance in how to navigate in this new marketing paradigm. I think the more “indie” among us like dyers and designers tend to fall in that digitally native demographic so it’s not such a struggle for them to figure things out. Another group we tend to service quite well are international companies who need “boots on the ground” in the US like Knitter’s Pride. We also love working with startups like June Cashmere.
In your work with companies like Knitter’s Pride and June Cashmere, who aren’t headquartered in the US, it must be really helpful to have someone to help them navigate the US market, which is so content and lifestyle driven. Surely, for all of your clients, you must have to help them create their ‘voice,’ so to speak. Branding is so important these days in getting your message across. What are some creative ways you have helped your clients, both near and far, find and hone their brand identities?
Yes, for a company like Knitter’s Pride, we’ve really become their cultural eyes and ears on the ground and we can advise them about what American consumers expect. I do often get asked how we differentiate our strategies when multiple clients are all selling the same thing. In my view, the branding message really springs from STORY. Every company has a unique story about how they got started, why their yarn is more colorful, more natural, more fashionable or more whatever… and they also appeal to different consumers. We deconstruct that story so their brand aesthetic emerges organically and we develop the marketing strategy from there. We also help clients refine their existing brand and voice. In one example, we worked with a luxury, very expensive handmade wool products company that was basically marketing to a college student demographic who couldn’t afford their product. After they had an “ah ha” moment, they went out and hired sophisticated older models for their lifestyle photography and we improved the social posts which resulted in an uptick in holiday sales.
It’s wonderful to see real, measurable results like an increase in sales! The importance of knowing your market, and how best to reach them, cannot be underestimated. It’s been a pleasure having you share your own story with our Yarn Group members. If readers are interested in learning more about how Stitchcraft Marketing can help them grow their business, what should they do?