There’s nothing like a company that’s inspiring, fresh, and personal. When people see a business led by a passionate founder, one who’s committed to the best possible products, it’s impossible not to feel the love. dignify, an online seller of kantha blankets and bedding made in Bangladesh shares its social mission through email marketing.
Shelley Jones, Founder, is at the helm of dignify, leading the way. We sat down with Shelley to learn how dignify uses email marketing to create personalized messages that resonate with prospective customers and loyal ones. Shelley is leveraging email automation, as well as Campaign Monitor for Shopify to segment her audience, ensuring that she sends the right message to the right people at the right time.
Can you tell us a little about dignify?
SJ: dignify started as a side project for me. I met Robin, a woman from Oregon who was working with women in Bangladesh. These Bangladeshi women were redeemed from sex trafficking, or removed from risk, and retrained to create blankets in the Bengali tradition of kantha.
When I saw the products they were creating, I loved them! At the time, I couldn’t justify the cost of buying a blanket because we were students with a young family. But, they were extremely beautiful and well-made. I’ve never loved global “handicrafts”, but these were different; I could totally picture them in my home.
When a friend of mine got engaged, I finally had a great excuse to buy a blanket. This friend had been widowed a few years before (while pregnant with her third child), and had, naturally, gone through a challenging few years. I loved the parallel. Here were two very different women – one Canadian fiancée, one Bengali seamstress – living on opposite sides of the world. But, the heart of their story was the same: from hardship, adversity, and a lot of pain… to recovery, redemption and the beginning of hope. It felt powerful to connect the two stories.
At the bridal shower, everyone “ooh-ed” and “aw-ed” over the gift, and I realized I wasn’t the only one mesmerized by these blankets. I started dreaming up what it would take to begin importing them and selling them myself. After a summer of business planning and a steep learning curve, I launched our online boutique in 2012. A year later, I began blogging about socially conscious shopping (an area of interest for our customers), and how we can use our spending voice to bring dignity to the marketplace. Today, I’ve built dignify into a viable business that serves women both here and abroad.
How do you use email marketing at dignify?
SJ: Email marketing has been key for me since day one – or even before that when I had an email capture form on the placeholder of my site before launching. When I started blogging, I was convinced that content marketing and email marketing were good ways to get the word out consistently. Each time I wrote a blog post, I would email it out to my list. This strategy worked, but some blog posts were obviously more interesting and relevant than others. Eventually, I consolidated my email marketing strategy into a weekly email.
Every email has content, imagery, and stories that reinforce our brand message and the shared interests of our customers. The more that they see we share interests and priorities, the more our community gets on board. If we strike the wrong note and a subscriber leaves, that’s ok. I’m confident (and it’s been proven by our metrics) that we’re prepping the best kinds of customers who are going to purchase and be big fans of our brand.
The weekly emails also function as a drip campaign for prospective (or potential repeat) customers. Perhaps they loved the idea of the blankets but didn’t have a “good enough” excuse to buy one. Receiving the regular email triggers the reminder: “Oh right, that wedding I have this summer!” or, “Maybe this would be a good choice for that baby gift coming up,” or “This is what I will request for my birthday!”
I also send emails for product announcements. Our blankets are one-of-a-kind, so when they sell out, that’s it. About once or twice a month, I send out an email showing what new styles I have in stock. These are strong call-to-action campaigns that always result in sales. This model also allows me to collect new leads, people who want to be the first to know when new products arrive.
I also have an email automation series for prospective customers. When someone signs up on the site, they receive four welcome emails to introduce them to dignify and our products. Our product is sold using our story; we don’t do discounts, so our welcome emails are key to introducing people to who we are and what we do. If people carry through these emails, we know these people are very qualified and interested.
Campaign Monitor’s tagging and segmenting enables me to create custom email series to onboard new subscribers.
Just like a conversation changes based on who you are talking to, the story I tell to someone who has just browsed our site is different than to someone who has already purchased, or to someone who has signed up because of an informational download like our “No More Buyer’s Remorse” guidebook.
How do you use Campaign Monitor for Shopify to propel your email marketing efforts?
SJ: I recently set up Campaign Monitor for Shopify, and absolutely love it. With the integration, I can see if these efforts in the new subscriber email series are actually working, and what kind of sales results I am getting. For example, I can look at brand new website subscribers (say, from a pop-up or footer on our site), and see that of those who opened all four of our welcome series emails, 7% have become multiple-time customers. From cold leads to loyal customers in just a couple of months: this is good news to me.
With Campaign Monitor for Shopify, my subscriber list is automatically segmented based on customers’ shopping history. I can also see which email campaigns result in purchases, giving me insight into which emails are most effective. I can then further use this information to create new segments based on my most loyal customers. Campaign Monitor for Shopify automatically categorizes people into first-time customers, high spending customers, repeat customers, and newsletter subscribers.
Before I started using the integration, I could manually add people to a new email list. But with the integration, Campaign Monitor for Shopify will add subscribers to my list and update their shopping history in real-time. I love that I can use dynamic content to easily send personalized emails to these groups, with barely any extra work. I can imagine myself sending certain messaging to people who’ve purchased multiple times, and the integration makes it easy to do so without duplicating work.
I really like working with Campaign Monitor – and believe me, I tried a lot of different email services to find one I liked. Now that Shopify is integrated, it is the icing on the cake and makes it so much better.
How do you measure email marketing success for dignify?
SJ: It is just me and my husband behind this business, and I run all of the email marketing myself. Campaign Monitor helps us capture the intimacy of the email medium (it is clear that I am personally behind them), while not betraying that the business is just me toiling in my basement office (the emails look beautiful and professional).
Since I started using Campaign Monitor four months ago, I’ve grown my email list by 25%.
I’ve been doing email marketing for three and a half years, so this growth is incredible for dignify. I’ve made a concerted effort to direct people to my email list, especially as I’ve seen others worry about platforms like Instagram and Facebook changing their algorithms. dignify’s email list is something we’ll always own, without having to worry about how a platform changes.
In general, our emails average about 32% open rates and have seen them as high as 50%. For me, this is great. It means people are reading my emails, are engaged in our brand and story, and are keeping dignify top of mind. I can be personal in a way that is rare in marketing — I’m a real person talking directly to my customers.
When people join our email list, they stay. I have a ton of confidence in our content, and I know what I send out is valuable to our audience.
Anything you’ve learned along the way about email marketing?
SJ: Automated emails are essential to efficiency when you are a small team. I used a popular, free email marketing tool, and it drove me bananas! It was very difficult to send out emails. It didn’t automatically resize things, I couldn’t build templates, and tracking analytics was messy and complicated.
For such a small shop, automated emails are so important because once they are created, I can be hands off. Being attentive to prospects and customers has always been important to me; some great advice I appreciated early on was that when you’re growing, it is ok to do things that aren’t scalable, like hand-written notes.
If I had to manually create and send each and every email, I wouldn’t have time to grow and scale my business.
Campaign Monitor’s email automation allows me to maintain the personal touch, while increasing the number of people I can effectively communicate with. It frees up my time to focus on building dignify into the business I want it to be.
I’d also add that having a great email service provider makes a big difference. Before I switched to Campaign Monitor, it took a long time to send an email, time that could be better spent on other initiatives. Also, the output was just ok. Now, I feel confident with what I’m producing, and relieved by the simplicity of making it happen.
dignify sells beautiful, highly-crafted kantha blankets made with dignity by women in Bangladesh. The small shop uses email marketing to share their mission and products with the world. Additionally, dignify leverages the Shopify integration to explore which email campaigns lead to revenue and to segment customers based on purchase activity. dignify has developed an impressive strategy that inspires customers to stay engaged.