Getting Trapped in the Niche

It wasn’t until I left the non-profit industry and pushed my way into social media marketing that I learned the lessons non-profit should’ve taught me: people, as a whole, will never do something based solely on their bleeding hearts.

I’ve been sitting on the subject for awhile because I didn’t know who I would offend.  Then, after a few afternoons with my very good friend, Anna Mack, the sole proprietor of Fleuriste Supplies, I convinced myself that you can’t learn anything without being offended once in awhile.  I really wish someone had offended me 5 years ago.

This spark ignited when I read a rant on Etsy.  The seller had received her first neutral feedback:

It was cute product and my girlfriend really liked it. I got exactly what was advertised, but not exactly what I expected. I got a “wire heart multi photo holder collage,” but something about a $40 price tag led me to expect something better than the feel of a flimsy wire coat hanger. I appreciate that these are all made by hand, and I admire the craftsmanship that goes into them. I’m just accustomed to similar products costing much less at local antique/boutique shops, not to mention WalMart.

It was followed by this response from another seller:

*sigh* Walmart. Destroying people’s expectations about what things should cost and their quality since 1962

The handmade industry relies on a similar marketing niche as social business.  However, instead of a bleeding heart, they’re relying on people who will buy a handmade object just because it’s handmade. The cruel truth is a handmade object has exceedingly higher expectations of quality.  Anything on Etsy, whether explicitly stated or not, carries the word “Handcrafted” on it.  That’s a loaded adjective with high expectations.

Social business, on the other hand, needs to compete with for-profit businesses. The clothing company People Tree is, in my opinion, one of the best doing this.  Their garments are made from fair trade materials and are of equal quality to a traditional (read: sweatshop) clothing label. They don’t rely on their mission to sell clothes because, to most consumers, it doesn’t make a difference.  The price tag is usually what we notice first. When a retailer chooses to spend more on fair trade, they decrease their profit margin in return for social capital — reducing the prevalence of slavery, for instance — because no one will spend more on a shirt just because it’s fair trade.

Image provided by People Tree

In the same realm, no one will show up for an event just because it’s for charity. A friend and I threw a Connect 4 tournament a year ago.  My bleeding heart insisted people will show up because it’s for a good cause and cost just $5. He, a marketing major, insisted there needed to be more.  His solution? One free beer with entry and a giant trophy.  He was right and we broke a world record.  Similarly, if you’re holding a silent auction, you have to make sure you have awesome items to bid on and/or important people to network with.

Putting out an excellent product is the best marketing you can do.


About Tavie Crockett

Like "Davy Crockett," but with a "T."
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One Response to Getting Trapped in the Niche

  1. AnnaMack Hardison says:

    All so true!!!!! Excellent post 🙂

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