When you don’t have a huge budget, great content is essential…
Holly Daniels Christensen knows this well.
She founded her jewelry business, Dune Jewelry & Co, with no money—and propelled it into a worldwide brand.
Holly found that compelling content could generate leads and position her brand as an authority…
And with the right content, you don’t need thousands of dollars to see results.
In this episode, Holly shares her content creation wisdom, including:
- How to plan content months in advance
- How to get celebrity endorsements (without spending millions)
- Content goals for 2023
- And more
Mentioned in this episode:
Voiceover: This is Performance Delivered, Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success with Steffen Horst and Dave Antil.
Steffen Horst: Welcome to the Performance Delivered Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success podcast, where we talk with marketing and agency executives and learn how they build successful businesses and their personal brand. I’m your host, Steffen Horst. The topic for today’s episode is the importance of great content versus a huge budget. Here to speak with me is Holly Daniels Christensen who is the CEO and founder of Dune Jewelry, an experiential jewelry company that handcrafts with sand and earth elements.
Currently, Dune Jewelry is one and only experiential jewelry brand in the world. Holly is a mom, travel lover, and kitchen table entrepreneur who has propelled her business, Dune Jewelry, from a passion project to a worldwide brand over the past 12 years. She’s focused on capturing memories to create tangible reminders of life’s most cherished moments, which is the hallmark of Dune’s handcrafted jewelry line. Holly, welcome to the show.
Holly: Thank you for having me. I’m excited.
Steffen: Now before we before we start talking about content, tell our listeners a little bit more about yourself. How did you get started in your career and what led you to founding Dune Jewelry?
Holly: I was always a very creative person. But I left home when I was 15 and dropped out of school. And I was working consistently to kind of put a roof over my head as opposed to doing what I really loved and enjoyed doing. So I settled into a career in real estate in the Boston market for about 14 years. And I was making jewelry on the side for friends and family as a creative outlet. I love all aspects of art, whether it be drawing and painting and using unique, unique elements to create art.
So this was a fun side project for me. And once I started making jewelry for friends and family, then they began, you know, I would see them and they’d be wearing it. And I’d be, that was exciting to me. It gave me validation that the product could be something people were attracted to. And I was using sand and earth elements from Cape Cod, where I grew up, which has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
And people started bringing back sand from Bermuda or Iceland or Italy and saying hey, can you make me a little something with this. Because it, and then it dawned on me that these were tangible reminders of adventures and honeymoons and you know, girls’ trips, and it was just a very exciting time. So that’s where Dune started is is just the notion of being able to capture a tangible reminder for someone that they could wear forever.
Steffen: Interesting. Know, when someone launches a company, they either have a pocketful of money because they’re funded or, I don’t know, have rich parents or won the lottery or whatever. And then they can help the growth through by media etc. On the other hand, if you launch a company, where your pockets are not that deep, content obviously is something that can be a solution to help grow a brand a business. What did you do in the early days for content?
Holly: This was such a good question because my pockets were inside out. Like I I had left home. And you know, came from a home with a single mom that we didn’t have any money. And nor did I even understand what I was doing in the beginning, which is so interesting to look back at what I’ve learned over the past 12 years. I really started grassroots bootstrap. I worked in real estate for the first three years to fund Dune Jewelry. So from 2010 to 2013. And I would be hauling these six-foot tables around to arts and crafts shows, and selling my merchandise and getting feedback and learning what people were looking for in the market and if the idea resonated with people.
But during that time, I also think goodness had spoken with a business mentor from score, which is funded by the SBA, it’s free. And he was like no matter what you’re doing, you make sure to get their email addresses. I was like, why? I mean, I didn’t I didn’t understand it. I didn’t understand the value of it. And thank goodness for that man telling me to do that because now you know we have this incredible email list and it’s been built organically over the past 12 years.
So that direct-to-consumer email list is really important but it started in this grassroots super authentic way that has I mean, I still have people on that list that I market to that send me birthday cards because they were they were part of the journey in the beginning. So I guess my point is, is that that that early, grassroots, bootstrapping type of experience can be really powerful in a digital world as well. People remember those moments, and they like to come along with the journey. So collecting emails was extremely important and making them part of the journey was exciting.
Also, back then, Facebook was so much more organic. So I, it was so fun and cool back then to engage people through Facebook and say, hey, look, we’re designing a new logo. What do you think of it? Or these are new designs I’m coming up with, what do you think? I really used social media as a sounding board in the beginning, which was so powerful. And I know obviously, now, things are completely different. But you know, the principles are still the same.
Steffen: Yeah, I remember the times when when when you actually didn’t have to spend on Facebook and could get something out of it, so to speak, you know. Those were good times.
Holly: They were great.
Steffen: Yeah, absolutely! Now, 12 years later, what are your biggest goals and priorities in regards to content for 2023?
Holly: I am a firm believer in collaborations. Again, authentic organic collaborations with celebrities and other brands. I use my time wisely when I’m at trade shows for the industry. So I usually go to gift and jewelry shows. And during those times, I will walk every single aisle, collecting cards, passing out cards, looking for brands that really complement what Dune does. And then I’ll pass it on to my social media manager and my marketing team and say, hey, what do you guys think? Should we do some sort of collaboration?
When I say collaboration, it could be as simple as an Instagram follow give away, or it could be a product collaboration, which we recently partnered with a company called 4 Ocean. And we’ve pulled 1000s of pounds of plastic out of our oceans with this collaboration. And not only that, we’ve opened up an entirely new audience with similar values, completely free of charge. So those types of relationships are so powerful to me. Lastly, I say celebrity collaborations, you know, kind of nonchalantly and I do realize that that is a more difficult relationship to build.
But I had hired a model in 2016 that I just fell in love with, I fell in love with her energy. I was like, I know this, this woman, this girl is going to go far and our relationship actually grew. And now she’s, I mean, she’s in movies, she’s her name is Camille Kostek. She’s the, the host for the new series Wipe Out, or the new remake of Wipe Out as well as dancing with yourself. So all these different anyway, long story short, Camille has been an incredible celebrity collaborator. And this has come again from an organic, authentic relationship.
And instead of being like, hey, I’m going to pay you however amount of money to post about Dune Jewelry, or talk about Dune Jewelry. Instead, we worked out a revenue share, she got into the design, she got involved with the design aspect of her collection, and it became very collaborative. So I feel like there’s all these little, different little ways to make a difference with your brand or your product or your service that can be cumbersome, but so worth it in the long run.
Steffen: Now, what different types of content do you produce? Looking at it from a digital marketing perspective.
Holly: We produce I mean video right now. I feel like you can’t produce enough video. Whether it’s five seconds, 15 seconds, or longer format. We produce a lot of video. We’re doing TikTok. We’re doing Instagram reels obviously. And I am also trying to do more video actually, on Facebook, because I think that that audience enjoys a little bit of a longer format. The, again, the organic. The organic audience on Facebook that we’ve built over time enjoys a longer format.
We’re doing blogs so we’re putting blogs out weekly on our website and then we are driving people to the blog through LinkedIn through all social media channels. So I think blogs are so valuable for SEO and again firm believers in organic SEO coming from the website, making sure each and every product is tagged properly and, and maximized for SEO optimization and performance. We actually participate in Google Shopping, pay-per-click. We still do some Facebook and Instagram ads, but we’re really focused on organic when it comes to those two, those two social media outlets, as well as TikTok is completely organic for us.
I was going to mention too, it’s so interesting to see some of these beauty brands and other brands blow up on TikTok completely organically. I have a good friend who owns a company called Sleepy Thai. And her only marketing source to begin with was TikTok, organic TikTok, and she sold out of her first three runs of this product that she invented. So it’s wild, you know, and I don’t want to say it’s luck of the draw, because it’s not that. If you can create compelling content specific to each channel, it’s so valuable.
And I think too many people think that they can kind of bleed their content through Instagram to Facebook or Facebook to Instagram and, and kind of, I think it’s important to repurpose content. But you have to be cognizant of what channel you’re distributing it on, because it just doesn’t resonate. You cannot, you can’t get lazy with your content. And I do see companies or brands may be trying to reuse or repurpose content that doesn’t work for a specific channel. So I think it’s important to be aware of that.
Steffen: Yeah, what hear you saying basically is, you know, you need to have content specific, or designed specifically for the individual platforms. And I assume that obviously, from your perspective has also to do with you have different target audiences in each of those channels at the end of the day?
Holly: Yes, absolutely. I would say every audience is a little bit different. And I think there are consumers out there looking at every single channel, but I think it’s more rare than it is the other way around. I think I fall into the category of looking at every single channel with social media, because of my career because of my job choice. But I have multiple friends in different career paths that when they’re still and this is going to, gives away probably my age, but Facebook is really their main source of social media still. The perception is Facebook is so much older, but I still think 40, 40 year old plus they’re still going on Facebook on a daily basis and finding their information there.
Steffen: Yeah, and even if they just consume content, and don’t even necessarily put out their own content, right. It’s staying in touch with people at the end of the day.
Steffen: How do you measure the success of the content that you create? And maybe we can, we can look at it differently. You know, you talked about video content, you talk about content that is more geared towards the social platforms, then we talked about kind of written, so blog posts, etc. How do you make sure that you identify what content has an impact on the bottom line, basically?
Holly: We’re constantly reporting on insights and who’s engaging. I think there’s this smoke and mirrors type of attitude when it comes to marketing these days where you’re so judged when it comes to likes and comments, and to the point that people have purchased followers and likes and comments and things like that. At the end of the day, that does nothing for your business. And maybe it makes you feel better at the end of the day, I don’t know. But I think for my business, I mean, we’re 75% of our business is wholesale to boutiques and jewelry stores. 25% of our business is direct to consumer, and our content, our content has to directly correlate with sales.
So when we can find a way to post something or advertise something that we can track, every time we come up with a campaign or an idea, we do our best to find a way to track it. And if it leads to conversions, if it leads to sales on our website, then we know it’s success. And I know that’s probably oversimplification. But at the end of the day, we have to be making sales to keep the business rolling and moving forward and growing. And luckily we’ve been doing so for 12 years. We’ve had growth year over year, except for 2020.
Steffen: Now, a few minutes ago, you talked about how you know obviously when you when you’re able to create a piece of content that can take you viral, that can have a huge impact on your business, right without necessarily spending marketing dollars or advertising dollars. How can great content position a company as an authority in that particular industry they’re in?
Holly: That’s a great question. The better your content is, the more direct the messaging is, the more you hone your messaging, I happen to have kind of a challenging message to get through to people, right? Because some people are like, why would I want to put sand in a piece of jewelry? That’s insane. Like, doesn’t make sense. But it’s not about putting sand in jewelry. It’s about putting sand and earth elements that hold memories that hold adventures into that jewelry. So it’s an interesting question for me, because it’s something I’ve battled with for years trying to be able to put enough content together, that’s quick enough for people to digest. And I still, I still struggle with that.
But over time, knowing your audience, knowing what they respond to. Whether that’s checking all of your, you know, reporting on all of your insights, or even simply looking through your comments, and actually getting back to your customers on Facebook and Instagram, getting back to your DMs, engaging with people having conversations with people, it’s still out there, it’s still powerful. I always talk about Facebook being a sounding board for me, you know, in 2010.
But if you utilize social media properly, you’re still getting those answers from customers, specifically on Instagram and Facebook. I think TikTok is a whole different platform. But there are I know of multiple companies that have gone viral on TikTok. Because it’s such an it’s still a fairly new platform for businesses. But it’s all about the content. And it’s all about knowing your brand and your product well enough to get people excited about it.
And also bring some personality into it. I think, too often people are so focused on maybe so focused on insights, and what kind of content that they’re putting out there that they’re not kind of going back to their roots or, or feeling comfortable enough and confident enough to put some personality in their content. There’s a lot of really dry ads out there, and even videos out there. But I think personality is huge if you can if you can apply a personality to your brand, your service your product. I think that makes a significant difference as well.
Steffen: Now, when you focus on creating content, I would assume you want to kind of build out your plan for longer periods of time, right? It’s not like that you sit here on a Monday morning, when we record this. It’s like, this is a good piece of content I want to have for next next week, for example. I would assume that you kind of sit there plan for several months in advance. If so, how do you do that?
Holly: We build out a marketing grid about six to eight weeks in advance. And we always keep it open for pivots. If something comes up in the like, great example would be recently we had Hurricane Ian down in Florida and we have so many wonderful customers in that in that Naples, Sanibel Island, in that area of Florida. And so we immediately put out a fundraising effort. And you know, sometimes you have to be scrappy when it comes to opportunities like that where you know, you can do some good for people in need. So we’re, we have a really well planned out calendar.
That includes how many direct emails are going out, what the segment of audience looks like. Also, I don’t know if we talked about it. But automation, automated emails are so important as well. And we lean on that heavily. But we’ll have our emails all planned out all of the content, all of the copy, social media will coincide with each of our emails every single day. And then we will have promotions that we work on. We’re not a sale brand because every piece is custom-made to order.
So we have to get really creative with our with our promotions, whether it’s a free gift with purchase or free gift wrapping, free engraving, things like that, that will still entice the customer to come and go shopping without necessarily having a sale. And yeah, I mean it’s all a well, it’s all a well-oiled machine. But once in a while we do we have to fill in with something having to do with current events or if we want to, we’ve donated over $250,000 to charitable organizations and coastal preservation over the past five years.
So if something is happening in the world where we know we can help and raise money, and our customers are so behind that, then we’ll we’ll change up the plan. And luckily, my team, that’s part of our core values as a company is being nimble, and always being a small, having a small business mentality. So we can turn something around like that, and 24 or 48 hours.
Steffen: How do you approach that when you when you need to turn something around in such a short period of time? Do you have a list of people on speed dial that you can reach out to and they’re ready to jump in?
Holly: Yeah, I would say our creative director Catherine is really over the years, she’s gotten really good at it. And then I will call Lauren, our brand manager, then they’ll involve our social media manager, and Maggie will jump into the lightbox, take some photography, and we just get it done. We have a really proactive team. And I know everyone’s looking for that. I feel blessed to have such an incredible team behind me, but especially when it’s for a good cause it’s not just doing it to doing it.
Or you know, doing it to disrupt people. I hate being disruptive. But I do know, as a CEO and founder I am disruptive sometimes if I think it’s for, if I think it’s gonna benefit the company. So as long as you’ve got that person in house the can take photographs, even these days, an iPhone photograph, edited properly, can work if the mission is meaningful.
Steffen: Now, early on, you talked about celebrities and brand collaborations. Can you, et’s go back there. Can you can you talk a little bit more about that? How did you get or how do you best get into engaging with celebrities and identify who would be a good fit for your brand?
Holly: I think we have such a connected society these days that you can go out do a little bit of research by Googling and, and reading about different select different celebrities to make sure that their values line up with your brand values or your company’s values. And then the hope is that you can find their manager and find out what their what their goals and objectives are, I think there are some celebrities who align with certain brands because they truly love the brands. And love the mission.
And then there obviously are celebrities that are doing it for the paycheck. And, and it’s a it’s a higher price tag. So it depends on what your budget is. For Dune, because we are bootstrap, oftentimes, it’s a revenue share type of scenario, that works out because then both people have skin in the game. The business is, you know, the company’s underwriting all of the design development and or marketing dollars, and the celebrity is putting their time and effort and their content creation into it.
So it’s not as easy as I probably made it sound earlier, but it is doable. I mean, everybody is looking for different ways to expand their audience. So even if the celebrity’s audience is large, maybe you as a company or a brand are bringing a different demographic to that celebrity. And so there’s always a, there’s always a win-win situation.
Steffen: Interesting, I think from my experience, and from my point of view, it’s really important understanding who your audience is, at the end of the day. I mean, once you figure that out, and I should probably also say break it into individual sub-segments, because, you know, if you are a woman clothing store, right, your audience are women. But there are so many different sub-segments within that.
Age, income, interest, you name it, that makes it really important for you to identify which of those individual sub-segments react to what, and what do they need. And then once you have all of that, it’s much easier to go out and find brands that you might want to collaborate with because they might stand for the same things. Or celebrities or influencers that bring that lifestyle with them just because that’s also where they’re focused at.
Holly: Absolutely. And you’d be surprised at, I remember having an interview with Christie Brinkley’s manager a while back and ultimately it didn’t, it didn’t end up moving forward. But you’d be surprised at how many celebrities are open to hearing about what you have to say and if you can figure out what their interests are. And there’s a story about Rob Gronkowski who did a collab with, gosh, it was an earphone company. And I’m blanking on what brand it was. But he did it for short, short money because he absolutely loved the product.
And I’m not saying that those types of scenarios are a dime a dozen. But I guess the point is, is that you have to be persistent, you have to be out there, put yourself out there. I have one idea that is just nagging at me that I know would be such a great move for Dune Jewelry, it would be such a great move for this other entity. And I DM this other entity, probably, I don’t know, like twice a week, and I will all eventually get a meeting. It’s gonna take me probably the next year, but I’ll get a meeting. And I’m not embarrassed by it.
And I’m not you know, I’m not ashamed that I am a little bit of a squeaky wheel, because these types of scenarios if you and not to get into the manifestation part of it, but if you if you visualize it, if you have a good plan, obviously you can’t. I mean, I have a pitch laid out for this particular entity. But if you have a good plan that makes sense, there’s there’s not a lot of holes to poke in it and you can get that meeting, get that meeting. Be the squeaky wheel because things, crazier things have happened. Trust me. The fact that I was on the phone with Christie Brinkley’s manager is wild. But those meetings are out there. You just have to be persistent.
Steffen: Yeah. Well, Holly, unfortunately, we’ve come to the end of today’s podcast episode. Thank you so much for joining me on the Performance Delivered podcast and sharing your knowledge on how to create great content when you don’t have a huge budget. If people want to find out more about you, Dune Jewelry, how can you get in touch?
Holly: We are everywhere as Dune Jewelry it’s d u n e like a sand dune. We’re on Instagram and Facebook, TikTok, LinkedIn and obviously on our website dunejewelry.com.
Steffen: Perfect. Well, thanks everyone for listening. If you’d like the Performance Delivered podcast, please subscribe to us and leave us a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast application. If you want to find out more about Symphonic Digital, you can visit us at symphonicdigital.com or follow us on Twitter at Symphonic HQ. Thanks again and see you next time.
Voiceover: Performance Delivered is sponsored by Symphonic Digital. Discover audience focused and data driven digital marketing solutions for small and medium businesses at symphonicdigital.com