All About How I Hate Selling a Selfish Activity I Do to Keep My Own Brain Sane
I HATE MARKETING!!! God I hate it.
Let me be clear– When it’s done well, and it works well, I have a lot of respect for it. And there are people out there who are super amazing at it. From what I see, for individuals (the influencers!), that breaks down into either people who are incredibly genuine or… I think people who really don’t give many you know whats about the world. But both of those are able to make “their brand” work.
From a removed perspective, trying to get your stuff seen online is a fascinating strategy game. One I am not the best at. Marketing advice says to push your stuff A LOT. To shill pretty mercilessly. I think folks who fall into that less genuine category do this well, because at their core, they don’t really care what other people think. Or, I suppose that’s horribly wrong because clearly they are trying to get All The Likes or whatever. I guess I mean that they don’t mind if what they do is off-putting to some, as long as the number of votes (did I say votes? I meant follows…) exceeds the number that are upset. The genuine folks I see online also do part of the game, the marketing, astutely. Whether by study or by instinct, they know when to release a post, how to tag it, etc. They accomplish this and still seem to be down to earth or honest or legitimate or whatever.
I have been on a super learning curve trying to market / promote / etc this weird venture I’m doing at all. Because reaching out to a curious population is what has kept this sport afloat for the last decade. Social media saved mushing; there’s no doubt. While big name sponsors are going more and more by the way side, crowd funding gets kennel after to kennel to the start line, and gets races up and running, and moving onward.
This is very very weird and antithetical to mushing. Because, by nature, mushing is really about a type of isolation, about removing oneself from the hubbub and standing on the runners of a sled in silence. Social media, to me, is the very opposite of silence.
Silence is this really big theme in my life right now. I long for it, more from myself than from others. I need to be quiet and think. This is the mental health chorus on repeat in my head. Trying to start a small kennel though– Especially when I don’t have giant sponsors, and I don’t have a trust fund or some kind of underlying financial boost– means that I rely on that social media / crowd funding situation. And that means, I can’t be silent. I have to be forward and honest and open and also, prolific.
I like the honesty part. Being real on repeat is very good for me. That’s why “Truth” is a part of our philosophy. And I think in some ways maybe it’s that truth thing that gives value back to anyone who follows. I’ve had a few people let me know that because I have lived openly, both with regards to my mental health struggles and my queerness, they have been inspired to either get help or be more open in their own lives, or all of the above. So– That’s really awesome. And makes the rigamarole worthwhile to a degree.
But otherwise? I feel like I’m constantly doing the dance where someone is shooting at your feet and you just have to keep moving. Or maybe that’s not a great metaphor. I guess– in some ways, it feels like I have to keep performing. Or, maybe that’s wrong too. Because– I really try my best to not be fake. What I’m doing here is too important to me to put on my “tourist voice.” So… I try to pump that truth out, that transparency. That reality check.
I think what *gets* me is the prescription of What To Do To Drive Traffic To Your Site. And that is… To bug people. To post your blog post REPEATEDLY. I am of the mindset that… I wrote it… I put it out there… If people care to read it that’s so amazing, but I really don’t want to plaster it in people’s faces / newsfeeds. It feels so invasive and also– At a certain point, it feels really fake.
What I’m doing is already weird enough. There’s a lot going on in the world that is tough and honestly deserves more financial backing than I do. (I can hear all the marketing people who have advised me face palming right now!) So me asking for money feels… Like, pretty ridiculous. I’m asking for money so that I can do something super selfish, go be with dogs and run around the woods. It’s weird to ask for support with this. I battle with my own prideful instincts to insist that I Can Do It Myself!!! But the truth is, while I have a truly amazing job, it doesn’t pay well enough to support me and fourteen dogs to a dog race, even with my side hustles, as the cool kids call it.
The folks I’ve seen who have jobs that do pay well enough don’t have the benefit of working at home or the flexibility and support my job provides. I’ve worked for a few mushers who had full time, good paying jobs that allowed them to support their mushing without shilling at all– But which also meant they *had* to have handlers to do a large part of the training. There’s nothing wrong with this, but I know that it isn’t what I want, and also, I think I’d be a very bad person in charge of handler. All of my neurosis would come out and it would be no fun for anyone.
So that puts me in this position of logging on and saying in my tiniest voice… Oh hey…….. If you wanted to support ATAO you could go here… If you want… Maybe…….
I have to battle that tiny voice. It’s a voice in reaction to the fear that me running dogs is not of value to anyone but me. So why would you support it?
My boss and very good friend Michael (probably one of the face palm-ers right now!) reminds me constantly that for him, what I’m doing does offer value, and that it’s important. His words on this have actually carried me through, pushed me forward to Keep Going. (Sometimes when I’m in cycle-of-doubting mode, everything becomes A Title or a-hyphenated-phrase. Maybe this is how my brain organizes.) The value he sees in what I am doing is basically– Inspiration. Seeing someone do something tough.
I can understand that. I have gotten inspiration from seemingly otherwise valueless things. From other mushers, from folks doing other wild things. It’s problematic as heck, but I’ve always gotten choked up at the Olympics. Because I think about ALL THE WORK people put into this moment. Whether they win or lose. It’s just a model of life. That there’s some kind of a point, maybe? Or that we can succeed. Just as simple as that. That we can finish it, do it, make it.
So… I guess that’s what I’m sharing. And to do it, I need to check my own pride and terror at imposing, and just put this stuff out there. I do have a line I won’t cross. I just can’t post my stuff on repeat. I can’t follow that model, the one where you look at every stat and are cut throat and narcissistic and just share and reshare and reshare your same ask. I have to follow the model of telling the truth, just being me an honest. The other model of just mercilessly pushing… It’s not real, for me. And I guess even if we never raise enough to do a single race, I’d rather be real and honest. I’d rather stick to those tenants that mean ATAO.
Anyway, all of this is just a longwinded brain process as I talk myself into the idea that asking for support is okay, it’s necessary if we want to get to a race.
I like to think of mushing as a solo venture but it just isn’t any more. It’s bolstered up and supported like a house is supported on the love and excitement of fans. And I have to accept that I’m included in that bolstering, and not fear it. It’s my smallish contingent of supporters who got me through our first year. And it’s supporters who will get us to the Copper Basin. Supporters– You– are part of the team, really and truly, because without you there is no team. A team is a group who works together towards a goal, and without you guys backing us, we are just a group of dogs and some people. Which is also great and wonderful, but not the same.
So! Yeah! You are already part of the team. Most of the support of ATAO has come from a handful of really generous, amazing folks who keep donating. I hope you know how much I appreciate you. And, if you haven’t already, you can join in on the team by participating in one of our little programs. I know (very well) that most folks can’t afford to do a massive sponsorship or something. So I wanted to create a way to join in without breaking any banks. So there’s a few different options.
- Join the Be a Buddy program. It’s a fun way to follow your favorite dogs and support the team.
- Sponsor a Monster. You fully invest in your favorite pup for the season. I just do one true sponsor per dog, and we try to give a lot of personal face time/ updates about that dog through the season. Our first dog sponsor, Cynthia, is super dedicated and amazing. Rey is very much Cynthia’s dog!!!
- Patreon. This is a different way to support a musher. You can pledge a few bucks a month and you get to see some content for patrons only, like video and writing and extra photos. I’m also incorporating a tracking feed into this! I’m not sure how interesting that will be for folks, but you’ll be able to follow training runs live, like you can do with mushers in races. (And now we see that Will has fallen down again! The dogs are looking back in distain. Etc. Etc.)
- Get ATAO to the Copper Basin 300. This is an easy way to just donate right towards our race expenses for this year.
- You are a big company and you are so excited about ATAO you have decided to become our giant corporate sponsor!
So that’s it! Wow that was a lot of whining about marketing, and then some marketing! Blargh. But. Also– Thank you. For following along. For reading to the end of this post! I hope what we do here gives back a little– It’s still hard to believe we could ever live up to half of the generosity we’ve already been given.
Okay now I’m gonna go play with the dogs.