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  • Festive Friday 2016 at Blue Eyed Sun

    Festive Friday 2016 at Blue Eyed Sun

    It's Festive Friday 2016 this week, the day that kick starts UK Christmas card sending. A welcome antidote to Black Friday, when we take time to think of all those we care about and get busy writing and sending them Christmas cards.

    The UK Greeting Card Association launched the Festive Friday campaign three years ago to encourage card publishers and retailers to send their Christmas cards early to help remind everyone to remember to send theirs. There are around 100,000 people working directly and indirectly with the UK card industry. If each of us sends 10 Christmas cards to arrive in the first week of December it will have a fantastic ripple effect from those first million gestures. Last year had a fantastic effect on our industry and we hope that this fun initiative will continue for many years to come.

    At Blue Eyed Sun we've been getting into the Christmas spirit early and held a 'christmas card writing hour' for our team to write and send cards to their loved ones to support the Festive Friday 2016 campaign. We sponsored the cards, their time and the postage to support the GCA campaign. All our team had to do was to write as many cards as they wanted to in the hour. We managed over 200 Christmas cards between us, which will be making their way via Royal Mail over the weekend to their lucky recipients.

    Our team had a lot of fun on Festive Friday 2016 with Christmas jumpers and Santa hats to get us in the spirit. It's a wonderful feeling when we think about all of the love going out into the world from this short amount of time dedicated to card sending and we recommend it to anyone involved in the card industry.

    Even if you are not in the card industry, it is a special time of year to connect with your customers, friends and loved ones. Send them a nice Christmas card with a warm message in it expressing your gratitude and wishing them all the best for the New Year. We hope you enjoy spreading festive cheer around the world.

    Download a Free Toolkit for Festive Friday from the GCA website

    Cards can have valuable emotional impact in your loved ones' lives.

    There are only a few days left to get cards in the post though, so do get started this week. I've listed the Royal Mail's last posting dates below. Want to print this info out for your customers? Click here to download the dates in a PDF.

    Find out more about Blue Eyed Sun's Christmas cards for 2016 here. Available at all good card retailers.

    Festive Friday 2016

    Last Christmas Posting Dates 2016

  • The Ladder Club 2016

    The Ladder Club 2016 - Day 1

    The Ladder Club 2016 was one of the best I have attended in thirteen years of speaking at the event. This year's seminars for new and aspiring publishers were held at the Cliffs Pavilion in Southend-on-Sea and featured a host of greeting card experts to help those starting out or seeking to grow their greeting card businesses.

    Founded by Lynn Tait and now organised by Jakki Brown, editor of Progressive Greetings Magazine the Ladder Club has been an incredible support for so many artists, creatives and newbies for the last 17 years helping them to save time, money and heartache. If you are new to the card industry and have never attended, I would highly recommend doing so.

    Here are some photos and a summary of the two days at the Ladder Club 2016:

    The Ladder Club 2016 - DinnerIf you ever attend the event it's worth staying over the night before and attending the delegates dinner at the Westcliff Hotel. Speakers are seated amongst delegates on every table. It's a great opportunity to network and pick up some informal tips from the experts.

    The Ladder Club 2016 - Day 1

    Day 1 at the Ladder Club 2016 was for absolute beginners and those considering setting up a greeting card business. The day started at 9am sharp with an introduction from Lynn and  Jakki. After the speakers were introduced, Sharon Little the Chief Executive of the Greeting Card Association said a few words about the GCA and why it's worth being a member.

    The Ladder Club 2016 - Day 1Karen Wilson and Claire Williams then gave a wonderful news reader style presentation of the highs and lows of their company Paper Salad. Then Jeremy Corner of Blue Eyed Sun (that's me) spoke on how to wear different hats within your greeting card business and the different ways of thinking needed to run a successful greeting card company.

    The Ladder Club 2016 - Suppliers

    After a short break, Julie Brightley from Enveco talked us through the nitty gritty of envelopes. Mark Jessett from GF Smith gave an amusing talk on how to choose the right boards for printing your cards on. Bob Short from The Imaging Centre took us through printing digitally. His son Adam demonstrated their fantastic new online ordering and marketing system called Simplicity. Simon King from Sherwood Press spoke on litho printing. Sharon returned to wrap up the morning's session telling us what to include on the back of our greeting cards.

    The Ladder Club 2016 Day 1

    After lunch we learned about PG Live from co-founder Warren Lomax and Tracey Arnaud who runs the a section of the show called Springboard for new publishers. Jim Bullough then took us through the practical aspects of exhibiting at trade shows. I wrapped the section up with a short talk on how to evaluate the success of trade shows.

    The Ladder Club 2016 - Day 1

    Midlands sales agent, Ian Bradley, showed us the inside a sales agent's brain. Miles Robinson from House of Cards shared the independent retailer's perspective. Finally, Ben Hickman and Mark Williams from Brainbox Candy talked about standing out from the crowd with effective marketing.

    Day 2 at the Ladder Club 2016 was for those who have already exhibited at a trade show or are turning over several thousand pounds. Day 2 is more about climbing the ladder once you are on it.

    The Ladder Club 2016 - Day 2The day was filled with some fantastic talks from Ladder Club alumni. Jack and Hannah Dale of Wrendale Designs who have grown their business from £0 to £2.5 million in four years shared their story and insights. Tish Bas and Hazel Williams from Paperchase gave a large multiple retailer's perspective and answered loads of questions from an inquisitive audience. Jessica Hogarth spoke brilliantly on licensing and copying issues.

    The Ladder Club 2016 - Day 2

    I shared my experience of export, cash flow and financial growing pains. Mark Coulson from Coulson Macleod discussed warehousing and fulfilment options. Gale Astley, Warren Lomax and Jakki Brown spoke on PR and how to generate sales and leads through PG magazine. The day ended with a panel Q&A session with the speakers and an interesting discussion on price increases that are expected in 2017.

    The Ladder Club 2016 was a fantastic example of the wonderful and supportive nature of the greeting card industry. I loved speaking at it and am so grateful to Lynn and Jakki for starting it. It has helped so many publishers and creatives over the years. If you are thinking about setting up a greeting card business don't miss it next year.

    10 Top Climbers from the Ladder Club

    10 Ladder Cub Alumni on their way up

    The Ladder Club 2016 - Day 2

  • How retailers can start selling online

    Selling online for retailers

    At Autumn Fair this year I chaired a panel on ‘Lessons learned from journeys into ecommerce' with two independent retailers who are successfully selling online. I was so impressed with the ways that my two panelists had made sales without spending big money on expensive websites that I thought I’d share them with you:

    Low Cost Digital Marketing

    On the panel were Alice Wheeler from Wonderland near Glasgow and Claire Rose from Miss Claire Rose in Harrogate. Both have bricks and mortar stores and both sell online. It’s worth following them on their social media pages, which have been a big part of their sales success. You can find them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram via their websites.

    Both retailers have purchased their web domains and used free or low cost software like Weebly to get simple, responsive (shows well on mobiles) websites up. The sites show where they are, what they sell and have easy shopping cart software which enables them to take orders. This isn’t the bulk of where their sales come from though.

    Social media is an important part of how they sell. It really is as simple as taking photos of what they have on offer (often just using the camera on their phones) and posting them straight to their social media accounts. Their followers then like and share them across a larger audience than the retailers initial fan base. Customers will often order just by messaging them on these platforms.

    Selling on Facebook

    If you look at Wonderland’s Facebook page, for example, Alice has photographed images of products underneath which her followers will post comments. As customers ask questions, Alice then engages with them quickly (You can set your phone to alert you when customers message or  comment). The more engagement she has the higher her posts show on other FB news feeds and all of the Facebook friends of the customer potentially get to see the interaction.

    The median average number of Facebook friends is 200. Imagine the equivalent scenario in your shop. Someone browsing and asking a member of your sales team questions would have up to 200 people watching the interaction and seeing what you are both doing. If it’s a product that sells well you are very likely to get additional sales from this interaction.

    What’s important is that it’s all from the hip and quick and easy for Alice to do. She doesn’t prep high end photos in photoshop. She doesn’t put text on the image with pricing, colourways or dimensions. Less is more. You want engagement and you want customers asking questions and interacting on your page.

    If someone chooses to purchase they might then message Alice via Facebook Messenger. Payment can then be taken quickly and easily by Paypal or later if collected in person.

    Shipping to Your Fans

    Both retailers offer to ship their orders to customers for a small fee and use their local post office for shipping. As the volumes increase they can look to outsource this aspect or talk to suppliers about drop shipping. For now though they are up and running and selling online.

    One of the key things that struck me was how powerful a small local fan base of your shop is. Obviously you have to stock products that people want at a price that’s right and displayed in a attractive way. Once you get this right your fan base will grow and you need to build this base on social media. You don’t need lots of followers, just focus on people who love what you do.

    Your raving fans are easier to sell more to, give great reviews and constantly refer new customers to you. It’s better to have 100 good followers like this than 10,000 you paid for that don’t care. To get going it’s useful to encourage friends and family members to like you on social media. Then make sure your social media details are on your bags, till receipts, website and marketing.

    Negative Feedback

    One of the main fears retailers often have about selling online is negative feedback. The fact of the matter is that you can’t escape this. Even if you don’t have website you may already have negative feedback online. It’s better to engage with customers by being online. Then you can turn it around.

    Another important aspect of meeting customer expectations is to empower your team to be able to make decisions and take care of customers. At Blue Eyed Sun and with our wedding website www.IvyEllen.com know that if they can fix a problem for £50 or less then they can get on and sort it. That way they can act quickly to post out replacements for damages or missing items without causing our customers and delays or further frustration.

    Free Listings

    TripAdvisor was cited as a great way of dealing with feedback head on. It’s not just for hotels and restaurants, you can also register your store. Encourage your core fans and friends to write some good reviews to get you going. Because people use TripAdvisor to plan their trips (including where they will shop) you can increase footfall to your bricks and mortar shop. If you have not registered your store on there yet, it’s free and worth doing.

    Miss Claire Rose also links to her TripAdvisor page from her website which has over 70 positive reviews giving added reassurance to new customers.

    Make sure you also list your shop on Google so that it shows up on Googlemaps for keywords on products you sell. It’s free to do and again you can get reviews of your store on Google so that more people visit you online and offline. Visit www.google.co.uk/business to get started.

    Instagram

    Claire also uses Instagram to present a Smorgasbord of delicious product that she stocks in her shop. Images have to be nicer on Instagram and the app has a range of filters to help you with this. Using hashtags like #greetingcards will get your post seen by a wider range of people than just your followers because people use the hashtags to search for images on subjects they are interested in. Followers who like products can message you to order and like your photos to increase your marketing reach.

    Getting Started

    As anyone who retails online or offline, business is an ongoing exercise in improvement. What I found most inspiring about hearing from Claire and Alice is the way they just got on with it. So, if you have smartphone, what’s stopping you? If they can do it, so can you. Often we can hold ourselves back by trying to be too perfect. Their success shows how selling online can be as simple as setting up a Facebook page.

    9 tips for social selling

    How to get started with digital marketing

    10 things to do before using social media for business

  • Blue Eyed Sun presented with Queen's Award for Export

    blue eyed sun queen's award 2016

    Queens Award Celebration 2016Blue Eyed Sun Ltd, a handmade greeting card company selling direct to retail, has been officially presented the Queen’s Award for International Trade by the Lord-Lieutenant of West Sussex.

    The presentation took place at their new factory in Burgess Hill and was attended by the High Sheriff of West Sussex, the Mayor of Burgess Hill, the Chairman of West Sussex County Council and the Chairman of Mid-Sussex County Council.

    “We are thrilled to have won this prestigious award and were honoured that such a distinguished group of local dignitaries came to celebrate with us, along with many wonderful customers, suppliers, family and friends of Blue Eyed Sun. This award is an amazing tribute to the dedication and hard work of our fantastic team.”

    - Jeremy Corner, MD of Blue Eyed Sun

    Guests enjoyed a tour of the publisher’s new production and distribution facility, which the company recently acquired in Victoria Road, Burgess Hill. Founded by artist Jo Corner (from a tiny bedsit in Brighton in 2000), Blue Eyed Sun has grown to sixteen staff  and sells tens of thousands of handmade cards every week in over 20 countries around the world. UK customers include Fortnum and Mason, Paperchase John Lewis, Waitrose, Fenwicks and a host of design-led independent retailers. Their international expansion has been particularly impressive in the last four years.

    Jo and Jeremy attended a special Queen’s Award event at Buckingham Palace in July where they presented her Majesty the Queen with one of their 90th Birthday cards. The Queen has received over 100,000 cards celebrating her ninetieth birthday year.

    The UK greeting card market leads the world in terms of design, with £1.7 billion in annual sales (up 5% on the previous year). British consumers buy more cards per person than any other country. Cards are sold in one in six retail outlets in the UK.

    Read about Blue Eyed Sun's visit to Buckingham Palace

    Watch a short video about Blue Eyed Sun's export success

    Learn how to grow your export sales

    Queens Award Presentation 2016

  • The Henries Awards Winners 2016

    The Henries Awards Winners 2016

    The Henries Awards Winners 2016 for the best greeting cards and card publishers in the UK have been announced!

    Here is a complete list of the Henries winners and finalists for this year.

    A special congratulations to Gary Rowley, MD of UK Greetings, who won the Honorary Achievement Award

    Sara Miller, creative director and founder of Sara Miller London won Most Promising Young Designer Or Artist

    Finalists

    Elliott Bennett, designer of Hearts Designs

    Rebecca Crouch, founder and creative director of Raspberry Blossom

    Sarah Knight, founder and designer of Stormy Knight

    Emma Pearce, senior designer for Hotchpotch

    Louise Tiler, founder and designer of Louise Tiler

    Sausage Dog from Sooshichacha  won Best Cute Range

    Finalists

    Cuckoo from Paper Bird Publishing

    Hannah Pontin: Doodle & Block from ArtPress

    Mischief from I Drew This

    Quackers from Stop The Clock Design

    Toby Little Dude from The Art Group

    Love You More Valentine's Day from Stop The Clock Design won Best Spring Seasons Range

    Finalists

    Alice Scott Mother’s Day from Pigment

    Colourful Captions Valentine's Day from Tache Crafts

    Grin & Tonic Father's Day from Brainbox Candy

    Paloma Mother's Day from Belly Button Designs

    The Pigment Collection Easter from Laura Darrington

    Pretty Things Mother's Day from Paper Salad

    Tropicana from Second Nature  won Best Contemporary Trend Range

    Finalists

    Aquarelle from Ling Design

    Aries from Meraki

    Charmed from YTR Design

    Facematts from Brainbox Candy

    Sara Miller London from The Art File

    Gin + Frolics from Rosie Made A Thing won Best Humorous Range

    Finalists

    Etched from Pigment

    Good Things from Redback Cards

    Just Saying from Paperlink

    Mungo & Shoddy from Tillovision

    Scribbles from Hallmark

    Landmarks from I Drew This won Best Art Range

    Finalists

    Jewels from Bug Art

    Sara Miller London from The Art File

    Stick and Stitch from Catherine Kleeli

    The Thing About Dogs from Pigment

    Wild Life Botanical from Lola Design

    Silver Leaf from Janie Wilson  won Best Handmade or Hand-finished Range

    Finalists

    Extended Scrabbley Neons from Bexy Boo

    Glitter Dogs + Cats from English Graphics

    Paper Diamonds Deluxe from Wendy Jones-Blackett

    Say It With Lace from Image Plus

    Veneer from Cinnamon Aitch

    Gibson Core Line from UK Greetings won Best Traditional Words or Sentiments Range

    Finalists

    Essence from IC&G

    Heartfelt from Ling Design

    Letterpress from Words 'n' Wishes

    Velvet from Jonny Javelin

    Wishes from The Original Poster Company

    Words of Wisdom from Dandelion Stationery  won Best Contemporary Words or Sentiments Range

    Finalists

    Flora from Stop The Clock Design

    Mad Dots from Hearts Designs

    On The Cards from The Art Group

    Simply Quotes from Rambling Mansion

    Velvet Ink from Clare Maddicott Publications

    Geronimo from The Art File won Best Male Range

    Finalists

    Black Lines from Stop The Clock Design

    Bomicks from Ivorymint

    Gold Gentlemen from Louise Tiler

    Look And Learn from Cath Tate Cards

    Manochrome from Noel Tatt

    Facematt Funimals from Brainbox Candy won Best Children's Range

    Finalists

    Children's Range from Sooshichacha

    The Happy Birthday Range from Laura Skilbeck

    Kiddiwinks from Think Of Me

    Scribbles from Rachel Ellen Designs

    Sugar and Spice from Janie Wilson

    Gold Female Contemporary from Hambledon Studios won Best Wholesale Range

    Finalists

    Crème Brulee from BGC Studios

    Hebe's Garden from Hambledon Studios

    Opacity from Xpress Yourself

    Prelude Wedding Collection from BGC Studios

    Trinkets from Simon Elvin

    Paper Diamonds Deluxe from Wendy Jones-Blackett  won Best Occasions or Relations Range

    Finalists

    Cherished Mini-Cards from Lagom Design

    Gemma Correll Collection from Ohh Deer

    Jaz&Baz from Portfolio

    Mimosa from Paperlink

    Sassafras Occasions from Cardmix

    Paloma from Belly Button Designs won Best Christmas Box or Pack

    Finalists

    Art House - Paper House from The Great British Card Company (GBCC)

    Boots 2016 Christmas Boxed Cards from UK Greetings

    A Christmas Cracker from Wrendale Designs

    Dear To Me Xmas Boxes from Dear To Me Studio

    Deer Box from Woodmansterne

    Christmas Keepsakes from Rachel Ellen Designs won Best Christmas Counter Cards Range

    Finalists

    Christmas Sparkle On Clay from English Graphics

    Jaz&Baz from Portfolio

    Festive from Designed by Mrs Lovesy

    Moonbeams and Magic from Five Dollar Shake

    Traditional Christmas from UK Greetings

    1000 Words from U Studio won Best Photographic Range

    Finalists

    Alicia Bock from Lagom Design

    Life Is Sweet from Icon

    Loose Leashes from Woodmansterne

    Take A View from UK Greetings

    Winter from Mine Osman

    Star Wars: The Force Awakens from Hallmark won Best Licensed Card Range

    Finalists

    Disney Originals from UK Greetings

    Happy Jackson from Pigment

    Off The Leash from Cardmix

    PAW Patrol from Danilo

    Quentin Blake from Woodmansterne

    Neon Revolution from Glick Best Giftwrappings Collection

    Finalists

    Birds of Paradise from Artebene

    Cornflower Giftbags from Cinnamon Aitch

    Platinum Male Collection from Belly Button Bubble

    Sara Miller London from Penny Kennedy

    Summer Tropical from Deva Designs

    Rainbow from Ling Design won The Henry Cole Classic Award

    Finalists

    Bottomline from Paperlink

    Drama Queen from Cardmix

    Edward Monkton from Really Good

    Pizazz from Nigel Quiney Publications

    Best Service To The Independent Retailer

    Winners 2016

    International Cards and Gifts (IC&G) - Gold Award

    Noel Tatt - Silver Award

    UK Greetings - Bronze Award

    Finalists

    Abacus Cards

    Cherry Orchard

    Jonny Javelin

    Nigel Quiney

    Paperlink

    Pigment

    Second Nature

    Woodmansterne

    Words n Wishes

    The Henries Awards winners 2016 were revealed at a glamorous Bollywood themed Henries Ball on Thursday 6th October at the Lancaster London Hotel, overlooking HydePark.

    Over 15,000 cards were entered into this year’s Henries and these were judged by an impressive Judging Panel, made up of top retailers (including buyers from John Lewis, WHSmith, Tesco, Paperchase, Scribbler, National Trust, House of Cards, Waterstones, Funky Pigeon as well as many leading independents). Congratulations to all of the Henries Awards winners and everyone who made it through to the finals.

    See previous Henries Awards winners and finalists by clicking here

    Read some award winning advice for the Henries and other awards here

  • 10 things to do before using social media for business

    social media for businessFor anyone considering social media for business it can be overwhelming. No sooner do you have your Facebook page sorted, the algorithms change and your posts don’t get seen as often. You set up your Instagram and then Snapchat is supposed to be the new thing. Plus some platforms fizzle out and become less popular.

    Marketeers are often quick to jump on the next big thing in social media. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement. If it’s not a new social media platform like Snapchat or WhatsApp, it’s new buzzwords like Social Selling. How can you unsure that you aren’t wasting your time and are best positioned to reap the benefits from these tools?

    Here’s how to get started:

    1. Know your customers

    It’s no good setting up any social media accounts without knowing your customers, so that you can find them and others like them online. What demographics do your customers fit into and are these groups using social media? If so, which platforms are they using? Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest are all good, although you may find that your audience favours some more than others.

    Track which customers are your biggest fans and return to purchase most often or spend the most. Ask them why thy like your store, what social media they use and what they’d like to see from you online. Over time you may find that the customers online differ from those coming into your store. Pay attention and give each group what they need in ways that appeal to each.

    2. A Good Offering

    It's no good driving footfall to your door if you don't have the right offering for these people when they arrive. Do you stock products that customers you are marketing to will want and at prices that are right for them? Are they displayed attractively and is your store the right type of environment for them? If you know the profile of your biggest fans what can you do to make your business and your offering even more appealing to them?

    3. What Makes You Different?

    As well as knowing your customers you must know yourself and how you are perceived. Niches are the key to success in business these days. You can’t be all things to all people. What is your unique selling point? Remember, good service is expected as standard these days. What is it that motivates your fans to buy from you? What makes you stand out from the crowd? Knowing this will help you attract more of the right customers and it will also drive engagement on the right social media networks. For Blue Eyed Sun it’s “gorgeous handmade greeting cards for design-led shops.”

    4. Communicate your Specialness

    It's all very well having a great USP (unique selling point), but if you don't tell your customers about it you are missing a trick. Communicating your uniqueness consistently across your marketing will help get your story across when you are using social media for business. Keep it simple, clear and concise. Remember to mention what makes you special in your bios when you set up your social media accounts. If you can say what you do and who it’s for then even better.

    5. Your website works

    Surveys have shown that you have less than 8 seconds to engage with visitors to your site before they move on or choose to stay. Once you have spent time and money driving customers to your door you want to make sure that they don't leave because of something that you haven't got working on your site. If your website is slow loading, not up to date, has broken links or doesn't deliver on what is expected then people will leave very quickly. It's worth focussing on what you want customers to do when they visit your website and then making sure everything on it funnels them towards this goal.

    6. A well trained team

    If you send a load of time and energy driving people to your business and your team don’t deliver then you are wasting resources. Make sure that your staff are on message with your brand and understand what the business focus is. Then give them the support and tools to be able to deliver satisfaction to your customers and resolve issues fast and satisfactorily. If you are delivering products make sure that you have good operations and logistics set up to get your products to customers quickly. Amazon have set the bar very high for all of us. Do your best to make meeting high expectations standard procedure for your team.

    7. A useful blog

    Blogging has been the backbone to all of the social media and digital marketing activity for Blue Eyed Sun and our wedding stationery business, Ivy Ellen. Customer focussed content helps drive traffic through these platforms to your website and enhances your SEO (search engine optimisation) so that you are well ranked on Google. Try to avoid just writing about yourself and selling your products on your blog. People want to read informative articles on subjects that interest them or they find amusing. None of us like to be sold to, even though most of us like to buy.

    8. Performance Tracking

    You need to analyse what’s working and what isn’t on your website so that you can adjust accordingly. Sign up for Google’s free analytics tool at www.google.co.uk/analytics/. Google will send you a short piece of hidden code that you can have your website developer add to your website for very little cost. This fantastic tool will provide you with an incredible amount of data on how many people come to your site, how they navigate through it and where the come from to find you. It will show you which social media sites are driving the most traffic and help you to improve what you do.

    9. Social strategy

    Always listen first when you start using social media for business. Are you in the right place? Watch what works and what doesn’t before you post. What do you like to share and engage with online? Don’t just blast sales messages out, remember that interaction is more important on these networks than broadcasting. Plan out when you will broadcast your social media messages and run tests on the times of day that best suit your audience. Also plan when to check in and read the tweets and messages of those you follow in your industry. Remember to leave them a like, a share, a retweet or a message to let them know you were there and to engage with them.

    10. Engaged fan network

    The more engaged you are with your loyal fan network offline the more likely you will be able to take this onto social media. You can easily connect with your customer email database when you set up your accounts on these platforms. Good customers who are already online are more likely to share you with their friends and the wider your audience will become over time. It's great to have a lot of followers, but a small network of engaged followers is more powerful and will give you better results.

    Whilst it’s important to set up your business brand on social media, remember that you and your team are the faces of your business. People like to buy from people so be aware of the importance of your own personal brand online and use it to help your business along.

    One of the biggest shifts I’ve personally had to make when using social media for business is towards network thinking (which is open, random and supportive) and away from the institutional thinking (which is closed, selective and controlling). What this means for you practically is that digital marketing is more about community and engagement. You can be selective about who you follow and engage with, but you will often find that opportunities arise from unlikely and random places so it’s worth following most people who follow and engage with you. You cannot control the internet so it’s also best to be a nice, helpful and friendly person online.

    What is ORS network thinking?

    Learn about social psychology in social media

    Why you should always listen first on social media

     

  • 15 things I learned at Sage Summit 2016 in Chicago

    15 Things Learned Sage Summit 2016I was recently invited by Sage to Chicago to speak at their annual Sage Summit. The business focussed event, held over 3-4 days, is an opportunity to network, learn and grow. It featured some amazing keynote speakers and loads of smaller breakout sessions and interesting seminars.

    As you can see by the photos on this page I was lucky enough to meet some of these amazing people and learn some useful business lessons from them. Here are my highlights:

    DeterminationJeremy Corner at Sage Summit 2016

    On my Virgin Atlantic flight there I wondered what it would be like to meet Richard Branson and decided to do everything I could to make it happen. Incredibly, the very next morning I was shaking his hand. I then set myself the challenge of meeting the rest of the celebrity speakers that week. It wasn’t easy. I was just determined and had a good energy for making it happen. I believed that I could do it. I even managed to blag backstage access to The Killers gig that week. Determination and self belief are so important to achieving your goals.

    Don’t be needy

    At the same time as being determined it’s important not to be desperate. Although I believed that I could achieve my goals, I was also prepared to fail. I just didn’t focus on the failure. I focused on what I wanted but not to the point where it consumed me. In a cab ride in Chicago, the adventurer and philanthropist Justin Packshaw shared similar advice he once received from an experienced entrepreneur, “Needy ain’t sexy.” It sums this up nicely I think.

    Your Team

    Richard Branson, whose Virgin group comprises more than 400 companies, could never have grown without delegating. As he says, “Find someone better than you to run your business.”

    Star of  Shark Tank (America’s Dragon’s Den) Robert Herjavec agrees “If you’re going to do everything in your business, you’re always going to stay small. The only way to grow is with a great team.”

    Do what you love

    Fellow TV Personality and entrepreneur Daymond John explains how to achieve this: “Make a list of things you love doing and things you don’t. Then, outsource everything you don’t love doing and it will change your life.”

    One Word

    I caught up with business youtuber Evan Carmichael who has a book coming out called: Your One Word. The book is about finding the core word that has meaning for you and truly inspires your business and team. Evan’s word is ‘Believe’ and his team is so into 'believing in entrepreneurs' that one of them even has the word 'Believe' as a tattoo on her arm. Having a focus for what you are about and what you want to achieve with your business is so powerful.

    Power of Focus

    Hearing actress Gwyneth Paltrow talk about KPI’s (key performance indicators) and sales funnel strategies was an eye opener. I find it inspiring that anyone can shift career, take on new challenges and start up a business. As the founder of successful online retailer Goop, Gwyneth’s key take away was to remember to focus, “Where you look is where you go. Keep your eye on the prize and believe in yourself.”

    Understanding Customers

    Another actress, Zooey Deschanel, also made the shift to business even though she didn’t see herself as particularly business minded. She partnered with experienced people and created HelloGiggles, a positive online community focussed on empowering millennial women. For Zooey, she felt instinctively that “If I like it someone else will like it.” She then shaped her brand around her audience which helped it to grow. It’s so important to put yourself in the shoes of your customers to understand your business and grow.

    Solicit Feedback

    I was invited to lunch with Donald Brydon the Chairman of Sage and a handful of Sage customers. He was very interested in what customers thought about Sage, good and bad. It really doesn’t matter whether you have a small business of a large FTSE 100 plc to run, soliciting feedback from your customers is essential. If the Chairman can make time to do it, so can we.

    Social Conversation

    Actor and tech investor with over 150 companies in his portfolio, Ashton Kutcher, is a social media whizz and arguably has generated a lot of his business success through his use of Twitter and other social platforms. Social media is not a broadcast platform he says, “It’s a conversation with a feedback loop.” You must engage with your followers. Just as you must engage with your customers.

    What’s your Story?

    I’m fascinated by how companies create the emotions attached to logos, how customers perceive brands and how brands endure over time. Understanding what your focus is and communicating that well are key to success. I was lucky enough to spend some time with branding expert Sasha Strauss from Innovation Protocol who reminded me how important it is for the brand message to work at every level throughout your company. For example, did you know that every employee at Disneyland is called a cast member? From the toilet cleaners through to the performers they are all cast members focussed on creating an amazing show for their customers.

    Saving Time and Money

    Taking time to of my busy schedule to attend an event which isn't directly connected to my card business doesn’t seem that sensible, but opportunities are everywhere to generate more business or to cut costs. I always pick up useful titbits of information at Sage Summit. On the export panel I sat on, my friend Gemma Price from SuperFood Market mentioned how she saved thousands renegotiating her courier costs. That single piece of advice has now been actioned and will save our business in excess of £5,000 this year alone.

    Not just about the money

    Global public benefit company Kickstarter has generated over $5 billion for start ups and created over 300,000 jobs through it’s crowd funding model that helps a range of creative projects get off the ground. It’s co-founder Yancey Strickler reminded us at Sage Summit that supporting someone’s idea and investing in their passion, even without receiving equity in return, is a hugely valuable way of contributing to the world.

    The Value of PR

    One of the reasons I’ve been able to maintain such good levels of PR and marketing over the years is that those in the media know that I am quick to respond and happy to help. Because of this I got the opportunity to be interviewed on Bloomberg Radio in Chicago which was broadcast throughout America. I shared the success of our greeting card business and even generated a sales lead from an American business wanting to send cards to their customers. It’s important to make PR a regular activity in your business. Click here to listen to my interview.

    Network Power

    Last year I made friends with Huffington Post blogger, Sandy Abrams, and Social Media Expert, Rebecca Coleman. We kept in touch online and supported one another’s talks, blog posts and social media activity at Sage Summit. If you want to have good reach on social media you need to build a network of supportive friends. I think it’s essential in business too.

    Picture It 

    It’s so easy to dismiss selfies as narcissistic and self indulgent. I changed strategy this year with the aim of increasing my personal brand and awareness of my businesses. Images are a very powerful way of doing this. When you tag people in the images it shows up in their feed so they can then easily remember you and share you with their networks. Search engines all index them. Images with celebs have a similar power and high level of engagement so grab selfies whenever the opportunities arise.

    One of the reasons I leapt at the chance to attend my second Sage Summit is the insatiable appetite I have for learning and growing. Being around inspiring people who are all focussed on improving their businesses and their lives is incredibly energising. It’s definitely worth setting aside time in your calendar each year to sharpen your saw rather than keeping on hacking away with the same blunt instrument and wondering why it’s not working.

    Jeremy is speaking on ‘Ten things to do in business before using social media’ at the Autumn Fair eCommerce Theatre on Sunday 4th September.

    Read my daily diary from the Chicago Sage Summit on the Sage UK blog

    Discover the 12 business lessons I learned at Sage Summit 2015 in New Orleans

    Chicago Sage Summit 2016

  • Thinking Of You Week 2016 starts 26th September

    Thinking Of You Week 2016Thinking of You Week 2016 is the Greeting Card Association's campaign to send a card a day and create a worldwide wave of love, caring and happiness during the last week of September each year. This year Thinking Of You Week runs from the 26th September to the 2nd October 2016.

    More people than ever are getting involved in Thinking of You Week 2016 including retailers, publishers, suppliers, schools, charities and individuals all organising special activities to promote this exciting event and to create that special feel-good wave.

    Below is a a flyer that you can download and print out for your shop window display. Just drag the image to your desktop or right click on your mouse and save. The GCA are also giving a prize for the Best Event and Best Window Display to retailers so be sure to share your images on social media using #ThinkingOfYouWeek for a chance to win!

    Feel free to download the banner from the top of this page by right clicking and selecting 'save image as' to add it to your desktop. From there you should be able to use it as a cover image for your Facebook and Twitter pages during the months of August and September.

    We'd love to share what you are doing for Thinking of You Week 2016 so do let us know what you get up to.

    Why you should care about Thinking of You Week

    Download the GCA Thinking of You Week PR toolkit

    Science proves that receiving cards is good for people

    Thinking of you week flyer

  • Blue Eyed Sun add to Vintage Too range

    Vintage Too Age CardsBlue Eyed Sun have added twelve new designs to their best selling Vintage Too collection

    Vintage Too is based on original embroidered artworks by textile artist, Jo Corner. These beautiful cards are litho printed and embossed to give a realistic look and feel. They are all hand finished with jewels.

    Vintage Too cards are all blank inside and all come cello wrapped with an envelope that is 165mm x 165mm. Sold in sixes the designs are available for trade customers to order through our agents, by brochure, at shows or on our website. All board used for Vintage Too is responsibly sourced from sustained and managed forests by FSC accredited suppliers.

    You can see these wonderful Vintage Too greeting cards first in person at:

    Autumn Fair 2016 at the NEC in Birmingham 4-7 September - Hall 4 - Stand 4D03.

    To stock these cards in your shop click here. If you'd like to see them in your local shop please tell them and point them in the direction of www.blueeyedsun.co.uk or recommend a shop to us by clicking here. You can also visit our stockists page to find a store near you that may be selling them. To see what else is new from Blue Eyed Sun click here.

  • Autumn Fair 2016 - Essential Information

    Autumn Fair 2016 - Essential InfoBlue Eyed Sun will soon be exhibiting at the Autumn Fair 2016 trade show at the NEC. Officially launching at the show are additions to our beautiful new 2017 Spring Seasons designs along with our new best selling ranges Vintage TooFleurAlchemyTahiti and Crochet Critters so be sure to stop by and see us.

    About Autumn Fair 2016

    Autumn Fair 2016 runs for four days from Sunday 4th September to Wednesday 7th September from 09:00 - 18:00 at the NEC in Birmingham. It brings toether an inspirational showcase of over 1,400 British and International Exhibitors and attracts buyers from all over the world. It's a great opportunity to stock up on goods for that all important Christmas season and to see what's new for Spring seasons next year.

    To register for Autumn Fair International 2016 please click here

    Seminars not to missJeremy Corner Autumn Fair 2016

    10 Things to do in your business before using social media

    Sunday 4th September - 14:10 - 14:40 Ecommerce Theatre in Hall 5

    Panel: Lessons learned from journeys into ecommerce

    Monday 5th September - 13:25 - 14:00 Ecommerce Theatre in Hall 5.

    Where to Stay at Autumn fair 2016

    Accommodation is a lot easier to find at Autumn Fair than Spring Fair and prices tend to be cheaper too. There are now several hotels on the NEC site, including Holiday Inn ExpressThe Hilton MetropoleThe Arden, and a Premier InnClick here for more accommodation options at Autumn Fair.

    Where to Eat at Autumn Fair

    Check out our 5 Great Restaurants near the NEC Birmingham blog post.

    How to get to Autumn Fair 2016

    Travel to the show is easy with excellent rail and motorway links. The NEC post code is B40 1NT (if you use a sat nav). You can park for free in several car parks on site, all of which have free shuttle buses to take you around the complex. Birmingham International Rail Station is a 5 minute walk from the show as is Birmingham International Airport. It is an 80 minute train ride from London Euston Rail Station. You can also click on the map below to plan your journey.

    When you get to Birmingham do remember to come and see us in Hall 4 on Stand 4D03.

    Can't make the show? Click here to request access all of our designs online.

    Autumn Fair 2014 Floor Plan

    View Larger Map

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