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  • Social Psychology in Social Media

    Social Psychology in Social MediaIt’s not uncommon for companies to question the business case behind using social media. ‘What’s the Return on Investment (ROI)?’ management ask. The fact of the matter is that we are social beings by nature and this brave new world of social media is a digital extension of the way we operate in real life.

    A friend of mine recently told me that if he was to walk into a particular upmarket hotel in Hong Kong tomorrow the concierge and staff would greet like a long lost friend and ask after his wife and family, despite him never spending a night there. It’s not that they are particularly over friendly in this hotel, this happens because my friend is what is known as a familiar stranger.

    This is one of several examples of social psychology that offers another way of thinking about the business case for using social media more regularly:

    The Familiar Stranger

    We all have them in our lives, people that we recognise from regular activities, but with whom we do not interact. They are visual rather than verbal relationships where both parties maintain anonymity. Particularly common in urban environments, a good example of a familiar stranger would be someone you see on your regular commute to work, but never speak with. In the case of my friend, the staff in the hotel felt close to him because they had seen him around the lobby and the bar on a regular basis. As a policeman and security specialist he has used this technique to infiltrate secure buildings.

    If you exist on social media you are opening yourself up to a larger number of familiar strangers to become aware of you and what you do. You will be surprised at the number of people who watch and listen on these networks and become interested in you as you go about your business online, even though they never engage directly with you. Becoming a digital familiar stranger can also help you bypass gatekeepers to get to those all important sales contacts.

    The Power of Crowds

    Have you ever joined a crowd without knowing why? One social psychology study arranged for collaborators to stand together and stare up at a film camera on the sixth floor window above a busy city street. Only 4% of passers by stopped and looked up a single person was standing there doing this same, whereas 40% stopped if 15 people were already there gazing upwards. The crowd had a contagious effect on behaviour. Modern studies show variances on how this works today.

    What I find most interesting about this experiment is the small number of collaborators you need to attract a bigger crowd. You might only need fifteen people staring up at your blog and engaging with your Facebook pages for more passing people to be drawn to your business to see what everyone else is looking at.

    It’s a Small World

    Many believe that we are all connected to one another by six degrees of separation. In other words you could start with a farmer in Outer Mongolia who would know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, who knows someone who knows US President Obama. This idea has been popularised by the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game.

    We are probably all more closely connected to the people we wish to connect with than we think. That important buyer, that key supplier or that particular customer we are hoping to connect with is just a hop, skip and a jump away on social media. LinkedIn in particular tracks how our networks are connected.

    Weaker Links

    The people we love and feel the most connected to us are often the ones we value the most in our lives. Yet studies have shown that it is actually the weaker links in our networks of relationships that can be the most valuable to us when landing better jobs. In other words it’s not always our close friends that help us with our careers, but our peripheral acquaintances.

    Having a wide range of relationships and connections is possible on the variety of social media tools we have for managing our relationships. If you are not using these tools you are missing out on developing these relationships and the opportunities that come with them.

    We all know elements of these social psychology experiments to be true having seen aspects of them in our everyday lives. Yet many people and businesses put off joining social media networks or engaging on them because they are so focussed on direct returns rather than seeing the bigger picture of going well in the digital world and convincing by our digital presence.

    Why you should always listen first on Social Media

    How to get started with Digital Marketing

  • 6 Business Lessons from the Rugby World Cup

    Jean De Villiers - Jeremy Corner - WRC2015Having been born in Cape Town and a Springboks fan all my life, I have been in rugby heaven over the last couple of months as the Rugby World Cup, that is contested every four years, has been played at a variety of football and rugby grounds throughout the UK.

    Despite the risk to my marriage by abandoning my wife for so many weekends, I have been fortunate enough to attend many of the games and thought I’d share with you some lessons I have learned during this time. It didn’t start well for my team though…

    1. Don’t be too overconfident

    The first rugby world cup game I went to was Japan vs South Africa at Brighton’s Amex stadium. It was to be my son’s first ever match and the night before I asked Sam who he was going to support. “Who are you supporting, Daddy?” he asked. “South Africa,” I replied. “I’ll support Japan,” he announced. Knowing my son doesn’t like to lose, I tried to get him to change his mind as South Africa were fielding their most experienced side with 851 caps between them, they’d never lost an opening match and Japan had not won a single world cup game since 1991. Nobody gave Japan a chance, yet win they did by 34-32.  As I was eating humble pie on the train home, my son leant in and shared his thoughts on the South African team, “Daddy you shouldn’t be too over confident or you won’t try hard enough.”

    This is so true of business, success can get in the way of you trying hard so be sure to always give your very best and never over estimate your chances of success.

    2. The true value of games

    Whilst I was gutted to see South Africa lose to Japan in undoubtedly the biggest upset in Rugby World Cup history, I was thrilled for my son as we got to share the experience of everything I love about sport. No game has a given result until the final whistle blows and even underdogs can triumph. The Japanese played with discipline, hard work and focus. They were losing until the dying minutes and had two opportunities to take a penalty kick for a draw. Instead they chose to push on for a try, which would secure them the extra points they needed for victory. This self belief and courage was so inspiring that even South African supporters had to acknowledge that the Cherry Blossoms were great to watch. The men played with real heart and one had a real sense of the Japanese warrior spirit that day. The tournament came alive that weekend and many other teams have risen to the occasion in matches that have since followed.

    No matter how tough it can feel in business when things aren’t going well, digging deep and pushing hard can turn the whole experience around and be the making of you. Never give up.

    3. Manners maketh the man

    Football is famously differentiated from rugby by being defined as a gentleman’s game played by ruffians and rugby a ruffian’s game played by gentleman. That is not to say that rugby is without the odd ruffling of feathers between players, especially after after a late or high tackle. It is however predominantly pervaded by a sense of discipline and respect. I purchased a special ear piece at the ground which allows you to hear the microphone on the referee and often picks up the voices of nearby players. It’s a fascinating insight into how the men on the field conduct themselves. They are polite, considerate and respectful of the referee and the rules of the game. They can be incredibly sporting too as shown by Sonny Bill Williams with South African player Jesse Kriel here.

    Business can sometimes feel a bit rough and one can feel hard done by when a competitor challenges you. How you conduct yourself in such circumstances shows strength of character. Being polite and respectful has long term effects on your business and those you work for. If you need to lose your temper save it for the privacy of your dressing room.

    4. Simplify your KPI’s

    One of the Kiwis in our group shared an interesting lesson from a recent talk by the All Black’s coach, Steve Hansen. The New Zealand team simplified their team’s Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) down to just four key areas: scrums, line outs, tackling and catching the ball. I found it insightful that the defending world champions simplified their performance analysis in this way. We discussed how to simplify the KPI’s in my Kiwi friend’s business and decided that his two most important KPI’s are 1) customer satisfaction 2) referrals. Without customer satisfaction his clients wouldn’t recommend him. As referrals were his primary source of new business and new accounts were worth six figures to him, building systems around these two KPI’s was clearly going to benefit his business.

    How do you currently track your business performance? Is it simple or is it over complicated? We live in a world full of data. Sometimes too much of it can mean that we cannot see the wood for the trees. Keep it simple.

    5. The bounce of the ball

    You’ve probably heard the infamous joke that “Rugby is a game played by men with odd shaped balls.” The shape of the ball has a huge effect on the game as one can never be sure of how it will be bounce. I was lucky enough to recently spend some time with South African rugby captain Jean de Villiers, whose international career was sadly ended by a broken jaw in the Samoa match. He pointed out that there are things like luck that are outside of your control that can affect the the game. The bounce of the ball, the nationality of the referee and the weather can all impact the way a match goes. How you choose to respond as a team is key. If the ball bounces well, you need to be in the right place to catch it. If it doesn’t you have to adapt and compromise.

    There are things that are outside of your company that you cannot control too. The economy, mishaps and a changing world all have an impact on our businesses. Being prepared and able to respond quickly when things bounce in our favour is just as important as being realistic and adapting when they don’t.

    6. Team work

    During the World Cup, New York Hedge fund manager and avid South African supporter, David Berman, showed me the similarities between rugby teams and chess. Each chess piece has a points value in the game. The king is the highest (as without him the game is over), the queen is next highest, then the castle, then knights, bishops and down to the pawns with the lowest value of one point. Excluding the king, the points are based on how much each piece can move around the board. A queen can get to more squares than a rook and many more than a pawn. One can allocate points to each rugby team member in a similar way by looking at how capable they are as a player and how likely the are in their position to touch the ball. Those that are more capable need to be in positions where they can handle the ball a lot more. One must remember too that whilst the better players need to be able to play to their strengths, each team member has an important role to play in any team including the pawns, without whom the game would soon be over.

    Are your best people in the key positions that allow them to play to their strengths within your team? Do you value every team member and recognise their importance to your entire business? When teams click and work well together they are tough to beat.

    I can’t even begin to tell you how much fun it has been travelling the UK following the Rugby World Cup. I'm hugely grateful to my good friend Anthony who helped me get to so many games. We had a blast in Newcastle, Birmingham, Cardiff and London. The fans have been friendly and England has been a fantastic host. I’ve made new friends and reconnected with old ones too. I’ve even taken home some food for thought for our business. I hope you have too.

    France v Ireland World Cup Cardiff

    15 Ways Marathon Training can help your business

    10 Ways Yoga can Improve your Business

  • Why you should always listen first on Social Media

    Always Listen First

    The natural instinct when first using social media for business is to shout what you do from the rooftops. We see it all the time on platforms like Twitter. New users view it as another marketing or advertising channel in the same way that they might advertise in a magazine or newspaper. They sign up and blast out their sales message.

    None of us like to be sold to though, do we? We should all know better. It’s like turning up to a party and shouting through a megaphone at people that you have a buy one get one free deal. People are likely to tell you to ‘bogof yourself’.

    As my friend Baiju Solanki often says, the secret to success on Twitter is to always listen first. For a start you need to know where your customers or potential customers are on Twitter, how they are interacting and what they are interested in. You can’t do that without listening.

    Think of your social media goals as a flourishing, abundant, fruitful orchard that you are trying to create. First you have to find the right climate for your trees to grow, then you need to identify the soil the seeds will flourish in and what sort of nutrients they will need and how often they need feeding. If you overwater a plant you can kill it. Similarly if you don’t give it enough it won’t flourish. You can’t know and do all of this without paying attention, watching and listening first.

    So how do you do this for your retail outlet? First, sit down and draw a mind map of your shop. Write your business name in the middle of it. How your customers relate to it? Are they from a specific town or geographic area? Are they a certain demographic? What is the typical profile of your top customers? What do they like to do? How do they like to shop? Where do they like to shop? What TV shows do they like? What are their interests? Next look at your products. What do you sell? What products sell best in your store? What do customers love to buy from you? Why? What key words best describe your retail experience? You can add more to your mind map as you go. This is just to get you started.

    Once you have your keywords on your mind map, start searching for them in the search bar at the top right of your Twitter page. Start following people who are using the phrases and keywords on your mind map or those that have them in their bio. Create Twitter lists to make them easier to manage as your account grows. They help you to filter the volume in your normal feed. You can also download tools like Hootsuite, which let you track keywords constantly in the Twitter feed.

    As you grow these lists you can see how they behave and what they are interested in discussing. Some may even have specific weekly chats they engage in using the # symbol. This is all part of understanding the climate and requirements of the trees in your orchard. When you are ready start engaging, do it in a way that is not motivated by selling. Make friends as you would ordinarily. Be polite, courteous and helpful. If you have a sense of humour that will help, as long as you avoid anything potentially offensive to people.

    Over time you will also learn which of your friends online care about you and are supportive of what you do and which are just in it for themselves. Once you have earned the right in your community (through sharing, caring and contribution) to tweet your own message you can do so. You must keep your sales messages in moderate proportion to your overall supportive messages in which your orchard prefers to flourish. One doesn’t harvest fruit from an orchard without taking good care of it.

    Being social means caring and contributing. It’s not all about you. There are thousands of other people who are in the room with you. Think of social media as offering a variety of business benefits rather than just direct sales. Twitter is a fantastic tool for improving the way you do things and having a better understanding of your business.

    5 Ways Retailers Can Listen on Social Media:

    1. Search for discussions on your store

    What are people saying about you? You need to know how you are perceived online.

    2. Solicit feedback from your customers

    What else do they want from you? Be brave, ask them and listen carefully.

    3. Where can you improve?

    Learn from fellow businesses that are sharing best practice online

    4. Are there more opportunities?

    Watch your competitors to see what you are missing

    5. Can you grow your sales?

    Listen to your suppliers They know what lines sell best from their offering.

    Listening is one of 7 Key Habits of Highly Effective Retailers - Discover the remaining habits here

    How Retailers can get started with Digital Marketing

    Marketing for Retailers: Then vs Now

  • Blue Eyed Sun launch new In the Frame card range for men

    In the Frame - Birthday GuyBlue Eyed Sun are proud to present their new men's range of sixty In the Frame greeting cards

    In the Frame are beautifully embossed and litho printed on watercolour board. These eye catching, masculine cards are 160mm x 160mm and retail for £2.25. Sold in sixes to trade buyers only, the cards are blank inside, barcoded and cello-wrapped with an envelope. All are printed on thick manly board from sustainable sources.

    In the Frame cover all major card sending occasions for men, most male relations as well as number birthdays up to 100 years old. In the Frame are also available in Father's Day.

    Retailers can order In the Frame cards online from the trade only section of the site.

    To stock this range 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 or you can 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.

    See our In the Frame Fathers Day cards

    Click here to see our 2016 Valentine designs

    See our 2016 Mothers Day designs

    In the Frame - Birthday Age cards

  • The Henries Awards Winners 2015

    The Henries Awards 2015

    The Henries Awards Winners 2015 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 John and Jennie Procter of Scribbler who won the Honourary Achievement Award.


    The Henries Awards Winners 2015 are:


    Cathryn Jones, designer for Hotchpotch won Most Promising Young Designer Or Artist

    Finalists 2015The Henries 2015 - Cathryn Jones

    Rebecca Crouch, founder and creative director of Raspberry Blossom

    Emma Grant, designer for Woodmansterne

    Libby McMullin, founder and designer of Libby McMullin

    Tamsin Rennie, founder and director of Studio Seed

    Clair Rossiter, freelance illustrator


    Little Creatures from Pippi & Me won Best Cute Range

    Finalists 2015The Henries 2015 - Scribbler

    Big Bear Hugs from Abacus Cards

    Cats In Hats from Jo Clark Design

    Mischief from I Drew This

    Stripey Dogs from Stripey Cats Cards

    Tiddly Pom Pom from Paper Rose


    Springtime Easter from Cinnamon Aitch won Best Spring Seasons Range

    Finalists 2015The Henries 2015 - Wendy Jones Backett

    Alice Scott Mother’s Day from Pigment

    Love Letters Valentine’s Day from Hotchpotch

    Platinum Father’s Day from Belly Button Designs

    Quicksilver Mother’s Day from Wendy Jones-Blackett

    With Love from Janie Wilson


    Colour Me Happy from Stephanie Dyment won Best Contemporary Trend Range

    Finalists 2015The Henries 2015 - Twenties Style

    Copper from Stormy Knight

    Darling Denim from Belly Button Design

    Henna from Noel Tatt Group

    On The Shelf from The Typecast Gallery

    Wildstyle from Brainbox Candy


    Wulffmorgenthaler from Redback Cards won Best Humorous Range

    Finalists 2015The Henries 2015 - Redback Cards

    #firstworldproblems from Mr Greetings

    Honesty from Buddy Fernandez

    Naked People from Tracks Publishing

    Toy Stories from Noi Publishing

    Truth Facts from Woodmansterne


    The Country Set from Wrendale Designs won Best Art Range

    Finalists 2015The Henries 2015 - Wrendale Designs

    Cats & Dogs from Rose Hill Designs

    Charcoals by Bex Williams from Wraptious

    Critters from Bug Art

    Elly Jane from Clear Creations

    Fab Funky from Victoria Armstrong Collection


    Scrabbley Neons from Bexy Boo won Best Handmade or Hand-finished Range

    Finalists 2015The Henries 2015 - Bexy Boo

    Form from The Art File

    Krafty Captions from Tache Crafts

    Little Bigs from Cockadoodle Design

    Neon Jewels from Janie Wilson

    Spring Collection from Apple Tree Gifts


    Mad Dots Wedding from Hearts Designs won Best Traditional Words or Sentiments Range

    Finalists 2015The Henries 2015 - House of Cards

    Everlasting from The Handcrafted Card Co

    Memories from Words-n-Wishes

    Quotelets from Clavis & Claustra

    Sentiments from Wishing Well Studios

    Sweet Pea from Bonnie Blackbird


    Alice Scott from Pigment won Best Contemporary Words or Sentiments Range

    Finalists 2015The Henries 2015 - Pigment

    Little Voice from UK Greetings

    Life Is Sweet from Icon

    Paul Gaudhi from Ohh Deer

    Pink & Ink from Stop The Clock Designs

    Words Of Wisdom from Dandelion Stationery


    Platinum from Belly Button Designs won Best Male Range

    Finalists 2015The Henries 2015 - Stylish Twenties

    Best Foot Forward from Studio Seed

    Favourite Things from Laura Sherratt Designs

    The Gentleman’s Range from The Typecast Gallery

    Philip Pittman Design from NWH Greetings

    So Macho from Hotchpotch Publishing


    Dungarees from Paper Salad won Best Children's Range

    Finalists 2015The Henries Awards 2015 - Paper Salad

    Animal Transport from The Square Card Company

    Happy Jackson from Pigment

    John Bond from Ohh Deer

    Marine World from Stripey Cats Cards

    Zoo Buddies from Rocket 68


    Keepsake Treasures from Xpress Yourself won Best Wholesale Range

    Finalists 2015The Henries Awards 2015 - Dancing Girls

    Isabel’s Garden from Simon Elvin

    Favourites from Gemma

    Male Everyday from BGC Studios

    Savio Code 90 Squares from BGC Studios

    Sweet Petite from Hallmark


    Paloma from Belly Button Designs won Best Occasions or Relations Range

    Finalists 2015The Henries 2015 - Dancing David

    Belle Fleur from Saffron Cards

    Dixie from Think Of Me

    Du Jour from Noel Tatt Group

    Postco from Lagom Design

    Wooden Wishes from Bexy Boo


    Form Christmas Box from The Art File won Best Christmas Box or Pack

    Finalists 2015The Henries 2015 - The Art File

    Luxury Box from Ling Design

    Mistletoe Magic from Paper Salad

    Ombre Christmas Box from Five Dollar Shake

    Paloma from Belly Button Designs

    Pom Tiddley Pom Pom Pack from Saffron Cards


    Ombre Christmas from Five Dollar Shake won Best Christmas Counter Cards Range

    Finalists 2015The Henries 2015 - Lynn Tait

    Christmas Landscapes from Bug Art

    Gold from Woodmansterne

    Happy Jackson from Pigment

    Snowflakes & Sparkle from Think Of Me

    Xmas Doodles from Rosie Made A Thing


    Beautiful from Ling Design won Best Photographic Range

    Finalists 2015The Henries 2015 - Really Good

    Exposure Colour from Icon

    Funny Animals from Ezen Designs

    Love Unlimited from Pigment

    Shawn St Peter from The Great British Card Company

    Zoo Portraits from Lagom Design


    Despicable Me from Danilo won Best Licensed Card Range

    Finalists 2015The Henries 2015 - Danilo

    Disney Frozen from UKG

    Harold’s Planet from Clare Maddicott

    Laura Meare from Hallmark

    MODA from The Great British Card Company

    Quentin Blake from Woodmansterne


    Paper Salad from Glick win Best Giftwrappings Collection

    Finalists 2015The Henries Awards - Glick Paper Salad

    Alice Scott from Penny Kennedy

    Finest Christmas from Artebene

    Jessica Hogarth from Deva Designs

    Perfect Day from UK Greetings

    Toasted from Urban Graphic


    Giggles from UK Greetings won The Henry Cole Classic Award

    Finalists 2015The Henries 2015 - Brainbox Candy

    Marzipan from Paper Rose

    More Than Words from Talking Pictures

    Photocaptions from Cath Tate Cards

    Pizazz from Nigel Quiney

    Rainbow Cards from Ling Design


    Best Service To The Independent Retailer - Gold won by UK GreetingsThe Henries 2015 - Customer Service Awards

    Silver went to International Cards and Gifts (IC&G)

    Bronze went to Noel Tatt

    Finalists 2015 (in alphabetical order)

    Hallmark Cards

    Jonny Javelin

    Ling Design

    Nigel Quiney PublicationsThe Henries 2015 - Dancers



    Second Nature


    Words 'n' Wishes

    The Henries Awards winners 2015 were revealed at a glamorous 1920's themed Henries Ball on Thursday 8th October at the Lancaster London Hotel, overlooking HydePark. Compere for the evening was comedian Mark Watson.

    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

    The Henries Winners 2015

  • 10 Top climbers from a decade of the Ladder Club

    The Ladder Club Top ClimbersLast year was my tenth as a keynote speaker at the Ladder Club for new and growing greeting card publishers. With this year’s seminars coming up next month, I thought that it would be fun to take a look back at some of the fantastic publishers that have come through this wonderful event over the past decade.


    These Ladder Club companies have had great success in the card business over the years. They are often at trade shows and have a good presence in the marketplace. Our retail customers may have mentioned them as good sellers or it may be that I think what they do is particularly innovative or inspiring. They also regularly feature in the trade press and work hard at improving their businesses. You can click on the images to visit their websites.

    Full Colour Black

    Specialising in art cards with a funky, retro feel they have a large collection of Banksy images and cards. Their selection appeals to those with an off-the-wall sense of humour and is stocked in a range of stylish stationers, museum and art gallery stores. They’re proactive with their marketing and are often seen in trade magazines.

    Full Colour BlackGreen Pebble

    Founded by Michael Charles and Ruby Ormerod, Green Pebble have come a long way in a short period of time since they attended the Ladder Club in 2010. Specialising in fine art greeting cards they have worked hard to expand their offering and cover their niche well. What I love about them is that they are not afraid to get on the road and sell. A rare thing amongst new publishers.

    Green PebbleLesser Spotted

    Dominic Greyer’s unique place names project started as a side line and has now become his day job. He has travelled far and wide to capture funny road signs and place names with his outstanding photographic range. He’s done his fair share of trade shows since attending the seminar in 2007 and has successfully expanded his range to include mugs, coasters and cushions.

    Lesser Spotted Cards

    Megan Claire

    Personalisation specialist, Megan Purdie has successfully translated her style into a popular selection of mainstream cards and now boasts an enviable stockist list including John Lewis, Harrods and Harvey Nichols. A regular finalist at there Henries, she does a lovely job with her trade show stands and is regularly featured in the trade press.

    Megan Claire

    Mollie Mae

    After six years of running her own card and gift shop, retailer Stacy Barthorpe partnered with graphic designer Jude Kennedy and launched their business in 2009. The company is named after a combination of their daughter’s names and their distinctive, commercially savvy, contemporary style has led them to being snapped up by many of the country’s leading sales agents. They have an excellent line of complimentary stationery and gift products and are often seen exhibiting at shows.

    Molly Mae cards

    Pango Productions

    Founded in 2004 by business partners, Cindy and David, Pango boast an enviable stockist list including Selfridges, Paperchase, Scribbler and Harrods as well as a great number of boutique shops around the world. Their innovative, colourful and cute designs are fun and bright and they have even expanded into toys with their Craftholic license from Japan. I was lucky enough to organise a design-led area called Fresh with them both at Spring Fair a few years ago and they were a joy to work with.

    Pango ProductionsPaper Salad

    Founded by experienced card designers, Claire and Karen, in 2005 after attending the Ladder Club, the company has a really fresh look and their children’s ranges are particularly strong. They’ve successfully expanded and are now distributed in 15 countries and are stocked in top multiples like Waitrose. They’ve won Henries awards and have had a profitable licensing partnership with Glick (amongst others) who create gift bags and wrap to compliment their cards. They now regularly speak at the Ladder Club themselves and have supported many other new publishers.

    Paper Salad

    The London Studio

    PR, design and social media whizz Soula Zavacopoulos has done a wonderful job creating distinctive, best selling, award winning ranges including the popular Wisdom of Kids. Often shortlisted at the Gift of the Year awards, Soula has now got together with Saffron Cards in a savvy licensing deal that will allow her to focus on design and grow her product offering with a very experienced and successful partner.

    The London StudioThe Art Rooms

    Jacky Al-Samarraie started her award winning company in 2007 whilst holding down a challenging full time job in social services. Today her cards and gifts are stocked in many of the world’s most famous galleries and retailers. Her original, eye catching style is often seen at trade shows on a range of gift products. What she has done with her business is very inspiring.

    The Art Rooms - Jackie Al-SamarraieWrendale Designs

    In three years Hannah and Jack Dale have grown their start up to in excess of £2 million in annual sales through hard work and Hannah’s original take on the classic medium of watercolour. Hannah’s distinctive trade mark splatter effect has won her several Henries awards and a successful licensing deal with Portmerion. With ambitious expansion into the US on the cards too, Wrendale are one of the most impressive Ladder Club alumni to date.

    Wrendale Designs

    It has been a privilege to be a part of the Ladder Club all these years and to help so many talented creatives and publishers (there were actually too many great businesses to include on my lists). It is so important that we all support new talent coming into the industry. They are the future of our business and they keep us fresh.

    Discover 10 Ladder Club publishers on their way up

    Attend the 2015 Ladder Club seminar for new card publishers in November

    Read all of the Ladder Club related posts

  • Fathers Day cards 2016 from Blue Eyed Sun

    In the Frame

    Father's Day 2016 falls on the Sunday 19th June 2016 and Blue Eyed Sun have some gorgeous new Fathers Day cards available to choose from, so it's time for retailers to start thinking about putting their Spring orders together including Mothers Day cards, and Valentines cards. Here's what's new for Father's Day 2016...

    Knit Wit for Fathers DayPictured above is our new In the frame range. Litho printed on beautiful board and embossed, these beautiful Fathers Day cards are 160mm x 160mm.

    To the right is our bright new Knit Wit range taken from original hand knitted artworks. They are 125 x 174mm in size. Knit Wit are also available in  Valentines and Mothers Day.

    Below is a classy new range called Cheers! on gorgeous art board and hand finished with jewels. These beautiful Fathers Day cards are 160mm x 160mm.

    Sold in sixes to trade buyers only, all of our Fathers Day cards are blank inside, barcoded and cello-wrapped with an envelope. All are printed on lovely thick board from sustainable sources. Retailers can order online from the trade only section of our site.

    To stock these ranges 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 or you can 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.

    See these Fathers Day cards in person at Autumn Fair 2015 - Stand 4D03

    Click here to see our 2016 Valentine designs

    See our 2016 Mothers Day designs


  • 10 Ladder Club publishers on their way up

    We've been helping new greeting card publishers for over ten years at the Ladder Club founded by Lynn Tait and Jakki Brown. Below are some interesting new publishers that are successfully working their way up the industry ladder. Many have done well with Henries nominations, have been featured in the trade press and I regularly see them in shops when I visit our customers. You can click on the images to visit their websites.

    Ten new Ladder Club publishers to keep an eye on (in alphabetical order):

    Coulson Macleod

    Stylish graphic cards with some humour from Mark Coulson and Hannah Macleod.

    Coulson Macleod

    Dry Red Press

    A lovely selection of art cards from Laura and Jackie MacDonald and Sue Campion.

    Dry Red Press

    Eloise Hall

    Delicate, elegant illustrations that have been beautifully designed to create distinctive cards.

    Eloise Hall

    I Drew This

    Hugely experienced card designer, Ilona Drew, self publishes her own beautiful card illustrations.

    I Drew This

    Jessica Hogarth Designs

    Stylish, contemporary surface pattern and textile design translated into unique cards.

    Jessica Hogarth

    Perkins & Morley

    A popular collection of art cards and gifts from Janet Morley and Jill Perkins.

    Perkins And Morley

    Redback cards

    A great range of humorous, original and fresh cards from Chris Stanley.

    Redback Cards

    Sarah Kelleher

    Artistic, well styled and carefully considered cards that work well for their respective occasions.

    Sarah Kelleher

    Tache Crafts

    Quirky, playful and stylish handmade cards by Penny Bryant and Frank Nichols.

    Tache Crafts


    An exciting range of artists across cards and gifts from founder Simon Wadsworth.


    Click here to read more Ladder Club posts

    Find out more about attending the 2015 Ladder Club Seminar in November

  • 12 Business Lessons I learned at Sage Summit 2015

    Sage Summit 2015 Lessons

    As a Sage Business Expert I was recently invited to attend the Sage Summit 2015 in New Orleans. This annual event is a brilliant opportunity to learn, network and connect with other businesses. Not only does it focus on growing one’s business, for me, it was the perfect chance to sharpen my saw and renew myself for the next phase of our company’s development.

    The event consisted of a series of keynotes, seminars and booths that offered a range of experiences throughout the show which looked unlike any trade show I have ever visited before. The scale and scope of it was epic. The central hall layout had a huge circle in the middle laid with plush thick carpet, from which radiated several buzzing seminar theatres each one called things like Profit, Grow, Lead, Differentiate, Customer, etc. The design of the space meant that it buzzed with excitement as one wandered from session to session. It really was inspiring.

    I thought I’d share some of my highlights from my week there with you:

    Sage Summit 20151. When you taste success, spit it out

    On the first morning I ran into business and social media expert, Thomas Power. In the first of several interesting discussions with Thomas at the conference, he mentioned that if you ever taste success, you should spit it out. In other words, don’t spend too long revelling in the taste of it. Whilst it’s important to celebrate success, it’s even more important to to keep moving and not to sit on one’s laurels. It’s this kind of complacency that leads to executives patting each other on the back as they inadvertently walk off a cliff.

    2. Zero moment of truth 

    Marketers have been using a three step mental model of marketing for a long time. 1) Stimulus - producing an advert 2) Shelf - stores focusing on point of sale; historically known as the first moment of truth 3) The Experience - of the product at home. Consumers have a good experience or bad one and they share it. This is also known as the second moment of truth.

    Google investigated where influence now takes place as shoppers move from undecided to decided. The average shopper in 2011 used 10.4 sources of information up from 5.3 in 2010. What surfaced was a fourth step called the zero moment of truth. This is where shoppers do research, read reviews, price compare and talk with friends to inform their decision making before going to the shelf. Marketers who can keep on top of all four steps have an advantage in the marketplace.

    3. Websites are essential 

    When I asked a panel of marketing experts how independent retailers could compete with the online world their answers were a stark reminder that the world is changing and those not changing with it will be left behind. “Any retailer without a website is dead in the water,” was one candid response.

    The good news is those retailers that have unique identifiers and do it well will stand out from the crowd and survive. Their general consensus also was that blogs drive traffic like nothing else. So if you don’t have a good blog, perhaps it’s time to start thinking about one.

    4. Personal Stories Rule

    Millennials are often tasked with sourcing suppliers and they use social media tools to influence their decisions. The stories and social media posts that get the most likes are the personal ones. People want to see that brands are human. Include pictures of staff birthdays on your company profiles. Even though your customers might not all be on social media, you can bet their kids are. If you build authentic connections with them, they will send their parents to your business.

    5. Creating a club

    In discussing changes in retail one evening VP of Marketing at Sage, Sophie Leguillette, told me the story of she once noticed retail store Anthropologie offering a 20% off voucher to anyone joining their Anthro Loyalty Program in store. She asked the staff if there was any incentive for selling the membership to which ‘no’ was the reply.

    Instead the assistant raved about useful benefits, like how the program kept records of your receipts for you so you didn’t have to keep hold of them in case of returning items. There were also special offers, advance notice of promotions, etc. Well trained staff offering a club to which loyal customers can belong is a great incentive for encouraging repeat business.

    6. Competing with Amazon  

    At a session on e-commerce I asked the retail experts how independent retailers could compete with the online commerce giants like Amazon. The reply was to focus on value added premium options like engraving, customisation and improved packaging. They also agreed that retailers need websites and when set up there should be sufficient marketing resource allocated to the website to make sure that it is found.

    7. Talk Different

    If you look at your five main competitors you will often find that the language they use is often very similar to each other and to your own. If you want to stand out from the crowd and win business, then the way you talk about your business and how you engage with customers must be different. Take a look at how you communicate and explore new creative ideas for changing how you behave.

    8. Nobody likes to be sold

    Everybody likes to buy and yet nobody likes to be sold. These days there is a huge amount of competition for attention in the marketplace, both online and offline. Shoppers now find things at the time and place of their choosing. 68% of the buying decision is now made before purchasing. If you want to be the place consumers choose to purchase these things then you need to spend time building yourself as the expert in such products. Rather than selling the products, sell your story and message. Make sure it’s written down and you have a strategy for how to do this so that your whole team is on board.

    9. Small is the new big

    Keynote speaker Chad Hurley, co-founder of YouTube, wisely pointed out that great businesses start from improving one small thing. For Chad it was making it easy for him and his friends to post videos online. Many people look at YouTube, which he sold for $1.6 billion (and which now is estimated to be worth over $40 billion), and think it’s all about the big idea. It’s from the little solutions that successful businesses and products emerge.

    10. Create Great Content

    If you are going to market your business online you must focus on great content and stop focussing on selling. Nobody wants to be sold to. It’s all about placing the products you are offering in a context that is relevant and meaningful to your followers. Be supportive of your tribe. Be a giver not a taker. Be helpful and create the type of content that people want to share because it has value in their world.

    11. Feedback Loops

    One of my favourite keynote quotes from the whole week was from American designer and thought leader, William A. McDonough, who observed during one keynote session that a system without a feedback loop is, by definition, stupid.

    So, if you are making or selling anything, you need to design in feedback from your customers. You’ll also need feedback loops within your business so that your team don’t keep making the same mistakes. It’s worth having feedback loops with your suppliers too, so that the supply chain runs smoothly. Note to self: design more feedback loops into our business.

    12. The Secret to Social is Engagement

    We are all guilty of counting our followers or subscribers on social media. The real power of social media is the same as that in the rest of our social lives. It's in engagement. What are you doing to interact with your friends on social? Are you sharing, helping and caring? Blasting out ads and shouting our wares is fine at a market but not in a regular social life.

    The week was an incredible experience and I loved every minute of it. Thomas Power even coached me through a personal development exercise called the core process, which was the final sharpening of my saw before I left New Orleans and headed home.

    I met new friends, learned new things and returned to the UK feeling refreshed and renewed for our business. If you get the chance to go on seminars like this, jump at them. It’s a great way to spend time working on your business rather than in it.

    Learn the 9 secrets of social selling I found at the Sage Summit

    Discover the 7 habits of highly effective retailers

    What cheap greeting cards really say about us

    Mad Man, Skater, Card Guy, Comic

  • 3 Great reasons to visit Autumn Fair

    3 Reasons to Visit Autumn Fair

    Autumn Fair opens it's doors on Sunday 6th September at 09:00 and runs until 16:00 on Wednesday 9th September at the NEC in Birmingham. It is the season's number one home and gift trade show event with over 29,000 visitors.

    Here are three great reasons why you should visit Autumn Fair:

    1. Great Range of Products

    There are thousands of amazing products from 1,400 exhibitors across thirteen carefully edited show sectors. As the world's biggest selection of British designed products there are over 450 new brands exhibiting, so it's a great chance to find some gems for your shop.

    Click here to see which greeting card publishers are at Autumn Fair

    2. It's Convenient

    Geographically it's easy to get to by train, plane or car and easy to park at. It's well timed with the chance to pick up last minute items for Christmas and get a sense of forthcoming trends for 2016. It's also all under one roof so you won't get wet between halls and don't have to visit multiple shows.

    Read the essential info you need for this Autumn Fair 2015

    3. Admission is Free!

    As long as you pre-register for Autumn Fair, admission is free to visitors. Entry on the door is £30.

    Click here to pre-register for Autumn Fair

    Do remember to come and say hi if you visit.

    Blue Eyed Sun are in Hall 4 on Stand 4D03 near the front

    5 Great restaurants near the NEC

    Click here to order Blue Eyed Sun cards online

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