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Blue Eyed Sun Blog

  • 5 Ways to Improve Your Retail Business

    5 Ways To Improve Your Retail BusinessI'm now a quarter of the way into The Greeting Card Project, my YouTube channel where I’m sending more cards each week to try and feel closer to my friends and loved ones. I’ve visited a different shop for each video and have been learning a lot about retail with each visit.

    Here are five ways you can improve your retail business:

    1. Websites

    People are already talking about your shop online so you have to make it easy for them to share and recommend you digitally. Most customers that visit your shop will connect to the internet every day. You need to be there for them too.

    Under each video that I post, I add hyperlinks to all the retailers and publishers that are included so that viewers can easily click through and visit from them. Unfortunately I have not been able to do this for all I have visited as some don’t have websites nor any social media presence.

    If you don’t have a website, people like me can’t hyperlink to your business and you aren’t able to maximise your business presence online. Remember that these links add value to your website over time. They’re like road signs on the digital information super highway, all pointing to your business.

    You need these signs and you need a website. You can keep it really simple and it doesn’t have to cost more than a couple of hundred pounds. Using software like Wordpress you can use templates that are predesigned to be mobile friendly. You can always add shopping functionality later. For now you just need a web presence, even if it’s simply a single page with nice photos of your store saying who you are, where you are and links to any social media accounts you use.

    2. Your Brand

    Shops with their logo on their bags have benefited most because their brand features prominently in the videos when I pay for the cards. I love being able to share the shop brands and so do your happy customers. For instance, the other day I overheard a lady on her phone nearby telling her friend that she was in a lovely coffee shop and didn’t know the name. What a missed opportunity that may be happening countless times a day. To be honest, I still don’t know the name of that coffee shop either. Don’t assume that all of your customers know the name of your shop.

    Make it easy for your customers to know your brand so they can share it. Have it up on the walls, on your bags and even on your pricing labels. Add your web address to your till receipts and to your bags so your fans can rave about you online to their friends.

    3. Get Social

    You don’t have to be on every single social media platform that’s out there. Not all your customers will be using these tools. A lot are though and the majority of the next generations of consumers will be using them in some form or another. We all need to plan for the future of our business.

    I recommend Facebook, Instagram and Twitter primarily for strong engagement on social media. I’m also getting a lot of shares on LinkedIn at the moment due to my large network of over 1,300 connections there; people from diverse careers that I’ve met over the years.

    The people who get the best results tend to post daily and have a planned schedule of what they are sharing and how they are engaging. They are not just blasting out their sales messages. They are helping and engaging with others. Always listen first before posting on social media. Choose the right type of engagement for your followers and your fans before starting.

    Initially you’ll benefit most on social media from improved relationships with suppliers. Most of your card publishers are using these platforms and want to share you with their followers. Tag your suppliers in relevant posts so that they can help you to leverage and grow your presence online with their fans. Make sure you allow yourself to be tagged. Some businesses don’t do this and I think they are missing out too.

    Encourage your employees, friends and family to follow and engage with your brand online to help get it going in the digital domain. Each like, share and follow adds to the importance of your business to the Facebook, Google, Twitter and Instagram algorithms that favour the most active businesses online.

    I have to say that businesses with a website and active social media presence are a lot more attractive to me when choosing who to visit and promote for The Greeting Card Project. I spend a lot of my time and energy on each video, so I’d much rather visit shops that will help my YouTube channel reach a wider audience and get more people around the world sending greeting cards.

    4. The Customer Experience

    Having said that, I’m glad I’m staying open, random and supportive when visiting retailers for this project. That’s because some of the most interesting shops have not had any digital presence. Ironically, these are the ones that I think would benefit most from being online as their back stories are so interesting and their shops are so marvellous. I’m not going to embarrass anyone by mentioning names, if you watch the videos you can probably guess.

    My favourite shops have a mixture of cards and gifts. I prefer trade shows that mix these categories up too as I think you can zone out if looking at too many of the same type of thing. Some supermarkets can feel a bit like this for example. Personally, I prefer the Aladdin’s cave experience, where you feel like you can hunt out treasures for yourself or your loved ones.

    One of the most interesting retail experiences for me was at the Tate Modern which has several different shops that all work in different ways. For example, they have Tate Edit, in which they sell fine art prints and home accessories. As an art collector myself, it was so lovely to be met be a well trained staff member who talked me through the various items with a soft sales approach. Given that purchases in this shop are hundreds if not thousands of pounds, a more refined lifestyle, interiors type of space with a knowledgable sales assistant worked well. It felt more special, exclusive and nurturing.

    Having a mix of products and price points zoned in the right way appears to be a strong way of maximising sales in retail, as are well trained staff who can help customers enjoy their experience.

    5. Be Open Online

    The people who are thriving online are those that aren’t hung up on protecting their own interests and just looking out for themselves. Marketing is different in the digital domain. You are more likely to be following and engaging with everyone in your digital community these days, including your competitors.

    For some this is hard to get their heads around, yet in our industry we all have an interest in encouraging people to send more greeting cards. It doesn’t matter if you are a publisher, supplier, retailer or employee for one of these businesses. It’s one of the reasons organisations like the Greeting Card Association and Giftware Association have been working so hard to include retailers.

    If you are not a member of these associations, I’d encourage you to have a look at joining them. It’s relatively inexpensive for retailers to get involved and they are doing some fantastic work online. Look out for the video I shot of the recent GCA Dragon’s Den style pitching event as a great example of what lovely things we can do if we work together to help one another.

    I’d love your support for The Greeting Card Project too. I need 24 more subscribers to get the vanity URL, which makes the channel easier to share online. Please click here to subscribe.

    Marketing Then vs Now

    What consumers want from retailers

    Seven habits of highly effective retailers

  • The Greeting Card Project - March Review

    The Greeting Card Project - March Review

    The Greeting Card Project is my year of sending more greeting cards and recording a video diary of my experiences, the shops I visit, the cards I send and my own personal and emotional journey. I've had a lot of fun making The Greeting Card Project during March and I'm really enjoying sending more cards. I feel that the short films are gradually improving. I'm also feeling a lot more comfortable in front of the camera. Mind you, it's still a challenge to stay composed when there are other people watching me talk at my phone in public. Here's a quick update on what I've been up to on YouTube this month. Click on the images below to watch the videos:

    I recently attended a GCA industry event and asked different card publishers what their mothers meant to them and why Mother's Day still matters. It was really interesting to hear the different responses. I decided to mix the format up a little bit and experiment on a shorter video that's more shareable, so I didn't visit any shops in this one.

    I enjoyed shopping for Mother's Day cards at Carly's in the lovely historic village of Knowle. I also interviewed neuroscientist Dr Lynda Shaw to find out why it feels so good to use my new Lamy fountain pen to write my greeting cards. This week I created my personal Instagram account to promote The Greeting Card Project and gathered over 150 followers in 24 hours before I posted my first post! Click here to follow me here on Instagram.

    I have written most of the cards I've bought on The Greeting Card Project in capital letters. This is primarily because I feel self conscious about how terrible my cursive handwriting is. Capital letters are very 'shouty' though. Whilst it might work for the words 'HAPPY BIRTHDAY', it's not great for feeling connected as it's a little aggressive and is not a very gentle way of writing. I decided to try and get to grips with my handwriting by talking to Pen to Paper, a specialist independent shop in the North Lanes of Brighton. I also send birthday cards to three friends that inspire me.

    I love visiting the Tate Modern. It is a spectacular building with great views of London and four different shops within. They have an eclectic mix of unusual cards and some from their in-house set up which feature their artists. This week's focus is on cards for friends I haven't seen for a long time. It felt so lovely to reach out to them with a greeting card for their birthdays. I also decided to revamp all of the thumbnails for my videos as I wasn't particularly happy with them. The new ones look much better and will hopefully attract more click throughs.

    I'm not getting as much feedback on my videos this month, so I've started to look further afield to see if I can join more groups of people who like cards and might be interested in my project. I need all the comments I can get so that I can keep making better videos.

    The third month of the channel had 1,008 views with viewers watching over 29 hours of The Greeting Card Project for an average of 1:44 per video. The channel gained 11 more subscribers,  37 shares and accumulated 35 likes and 9 dislikes.

    If you do watch and enjoy the videos please pop over to YouTube and subscribe, as I need to get to 100 subscribers in order to get the specific URL for the project (at the moment it's just a random string of numbers). I'd also love it if you followed the project on my personal Twitter account @JeremyCorner and my new personal Instagram @JeremyCorner.

    Where possible there are hyperlinks to all of the featured companies beneath each YouTube video.

    My February Review of The Greeting Card Project

    Read my January review of The Greeting Card Project

    Learn why I started The Greeting Card Project

  • Sage Summit London 2017 Preview

    Sage Summit London Speakers

    Jeremy Corner - Sage Summit LondonThis year I'm attending the business event Sage Summit London, having previously visited Sage Summit in Chicago and New Orleans.

    Sage Summit London has some fantastic headline speakers including Deborah Meaden and Kelly Hoppen from Dragon's Den. I'm looking forward to hearing from Martha Lane Fox, of LastMinute.com fame. Sahar Hashemi co-founder of Coffee Republic will also be very interesting. Last, but not least, I can't wait to hear from Jamal Edwards, creator of SBTV.

    Jeremy Corner - Sage Summit LondonAs a Sage customer and fan since 2001 I've found myself doing quite a lot with them in recent years. I've written many blog posts on the Sage blog. I am a Sage Business Expert offering business advice and help to other entrepreneurs. I also work together with Sage on social media and PR campaigns. Several of their senior executives cite Blue Eyed Sun as a case study for small businesses looking to use social media to improve their digital marketing. Much to the amusement of my friends, Sage Summit London has been using photos of me for their online marketing campaigns, some of which you can see to the right of this post.

    Jeremy Corner - Sage Summit LondonAs well as hearing from the keynote speakers there are some interesting smaller sessions in which I'm hoping to pick up tips on retailing online, how retailers can overcome the challenges of the high street and the latest trends in social media and digital marketing. I also plan to see what Sage have been up to with their new software developments and hear more about their new chatbot Pegg. I've also been asked to mentor small businesses and start ups on Thursday afternoon.

    I'm looking forward to meeting new people at the event, as well as seeing some digital friends in person for the first time. Jeremy Corner - Sage Summit LondonI'm looking forward to catching up with my friends on the Sage Team, my fellow Sage Business Experts and other entrepreneurs in my business community. It promises to be an inspiring and eventful two days. If you feel that it might be time to work on your business rather than in your business for a day or two, why not join me? If you can only do one day, I recommend the Thursday. Do reach out to me on my Twitter @JeremyCorner if you are attending. It would be lovely to see you.

    Click here to register and attend. It's FREE!.

    Be sure to catch me on Facebook Live between 12:30-13:30 GMT on Wednesday 5th April.

    I'll also be coaching new businesses in the Mentor Area on Thursday 6th April at 16:00.

    Sage Summit London runs from Wednesday 5th - Thursday 6th April at Excel in London

    Read my blog posts on the Sage UK Blog

    12 Things I learned at Sage Summit New Orleans

    15 Things I learned at Sage Summit Chicago

    Jeremy Corner - Sage Summit London

  • Ecommerce tips for Retailers

    Ecommerce For RetailersAt Spring Fair I chaired a roundtable discussion with retailers on the challenges of selling online. It was a fascinating chat with an exciting mix of discovery, reassurance, learning, contribution, growth and connection. Here are the highlights, including some useful ecommerce tips for retailers:

    How to reach the market

    Retailers often ask me about setting up websites for their business. I’m a great believer in the power of sites to leverage your marketing efforts. All businesses need a website to anchor for their online activities, especially for social media and blogging. The easiest way to find a company’s social media details is to go to their homepage. If you don’t have a site then you’re make it difficult for people to find you, talk about you and spread the word about you. A simple website with nice photos of your store and all your contact and social media details is cheap and easy to set up. I recommend installing Wordpress on your web domain as a simple solution that you can tweak yourself. This also allows you to add a blog like the one I have at www.BlueEyedSun.co.uk/blog.

    Ecommerce is different matter. We use Magento software to sell on our site. The good news is it’s free and open source. The bad news is that designing and building a website that you can sell well from is a costly and time consuming business. It’s like having another shop. Even after you’ve created your amazing site you still have the problem of getting people to it. I often remind retailers that creating an ecommerce site is like building a beautiful retail store in the middle of the desert with no roads in or out.

    The truth is that the war for online retailing has been won by Amazon whose sites have over 183 million customers visit them each month. They are so big and powerful now that it’s very difficult to compete with their SEO (search engine optimisation) budgets that ensure their listings are at the top of Google. Thanks to Amazon we all expect goods delivered within a day and with free delivery. This is tough to compete with. Whenever a retailer asks me about selling online I recommend that they start by selling on marketplaces like Amazon or Ebay. You can also sell using posts on your shop’s Facebook page.

    When you sell through Amazon you can fulfil orders yourself or use a service they offer called Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) where they hold the stock and ship from their super efficient warehouses. The advantage is you outsource this to experts. The disadvantage is that you have to tie up the cash elsewhere rather than on stock in store.

    A brief caveat: Selling through online marketplaces is not a panacea for your business. As Bill Gate’s pointed out, in his 1999 book Business at the Speed of Thought, “Now that customers can deal directly with manufacturers, there is little value in simply transferring goods.” Middlemen must add value. You must know what is special and significant about what you do as a retailer. Good service is now standard online so don’t kid yourself that this will be enough. How do you add value in the supply chain? It might be through your buying selection or your ability to drive footfall. Think carefully on it and be prepared to work hard on adding value.

    Build Your List

    All retailers need to build a list of customers. Either an email list or an online equivalent with followers on platforms like Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. My preference is still for email and physical addresses for direct mailing. Think of these lists as building roads to your website from which you might one day sell.

    Once you have built a following and you successfully learn how to sell well online using the strongest marketplace in the world, then you can start to think about investing in your own ecommerce site. Test cheaply and prove your offering works on Amazon or a similar marketplace, then expand.

    The exception to this is to be found in countries where Amazon has little or no presence. One of our panellists has nine stores in Bulgaria specialising in tattoos, piercings and graffiti. Bulgaria doesn't really have these online marketplaces so this retailer were able to grow their niche site using powerful online marketing tools like social media that targeted his youthful niche.

    Social Media

    Where are your raving fans and customers hanging out online? What do they like to see and share? These are key questions to ask before putting work into social media. Start by visiting these platforms as if you were your customer. Watch and listen carefully to understand the etiquette and what works best first.

    Scottish independent retailer, Maia, sells mostly to 35-45 year old females and uses Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram as their main platforms. They also use Google Analytics and Facebook Analytics to know their customers. They post daily as they realised that they have to do it properly or not at all. Social media is great for brand awareness. It’s also powerful for customer feedback and a sense of connection with your brand story.

    Spreading the word

    Word of mouth recommendation works well for most retailers, but how do you replicate that online? Firstly, you need a website and social handles for people to be able to tag you and link back to you. You can also email customers asking for referrals. This is something we regularly do with brides and grooms at Ivy Ellen, our online wedding stationery store.

    One of our retailers takes photos of his customers with their purchases which he posts on social media. He has a younger demographic so they are happy to do this and help spread the word on Facebook which has led to over 80,000 followers on his business page.

    Amazon also have a simple one click option at the end of checking out to “tell your friends about your purchase.” Effectively the item gets shared on social media and can drive further sales via friends of the customer.

    Customer Journey

    Ecommerce websites have got better and easier to use. Companies like Amazon, Ebay and large retailers spend millions fine tuning these sites to get optimal engagement and drive sales. Just as putting things at eye-line and grouping items by colour can draw the eye in your physical store, so too can you steer customers through your website.

    Home pages on websites drive traffic well when targeting specific types of products that target specific groups of customers. One retailer, Sunni, has created customer personalities that he targets, like ‘geeky men’ or ‘girly girls.’ Profiling is going to become huge online for retailers. Psychometric specialists, Cambridge Analytica (the company behind the Trump and Brexit wins), have already shown the power of social media profiling to dictate political change. Further commercial exploitation of our data will follow this and the groundwork laid out by Dunnhumby’s analysis of loyalty card schemes like the Tesco Clubcard.

    Generally customers like to be guided through websites and told what to buy. Understanding them well is key to helping them to meet their needs. Standalone ecommerce websites are better for doing this to generate higher order values than Amazon where the sales are often for single items and restrictive with customer data.

    You can also use email marketing tools like Mailchimp to target specific customer types and steer those customers from specific parts of your emails to specific products and areas of your ecommerce store.

    Getting repeat business

    Loyalty schemes work well for bricks and mortar stores. You can use similar strategies online to drive repeat business via email, social media or when customers return. You can even personalise the schemes to target specific groups of customers.

    Another interesting idea is to do unique discounts for specific customers. For example tourist buses that might visit your town can be given an offer of a free coffee with every twenty pounds spent in store. Similar offers can be repeated online.

    Those are some of the highlights of our roundtable discussion for retailers on ecommerce at Spring Fair. If you get the opportunity to join one in the future, I’d encourage you to do it. It’s a wonderful way to connect with your community and to swap nuggets of golden information that can improve your business.

    How retailers can start selling online

    10 Things to do in your business before using social media

    The Top Ten Business Tools we use at Blue Eyed Sun

  • The Greeting Card Project - February Review

    TGCP - February Review

    The Greeting Card Project has been a challenge to fit in this last month, with all of the trade shows I've been at and it being the busiest time of year at Blue Eyed Sun. Here's a quick update on what I've been up to on YouTube this February. Please click on the images to watch the videos.

    I loved visiting Arrowsmiths in Broadstairs, Kent. It is an amazing shop which was a Chemist for the first sixty years of it's life after it opened 1911. It's been a gift shop ever since and the owner cleverly kept all the original fixtures. They make beautiful display cases for the goods on sale. They also have a wonderful selection of unusual cards. I learnt that the experience of shopping for cards is an important part of feeling connected with those that I'm buying them for.

    Good cards for men are notoriously hard to find. I found myself going for humour cards in the end. I also got some lovely reactions from my recipients, which I was able to share in this video filmed at The Card Collection in Bath. I'm a little disappointed that this video hasn't had more views. The responses from my friends were really lovely.

    This week I roped a load of card publishers at Spring Fair into sharing what they like to write in their Valentines cards as well as what messages they like to read in them. It's a fun episode and features a lovely independent gift shop in Birmingham called Smithsonia near the newly revamped New Street Station. Thanks to feedback from viewers I also start using a better pen.

    We recently visited our Italian distributor at a Fiera Milano to support his official launch of Blue Eyed Sun cards in Italy. He has been having great success with a soft launch of our products there over the past few months. I picked up some useful marketing tips from him and hunt down three birthday cards for friends in Milan.

    I've been soliciting a lot of brutally honest feedback from my different groups on social media. It's so useful to hear all of the ideas for improvements as well as the things people don't like. For example, one or two didn't like seeing me lick the envelopes of the cards, so I was able to drop these shots after week three. I'm also using better pens and am working on improving sound quality and overall presentation. All useful stuff and small things I could easily change.

    Other suggestions included a short title sequence that explains what The Greeting Card Project is at the front of each video. I'm working on this and thinking about a logo which was also suggested. One of the most important things about this project is to try and get clear on what I am doing with it and why people should watch it. That is still evolving. I started it because I wanted to explore what cards really mean to us and how simply sending cards can affect our relationships and how we feel.

    The second month of the channel had 1,127 views with viewers watching over 48 hours of The Greeting Card Project for an average of 2:32 per video. The channel gained 25 more subscribers,  31 shares and accumulated 47 likes. I also got my first dislike (thumb down), which is exciting because it means that it's not just friends and family watching now.

    If you do watch and enjoy the videos please pop over to YouTube and subscribe as I need to get to 100 subscribers in order to get the specific URL for the project (at the moment it's just a random string of numbers). I'd also love it if you followed the project on my personal Twitter account @JeremyCorner

    Read my January review of The Greeting Card Project

    Why I started The Greeting Card Project

    My first ever video for The Greeting Card Project

  • How to Grow International Customer Relationships

    International Customer RelationshipsI recently gave a talk with the Department for International Trade on how to grow your international customer relationships. The presentation was attended by visitors to the Spring Fair trade show held at the Birmingham NEC.

    You can watch the 2 minute preview by clicking on the image below.

    Blue Eyed Sun's export success led to us being awarded a prestigious Queen's Award for Export in recognition of our team's amazing achievements. We were also lucky enough to be invited to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen and members of the Royal Family. We were very proud to be flying the flag for our wonderful greeting card industry.

    In my talk I share the details of how Blue Eyed Sun expanded into twenty countries around the world. See the key things you need to look out for as you grow internationally. Discover how to nurture and maximise your international customer relationships. Learn about some of the mistakes we made along the way and how best to avoid them.

    Watch a video of the full 29 minute talk on growing international customer relationships below.

    View the slides from my talk on 7 key insights into growing international customer relationships below:

    Read more about Blue Eyed Sun's Queen's Award

    Watch the Blue Eyed Sun case study for Export Week

    See: How Blue Eyed Sun grew it's revenues through Export

  • The Year of Video

    The Year Of VideoThis is my year of video, so I've recently launched The Greeting Card Project on YouTube. It’s part of my New Year’s resolution to make a video about greeting cards each week and to post them online. By the time you read this I will have completed five short films and visited a variety of shops in the process. I will also have purchased and sent over a dozen cards.

    My Motivations

    This project has its roots in a terrible confession that I have to make. Despite having owned a greeting card company for 17 years, I don’t send that many greeting cards myself. I do send Christmas cards and initiatives like Thinking of You Week and Festive Friday have helped me to improve on my card sending. I just feel that I’d like to send more and get closer to what greeting card sending is all about.

    When I was a teenager I used to make and send cards. I grew up in South Africa and attended a school in York away from friends and family. In those pre-internet days I would write and send cards and letters every week. I loved sending and receiving them through the post and want to reconnect with this activity.

    Social media is the current form of the internet. It’s on mobile devices in our hands everyday and offers more efficient ways of communicating with our loved ones than sending cards. I’m curious to discover why the an old fashioned industry like ours remains stable with £1.7 Billion in annual sales and hasn’t been killed off by the internet.

    As 85% of card buyers are women I’m also interested to understand why women in particular send cards and how they affect the quality of relationships. I love people and am very active on messaging apps and social media, I do feel like I could feel closer to my friends and loved ones and am interested to see if card sending will help me to feel this.

    Why YouTube?

    My ten year old son is a big fan of YouTube and watches it daily. In fact he doesn’t watch any live TV. He’s not alone. Almost a third of people on the internet use YouTube which now has over a billion users watching millions of hours every day. More than half of YouTube views come from mobile devices and they reach more 18-34 and 18-49 year olds than any cable network in the US. In 2016 the number of hours people spent watching videos on YouTube rose by 60% year on year.

    Other companies like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat also offer video content. Facebook alone generates 8 billion video views per day. That’s double the video consumption on Facebook in early 2015. Video posts have higher organic reach than photos and Facebook Live in particular has seen impressive take up with people watching live video for 3x longer than video which is no longer live.

    I like YouTube best because of its focus on video. It’s also not just a singular feed flowing past you each day like the other platforms. I find it easier to embed YouTube videos onto other sites. I like that it’s search works better than other platforms. It’s also good for categorising and organising your content.

    My strategy is to experiment with the other social platforms like Facebook and Instagram in order to generate interest in The Greeting Card Project YouTube channel. I’m also incorporating feedback loops by encouraging comments to help me create better content and engagement with my audience.

    Fears

    Despite having the idea a while ago, it took me over 18 months to initiate this project. Some of my hesitance was rooted in fears I had, like fear of the extra work that this will mean for me, fear of being good enough and fear of failure.

    I have a background in film making and know that it can be time consuming. The great thing about YouTube is that it’s very rough and ready. Production values are not expected to be high. I decided to film and edit the videos in iMovie on my iPhone 6 to keep it simple. I also chose to make the project personal to me so I will be sending cards from a range of publishers and exploring the feelings I have about the process.

    I was afraid of sharing my feelings so openly. You feel vulnerable standing up in front of others. As TED speaker Brené Brown says, “the difficult thing is that vulnerability is the first thing I look for in you and the last thing I’m willing to show you. In you it’s courage and daring. In me it’s weakness.”

    I was afraid that people would judge me. That they might think less of me. Fortunately, through being active in our industry, I’ve learned that people already judge me. I’ve also come to realise that those judgements are their business and not really about me at all. So I decided to follow Susan Jeffer’s advice and ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway.’

    I don’t know if the project will be of interest to anyone else. It’s possible that nobody will watch my videos. It’s possible that they may not be good enough. I’m not planning to be perfect from the start though. My goal is to have progression not perfection. I want to make these videos and that is enough for me right now.

    Hopes

    I feel that this project is what I’m meant to be doing this year and that it will open my heart and mind. It is the coming together of skills I have acquired over the years and passion for connecting people with one another. It’s a personal journey of exploration within where I will listen more closely to my feelings and those I care about in order to feel closer to one another.

    It’s also an opportunity for me to get closer to some of my customers by visiting their shops and talking about greeting cards with them. I hope to receive some greeting cards this year and talk about how that feels too.

    On it’s simplest level I hope that The Greeting Card Project will inspire others. I’ve already had some wonderful feedback and comments from friends since starting.

    Getting Started

    If you are thinking about setting up a YouTube channel yourself it’s pretty straightforward and there’s plenty of advice online for how to do it. There are a number of things worth keeping an eye on when you create videos.

    Good sound is more important than good visuals. Ideally you want both. Remember to keep an eye on your sound levels and to speak loudly and clearly.

    It helps if you can be engaging on screen. Try jumping around a little to get yourself into an energised upbeat state before filming. At the same time, YouTubers always recommend being yourself so that you avoid seeming inauthentic.

    Keep your sound bites to 30-60 seconds at most. Also, have a variety of cutaway shots that show other things nearby so that you can break up any long bits.

    My son and I have met lots of YouTubers at various gaming conventions. One of their top tips is to plan and create engaging thumbnail shots for your videos. These are the little images that people click on to access your video. The more interesting they are the more clicks and views you will get.

    Finally, software developers have a term called MVP (minimum viable product) which is the most basic version of your product to launch with. From there it can evolve based on user experience and interaction. Launch your MVP first. This will keep your project lean so that you won’t unnecessarily over-engineer or over-complicate your YouTube videos.

    I’d love your support with this project, so please do subscribe to The Greeting Card Project channel on YouTube and drop me line if you’d like to be involved.

    The Greeting Card Project - January Review

    Subscribe to the Greeting Card Project on YouTube

    What is ORS Network Thinking?

  • The Greeting Card Project - January Review

    TGCP - January Review

    I can't believe I made a New Year's Resolution to film, edit and produce a short video about greeting cards each week for The Greeting Card Project on YouTube. I've now made 5 videos and I'm amazed at how easy it is to find reasons to send cards each week. I thought I'd just be buying one card a week, but most weeks I'm purchasing at least three. It's been really fun visiting different card shops and buying greeting cards for friends and loved ones. Here's a summary of the videos I've made this month. Click on the images to watch them.

    In my latest video I learned to get specific about why viewers should watch my videos. I'd come from a business lunch in London with the Department for International trade and a small group of diverse businesses where I'd been asking them how they connected with their customers. Did they send cards for instance? I really do feel like businesses miss a trick just sending emails at Christmas time. These days greeting cards stand out more than ever and are a powerful way of connecting on a personal level with clients. We all prefer to buy from people rather than companies.

    The week before, I explored a shop in London and visited Top Drawer Spring at Olympia trying to track down a tenth birthday card for my son. I created a homemade card for him which he loved. After watching the video of it he he said he wanted to keep it private, so I've removed, edited and reposted the clip. One of the things I've had to get good at is remembering to take nice thumbnail photos before I write and send the cards. It's one of the top tips I picked up from YouTubers Tomohawk and NettyPlays: Spend time making good thumbnails.

    My son often helps me to film The Greeting Card Project and we had a lot of fun making Week Three together. The out-takes were amusing, so I thought it would be interesting to include them to see if they generated more engagement and more shares. It's still early days, so it's hard to know for sure, but those that did watch the video enjoyed it. It is fun. I also noticed that the simple act of sending the cards for three weeks has had a positive effect on my well being.

    It's been 17 years since Jo created Blue Eyed Sun and took her first range of Glass Enamel greeting cards into Malarkey's on Bond Street. The owner at the time ordered her largest special offer and the journey of the business began. You never forget your first customer and it was great to include them in The Greeting Card project this week. I was also reminded that there's something really exciting about popping a greeting card into a post box.

    I've been wanting to do The Greeting Card Project for a couple of years and I kept putting it off because I wasn't sure if people would be interested. I've decided that it's going to be a personal exploration and that what others think of it isn't my primary goal. The simple truth is I want to send more cards.  I want to spend more time focussing on my friends and loved ones. I also want to see if the simple act of sending more cards will change how I feel and how I engage with the world. I do love sending cards. I have done since I was a child. Spending time being grateful and thanking people for Christmas gifts was really lovely and I feel closer to my friends and loved ones doing this. It was also exciting and nerve wracking to make the first video.

    The first month of the channel had 1,232 views with viewers watching over 50 hours of The Greeting Card Project for an average of 2:26 per video. The channel gained 39 subscribers and accumulated 40 likes.

    If you do watch and enjoy the videos please pop over to my YouTube Channel and subscribe. I need to get to 100 subscribers in order to get the specific URL for the project (at the moment it's just a random string of numbers). I'd also love it if you followed the project on my personal Twitter account @JeremyCorner

    Read more about my year of video here

    My February Review of The Greeting Card Project

    What is ORS Network thinking?

  • Seven Spring Fair Speakers you have to see

    7 Spring Fair Speakers

    There are some fantastic Spring Fair speakers this year. Here are seven you don't want to miss:

     

    Baroness Karren Brady

    Baroness Karron BradyBaroness Brady is a highly entertaining speaker and an extremely accomplished, no nonsense, straight talking business women. Famous for having turned around Birmingham City FC in a male dominated sport, she is now the Vice-Chairman of Westham United FC. Sitting on the boards of Syco Entertainment and the retail multinational Arcadia Group, she is also  the UK government's Small Business Ambassador. Don't miss her. She's great!

    Tuesday 7 February, 13:55 at The Fashion and Accessories Theatre

     

    Henri Davis

    Henri Davis - Spring Fair 2017With 35 years of retail buying experience and product development at Habitat, Next, WH Smith and the National Trust, Henri Davis is  fountain of retail and product knowledge. She's also the current Chairman of the Giftware Association. Be sure to catch her speak.

    The Retail Market is Under Pressure 

    Sunday 5th February, 13:05 - 13:40 at the Ecommerce Theatre

    Monday 6 February, 14:15-14:45 at the Ecommerce Theatre

     

    Mary Portas

    Mary Portas - Spring Fair 2017A passionate champion of British retail, Mary Portas is a regular on British TV programs about retail. With a career that spans leading retailers like John Lewis, Harrods, the Burton Group and Harvey Nichols, Mary discusses changes in consumer behaviour as a result of the economy, the digital revolution and how different retail sectors are responding. She has some brilliant insights about how to get it right in retail in the current climate and what mistakes to avoid. Don't miss her.

    Monday 6 February, 13:10 at The Fashion and Accessories Catwalk

     

    Charlotte Biggs

    Charlotte Biggs Spring Fair 2017Charlotte Biggs runs the brilliant industry showcase Card and Gift Network as well as the popular online directory Picadilly Lane. She's a gold mine of useful insights into blogging, social media and digital marketing. As well as hearing her talk on Thursday you can pick her brains one to one at Spring Fair on Wednesday. Don't miss out.

    Building your prospective market with blogging content

    Wednesday 8th February, 13:00 - 16:00 at the Ecommerce Theatre

    Thursday 9 February, 13:30 - 14:00 at the Ecommerce Theatre

     

    Chris Fox

    Chris Fox - Spring Fair 2017Greetings Today columnist, Chris Fox, looks after the website design and social media marketing Wishes of Cudsworth. He also runs the Gift Shop Hub blog sharing tips on how to use online marketing to promote your independent shop. See him speak and book a session with him for one to one advice.

    How to promote your business online whilst running your shop

    Sunday 5 February, 11:15 - 11:45 at the Ecommerce Theatre

    Sunday 5 February, 13:00 - 16:00 at the Ecommerce Theatre

     

    Amy Hobson

    Amy Hobson - Spring Fair 2017Amy Hobson is a Partner with social media and digital marketing agency SocialB. She has extensive retail experience and is an expert in SEO, helping businesses drive traffic and sales to their websites.

    How to Make your business appear in Google searches

    Wednesday 8 February, 12:15 - 12:45 at the Ecommerce Theatre

    Daily Meet the Expert slots 13:00 - 16:00 at the Ecommerce Theatre

     

    Jeremy Corner

    Jeremy Corner - SpringFair2017Progressive Greetings Columnist, Giftware Association Vice-Chairman and Sage Business Expert, Jeremy Corner shares his experiences growing Blue Eyed Sun and Ivy Ellen online both in the UK and abroad.

    10 Things to do in your business before using social media

    Tuesday 7th February 12:00 - 12:30, Ecommerce Theatre

    Social Media Tips for Retailers

    Tuesday 7th February 13:00 - 16:00, Ecommerce Theatre

    Retailers Roundtable: Sharing Ecommerce challenges and successes

    Wednesday 8th February, 11:00 - 11:50 at the Ecommerce Theatre

    7 Key Insights into growing international customer relationships

    Wednesday 8 February, 14:00 - 14:30, DIT Export Theatre

     

    I hope that you gains lots of interesting insights from these talks and return to your business with fresh inspiration. Do drop by to say hi to me on the Blue Eyed Sun stand in Hall 3 - 3X31 to let me know what you thought of this year's Spring Fair speakers.

    Read all the Essential info you need for Spring Fair 2017

    For a full list of events at Spring Fair 2017 click here

  • Spring Fair 2017 - Essential Information

    Spring Fair 2017 - Essential Info

    Spring Fair 2017 brings together a huge range of products including an inspirational showcase of over 350 British greetings card publishers in Hall 3 at the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) in Birmingham.

    Register for FREE tickets to Spring Fair by clicking here

    When is Spring Fair 2017?

    Spring Fair International runs from Sunday 5th February until Thursday 9th February from 09:00 - 18:00 each day.

    Watch a short video of Spring Fair Greeting Card Section

    Where to Eat at Spring Fair

    We've tried lots of different restaurants at Spring Fair. Here are some of our favourites:

    5 Great Restaurants near the NEC

    Where to Stay at Spring Fair

    Consider hotels in Birmingham City Centre (which is a short train ride from the NEC).

    Find accommodation for Spring Fair here

    How to get to Spring Fair

    The sat nav post code is B40 1NT. Parking on site is free. There are 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.

    Save 25% on Virgin Rail Advance Tickets

    Seminars at Spring Fair 2017

    Improve your business at Spring Fair 2017. Click here for a full list of seminars. Blue Eyed Sun's digital marketing expert, Jeremy Corner, is running one on one social media clinics:

    Social Media Health Check for Retailers Tuesday 7th February from 13:00 in the Ecommerce Theatre.

    What's New from Blue Eyed Sun at Spring Fair

    Blue Eyed Sun is launching five gorgeous new greeting card ranges at Spring Fair 2017 on our new stand in Hall 3 near the cafeteria. Do come and say hi to us on Stand 3X31.

    Click here to see what's new from Blue Eyed Sun

    Quote coupon code: SFB17 when ordering during the shows (online or offline) for FREE CARRIAGE until 28th February.

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

    Read 12 Top Tips for Trade Show Visitors

    See if you can find Blue Eyed Sun's stand 3X31 in Hall 3 on the show map below:

    Spring Fair 2016 Floorpan NEC


    View Larger Map

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