Blue Eyed Sun

Blue Eyed Sun - gorgeous greetings cards

Social Media Tips

  • 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.


    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.


    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?

  • How retailers can start selling online

    Selling online for retailers

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

    Low Cost Digital Marketing

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

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

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

    Selling on Facebook

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

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

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

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

    Shipping to Your Fans

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

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

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

    Negative Feedback

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

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

    Free Listings

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

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

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


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

    Getting Started

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

    9 tips for social selling

    How to get started with digital marketing

    10 things to do before using social media for business

  • 10 things to do before using social media for business

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

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

    Here’s how to get started:

    1. Know your customers

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

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

    2. A Good Offering

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

    3. What Makes You Different?

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

    4. Communicate your Specialness

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

    5. Your website works

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

    6. A well trained team

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

    7. A useful blog

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

    8. Performance Tracking

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

    9. Social strategy

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

    10. Engaged fan network

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

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

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

    What is ORS network thinking?

    Learn about social psychology in social media

    Why you should always listen first on social media


  • What is ORS Network Thinking?

    What Is ORS?

    My ORS journey began in 2009 when I started experimenting with social media and bought several books on the subject, one of which was by an entrepreneur called Penny Power (called Know Me, Like Me, Follow Me). Penny and her husband Thomas Power founded one of the first social networks for businesses in 1998. Called, it built a sizable number of users in the UK and was a forerunner to LinkedIn, which was recently purchased by Microsoft for $28 billion.

    Penny’s book led me to the video below of Thomas talking about a concept called ORS or network thinking and the shift that organisations and businesses have to make to achieve success online using social media. ORS appealed to me and I thought that Thomas was onto something recognising the shift from institutional thinking to network thinking online.

    I also think that ORS thinking is natural for so many people in the card and gift industries, particularly for newcomers and millennials.  If you don’t fit into these categories it’s worth paying attention because it’s these new ways of thinking that are disrupting business models around the world.

    After meeting Thomas at the Sage Summit in New Orleans for the first time last year we have become friends and he was gracious enough to accept my invitation to speak at the Giftware Association’s Members Day, at which I recently became Vice-Chairman of the GA. I introduced ORS to the GA two to three years ago and we are currently using it as part of our strategy to modernise the organisation.

    What is ORS?

    The shift from institutional thinking to network thinking is marked by the shift from Closed, Selective, Controlling thinking (CSC) to Open, Random, Supportive thinking (ORS).

    Sitting at board level, Thomas noticed that organisations operated in a closed, selective and controlling way where directors are responsible for corporate governance and to their shareholders. In institutions you have to operate behind closed doors to protect the organisation, you have to be selective about what you absorb and how you communicate and you have to be controlling of everything. This is driven by the demands of public policy, shareholders, staff and the law. It’s institutional thinking or CSC.

    This is very different from how we operate inside of networks where we need to be open, random and supportive (ORS). You have to be open and accept everything that comes at you, you have to be random and accept the disorder that things come at you and you have to be supportive of everyone around you. That’s networking thinking or ORS.

    Thomas believes that we are transitioning from institutional thinking to network thinking this century. Having undertaken this journey himself he reckons it takes around ten years to adjust. He’s even devised a tool where you can assess your digital personality type to see how easy or difficult it might be for you to make this change. You can try it for free at:

    Why ORS?

    As social beings we all know the benefits of having a good network of friends and acquaintances. Interestingly, studies have shown the benefits to be more powerful in the secondary network than those closest to us. That new job offer or business opportunity is more likely to come from a friend of a friend than one of your buddies for example.

    In the 1990’s British anthropologist, Robin Dunbar, found a correlation between primate brain size and average social group size. Dunbar’s Number proposes that on average most of us can only comfortably maintain 150 stable relationships with our current brain size (the number lies in a range from 100 to 250). This is the average number of people we know on and keep social contact with. It doesn’t include those we have ceased a social relationship with or that we know but lack a persistent social relationship with. The bigger our long term memory size the higher the number is likely to be. Assuming Dunbar’s number to be correct and assuming that we appear once in our close friends’ networks then the average maximum number for most of our secondary networks is 22,350 (150x149).

    With social media and other forms of communication this number can be much higher. In a nutshell you can maintain more active relationships than before and from there more secondary relationships and opportunities open up. In order to do this successfully we have to build trust. To do this quickly and effectively we have to be open, random and supportive.

    The Fear of ORS

    Thomas trains board level executives in how to use social media effectively and, as he himself knows from experience, it’s not an easy journey to make. Even though I regularly practice being random and supportive for me it is a continuing challenge to be more open.

    That’s because being more open can make us feel more vulnerable.  Being vulnerable is often perceived as weakness (particularly in the board room). Yet it is our vulnerability that is our strength. Through it people can see us for who we really are and begin to trust us. As TED speaker Brené Brown says:

    “Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage...  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. In me it’s weakness.”

    The fear we have of being ORS is that people will confirm the terrible idea which we may have about ourselves that we are somehow not worthy of connecting with. In its darkest manifestation it’s a fear that we are not really loved or loveable.

    The one thing that keeps us from connecting with one another is our fear that we are not worthy. It seems easier to protect ourselves by being closed, selective and controlling.

    ORS is really about looking within and challenging this fear. We must be courageous enough to tell the story of who we are with our whole heart. We must recognise that we are imperfect and let go of our illusions (or delusions if you prefer) of control.

    If you consider your feelings for a moment,we cannot live a full life keeping by treating them in a closed, selective and controlling way. You cannot numb these feelings. If you try to numb pain you numb joy.  If vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, creativity and love then you can only really spread this through an ORS approach and it’s practically impossible to do so by being CSC.

    The Change

    We see ORS more and more online these days. The CEO that admits to the failings of their business publically and sets out how they will change to try and prevent these things occurring again is the one we trust over those that try and cover or hide their mistakes. There are business leaders that support new start-ups and the TV personalities that talk openly to random fans directly on Twitter.

    The truth is, in the new world of social media we are already naked and bare before the world whether we like it or not. Even if you personally aren’t online there are people online talking about you or wanting to engage with you (Just take a look on TripAdvisor). We can no longer hide, even if we want to. We have to be courageous and unafraid. We have to step up online and have courage.

    The companies that aren’t afraid to make mistakes, ask for feedback, listen to us (no matter how small or seemingly insignificant our questions) are the ones that are thriving and growing. These are the businesses we all want to buy from. These are the companies that millennials are drawn to.

    It’s important to qualify that not everything has to be online or open. We don’t necessarily post all of our trade secrets, accounts or patents online (although this has been happening in some industries – think of open source projects like Linux and Wikipedia).

    For my own part, writing this monthly column in Progressive Greetings magazine and this blog where I explore my failures and challenges publically has been a big part of my ongoing ORS journey. I've also started a YouTube channel called The Greeting Card Project which explores the nature of sending cards and supports our industry.

    The journey towards continues...

    9 Tips for Social Selling using Social Media

    Learn the importance of being authentic online

    How to get started with Digital Marketing


  • 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

  • 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

  • 9 tips for Social Selling using Social Media

    Tips For Social Selling

    I was recently lucky enough to be invited to New Orleans to take part in the Sage Summit 2015, which included a huge variety of amazing and inspiring speakers on a whole range of subjects including social media and, in particular, social selling.

    Here are nine things I learnt about social selling on this trip: 

    1. Engagement is Key

    So many businesses use social media like a megaphone blaring out sales offers and suggesting products for people to buy that it can all feel like one big advert. Don’t do this. Social media is conversation made digital. Use these powerful tools to engage with like minded people who share similar interests. Talk with them. Grow with them. Have fun. Don’t be that guy at the party that’s all sell, sell, sell.

    2. Social Selling

    So… if you don’t sell using these social media channels, what is social selling? We all like to make up our own minds about what we want to buy don’t we? Everybody likes to buy and nobody likes to be sold. Social sellers understand this and never sell directly. Marketing on social media is more subtle and engaged with customers. You have to offer useful or funny content that helps people online and then fit your products into this. Social Sellers tend to offer content that leads to the product, not from the product.

    3. Buying is changing

    In business to consumer (B2C) buying 72% of the purchase decision is now made before the customer arrives at your store (57% in business to business or b2b). They will have seen your products on the internet, asked friends or used social media to actively evaluate price, value and best place to buy. Such customers are often in a state of anticipation looking forward to their purchase. You can help them enjoy their purchase with reassurance on price, quality and service. 

    4. Authenticity Matters

    People buy from people. It’s important that the voice you use online is authentic and real. People want a relationship with brands and companies. They don’t want to feel like they are just another dollar in the company’s coffers. They want to be nurtured, appreciated and cared for. The rewards for companies that do this well are great as social media users are statistically more likely to share their good experience, recommend you to friends and return to shop again.

    5. Be Good

    Try to avoid doing anything that people will hate you for. If you do this by mistake, acknowledge the mistake, apologise and move on. You don’t need to perfect or even outstanding all the time. You just need to be good and avoid being bad. People don’t return to bad restaurants. They will return to an okay or good restaurant. To be successful at this you need to have good feedback loops from your customers to your business so you know when things have gone wrong and can deal with them quickly.

    6. Ignore Trolls

    The internet is full of trolls. Trolls are different from a customer that has a genuine grievance and is angry, you must attend to these and turn their experience around so that they become fans. Trolls who just hurl abuse should be left alone. Ignore them and focus on your customers and fans instead. Filter the noise and don’t rise to any baiting.

    7. Being a Fan

    You must be your own fan of what you do. Social media is so much easier when you love what you do. It follows that you’ll then be authentic and passionate about your subject area and be able to share this with engaged followers. 

    8. Image is everything

    Create and curate beautiful images of your products and share them on your social channels. Instagram and Pinterest are very good for this. You can even create short videos using the images and post them to YouTube or Vine. A picture speaks a thousand words and great images are easy for your fans to share.

    9. Sharing is caring

    Writing great blogs, posting gorgeous pics and making useful videos all take time and effort by content creators. If you see anything good on the internet share it on your social channels. It’s a quick and easy way to say thanks to the author that adds real value to them and costs you very little. Following, subscribing and sharing what you like online will also improve your understanding of engagement on social media.

    So… if you like what you’ve read please do share it using the sharing tools above and tell me what you think on social media.

    How to get started with Social Media

    Marketing: Then vs Now

    10 Business Basics to get right before using Social Media

  • How to get started with digital marketing

    Digital MarketingWe’ve been using various types of digital marketing with both our businesss, Blue Eyed Sun and Ivy Ellen, for several years now with some success. I have also written on digital marketing in several magazines, on blogs and given talks at major trade shows. Here’s how you can get started with some key digital marketing tools along with some practical case studies:



    Check that your customer base or target customer base use social media. The easiest way is to ask which platforms they like to use. If you have an email list of your customers, many of the social networks have ways of using this to connect straight to them.


    Before you dismiss it as fad, you should be aware that 72% of all internet users are active on social media and it’s not just the young; 60% of 50-60 year olds use these tools to connect with others.    


    It’s worth having a website (even if it’s basic) and adding a snippet of code to it from Google Analytics, which will provide you with statistical data. Knowing who comes to your site, where from and how they use it will help you to manage your digital marketing effectively.


    Finally, social media is not like marketing in the traditional sense. Do not simply shout out your wares. Try to be useful, fun, informative and most importantly engaging. Ask questions, be friendly and be as useful as possible online. 



    Facebook has 1.39 billion users and is a free social networking site that allows users to create profiles, upload photos and video, send messages and keep in touch with people. You will need to set up a profile as an individual as well as a page for your business. Start by connecting with friends to grow the number of people following your page. Those pages that are most successful share images relevant to their followers. Remember to include your Facebook details on your till slips and carrier bags, etc.


    One of our retailers, Bijou in Elgin, uses Facebook very well to engage locally with customers. With a population of 22,980 their page has 4,462 likes and people actively comment on the pictures Bijou post of the delicious looking food (aka #foodporn) in their cafe and new products just in. They also engage with groups that discuss products they sell (like collectible teddy bears) in helpful, non-selling ways. 



    Twitter is an online social networking service, with 280 million active users, that enables users to send and read short 140 character messages called “tweets.” It’s popular with celebrities,  journalists and PR folk so is great for promoting your business and engaging with fans. Tweeters are more active web store visitors and buy more from tweeting retailers. Watch and listen before tweeting. Engage and interact in helpful ways and don’t be pushy. Never drink and tweet. Grow your followers by following those with shared interests.


    With a local population of 19,274, Gift in Lindley has almost 400 followers on Twitter which the shop uses to engage with suppliers and locals. They share or retweet local stories and show lovely pictures of exciting new products that have arrived in their shop without pushing them in a hard sell kind of way. They’ve also been able to boost their PR, grow their brand locally and win awards through using  Twitter.



    Pinterest is an online visual discovery tool that you can use to find ideas for all your projects and interests. With 70 million users worldwide it is the social network that is most likely to drive spontaneous purchasing. Referrals from Pinterest are more likely to buy and tend to spend more than those from Facebook. Pin products you sell on to your Pinterest page and link back to your website. Make your pins fun and visually stimulating to share your company’s personality.


    The John Lewis Pinterest page focuses on timely, relevant and useful content for their followers. For example, in January John Lewis created a page that included tips on nutrition and fitness as well as useful products that would help customers achieve their New Year Resolutions.



    Instagram is a fun, quirky application used to share your life with your community through a series of images. You have to download the app to your phone or mobile device and then take and upload images from it to your profile. Use it to tell the visual story of your brand. High quality images drive higher engagement. Try posting images of new product arrivals to your shop and aim to create compelling content. Use the # symbol before keywords relating to your images when posting. 


    The Dressing Room in St Albans uses Instagram to tell the visual story of their fashion boutique brand and share exciting new arrivals of products in store. They drive high engagement and offer compelling content that their fans love.



    LinkedIn is a professional, business orientated social network that strengthens and extends your existing network of trusted contacts. It’s great for controlling your online presence as a professional and is used by 50% of companies when hiring. It’s also a brilliant way of rising to the top of Google searches for anyone looking to connect with you or your business online.


    With over 15 million UK users I am amazed that more sales agents, suppliers and retailers don’t use LinkedIn. It’s the fastest and easiest way to create a professional, credible website for attracting new business to yourself. I also use it as a live address book to keep track of my professional relationships as well as to share company news and gain knowledge in relevant groups. Click to see: Blue Eyed Sun's linkedIn company page.



    Google’s social network is Google+, which is worth using if online search is important to your business. Registering for free with Google Business is an absolute must for retailers so that their shops show up on Google and map searches. Another service you can pay for is Google Maps Business View, which allows people online to walk off ‘Google Street View’ straight into your shop and wander around it in cyber space. If you do have an ecommerce site it’s also worth using Google Adwords for searches that are made locally to you for products you sell.


    If you look up Le Bizz in West Kirby on Google Maps you can wander around the shop via street view, which they paid to have done by Google Approved photographer, David Firth, at a cost of around £500. There is also software available that can connect this tool to ecommerce websites so that customers can click and buy online! Business View is great if your town has day-trippers who like to plan their day in advance and can check you out before they visit.


    Online Marketplaces

    Ecommerce is a fast moving, competitive environment and small retailers will struggle to compete for the top spots on Google searches against bigger retailers and online marketplaces. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is incredibly involved and time consuming to take on. I believe the race to to the top spots has been won by the big marketplaces like Ebay, Amazon, Not on the High Street and Etsy. It’s easier to set up an account on them than to run your own site.  They have pre-established customer bases with millions of visitors each month. They’re powerful on SEO and are cheap and easy to list products on. 


    Emailing Lists

    A really powerful way of connecting with your customers is to send them an email which offers them deals they want or information they’ll find useful. We use software called MailChimp to contact our customers before trade shows or when we have clearance sales. The software helps our emails to look good, monitors click throughs and avoids emails getting blocked in SPAM filters. They are always packed with useful bits and pieces and are not all about selling our cards. Try not to bombard your customers with these or they will unsubscribe.



    Be aware that digital marketing is a beast that needs feeding on a regular ongoing basis. It’s good to have a strategy for your content and a plan for how you will deliver it. People love good images and helpful, funny or interesting insights more than hard sales tactics (although they also like a good special offer too). Make sure you plan a system that allows you to keep up with digital marketing and be patient as social media networks take time to grow. 


    10 Business basics to get right before using social media


    Read more social media tips on our blog here


    Discover our top ten business tools

  • Marketing Then vs Now

    Marketing: Then vs NowId like to introduce you to two fictional independent retailers: Hank and Bob. If you met them in a social setting, like a party, youd have completely different experiences of them because they both operate in contrasting ways. By the end of this post you should have a better idea of the differences between marketing then vs now as shown by Hank and Bob.


    Meet Hank

    Hank is a real salesman and has a lot of drive and focus. He loves to make money and his business is his means for doing this. He sees most people as an opportunity to make more sales. Hell think nothing of buttonholing someone at a party, whilst he takes them through the benefits of purchasing whatever it is hes selling that week. Hes learnt all the key sales techniques and is very good at it. Sell the sizzle, not the steak and all that jazz. Unfortunately, hes often so in your face that hes the one many of us might seek to avoid. Hank represents the old style of marketing: loud, annoying, interruptive, insensitive and impersonal.


    Meet Bob

    Like Hank, Bob is passionate about his business. He has a hardware store and has always loved working with his hands and helping others. Bob is known in his community as the go to guy for DIY. If you met him at a party you might never even find out what Bob does unless you asked. Hes more likely to put you in touch with his Chiropractor to help you sort out your bad back than he is in selling to you. Bob is funny, endearing, interested in you as a person and in helping others. Bob is how marketing is evolving: hes engaging, meaningful, relevant, informative and personal. Hes also more lovable than Hank.


    Social Media is like a party

    What most people dont get about social media is that its not like old marketing of the past. Youre better off being more like Bob than Hank at these online gatherings. Actually, I think social media is better than a normal party because you can join in the conversation with anyone there discussing any topic you are interested in at any time. Youre not restricted by location and you dont have to get buttonholed or caught up in irrelevant chit chat if you dont want to. Even when you do, it could still benefit your business as users of social media are more likely to visit brandswebsites and are more likely to purchase than those who arent using these tools. On some social media platforms, like Pinterest and Instagram, users also tend to spend more than others.


    Whats important to remember when using social media is that it is not about selling and shouting out your wares like youre at a fish market. Most businesses using these tools are standing with a bullhorn blaring out special offers, deals and product offerings. Who cares? Imagine doing this at a party! Youd just be annoying.


    Social media is about engagement with a community that is relevant to your business. So, if you are a retailer in a small town for example, it helps to connect with other businesses on your high street as much as it does to build your own list of consumer followers. You can then cross promote (rather than just self promote) by sharing things with like minded people across your networks and helping to put people in touch with one another. If you want to enjoy a party and show people a good time be fun, be interesting and be genuinely helpful.


    Customer Experience

    Were living in an age of commerce where experience dominates consumerssensibilities. Customer experience is the predominant way businesses can add value to the goods or services they sell. Most importantly authenticity of experience affects who consumers buy from and what they choose to buy. Our stories are a way of communicating this authenticity. Lets take another look at our retailersstories:


    Hanks Story

    Hank grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. His mother raised him single handedly whilst holding down two jobs after his father left them. They never had any money for treats or nice toys. As Hank raises his own kids, he wants a better life for them and this drives his focus on sales. His story is one of rags to riches. Because Hank is ashamed of his past, people miss out on his authentic self. This is a pity as it could be inspiring for others and it could draw customers to him.  


    Bobs Story

    Bob grew up building things with his father who was very handy and could fix almost anything. His mother was a nurse. Bob learnt his handyman skills from his dad and his compassion and community spirit from his mum. He has a son of his own whom he likes to surprise with new bits and pieces of DIY kit from his store when it comes in. He and his son enjoy building tree houses, go-karts and the like together just as he did with his father.


    The effect of narratives on our brains

    How do you feel about both of our retailers having read a little bit more about their stories? Do you find yourself endeared to them? Do you feel closer to them? Does anything about their stories resonate with you? Perhaps you didnt like Hank as much at the start and now that you understand him a little better you can relate to him. You might even think Bob could learn a thing or two from him about selling and perhaps Hank could learn about contribution from Bob.


    Our brains are hardwired to relate powerfully to stories. Character driven tales consistently cause something called oxytocin synthesis. Studies show that the amount of oxytocin released by the brain as a result of narratives predicts how much people are willing to help others. Oxytocin is often referred to as the trust hormoneand building trust with customers is essential to all businesses.


    They say that trust is won in inches and lost in miles. Kind, considerate, helpful information and interaction with your community are the foundation stones of building trust in this new era of marketing. As we experience more of Bob and Hanks stories this sense of connection grows.


    Authenticity is more important than spinning a good yarn about your business that isnt true. You dont have to be warts and all, but you do have to be real. Its more important to understand the story of your organisation (and then focus on fitting that into your marketing strategy) than simply setting up social media accounts and blaring out offers in the hope of boosting sales.


    Your story has to resonate, have meaning and engage with your audience. People want more personal experiences with their favourite brands. They want to share passions, experiences and values with your business. How much people engage with you, your brand and the story of your business affects trust levels and repeat custom. 


    New Marketing

    This new environment opens up a host of opportunities for smaller retailers to win against the big boys. Think about what drove your organisations founders to take the risk of starting the business. How they hoped it would benefit their community or even the world at large.


    Use narrative techniques like surprise (show something unusual that arrived in stock in your shop this week) or suspense (what secret launch you are planning next week). Think about the stories of your staff, suppliers and customers and how they fit with your brands story. Use these to engage your audience and add value to your communities.


    Use your social media accounts to be helpful by posting things that people in your community want to see or will enjoy. Engage with them by asking questions, answering questions and sharing. Its ok to say what you do and to mention that you have special offers from time to time. Just dont ram it down peoplesthroats with every post. Marketing is not what it was and its time to adapt and reap the benefits of offering your customers and community a more valuable experience of your brand online. 


    See all the slides from my recent talk on Marketing your Retail Business


    Click here to read all of our blog posts on Social Media

  • Innovative Ways to Market your Retail Business Online

    Slides from my digital marketing seminars at the 2015 Spring Fair International trade show. Learn how to market your retail business online using social media and other innovative ideas. This presentation is interactive. Click on images, logos and underlined text to go through to relevant webpages on the internet.
    Please feel free to share it with anyone you think would be interested. 


Items 1 to 10 of 20 total

  1. 1
  2. 2