Latest trends in fine stationery, custom invitations and announcements from the Stationers Guild

I participate in a number of forums related to the stationery industry.   For the most part, these forums are used by the participants to promote their products rather than provide useful advice to newbies and a few old-timers (like myself).  As the groups grow larger, the level of relevant communication diminishes which I guess helps explain why those who speak loudest or more often tend to dominate forum discussions.

Over the last couple of months a couple of themes have emerged:

  • How to outsource to China and get cheaper products
  • Advice on how to market store retailers to sell products that are now currently sold online.

Outsource to China

I have often been accused of denigrating the quality of products from China.  This is simply not so.  Let’s face it, the people who outsource to China are Gringos who insist on the “lowest price,” not the “highest quality product.”  I have no doubt in my mind that Chinese craftspeople can (and do)  make or design products of unmatched quality and design.  The problem is that these “outsourcing Gringos” want the “cheapest product” rather than the “best” product.

Therefore, if you are buying greeting cards manufactured in China, would you really like your client to lick the envelope?

Should you promote “new” products that are now sold exclusively online?

A common problem for many “new” artisans in the greeting card industry is that they first begin to sell their greeting cards online directly to the consumer.  It is a relatively inexpensive way to get your product out in front of wider audience, but requires a great deal of online marketing skills that these artisans don’t possess to develop a sustainable business.

Frustrated, they now reach out to store retailers to market their greeting card line.  Should your store carry their line?   In most cases, I would simply say “no!”  The reason is quite simple:  Why should I invest my time and resources to market an undifferentiated product for a new vendor that sells the same product online?    I am often told in these forums that “the customer wants the convenience and choice of shopping online or in a store,” as if that were sufficient justification for marketing a new line.  Sorry, but it simply doesn’t make  business sense.   Why use my expertise, store space and limited marketing budget which often tends to drive clients to an online store?

As most of my advertising and promotion is online, I am extremely careful to market stationery products and custom invitations lines that have either an affiliate program or do not sell online.    The goal of my online marketing campaign is to drive people to my store.  Nevertheless, we need to talk about products and lines that we actually carry in the store and, I suspect, that the first thing the online buyer does is to visit the suppliers website.  While I am certainly disappointed not to make the sale in the store, I feel my marketing efforts have not been lost if that “marketing lead” generates an affiliate commission.

Affiliate programs by leading companies in the stationery industry is, in my opinion,  an important way to raise the standards in the industry and provide the consumer with useful information about quality stationery.  Personally, I no longer feel threatened by promoting the brand of our vendors, using their images and promotion campaigns.   In effect, it is good business for my store, my supplier and the industry as a whole.

I do hope other stationery stores will soon embrace affiliate marketing to help the cream rise to the top.   Read more on how affiliate marketing can help your business.

Tags: affiliate marketing, greeting cards

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