By Christine Pentecost—
The greeting and note card business is booming despite the ease of sending digital cards. Hallmark’s slogan sums up the difference between the two. An emailed card is a half-hearted gesture, but “when you care to send the very best” only a paper card will do. It shows you’ve taken the time to give your recipient a warm and personal feeling when they open the envelope.
About 12 years ago, I decided to see if I could get some of my note cards (which I’d been selling at art shows and online) into local retail shops. But, I had no clue as to how or where to even start. I knew nothing about how retail sales worked. As a matter of fact, I think I was lucky to even get my foot in the door! Fast forward to today: I have retail accounts all over the Montana, and others out of state, due to persistent marketing and, or course providing a quality product.
Prior to my entrance into the retail world of note cards, I’d seen some cards where you buy the card that has an insert for a printed photo, and then you hand write your information on the back. That certainly didn’t impress me. I’ve also seen cards where the image is printed on basic photo paper and glued to a flimsy blank note card. That wasn’t for me either, as it looked “too crafty and not professional enough”. Retailers want quality because quality sells, so that’s where I needed to start.
I’ve always been a fan of Red River papers, so I purchased their note card sampler packs. Red River currently offers two different greeting card sampler packs. The base sample kit offers two sheets each of their five top selling papers, and their greeting card expansion kit offers two sheets each of seven other top selling papers.
The sample packs come in the A7 size. It’s important to learn the different sizes of card stock before you place your card order. A7 is 5” x 7” when folded, A6 is 4.5” x 6.25” when folded, and A2 is 5.5” x 4.25” when folded. I prefer to use A6 because I feel A7 is too big and A2, too small. And since A6 is the choice of most photographers and artists, you may want to begin with that size. Red River also has panorama cards and half-letter sized cards.
I chose the River Linen card stock, as I liked the light texture and thickness of the paper. I found it easy to learn how to create my own note card templates via the card set up and printing tutorials available on Red River’s website. These tutorials are for Photoshop, Photoshop Elements and Lightroom.
Don’t Be Shy
How did I build my greeting card business when I had no clue as to what I was doing? First off, be aware of the seasonal purchasing done by retailers. My first attempt was a cold call to get my foot in the door of a local retailer. I brought in samples of note cards, but they were from all different seasons of the year. Summer images aren’t going to be big sellers at Christmas time, just as winter scenes aren’t going to do well in the summer. Fortunately, the buyer saw the quality of the cards and the images, and offered to give me a chance. Now I am one of the top note card suppliers to this store.
While showing up with out of season note cards was my first minor mistake, the second was not learning beforehand who I should speak with, and if they were even available. A little research and a phone call can quickly resolve that issue. If you can set an appointment, that’s even better. Don’t be shy. Just call the store and ask who is in charge of buying note and greeting cards and go from there.
Expanding Your Business
How do you expand your greeting card business? You may (or may not) have some of the best art work or photography ever created. But, just because you have created something amazing isn’t going to make your phone ring non-stop with retailers wanting to order. This is where you have to get your work and your name in front of potential retailers. This is where you need to speak up on behalf of your creative work, despite how uncomfortable it might make you. Having a large following on social media, where you get lots of likes and shares isn’t going to bring in large retail accounts. You have to bring your work to your retailers and show them what you’ve got.
While I have dropped off note card samples at several area retailers, my hone state of Montana is a big, and I can’t possibly do that for every retailer in the state. Fortunately, I am part of the “Made in Montana” program, which offers many services, including a wholesale trade show, for Made in Montana vendors. I Googled “Made in (enter state name)” and found that many states in the US have programs for local artisans and vendors. I attended my first Montana wholesale buyer show on March 13, 2020, as the world was seemingly shutting down due to Covid, yet I picked up many very nice accounts.
I’ve also sent samples to various retailers, with an introduction letter and pricing sheet. I send samples of my most popular images, and direct them to my online note card catalog. My catalog of images has grown so much over the years, that I found the online catalog worked the best, rather than printing it out, only to have it become out of date when I added new images a week later.
More to Come…
Next time, In Part Two, I’ll discuss which cards sell and which don’t, card printing and shipping techniques, pricing your cards, and some business nitty-gritty you’ll want to know about that will contribute to your card venture’s success.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Christine Pentecost is a Red River Pro who lives in Bozeman, Montana and specializes in nature and wildlife photography. Her work can been viewed at her web site and you may also read her Red River Pro profile.
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Last updated: January 15, 2022