Consultation Case Study: Improving a Greeting Card Line

By Carolyn Edlund

 An artist who designed a line of greeting cards requested a consultation to evaluate her collection and sales strategies. Is this line ready for retail?

 

Case Study Improving a Greeting Card Line

 

My artist client had created an entire line of cards for the purpose of selling them in the wholesale marketplace. A catalog was in process. She was looking for help in evaluating her line as a whole, and wanted specific advice about making necessary changes to make her products as saleable as possible.

We discussed sentiment categories, sizes, pricing, stock and envelope choices, cellophane, barcodes, terms, minimums, headers, display options, trade shows, related products, and marketing strategy.

Evaluating Categories

One of the most important factors in determining the success of a card line is balance. When a card artist schedules a consultation, we always start by evaluating the percentages of their line that fall into different categories, to be sure they are properly balanced for the marketplace.

We took a look at the percentage of her line greeted as Birthday, and decided to increase it by changing the greetings on some non-Birthday cards. If Birthday is not a full 50% of the line, it does not reflect market demand. Then we reviewed other categories, such as Friendship, Anniversary, Thank You, Sympathy, New Baby, etc.  If these sentiment categories are not in the right percentages, sales suffer there as well.

Blank Cards

I found that this artist had too many blank cards in her line, and was unsure of which ones to keep. We discussed how to choose the cards in her line that would work best as blanks.

Many artists produce blank cards only. If they are used as a marketing tool, free gift with a purchase of art, or a small sideline to a fine art business, that’s fine. But if you want to produce and sell cards as a business, you cannot depend on blanks. 90% of American buyers are looking for cards greeted on the inside, because they are buying a card for a particular occasion. Store buyers have little interest in looking at “yet another line of blanks,” no matter how pretty or appealing.

Fine Tuning the Line

Another crucial process in getting a line into stellar shape is to review each individual card.  The image on the card grabs the customer’s attention, but the message will sell it. Is the message clear and complete? Does it work? Take a look at your own line, and evaluate each one. Ask yourself, “Who would buy this card and why? Who would they send it to?” If you don’t know, make some changes.

My client’s line needed some adjusting, particularly because she had some categories which aren’t popular enough to include in a small collection. Several of them were in the “Bon Voyage” category, which accounts for a miniscule percentage of cards sold. We worked together to change the greetings and put them in more popular categories rather than let them languish as unsold inventory.

What to Toss

Other categories generally not worth including (unless you have a large line or specialty market) are New Home, Good Luck, Retirement, Bridal Shower, Baby Shower, I’m Sorry, and Pet Sympathy. Seasonal (holiday) cards of all types and cards for relatives should also not be included in small card lines. Some people may take exception to this, citing their Christmas card collection. Include that holiday if you must, but be aware that returns/exchanges and other issues may surface with retailers, who are accustomed to making seasonal returns to most other greeting card vendors.

Pricing

My client felt unsure about her price points, and also whether she should be printing the retail price on her card. We adjusted the retail price for her, and I strongly suggested the price be printed on each card.  I do not know of a single retailer who has the time or interest to stick prices on greeting cards. Nor do customers want to peel those stickers off cards when they purchase them.

Artists should become acquainted with average market prices for their type of product. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel on this with an unusual retail price point. For example, $2.17 is not a card price. Prices typically end with .25, .49, .50, .75, .95 or .99, and the public is accustomed to this.

Goals

A card line consultation and review encompasses many topics. We address the line as a whole, and every aspect of the processed involved in selling it – making it ready for retail.

When evaluating your own card line, work towards accomplishing these two goals:

  • Adjusting the line to make it easy and appealing for the customer to choose your cards over your competition
  • Remove any barriers to the sales process, both at wholesale and retail

In this competitive industry, small details can make a huge difference. Does your card line measure up?

 

 

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YES PLEASE!

Comments

  1. I use blank cards as a method of promotion. I prepare blank note cards of every painting I produce. Each card has a reproduction of the painting on one face, and a few words about the story, location, or other background notes, on the other, accompanied by my name, email and web address.

    I usually charge $2 each at art shows, or give them away to people who have expressed interest in that painting. If someone buy the painting, I send them a dozen as a thank you gift.

    • Peter, I agree that having notecards of your art is an excellent way to promote your work. What a great way to share with prospective clients – and sending a free dozen is a great thank you gift!

      As I mentioned in my article, I give a pass on my criticism of blank cards to artists who are using them for the purposes that you are. My advice on greetings is for designers whose main focus is creating a card line for wholesale to store buyers (or even retail on a website, for example). This is a different market than you have.

    • Very interesting. I sell blank cards and only at Christmas season do I included greeting. I use cards at shows and charge 5…usually make 200 to 300 on cards at a show. But going to look at cards differently now. Maybe an opportunity to go bigger with greetings…thanks for this!

  2. Very solid advice… taken to heart…. and to my card line.

  3. Great advice and very helpful tips as I am just finishing up my first set of greeting cards. Based on this case study I think I will be making a few changes.
    I am grateful to a friend who just sent me a link to your blog. I have just spent over an hour here looking at the many helpful articles.

    • Thank you, Heather. The greeting card business is very competitive. As a former rep, I spoke to retailers every day, learning their needs and how to get an edge over the competition, make sales, and cultivate repeat accounts. You must understand what you are up against – the trends and what makes retailers buy. This article is a general start to get card designers pointed in the right direction.

  4. This was a great article VERY informative. I have also made a few changes based on the new information I read.
    I am in New York and I would like to know where I can get a Consultation and Review on my line?

    • Hi Chantel,
      Thanks for your comments. I work with a number of greeting card entrepreneurs to improve the marketability of their line.

      Since you asked about a consultation, I will contact you. Anyone else who is looking for a session can email me at [email protected](dot)com. We can set a convenient time to speak.

      Carolyn

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