The Stationers Guild

Wedding Marketing Blueprint Program

I have always been a big fan of Holly Bretschneider.  She is enthusiastic, intelligent and, in my estimation, a few steps ahead of most of her fellow stationers – me included!   I was recently invited to join her Wedding Marketing Blueprint Program, which Holly believes will help you increase your wedding business, but, more importantly, do so more efficiently.

While I don’t plan to take Holly’s wedding program, I was interested in her take on “home dealers” and “coupons” from vendors that make her program more affordable.

Holly intends to offer her Wedding Marketing Blueprint Program to home dealers.  She claims that, in the past, home dealers offended her, but she now believes that “collaboration” seems appropriate to support the stationery industry.    Cynically, one can argue that you want to cast your net as wide as possible if you are promoting an online marketing program.   While I quite agree with Holly that “embracing the competition” is probably the right way to go for an individual entrepreneur or small business owner, I fail to see how this strategy will protect the stationery industry.

Let’s face it:  The internet and photoshop empowers anyone to become a wedding invitation “expert.”  (Note: I once mistakenly sat in on a Wedding Planner seminar at the National Stationery Show and sadly discovered that 90% of those attending were cross-selling Carlson Craft wedding invitations.  Talk about integrity!)

With competition expanding at an exponential rate, the National Stationery Show (“NSS”) has grown smaller each year.   Funny, with the exception of a few wedding portals, the Internet Boutiques are not represented at the NSS.  Holly is just plain wrong if she believes that more competition is good for the stationery industry.

There are close to 50 million search results on Google for the search term “wedding invitations” and the top three organic listings are for Wedding Paper Divas, Zazzle and Magnet Street.   Whether you are a bricks-and-mortar store or a home-dealer, the odds of making an online marketing dent (appear on the first page of Google) are truly stacked against you, regardless of how educational Holly’s Wedding Marketing Blueprint Program is.

My intent here is not to talk about the relevancy of Holly’s program.  Each dealer must make that determination on factors that may have more to do with lifestyle than competition.  What I really want to address is the changing landscape of the fine stationery industry and how many of the leading brands (our vendors) have paved the road to their own destruction.   Sadly, many dealers will be taken down by the ineptitude, greed and tunnel vision of their vendors.  I liken it to being on board the Titanic without a lifeboat.

In simple economic terms:  the higher the available quantity, the lower the price.   The stationery market is saturated with low quality products produced by commercial printers and/or  inexpensive ink-jet and laser printers.  While letterpress invitations are still relatively strong, I have been told by vendors that the engraving business is off almost 90%!

Why?  Consumers do not see the “value” in letterpress or engraved printing based on low-resolution internet images.  The deciding factor is price, not value.    In fact, many vendors who in times past sold quality stationery have now responded to the “new demographics” and are producing cheaper designs – printed on low quality paper – in the hope that their “brand name” will lead to increased volume and revenue.  This is a recipe for disaster.  Neither the consumer nor the industry is well-served by this strategy.

Now, I often come off as a curmudgeon when discussing fine stationery, but as I tell my wife each year when we attend the National Gift Show:  ”So much s__t and so little time to see it.”  Fortunately, the NSS is now so small that most of the garbage and insipid designs have long since disappeared.  Nevertheless, this is a great opportunity to celebrate fine papers, beautiful printing techniques and truly original designs.  Sadly, many paid morons are running around tweeting about “trends” at the NSS rather than learning how fine stationery is made.

What does it all mean?  I do not have a crystal ball, but printing companies – both large and small – who nurture their brand  will survive and hopefully prosper.   Companies that compromise their brand to chase the price demographics of social media connoisseurs  will soon disappear.   Experienced stationers who have long protected and promoted the leading brands will soon throw in the towel since they no longer feel comfortable representing vendors who seem to be following a different path to “prosperity.”

What emerges from this transformation of the stationery industry is something that few of us can predict.   I suppose a market reversal will occur once the consumer realizes that “cheap” is not worth the paper it is printed on.

Richard W. May
Founding Member of the Stationers Guild

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7 Responses to “Wedding Marketing Blueprint Program”

  1. Are Home-Based Businesses Hurting the Stationery Industry? | Boutique Profits Says:

    [...] My comments drew some criticism from Richard May on his Stationers Guild blog. [...]

  2. Mary C. Bower Says:

    I am an in-home studio invitation dealer…I have to fight internet sales everyday..it wouldn’t matter if I am in a store front (done that) or working out of my home. To imply that I am competition is laughable! I have a niche in my area, but you hit the nail on the head, there is decreased appreciation for what goes into fine stationery. I do sell great letterpress products out of my home…SMOCK, Designer’s Press, Lemon Tree Stationery, ELUM, etc. Brides are so accustomed to finding the “bargain” on the internet, if they come to me, some expect the same. Thus, I have implemented a consultation fee, very modest at best, that is applied to an order if the order is placed within 7 days of the appointment. This is not a problem for brides who know what I have to offer and who understand the importance a stationer plays in taking care of all the details. I took Holly’s Blue print program, and quite frankly, spent a lot of money on a program that only made me realize, I was already doing many of things that she was teaching. I already have a website, utilize social media constantly, maintain excel spreadsheets, etc. Having a store front doesn’t make you smarter than the home base stationer…we are actually selling the same thing…my overhead just tends to be lower, and I to sign the same non-discounting agreements that she does. But she had no problem charging me and others over $1,000 for her program. I am not complaining, there are always take away’s from any education, but had I known that she was not supportive of home-based stationers, I may not have been so eager to send her my money. I have great reviews from my clients…see WeddingWire, and my fault for not chasing after more testimonials. I am keeping my business afloat during these times, it helps my family financially. I love the stationery business and will hang on as long as I can. I provide stellar customer service that can’t be matched on an internet site. I would like to see Holly be more supportive of home based instead of snubbing us as competition…let’s face, store fronts and home based are facing the all mighty internet big box sites. Let’s all team up as viable businesses and demonstrate our value as store front and home based together! Mary, Occasions, Holt, Michigan

  3. Richard May Says:

    Thanks Mary. Best success to you and other struggling home dealers.

  4. Ellen Prague Says:

    I tend to agree with everything you said Richard. I liken it to the ’80’s when every clothing brand opened a shop on every main street in America. Once you could find it all everywhere, who wanted it anymore? Now, especially with luxury brands, everyone is being more discriminating. There is enormous competition in the stationery business now, but not a day goes by that I don’t hear from a customer how: they received an invitation and the honoree’s name was misspelled; or, they went to a bridal show and the invitation person couldn’t explain exactly what engraving was; or, they ordered a layered, $3,000 invitation from someone and it wasn’t assembled straight…. etc., etc. The best however, was 2 weeks ago when when of my employees answered the phone and was left speechless by the woman who wanted to know if we carried those e-vite things…. really, you can’t make this stuff up. I believe there is still a need for a stationery shop that is open to the public certain days and hours and gives great service and the correct advice…. doing this has kept me in business for the past 31 years and while I no longer believe I can serve everyone, I know I’m appreciated by many. Home based businesses come and go … the people running them think it’s easy and when they discover how much work it is, they usually go away.

  5. Richard May Says:

    Thanks Ellen. I know it is a struggle for many experienced stationers. I wish you well and will continue to do my best to support the stationery industry.

  6. Larry Steiner Says:

    Let’s face it, the Internet is causing “creative destruction” in may markets. I think Richards comments are well founded if you are set on running a traditional, top end of the market, social expression business. In our little rural market, I feel that type of business only really served the top end of the market – and in our area there is precious little “carriage trade”. When we added invitations and announcements a few years ago, we weren’t defending an existing business model but creating new business. We use technology that Richard would likely hate, a Xerox 700 digital press, but most of today’s brides don’t even know what engraving is.Satisfaction is high. We use nice paper, with very nice designs and consult in our store. We have no trouble competing with the internet or home based businesses. We add value with customization, consultation and being vertically integrated. Heck, we are glad to print for home based designers.

  7. Richard May Says:

    Thanks Larry. Sorry, but I don’t “hate” technology, even a Xerox 700 digital press. In fact, I can’t wait for the Xerox 800 to come out next year.

    Glad you are doing well in your market and hope that it continues.

    Cheers

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