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Using ProSelect for Album & Marathon Book Layouts

Last July my son and his long-time fiancee finally got married. Although they had been together since college, the decision tie the knot on PPA's first-ever cruise event was very much a spur-of-the-moment decision. My son Wes heard his dad and me talking about our going on the cruise, and he figured this would be as good a time and place as any to make it official. Jess agreed, so on July 10, 2006, Wes and Jess were married aboard ship, with family members and a bunch of photographer friends in attendance.

We were extremely fortunate that award-winning wedding photographers Jamie Hayes and Mary Fisk-Taylor offered to cover the wedding. Their photos were awesome, but at first it was a daunting task for me to put an album together, as I hadn't built a wedding album in many, many years. Then I remembered that one of my SMS Clients,
Parker Smith of Atlanta, had told me he uses ProSelect to create layouts that he outputs for albums. So Parker gave me some tips and I read ProSelect's handy user guide and discovered how easy it is to quickly design your own layouts, add the images, then output them through the software's production module. What really amazed me was that I negotiated the learning curve and had 44 pages completed within less than a day.

Since the bride and groom really didn't want a traditional album, I decided to try to upload the files to Marathon Press to create a hard-bound book from their new Premiere Editions series. Again, the process was incredibly easy, and less than two weeks later I received a 10x10 illustrated-cover hard-bound book for the bride and groom, 8x8 books for the parents, and several nice purse-size 5x5s. To learn more about Marathon Premiere Edition books,
click here.

The entire process was so much fun and the books so attractive and inexpensive that I intend to start rounding up all of my family portraits and vacation images that are stuck in drawers, bulky albums, and who-knows-where else, and create a library of books that will take up so much less space and be fun for my family to enjoy.

Exciting News Today!

Today I got some exciting news from Cameron Bishopp, editor of Professional Photographer Magazine. Last November the magazine included an article entitled “How You Can Make More Money,” which concerned the Financial Benchmark Survey, a project for which I wrote the "Findings." The article, written by Leslie Hunt, summarized those findings.

So I was thrilled to learn that the article was honored with a Gold award from the Southeast Magazine Association's annual awards. Here's what the judge had to say: “Compelling, focused, specific, impeccably researched and relevant to its audience: Those are the qualities that garnered Professional Photographer's “How You Can Make More Money” the Gold Award for Best Service Journalism. The story summarized industry benchmarks without becoming mired in extraneous detail, outlined specific recommendations for increasing profits and included real-life "turnaround" stories that illustrated how business owners could use the article’s tips to do exactly what the headline
promised. Bravo!"

Congratulations to Leslie Hunt, PPA CFO Scott Kurkian, and the staff of PPA’s Studio Management Services for their hard work. It’s not often that you get a pat on the back for an article about financial management in a photography magazine. It feels really good! If you haven’t read it yet, then click on the graphic below to download a pdf.


Why SuccessWare?

Back in the mid-1990's, I got a call from Jeff Grann, who asked me if I would be willing to consult with him on the development of a comprehensive studio management software application. I had met Jeff through his wife, Judy, who was one of my first (and best) business students. As a brand-new photographer in her early 20's, Judy was highly motivated to move her fledgling studio business from her townhouse basement to a retail location so that Jeff could use the space at home for a pool table. As cumbersome as business planning was back then—you had to do all your calculations by pencil, paper, and adding machine—Judy understood that a financial and marketing plan were the only option for achieving her goal. I've never seen anyone attack a business plan like Judy did. She made the plan, then worked the plan, and soon she was in a lovely studio space in downtown Fairfax, VA.

In those days Jeff was working in Washington as a TRW computer engineer, and I was struggling with how to automate my monthly accounting chores. I showed Jeff the home-made management system that I had cobbled together from three off-the-shelf applications, and he set up something similar for Judy's studio. Jeff was amazed that no one had developed a true financial management software for the photography industry. In those days there were some systems that handled income and client data, but nothing that integrated all the elements that photographers need to run a studio using a single data file. So when I got Jeff's call I was intrigued that he and Judy had decided that her business was sufficiently profitable that Jeff could quit his lucrative software development job to work full time developing what would become SuccessWare. I was particularly pleased that the software would include not only tracking features, but also business planning and pricing modules. We began a series of meetings so that Jeff could understand exactly what financial management features photographers needed to help them make more money, doing so according to industry standards for financial management. During those early meetings, I could never have envisioned that SuccessWare would become the incredible multi-faceted tool that it is today. In fact, SuccessWare has added so many mind-boggling features since those early days when I was in weekly contact with Jeff and Judy, that I have vowed to attended one of their SuccessWare "immersion" classes before the year is out.

Knowing that I was involved in the early development of SuccessWare, I get lots of questions about SuccessWare and why I believe SuccessWare is essential for profitable studio management. Here's the answer I give:

SuccessWare is the industry's ONLY fully integrated financial and business management software that encompasses all of your studio business needs—business planning, product pricing, scheduling, client and prospect tracking, order tracking, bill paying and complete financial management and reporting. Everything you need is always in one place: no double entries, hunting for cheat sheets, etc. I've lived through the days when you had to do daily hand entries and then spend three days each month to hand-create your financial records. Things improved with computers, but you still had to work in 3 or 4 applications and create your own personalized reports. With SuccessWare, once you enter data and pay your bills, reports are automatic, and this is the way it has to be for busy, successful people. When you look around and see who's making money in this industry, it's not a coincidence that most of them are SuccessWare users.

You can learn a great deal more about SuccessWare by going to their website (SuccessWare.net). You'll find all kinds of resources—from video tours to a free download demo. Just
click here to take a look.

Favorite Blogs

Recently I heard a marketing insider say that "blogs are just a fad." His comment reminded me of the number of folks who not so many years ago were saying the same thing about websites. For what it's worth, I believe it won't be long before it will be unthinkable for photographers NOT to have a blog. It's such a great way of introducing prospects to the "personality" of your business and making them feel comfortable with you and your studio. When you meet someone who's been reading your blog, they already feel as though they know you. And best of all, they tell other internet friends about you . . . just as I am going to do for the studios listed below :-). Here are some of my favorite blogs:

Liana Lehman. Liana's website won top website honors in the 2006 AN-NE Awards Competition
Lori Nordstrom
Jeff & Julia Woods
Laura Novak
Ryan Phillips
Jed & Vicki Taufer

I'm amazed at how much I enjoy reading and learning from these talented marketers:

Viral Marketing

If you're not already an active blogger, you might be wondering whether a blog is right for your business. I began investigating the subject of blogs last year by logging on to Amazon.com and searching for the site's three top hits on the subject of blogging. The book shown below, Blog Marketing, by Jeremy Wright, was the most helpful. One of the author's comments really got my attention when he said something to the effect that blog marketing is the ONLY way you will get the attention of a growing number of customers.

Blog marketing is part of an emerging marketing category now referred to as "viral marketing." Some folks call it "buzz marketing," but the term "viral" speaks to the fact that the Internet allows one consumer to quickly and easily "infect" new markets, when they forward your website or blog link to their computer. Word about your business can spread like wildfire throughout markets that target young people. One of my students referred to the phenomenon as "word-of-MOUSE" marketing. So if you're over 30, don't dismiss blogging before you investigate this dynamic new marketing medium. After all, you're reading this blog. Just think about all those computers you could infect with your marketing message!


PPA's Benchmark Survey

If you're looking for help in understanding how financial business models work in the photography industry, the most definitive resource is the findings of the 2006 Benchmark Survey conducted by the Studio Management Services division of PPA. This is the industry's first fully audited survey of photography studios. Based on 2005 data, it reports on both home studio and retail location business models and reveals industry averages and "best performers" in each category. Now you can compare how your studio is doing in these key areas of Sales, Cost of Sales, General Expenses, and Owner's Compensation plus Net Profit. The in-depth survey examines numerous other financial position comparisons including years in business, levels of gross sales, weddings vs. portraits and geographical locations, among others. PPA members can download the entire survey by clicking on the graphic below, at left. Also available is a Professional Photographer article that summarizes the survey from the November, 2006 issue.


Gift Cards Make Great Marketing Sense

Since they were introduced last fall, Gift Cards have become one of Marathon's hottest products. No wonder. Holiday sales of gift cards were off the chart. They just make a lot of sense for consumers who want to buy meaningful gifts for friends or family, but who simply don't have time to prowl malls to find them.

Marathon's new Gift Cards are a wonderful value: only 25 cents each when you place a minimum order of $50 using your own design—or Marathon can do the design for you at an additional charge. Marathon also can create a complete direct mail package that includes the Gift Card with your choice of two different mailer styles. Click
here for specifications and pricing.

Think about the potential impact on seniors, when you send them a Gift Card to spend on their senior portraits. These cards are really hard to throw away because they feel like real money!


Meet Peter and Fran Howlett

Summary only available when permalinks are enabled.

Pricing Basics

I get lots of questions about pricing . . . questions that reveal that many photographers don't understand the basics of pricing and the industry standards that govern the mechanics of pricing. Right now I'm working on some new pricing information that I believe will be helpful for photographers in the digital age, but in the meantime, here are some resources that are available to you now:

In 2005 I did a DVD series PPA has available on PPA.com. Click the graphic below to learn more.

Professional Photographer magazine also has three of my older magazine articles archived on its website. Clicking on the graphic below will get you there, and you'll also find some other very interesting articles in the website's "Profit Center" feature.


Happy April Fool's Day!

April Fool's Day seems as good as any day to start a new venture. For a year I've been reading about and visiting blogs . . . all kinds of blogs . . . blogs by photographers, blogs about business, and even blogs about politics. What I've learned is that blogs are a marvelously versatile means of communication.

I get a lot of emails from photographers looking for answers to marketing and management questions, and it's hard to answer each one individually. So I've decided to go the blog route as a means of communicating with more photographers more efficiently.

If you would like the answer to a question that you believe will be beneficial to others in addition to yourself, just send me an email at ann@annmonteith.com. Please limit each email to one question, as long emails full of questions tend to go to the bottom of the email pile.

So . . . Happy April Fool's Day, and let's see what happens . . . .