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Speaking of Helen Yancy . . .

Helen will be offering her incredible Digital Art class at my Deep Creek Lake vacation home and studio in the mountains of western Maryland (Garrett County) on November 2-5. This is the 5th year for Helen's class, and it always fills up. No wonder . . . There is no more recognized name in digital artwork education than Helen Yancy. The class is limited to 12 students, and tuition is $995. Register by August 15 and pay only $925! Register now, as classes sell out quickly.

For more information, click on the image below.


Prints, Prints & More Prints . . .

Ever wonder what it takes to select the incredible print show that comprises the International Print Exhibition at PPA's Imaging USA national convention? It starts with a committed group of judges that I was privileged to serve with at the national judging, which concluded yesterday at the Daytona Beach Community College Photography Department. Here we are getting set for our official photograph.

It also takes the dedication of a huge number of dedicated volunteers who hour-after-hour sort, handle, and record print results . . . not to mention setting up and tearing down the various sets of judging apparatus.

Of all the volunteers, no one rose to the occasion better than Helen Yancy, who as vice chairman of the Print Exhibition Committee, stepped in to fill the shoes of PEC chairman Buddy Stewart, whose bad luck it was to wind up in the hospital on the eve of the event. That meant double duty for Helen, who had to split her time between teaching the Judge's Workshop and serving as Overall Jury Chairman for the print competition. I was extremely proud of the judges and incredible volunteers who pitched in to help out, but especially of the always-amazing Helen, who was the perfect commander-in-chief . . . constantly in touch with Buddy, whose presence was sorely missed.

This was my first opportunity to serve on a judging panel for many years. I had to temporarily retire from print competition until my PPA leadership responsibilities were finished. It was just wonderful to view the astonishing array of images in the 5,000-print competition, and SO exciting to have three of my images receive Merits. It was a potent reminder to me of how valuable print competition is for photographers at any level: if you're a new photographer it provides you with a direction to improve the quality of your photography; and if you've been around for a long time like I have . . . it helps you to challenge yourself to keep on achieving.

A very successful photographer once told me that he strives to hang regular customer work in the competition every year because doing so assures him that his clients are receiving the best possible products he can create for them. For this reason and many more, I'll always consider the International Print Competition to be one of our industry's greatest opportunities for personal growth. I hope you'll take the time to view the entire print exhibition at
ImagingUSA on Jaunary 6-8 in Tampa, FL. I'm getting my hotel reservations now, as PPA expects room blocks to go fast . . . just as they did last for last January's convention.

How to KNOW if Your Marketing is Working

It drives me nuts to know how many SuccessWare users are not taking advantage of the Inquiry Sales Report function of the software. What this great feature does is calculate how much income you are receiving from each of your major marketing sources. Thus you can say with certainty whether or not your marketing is paying off.

The report itself is found under the
Reports menu. Pull down to Inquiry Sales Report.

. . . And here's what you get:

Now you can see exactly which marketing resources are paying off for and which are not. This allows your decision making about how to spend your precious marketing dollars to be made based on reality, not on hunches.

It's easy to add the data. Simply go to the
Inquiries menu and pull down to Add Inquiries. It takes just a few seconds to add the information you need to receive reports that are vital to effective management.


Family Portrait Month Kits Are Ready!

Just got word from Marathon that the 2007 Family Portrait Month Membership Kits are now ready to ship. The kits include the new Family Portrait Month Journal shown above. This year's promotion provides even more opportunities for marketing your family portraiture. New for 2007 is a series of promotional card templates generously designed and donated by several studio owners who were the top 2006 Family Portrait Month fundraisers. Now you can choose your favorite template, then add your own photographs and back copy through Marathon's automated m-Print direct-to-print service, and your promotional cards will be ready to ship within five business days.

Once you have paid the $39 registration fee, your business information will be added to FamilyPortraitMonth.com, the promotion's national website, which has a brand new look for 2007.

You also will be mailed a 2007 Membership Kit, which includes your
Family Portrait Month Journal and a CD full of promotional items to assist your marketing efforts. One of the new CD items is a template for "Smile Cards," which Dallas photographer Angela Weedon sold in 2006 to benefit Operation Smile throughout the year, and which helped her to repeat as the year's top Family Portrait Month fundraiser.

Keep in mind that any studio collecting $500 or more for Operation Smile is eligible for a cash drawing of $500 to be held at the PPA Charities 2008 Celebration on Saturday evening, January 5, 2008 at
ImagingUSA in Tampa, Florida. A highlight of this annual event, which is held on the eve of PPA's annual convention, will be the announcement of 2007's top studio fundraiser.
Every $240 donation to Operation Smile makes it possible for another surgery to be performed by OpSmile's volunteer medical staff. Last year's PPA Charities' donation to Operation Smile of $40,000 translates into 166 operations made possible because photographers did what they do best: create images for families to treasure. Think of all the smiles these portraits made possible—in your hometown and throughout the world—and you'll know how important your efforts can be!

here register for 2007's Family Portrait Month. Have your PPA membership number ready. If you are not a PPA member, click here for membership information. Join today to participate in this wonderful opportunity!

Showit Puts You On The FAST Track!

In case you haven't heard about Showit products, I urge you to take a look at showitfast.com. I learned about these great products several months ago when I was looking for a quick solution for building slideshows on the fly.

Showit is the brainchild of David Jay, a twenty-something Santa Barbara photographer, who quickly became a sensation in the high-end wedding photography market. David credits this meteoric rise to his strategy of creating eye-catching Flash slideshows to present on the very day of the wedding. In the process he developed a suite of Showit tools that make the process incredibly easy. You can quickly enhance your photos with Showit Effects and Showit Borders. Then drop your photos into Showit Web to produce a stunning Flash slideshow.

showitfast.com to learn about David's marketing philosophy, to see Showit products in action, and to review how-to videos and support information. See how David markets his wedding photography business using Showit products by visiting his studio site at davidjay.com.

Here's an example from the Showit Effects application:

Check out this example from Showit Borders:


Finally . . . Camera Bags for Women!

I met a new vendor at Chicks Who Click in the Bahamas . . . jill-e designs. They have some wonderful, stylish gear bags, designed especially for women who don't want to walk around looking like pack mules. I'm not so worried about how I look—I just want to get where I'm going with my cameras, lenses, and MacBook intact. This is becoming increasingly difficult because I usually have to ride on commuter jets. Several times lately, they've refused to let me get on the plane with my SMALL rolling backpack, which holds my essential gear. This is infuriating, because I see others with bags much larger than mine, and I know my backpack will fit under the seat. I end up having to carry the contents of the bag on to the plane in my arms, put the gear in the overhead (which is scary), and then have the empty bag fly in the cargo bay. Really dumb!

So I was thrilled to see jill-e's
Large Black Rolling Camera Bag. I hope you'll take a peek at it, because it is awesome! I believe I'll be able to outsmart the snarky flight attendants with this bag, because when you collapse the handle mechanism, and throw it over your arm, it looks just like those huge purses that the Hollywood starlets are carrying. I dare them to try to take away my purse!

The bag was backordered, but I think it will be worth the wait. Will let you know how everything fits when it arrives.


When Clients Question Your Prices . . .

Recently I heard from one of my Studio Management Services clients who was really down about some of her original clients who are upset that her prices are now much higher than they were when she first opened her business. Mind you, her original prices were absolutely rock-bottom and could not sustain a business.

I believe that everyone faces this problem during the development of a business. And when you are new in business, it is normal for every criticism to be hurtful. You are trying so hard to please clients and to do the right thing, that any little comment can seem like a failure, and it's so easy to become defensive. Defensiveness about pricing, however, never works. Your issue really isn't about your pricing, it's about learning the proper sales technique to handle this "Objection."

Good sales people love objections, because they enjoy the challenge of turning objections into assets. In this case the objection is about price, so just confront the issue directly. With a pleasant smile on your face, and with confidence you can gain from practicing this little "choices" speech over and over, say the following:

Joan, I can certainly understand your concern about my prices, as setting a value on my work is something I don't take lightly. When I started my business I had a lot of learning to do: about photography and about how to operate a business. Yes, my prices were lower then. But what I have learned as my skills have grown, is that every business reaches a turning point in which the owner has to decide whether to stress low price or high quality. I knew that the only way I could be happy and my clients would be satisfied is to choose the quality route. It's a harder type of business to run, because you have to earn the trust of your clients with every single session, but I believe I've made the right choice. I hope you will agree that I have.

Remember this: When a client comes at you with a complaint, they are pushing on you. They expect you to push them back. When you come back at them with a big smile and a lot of confidence, it helps to disarm them.

One other thought: I believe it helps to soften clients' attitudes toward higher prices when you give them something extra or something unexpected when they pick up their finished order. This, combined with treating them like they are gold when they are with you in the studio, will help them focus on the experience as well as the quality of your photography. It's strange but true that clients can sometimes remember the little kindnesses that you do better than they can remember which portrait session it was.


It's Official . . . BellaGrafia is Here!

You've probably been hearing the buzz about BellaGrafica, a new company created by a small group associated with Marathon Press. BellaGrafica's mission is to support the needs of Boutique Studio owners. The website (above) is now live, and products are beginning to release. The company will be in a "soft launch" mode for the rest of the year, and the full launch will come at PPA's
ImagingUSA national convention in Tampa on January 6-8, 2008.

The very first product to be released is this wonderful shopping bag . . . the brainchild of BellaGrafica team member Sarah Petty. The Portrait Bag features a 3x5 pocket that allows you to personalize the bag for the person receiving it. You can insert an image, a thank-you note, or your business card—whatever is appropriate for the client. Your logo is imprinted on the front of the bag in one color. The illustrations below show how versatile the bag can be when it is personalized for different types of clients.

here for Portrait Bag dimensions and pricing.

Sarah tells me that this bag has worked wonders in her business, as they "go nuts" over the bags. Kids and parents get so excited when they see the personalized bag. It revives the excitement they felt when they viewed and ordered their portraits, which helps to negate any possible buyer's remorse. Best of all, they are inclined to carry the bag with them to show to friends, so it's a great referral device.

I am so excited about BellaGrafica! It combines Marathon's powerful printing and technology resources with six of the industry's most talented and successful boutique studio owners, who are designing pieces for BellaGrafica. You can meet these outstanding photographers and learn a lot about their businesses and how they approach the market by going to the
Bellagrafica.com menu bar and pulling down to THE COLLECTIONS (see below). You'll learn so much as these talented photographers and expert marketers explain how they target specific markets and how they managed to set their businesses apart from others.

In the coming months you'll see the steady release of new product designs, but if you already have an idea for a really special marketing piece, BellaGrafica staff designers are ready to serve you now. Their goal in creating beautiful, unique marketing products is to make upscale clients recoginize they have received something of importance . . . something they'll want to hold on to and show to others because it is so special. As its tag line suggests: BellaGrafica is The Art of Marketing.


Make More Money! Learn How in Memphis.

There's no better learning opportunity for studio owners and managers than the Make More Money Conference scheduled for July 29-August 1 at the fabulous Peabody Hotel in Memphis, TN, my favorite city for mouthwatering spareribs.

I'm doing a program on financial management, including pricing. I plan to be on the front row for most of the programs, as last year I learned more at the MMM Conference than at any event I attended. This year workflow has been added, so that makes the content even better!

You'll also be able to visit with
BellaGrafica at the trade show, as well as meet with three of the company's team members: Beverly and Tim Walden and Sarah Petty, who are doing a joint program entitled "The Boutique Studio Experience." Don't miss it! To learn more about the conference content, click here.