The Dead Pixels Society podcast

School photo challenges with GotPhoto

April 30, 2020 Gary Pageau Season 1 Episode 3
The Dead Pixels Society podcast
School photo challenges with GotPhoto
The Dead Pixels Society podcast
School photo challenges with GotPhoto
Apr 30, 2020 Season 1 Episode 3
Gary Pageau

Benedikt Greifenhofer, co-founder and CEO, GotPhoto, talks with Gary Pageau about the challenges faced by school photo companies in the age of COVID-19. Digitization was already on its way to changing the industry; how can GotPhoto help firms survive and thrive?

GotPhoto is an award-winning workflow solution automating repetitive online sales and marketing tasks and workflow processing.

Show Notes Transcript

Benedikt Greifenhofer, co-founder and CEO, GotPhoto, talks with Gary Pageau about the challenges faced by school photo companies in the age of COVID-19. Digitization was already on its way to changing the industry; how can GotPhoto help firms survive and thrive?

GotPhoto is an award-winning workflow solution automating repetitive online sales and marketing tasks and workflow processing.

Gary Pageau (00:11):

Hello and welcome again to the dead pixel society podcast. We're joined today by Benedick Griffin Hoffer of God photo and we're going to be talking a lot about the challenges faced by school photo companies and other companies around COBIT 19 and how this, how this presents new opportunities and new challenges. So, hi Benedikt, how are you doing today?

Benedikt Greifenhofer (00:35):

Hello? I'm very good. Thank you. I'm still safe and healthy here. Good, good.

Gary Pageau (00:41):

Now you're speaking to me from Germany, but you're actually based in the U S you're the CEO of God photo in the U S correct?

Benedikt Greifenhofer (00:48):

Correct. Yeah.

Gary Pageau (00:50):

Yeah. So tell me a little bit about the company while you know, you, your roots are in Germany or you're coming into the U S and have been for some time. Can you tell me a little bit about how the company started and the

Benedikt Greifenhofer (01:01):

portfolio? Sure. I mean you can hear it by my last name, I guess. Uh, I'm German as well. Um, so a good photo is actually a workflow and sale solution for school photographers. And, uh, we started in 2012 in Germany, um, on our home market that say, um, with an online solution that has not the same capabilities as it has now. It was a very basic system, um, but we found out where we soon like after a couple of years getting into that market that this is not just a German, um, problem that you have a lot of workflow and a lot of sales that you have to combine and in your school photography segment in a company like that. And um, we went over to the UK, to Austria to foreign. So we just spread out in Europe and since 2017 we also have our service in the United States. And after a year that had gone where we, well we decided actually after two years had gone very well. We decided actually to come over to the States in 2019 and we found a local subsidiary in New York city and that's where we are based now.

Gary Pageau (02:11):

And how big is your staff there?

Benedikt Greifenhofer (02:14):

Uh, the staff on the U S side, not everyone is in New York city. We also have people in Virginia and then Georgia, like everywhere in the country we work where we remote. But our overall team for this United States market is now 13 people. Um, and we are looking forward to grow until the end of the year to 25 30 people.

Gary Pageau (02:33):

Great. And so in a nutshell, for someone who, who wants to know what got photo is the solution they want, what is that solution? What is, what is the, what is the calling card for you?

Benedikt Greifenhofer (02:49):

Yeah, the chronic heart is, um, don't spend too much time after you took your photos. Um, automate as many admin tasks as you can. A good photo has a workflow solution included, included the tagging. Um, it has a eCommerce shop where you can sell your pictures and has also lab partners plugged in so we can automatically transfer orders. So the whole process of selling school pictures from building galleries to actually produce and ship them, um, is, uh, reflected in good photo and, um, automates all processes that are possible.

Gary Pageau (03:26):

Now, you mentioned earlier that your, the system has changed over since its introduction in the, in 2012 or so. What has been the biggest change over that time?

Benedikt Greifenhofer (03:39):

Yeah, I think the biggest change for us was, um, in introducing a communication piece to it. So I'm an online marketing automation. Okay. So we have our self built and implemented into good photo online marketing automation that sends emails and text messages based on triggers throughout the job. So let's say you set up a coupon with a deadline, right? So when someone orders the first few days after a job goes live, they receive, um, uh, X percentage of the sale. Um, and based on the, that line, we can send messages before or after that, that line that are customized to that, um, customers data and um, that helps a lot of photographers to drive their sales up. This is one of the main things, but our whole platform is more and more concentrated on the school photography markets and its needs actually. Yeah. We started with where we brought perspective on different segments and now nailed it really down to school photography. So we adapted more and more also to that segment. This is the second thing.

Gary Pageau (04:46):

So you kind of started as a, as a broader photography solution, kind of focused on the school and event photography niche. So is it still suitable for a wedding or portrait photographer? I mean, do you still support those folks or is it, or is that not where you're at?

Benedikt Greifenhofer (05:03):

So historically we have, um, still those folks in our system and we support them. Um, I would say there are other systems out there that are better for wedding photographer, um, where they have much more capabilities to design their gallery in a, in the white way and to shape it to their branding. I'm sure the system is more designed to really also get, uh, massive volume of people through an ordering online ordering process.

Gary Pageau (05:32):

So obviously in the news right now, uh, we're recording this in early April is the, uh, the world, the global pandemic. Um, you know, you're actually in Germany because you are kind of stuck there right now. Um, can you, uh, can you kind of touch on a little bit about what you're seeing, how it's impacting the school photography market?

Benedikt Greifenhofer (05:57):

Sure. Um, so, uh, I always take that crowed from the UN secretary who said this is the biggest crisis we have since world war two. And um, I mean that's what we are seeing as a global operating company everywhere in our markets as well as schools are closed. Um, no shoots can take place. Um, so that means also the main income driver for every school photographer and for the whole industry. It's just not accessible right now. Mmm. And this, this, it's not just an issue for school photographers, it's also an issue for the other stakeholders in there. Let's take lab partners for example. They don't get orders and they are even closed. Also. Sometimes if they are not producing necessary medical equipment, they have to close the operations as well. Schools are facing digitalization issues or challenges. Yeah. Because they have to do homeschooling or e-learning or something like that. So I haven't worn around this industry is right now in a situation that we never have been before. Um, and I think that the main, um, issue that we are facing here is for our industry that the income, it's just not getting it and that can have different issues there for everyone. Hmm. Um, but, but yeah, this is the main thing. I hope that wraps it up. Roughly

Gary Pageau (07:19):

one of the, uh, comments I've heard from people who are, you know, a little more aggressive on the marketing side. They're saying, you know, just to get some revenue when I'm going back to, uh, parents I have in my system who didn't buy and I'm encouraging them to buy now is are you seeing any of that activity or is it just the lack of new shoots is just

Benedikt Greifenhofer (07:42):

putting people on a whole? Um, so yes, I see that, um, also in our system, um, as it's so simple to actually turn on old galleries, that's how we call it. So basically photos from past shoots, um, and do a promotion with it. Um, in an online sales system you have to picture sitting there, the galleries already, you have, uh, the contact details so you can just send out an eblast to these people. It's very simple to do that. This is an income driver as of now eight. We also see that as an opportunity where you can do promotions at black Friday or Christmas on a general level. But right now in this crisis, it's actually where we bye positive too to have that situation that you can just turn on galleries. Right. And that's an opportunity for several companies to generate at least some revenues right now and it can play a little bit with that as well. Some developed a way to show case they are all pictures as drawings now with an easy Photoshop, Photoshop, um, task. Yeah. That they just run, uh, some will offer like special spring or Easter or mother's day backgrounds because they have green screen shoots. So there are different ways how we can make that even well attractive to the people and really generate some income. Right now

Gary Pageau (09:04):

that is, I think one of the cha, one of the things that has changed over school photography over the last few years is the, the school, the school district itself would be the gatekeeper, right? They were the point of contact with the parents and now with digital, uh, labs and photographers can now reach out directly to parents. So I, so I think that's, like you said, this is something that if, if, if, uh, if an operator had not, has not been doing that, this is a great time to, to start that.

Benedikt Greifenhofer (09:38):

That's true. I mean, um, I think the school is still heavily involved in that school. Um, because not all the time you, you can just operate without the school. Um, let's, let's take a situation where you don't get email addresses from parents upfront, then you have to collect them in within the sales period. Right. So they have to lock into a system and actually leave their contact details there. So it's okay. It's like you can't operate 100% without the school, but, but um, yes, it is a, it's a definitely huge advantage to have the direct relationship to the customer, which you don't have if you just head on a piece of paper, get your order back and then deliver a few weeks afterwards, a box to the school. Obvious. Right.

Gary Pageau (10:29):

Yeah. So kind of moving onward, you know, uh, you kind of touched a little bit about opportunities that are possible. Can you talk a little bit about some other opportunities to create revenue that might be possible now?

Benedikt Greifenhofer (10:43):

Um, yeah, so we actually structure that always in three clusters. Um, first cluster is, so we made a webinar about this whole topic actually, and that's why I'm saying we are always structuring that and free classes when we look at this and we have photographers that are reaching out to us right now and saying like, Hey, how can I generate revenue? Um, the first class is you have school photos taken right before the crisis and the school closed. So we have, if you, if you don't have an online system in place and no direct relationship to your end customers, to the parents, then you actually can't promote these photos. Now if you do a proofing scenario for example, um, you can't promote these photos to the, to the parents and you can't get orders it same as they can prepare. You can't get orders out for example, or uh, the order sheets are sitting at the parents and you can't collect them.

Benedikt Greifenhofer (11:35):

Different issues, right? So, um, there when you have T F pictures taken but you didn't [inaudible] settlement yet or you're in the process of taking orders in, then you can switch it to online and actually get orders in. Right now this is the first thing. So if you did proofing or wanted to do proofing sales and you haven't market, that picture's already to, to the parents, just bring them online. It's very simple to do that and then reach out to the parents because they can order online and they will be shipped directly to their place. Second cluster is how can I do, can I generate revenue right now from past shoots. That's what we just briefly discussed. The different options to do special promotions for special events. Um, you cut your pictures out. If you have a one color background, you could even cut the, the kid out and have a black background and work with different backgrounds so that the parents can create different pictures.

Benedikt Greifenhofer (12:30):

Um, and the last thing is, um, so this is the third, the second opportunity and the third cluster is two different shoe types. There's the heart disclaimer. It's very tough to do different shoe types right now obviously because there are some state guidelines for staying homes in some States. It's a bit, that's a fair there. So you can go out and do some shoots. And what some folks are doing is actually, um, doing, they call it porch portrait, sidewalk photography. So they go out in their community yeah. That the families come out of their door and they just take some pictures from a six feet difference or even 10 feet difference distance and just sell them online again. So they are, these are the three different clusters about what you can do right now. Actually. I hope that makes sense. It wasn't too long ago.

Gary Pageau (13:23):

Oh no. Yeah, no it does. It's, but I like the proactive approach. I think that's what I think is most important for the industry to get through this is to maintain, you know, the idea that, you know, you, you, you've, you're, you're, everyone's in a tough situation. How can we come out of this stronger?

Benedikt Greifenhofer (13:41):

Yup. So how will, how will

Gary Pageau (13:45):

the current situation develop in effect, you know, the industry as it goes forward do you think

Benedikt Greifenhofer (13:52):

to, to make it more stronger? So, um, I think that the covert 19 is showing us right now that we can actually do some adaptions on our businesses and I am including myself. Yeah. When, when we were in that phase, um, of covert 19 kicked in 100%, that was first, that phase where everyone is probably like, Oh, I have to see if I can secure my business. Right. And then you come to probably also, that's how I call it a, the moment of depression. And, um, where you think like, Oh, I had so many plans for spring or I had so many plants in the near future that all not coming to effect now, uh, because of that crisis. And then we actually, we including our customers came to that phase where we were like, okay, what can we do right now? And if you have, if you ask you that question, you also have to see as you said, how it develops.

Benedikt Greifenhofer (14:48):

And, um, I personally, there could be two main scenarios. First one is, um, the schools are opening and me Mmm. Some schools, um, we, we discussed that right before the podcast. Some of the schools also said they closed closing for the full academic year already, which is fine. Um, but, but some in some States who will probably open in may, um, already that could be. Um, and the other scenario is schools will be closed on two, four and just open the next school year. Um, and then we just have the full focus. Um, but in both scenarios, um, there's going to be like some, um, eventualities that could come through the fact that we can prepare our business for already. Um, for example, if schools are opening in may again, um, they could also be close a few months afterwards. Again, back, like they, they take all these measures back because right now in Singapore for example, they, they are going on lockdown again because covert 19 is kicking in again.

Benedikt Greifenhofer (15:56):

Yeah, another wave is coming in now, so they have to go back to lockdown. So that could be one case and four for that situation. We are actually entering the same situation as we are in right now. So you can have all these options in place so that you can sell pictures of any time that you can resell pictures that you have taken, stuff like that. Right. So, um, you can, you can shape your business in that way that if there is coming another wave, you are ready to actually take that and get some income also through that second wave. That's, that's for example, one way how you can look at this. Um, and the other thing, what you can do to be where we will prepared, and I'm not saying it right, you should not do offline sales because I know in some instances, offline sales, so order sheet sales is going quite well, is if we think about schools are opening, again, the question is, is it going to be the same world as we know it from the past, right?

Benedikt Greifenhofer (16:52):

Yeah. So is there some development also in the schools and what we believe is that there's going to be some contact restrictions at least, right? So they probably try to, Mmm. Having not so much contact to the outside of the school and, um, probably also within the school having some contact restrictions for the, uh, for the students. So why not thinking about, okay, as a school photographer, when I come into the school, how can I reduce my number of contexts with the students, with a staff, whatever it may be. And as you said before, an online sales option could be a where we good way to do that because you eliminate a lot of steps that you have together with the school. Um, where the school has to interact with you and also the students. Some schools will probably also say that they not allow you to photograph anymore if you, if you do it a different way, if you're not reducing the contact points.

Benedikt Greifenhofer (17:48):

Yeah. So there are different events, realities that could come through effect and we actually can think about them right now to shape our business to be able to adopt to this if it comes to effect, could also be that, that we go back to the, to the world that we know before covert 19 and that's totally fine and everyone would be happy, happy about that. But if not, then we should be prepared for that. That's what we are thinking right now. Um, and that's what we are also explaining our customers and working, working on with them together. It's not about like having switching your whole operations to something. It's just about adding an option to your operations and to your business that you can adapt to future developments. That's kind of what what I'm thinking right now.

Gary Pageau (18:33):

Yeah. I remember in the school of photography business, there was a, uh, Oh gosh, we had to be in the, in the two thousands, there was a lot of discussion about photographer behavior in the school in terms of, uh, you know, not allowing any touching of the student to pose, you know, even, you know, to have them adjust their glasses or anything that this, you know, that, so there have already been, so a lot of education in the industry to, to restrict contact between the student and the photographer anyway. But I can certainly see a scenario going forward where there's even more restrictions, right? Maybe retakes aren't allowed or something like that. Um, let's talk a little bit about another segment that I think is, is important, especially for this time of year for a lot of, uh, companies is the sports segment. Uh, what do you see happening there?

Benedikt Greifenhofer (19:27):

To be honest, um, the sports segment is something that got photo is not so focused on, um Hmm. But if I think about a segment that could come back right in the summer, because even if schools are closed, sports leagues probably shift everything towards the summer could be a, then it's the sports segments. So if, if all this lockdowns and these restrictions of going out and contact will be, would use, then I believe sports, the sports segment could recover quite fast. Although, um, one thing that I also see sometimes, and I'm not an expert in that, but yeah, I'm a bit worried about as well, if the willingness to spend money for pictures is going to be the same. Right. After all these measures are taken back that I in place right now to secure the people from Kobe. Cause some people lost their jobs, some people probably spent their savings. Um, there's different stuff. But when it's the segment, I would say probably sports. It is.

Gary Pageau (20:29):

Yeah. And that's, that's really the question is going to be, and as I said, we're recording this in early April, so it's hard to see what the long term unemployment impact will be. And that certainly affects discretionary spending. Uh, so that's, that's,

Benedikt Greifenhofer (20:43):

and it's what I'm saying here, right? It's really just imagining what it could be and what it could mean for us. Right?

Gary Pageau (20:51):

Yeah. Yeah. No, I know. I agree. I'm just saying is that, that's really, you know, Ben, something that's affected school photography overall over the last, you know, 10, 12 years is, is because people have great pictures on their smartphones. That itself has inhibited some school photography, sales and, you know, could that be accelerated if under a budget crunch or does that mean that a photographer has to be more creative with products and services? Like you were saying, like knocking out backgrounds, providing other options, providing maybe different graphics, more choice, a digital delivery instead of prints. Um, all kinds of, all those options, um, may have to be accelerated if photographers were on the fence on those

Benedikt Greifenhofer (21:38):

could be. But, um, I also think this is a general development that is, that is currently happening. So we could also, this discussion that we are opening right now with the smartphones and that the world is changing towards digital offerings, um, more creative offerings, more variety. Um, we could have that discussion also a year ago. Yeah. And that's, that's why I, it could be accelerated by covert 19, but there I'm really not sure if it will.

Gary Pageau (22:08):

Right. Yeah. And that's again, it's a big question. So, so kind of moving forward too, your suggestions on how a photographer in a lab could prepare the business for these things. What are some of the steps you think that they could be taking to address these, uh, the uncertainties but also the opportunities?

Benedikt Greifenhofer (22:32):

Yeah, so first thing is I, so I believe right now it gives us a lot of time. Yeah. Um, normally everyone would probably be out shooting every day. Um, even spring season is the lower season, but still, um, now we have actually a time to reflect on what do I have to change and just outline that before. Um, so the best thing to go with that is actually exchange. Mmm. I believe so exchanged with other businesses that have done the step or that are right now in the same, um, situation. I remember I heard some talk from, from a photographer who said like, I'm also reaching out to all my competitors, see what they are doing and what they are up to right now. So this exchange is the most important from my point of view. And then what I'm, what I'm telling photographers always to do is like coming to the point where you, where you say okay, I have my hypothesis how it could change and I can prepare for that, right? But also ask yourself what is your main pain point right now in your operations or in your sales? And just eliminate that right now. Now we have time to actually look at different things, what you can do and improve your business for the, for the upcoming seasons. And then you probably gonna come out more efficient and more powerful out of that crisis of you actually use that time to invest in the future.

Gary Pageau (23:56):

So you mentioned webinars earlier that your doing a, what else has got photo doing to help your customers or potential customers get through this?

Benedikt Greifenhofer (24:08):

Um, so we, so that webinars one thing and we will continue doing webinars. Three currently, uh, two different topics about how you can also do your online marketing better. How can you optimize your SEO for your website, stuff like that. So topics that you actually can, I'm engaged with right now to actually do a change for your business for the future. That's one part. Um, we have also, uh, given out an FAQ for Corona. So if we're covering 19, um, so that FAQ just explains everything, every question that could come up. So what do you do? Um, if, if schools are close now, so how can you generate revenues? And this article is from two weeks ago. That's one thing we are doing. And then we offered, um, some photographers who have no online galleries, um, actually in place to help them getting that online sooner so they can generate revenues right now. So we think about different ways how we can help photographers and we are always asking and um, that's very important to us that people just reach out and tell us how we can help.

Gary Pageau (25:12):

So what would be the best way for them to reach out and contact you

Benedikt Greifenhofer (25:17):

and any channel? The best is obviously just calling us, um, on our website. Good There's, um, our, uh, general support line where you can call in. These people will forward all requests, um, or you just email or business at Hartford.

Gary Pageau (25:36):

Great. Well listen, Benedikt, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it. Stay safe, stay healthy, healthy and safe journeys.

Benedikt Greifenhofer (25:44):

Thank you. You too. Was a pleasure.