The Dead Pixels Society podcast

Growing the volume photography market, with Benedikt Greifenhofer, CEO, GotPhoto

January 25, 2022 Gary Pageau/Benedikt Greifinhofer Season 3 Episode 64
The Dead Pixels Society podcast
Growing the volume photography market, with Benedikt Greifenhofer, CEO, GotPhoto
Show Notes Transcript

Gary Pageau of the Dead Pixels Society talks with Benedikt Greifenhofer, recently appointed global CEO of volume photography tech company, GotPhoto. In this interview, Greifenhofer talks about how the new company structure will drive growth, how GotPhoto was well-positioned to manage business changes wrought by the pandemic, and future profit opportunities for clients of the fast-growing business.

GotPhoto Inc. is an award-winning workflow platform provider for volume school photographers. The company has offices in Germany and the United States and operates in 12 countries on five continents. The platform’s web-based tools automate administration and sales tasks, allowing the photographer to spend more time building their business rather than being bogged down in routine tasks.

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Erin Manning  
Welcome to the dead pixel society podcast, the photo imaging industry's leading news source. Here's your host, Gary Pageau.

Gary Pageau  
The Dead Pixels Society podcast is brought to you by Mediaclip, Photo Finale, and Advertek Printing. Hello again, and welcome to the Dead Pixels Society podcast. I'm your host, Gary Pageau. And today we're joined by Benedikt Griefenhofer. Offer the CEO of God photo. He's coming to us from Berlin, Germany. Hello, Benedict, how are you today?

Benedikt Greifenhofer  
Good. Thank you, Gary. Thanks for having me.

Gary Pageau  
Now, you've been on the podcast before, but what's news is your new role within the company where you've assumed global leadership of the entire God photo organization? Can you talk about what that means for the people who are maybe familiar with you as the head of the US operation?

Benedikt Greifenhofer  
Sure. It is actually. So as you said before, the past three years, I was really much pretty much focused on the US market and solely leading leading that part of the company. And as a company, we structured ourselves in three main business units, because we at some point, we had to split it up because of just a growth that we received. And also give it the local adoption that we needed, in order to succeed properly. And I was actually dividing it in the European business unit, the US business unit in our tech business unit that is actually building our product. And serving both markets globally. And taking on the global leadership, as you just said, means that I'm not just overseeing the US side, but as well, the European Intertek business unit now that that explains that I think, in short, might well

Gary Pageau  
have to work twice as much, because they're us. And

Benedikt Greifenhofer  
you europe and tech.. So it makes it three times, you know.

Gary Pageau  
And just for the listeners who may have known Marcus Posselt was formerly CEO, he's now executive chairman. So with the company and doing more strategic things,

Benedikt Greifenhofer  
like I mean, Marcus is not just was not just the CEO, he was also the founder of the company. And I think we can, the whole industry should, should be super thankful for what he's done for what what whiskey took. And it's just amazing. And I just quote him, because I can't say that about myself. But he's always telling everyone and was also in the press release a quote from him, he thinks that this is a good move to bring me into this picture. Because he thinks now is the time that someone takes it from the stage where we are now to double triple the company again, and he thinks this is better suited with me. And Marcus is taking on more representation, financing rounds, and also acquisitions, mergers and acquisitions that are ahead of all sales. 

Gary Pageau  
So let's talk a little bit about that growth. Because it's been an interesting couple of years. Yes, in the schools, portrait industry in the volume industry. And yet, you've, you've said you've experienced significant growth, the last couple years, has that been driven more by the technology side or the market necessity for some of the offerings that got photo has that because of COVID. It's made your solution more desirable.

Benedikt Greifenhofer  
I believe it's the second point that you just raised, it's it's a market change to in COVID. I mean, there's, there's enough research out there like McKinsey or Deloitte, they also said like, okay, all this digitalization is just 10 years ahead, now, doing COVID. And due to COVID. And I think that that's what we experienced, I believe we made a really good move right before COVID, founding a local local subsidiary in the States, also hiring local local team having people on the ground there. And that just gave us the foundation to really grow massively in the States as well. And not just in Europe. And that was the key success. And I believe the market just needed the tools that we could provide to keep doing volume or school photography, how we knew it before. Yeah, that that was the key, I would put say, I agree to that.

Gary Pageau  
I've heard that before from other sectors of the industry, where COVID, to some extent, was an accelerant to trends that were already happening. So what were the key elements that God photo offers that customers took advantage of that allowed them to do this? Well, what was the key thing?

Benedikt Greifenhofer  
When we started building the system? We always thought about, okay, how can we make it the most easiest with the least touch points for everyone involved? So not just the photographer, but also the schools, the parents, the kids, every everyone? Like there's no handing out of orders afterwards, right? When when they are shipped, there's no order forms nothing, all these touch points we wanted to to eliminate because that means efficiency, but that also means contact us and touchless. Right? And that that was the key in the pandemic, I would say we we did that early on and we always played the efficiency card. But now that came another aspect to the picture. Then we also wanted to not have personal contact altogether because We didn't want to spread the virus. And that was actually the key. And I think we also came up with concepts that also supported that not just within our platform, but also with processes for school photographers that are outside our platform to shoot itself, posing, actually, how they, how they could operate within their company, all that sort of stuff. We just came up with tons of concepts, marketing material, how they can explain that to schools, and and customers, and all these things. And I think that was kind of the key elements to our success during these times,

Gary Pageau  
when you say your triple, did you triple the number of customers or triple one a volume going through the system? Or what does that tripling means avoiding

Benedikt Greifenhofer  
through the system? Yeah, not always reflecting the number of customers per se, because the size of customers is just varying a lot,

Gary Pageau  
they're still pretty impressive, because, you know, the school photography market really isn't growing, right? I mean, there's X number of students correct. And that's usually the same number of being photographed every year. So you're getting that business from some somewhere else, people who were on forums who have converted, or things like that,

Benedikt Greifenhofer  
that's that's the the assumption is that the piece of the whole pie of online sales is just growing and growing every year. And I think we are not the only one experiencing this amazing growth. It's also the other competitors that we have and other people in the space.

Gary Pageau  
Let's talk a little bit about the marketing support that you mentioned earlier, because I think that's a key piece that's different compared to the way school photos were kind of marketed in the past, it was sort of a transaction where the volume photographers out of the business, right, they just provided the service, but the school really handed the interaction with the customer. And with a system like God photo and others, the photographer cannot communicate directly with the parents, and you've got to provide marketing materials and all that. And like, we were talking earlier, before we started during the holidays, you've actually got a little marketing promotion, reminding people to use those pictures.

Benedikt Greifenhofer  
Yes. So I think the easiest way to explain that is we now with online sales, because we capture the data of the parents, we can now use that data plus also the pictures what we talked about in a second, but we can use that data to create more revenue with it. And also more experiences for the parents with it. So what we are, for example, working on as well is mainly working with one man or one woman shows that actually running a business, a very successful school photography business themselves, but they also have other photography segments. So I can convert a parent, for example, from school photography over to my studio, or to a family shoot, or whatever that may be, because I have no the contact details and can market to that. And what you're referring to is, so that is one one piece of the puzzle, right the other pieces, we can now market the pictures again and again and again. Because now Cyber Monday is coming up, which is for online sales, one of the main days of getting revenue in so we just told our customers, hey, to support you guys 50% of all fees with God photo, but please, you just get it if you send out a marketing campaign that says Cyber Monday in it. So we really wanted them to work with that they have predefined campaigns, they can easily send them out to all their customers. And the feedback that you get from from our customers just amazing. I mean, some people did like 13 $14,000 During that time, right, not just on the day itself also afterwards. And this is this is amazing. For school photographer, that's money that they didn't have before. And it's not really. Yeah, it's not in work, right? It's just you send out the email and everything's rolling it. And that's, that's just amazing for the industry. And that's that's one of the advantages of online sales. I would say that COVID also brought us further into

Gary Pageau  
Yeah, the output options for the parents how those changed over the last years.

Benedikt Greifenhofer  
What do you mean with output options?

Gary Pageau  
I mean, there's obviously digital downloads and things but there's also hardgoods and you know, have you seen any mix there with how people are using the pictures now that they may have had a season or two experience and God photo hey, I can now do all these other things with

Benedikt Greifenhofer  
it actually not so what we always experienced in every market, but that's not not just in the states also in Europe is that the share of downloads is increasing every year. So every year parents ordering more and more downloads. What is quite interesting is that during COVID We actually started sending out questionnaires to end customers of what what is the desire of buying the school picture. What are you doing with it? What is the purpose because we wanted to understand that and also allow our customers know what if it was a multiple choice answer but you could answer multiple times that's very important for the handset to keep now 80% of the people said it's a gift for relatives for most people, their grandparents or sister or uncle's or whatever. And then 68% said they use it to display at home. So these are the two main reasons that you get. And when you get these that means for me hey the Prince and all This physical products will not go away, although we see a larger share of downloads, it just means it's add ons to the order because they will buy it to display it at home, they will buy it to make it a gift. And that's that's also what we're seeing Princess still the dominant product that we are

Gary Pageau  
selling. It's sort of like how in the consumer business prints were the default medium, right? You had film process, you're too young to remember film. But there was such a thing as film, processing. And the default delivery mechanism was a stack of prints and buying photography was the same way. And now with digital, you've got the option. But I've always been a strong believer that there is a market an opportunity for physical, that the physical isn't going to go away. It's just going to change, it's going to be different media, it's going to be a bunch of different things. That's interesting. So do you see any regional differences? So you're probably in the two biggest school markets on the planet in terms of adoption of these different approaches?

Benedikt Greifenhofer  
You mean, with online sales and offline sales? Or you mean with? Yeah, okay. Actually not? No, it's It's always that. So it's always a very slow conversion towards online sales and all markets. And the main competition that we always say we have is actually the paper sales, which makes perfect sense. I mean, this is, and we totally understand that as well. Right? I mean, this is the the business that that is filling your fridge that you work off, live off, right. So if you just changed one of the most fundamental processes, and this is how your money comes in, you will think about that for a long time. So it makes perfect sense that that takes time, although it's the most logical reasons that we probably bring to the table, it just takes time to, for people to sometimes make that move, because it's quite risky. And I get it. But no, there's no regional difference, we see that the longer we work on the market, the more we can can support also, the digitalization, that's our mission, that's what we want to do. So for example, in Germany, we have actually brought the development to a certain level, and I think there it is a bit more developed and in the States. But when we entered the market, there was no real difference. And from the development, it's also not not really different from each other. So you got

Gary Pageau  
a whole tech piece, like you said, you've got three pieces of the company, you've got North America, and then you've got Europe, then you've got a tech piece, what is the tech piece of the company working,

Benedikt Greifenhofer  
it's just working on our product, basically. So what what we always wanted to make sure is that that we can use the benefits of the European market in the United States and the benefits of the United States market also in Europe, that means we want to be the company. And we actually the only one who can do that, that shares knowledge that we gather in Europe, to the states and vice versa. And that is why we decided for us that we just want to work with one product. And that is why we also have this third business unit, because they need to make sure that in both markets, everything is available at any given time. And this is this is what they are doing. They are building our platform, they are integrating our partners, they maintain everything. And they make sure that photographers can have 24/7 orders coming in. That's what they do. It just

Gary Pageau  
seems like it's an unusual way to structure the company. That's I'm just thinking from a company structure standpoint, you're putting your technology platform based on the same level as your go to market business. You correct?

Benedikt Greifenhofer  
Yeah, because they are, I mean, that's the heart of our company. This is what we were doing every day, what makes us being able to do all the things that we do for the volume photography industry, because we have this product and that that's why it gets this importance of like being standalone and being independent and decide where to go on the market based on the strategy that the company setting.

Gary Pageau  
So for your customers, like you said, the one or two person operation who may do other kinds of photography during the year, is there an opportunity to move kind of sideways into that market with your platform, because of you know, you're like you said they're taking the kids pictures, and they're another got the contact with the parent, and you've got a fairly robust CRM type environment there. And there's been a lot of activity in that market among other players developing those kinds of platforms for photographers, so you're almost coming up against those other platforms.

Benedikt Greifenhofer  
That is very true. I think. I think first of all, our platform is designed for volume photography. And that is that is the key. I mean, we started out with like any photography type that you could think of as any business does in the beginning we had like kind of a phase where we had to find our niche Yeah, this this is what blue sky blue sky we boil the ocean we do it and and then we narrowed it down to school photography or volume photography, because sports is also and then down schools and we're not and that was really successful for us. So we stick to it. So we just building features for volume photography. However, if it as you said if you start having a CRM if you start building a contact base that gives you a lot of portunities to do other things as well. So on our platform is also studio photography sometimes because one person has a studio as well and uses good photo for that there is some family portraits on there that happens every now and then. But it's not our main business. But yeah, this is where our

Gary Pageau  
doesn't prevent you. But it doesn't prevent you from doing that either. It doesn't, it's certainly open to that type of them. Because I certainly think that's where, if you look at the type of business of volume photographer has where they had a really, you know, previously the relationship was with the school, right? And now it's becoming more and more with the parents now. It's like, Okay, what else can I do, you know, from how from the photographer standpoint can dealt with them, like you said, they may not be their main photographer, and they may not, you know, do their Bar Mitzvah or whatever. But for that, for that other picture they may need good could be a great solution.

Benedikt Greifenhofer  
First of all that and second of all, and that study set out there that are just publicly available. Everyone is saying the local businesses will be the champions of the COVID time. Why because in lockdowns and in crisis, we turn to our local community a lot. And the local photographers, local brands that they bought, they are quite strong already. And they can use exactly what you're just saying, like launching into other photography types, or doing picture sessions here and there. This is building their brand locally and makes them so much stronger compared to giants in the industry that are not having this personal connection with customers. And that's what they are looking for.

Gary Pageau  
It is an interesting trend, how COVID has reinforced in some ways, family and community connection, right in some way.

Benedikt Greifenhofer  
And that's that's what we're experiencing as well like these, these independent photographers how we call them, or the geek photography, they are photographers, they are also called sometimes they are really like developing amazingly over the time. And it's just crazy how that's flourishing so much. And that's, that's really great to see

Gary Pageau  
moving forward. Now that we're into 2022. World. What do you see moving forward is the opportunities and challenges that your company is going to be facing?

Benedikt Greifenhofer  
That's a very good question. I mean, first of all, this year was quite tough taking on so much growth, that is always also a whole operation for us. Because you You never know, with the seasonality that volume photography has, it's always very hard to just take that in in the fall season, for example, but my team did an amazing job. And I'm super happy about that. Looking forward, we want to really branch more into new solutions for the market that are not existing so far, that make the work and the sales process of volume photographers a lot better and a lot more efficient. We are currently looking and combining a prepay and proofing sales into one sales method. In order to just combine the best of both worlds in prepay, you always have a higher order rate improving you have higher order values. So we try to combine that together with efficient marketing so that photographers even can can generate more revenues, and have just the best sales option that is out there. And that is actually don't have to talk about pre or post sale, or whatever that's that's going to look like they just combine it all together. And we just have one process where you can always get the most revenue out. That's what we're looking into looking into new sports solutions for photographers that makes their workflow more efficient. A lot of partnerships will be announced in the next next years because they think the world got a lot more complex. And we have to really work together in our industry to serve the best to the photographer's and, and that's the main challenges that we are facing, we need to see like what is the next step for industry and development so that it can just stay on top?

Gary Pageau  
So staying on top of that, that's that's quite a challenge. Because like you said, there is a lot of dynamics in play here. I was talking to a school photographer, and he's talking about he's talking to homeschool associations, right? So because because, you know, that's a very growing segment here in the United States. So how do you photograph those students? Right. And it's, it's, it's an interesting challenge, that it's not at all a stodgy or complacent industry, it's very dynamic.

Benedikt Greifenhofer  
Yeah. And I think these these developments, you will have, like, not every year maybe like just popping up, but over the time, right, I'm gonna have a cycle five, five years or 10 years, and the cycles will get shorter over time. I mean, this is what what we, as human beings just were facing, we were just developing quicker and quicker and quicker. So we as a volume, photography industry also have to start adapting faster and faster. And COVID was actually kind of a shock. I think our industry never had to adapt so fast to something as it didn't COVID Right. And we prove to ourselves that we can do it. So now we have to actually work with that and make that better and better and better over the years and that That's what we want to help the industry with. And that's what we want to look at.

Gary Pageau  
Thank you so much Benedict for your time. And again, congratulations on your ascension to the upper levels of the god photo management sphere. And I look forward to seeing you soon at the spec conference and hope you have a great 2022

Benedikt Greifenhofer  
Thank you, Gary. It was a pleasure as always.

Erin Manning  
Thank you for listening to the Dead Pixels Society podcast. Read more great stories and sign up for the newsletter at www.thedeadpixelssociety.com

Transcribed by https://otter.ai