Well day 2 of my six month blog-a-thon and I am still going strong haha.  It’s like the prayer meme I’ve seen out there before that says “God I am doing really amazing today.  I haven’t hit anyone or had bad thoughts or even used any curse words but I am about to get out of bed so I am going to need your help the rest of the day”

I reached out to my friend Sarah Gee, of Sarah Gee Photography, and she gave me some inspiration on what people might care to read about on my blog.  So for the next few days, I am going to share some of the things I wish I would have known when I first started my business many years ago.  While Sarah already has a studio and has her ducks in a row, sometimes it’s just nice to hear of others mistakes have been to compare to your own.  God knows I am far from perfect and have made my share of mistakes in the business, but I am going to place more emphasis on the positives.  By focusing on the positives, I mean not focusing so much on the mistakes, but the things I wish I would have known.

Today I am going to talk about a good Customer Relationship Management system, or CRM.  Customers in this business, or in other words, our clients, are gold.  Every client we attain costs us money.  Many people call this Customer Acquisition Cost, or what the average cost of reaching and converting a person to the status of a client is.  Beyond that, it is what it costs us to keep our clients.

So what do you do to keep track of all of your clients, and what they are worth to your business?  I personally couldn’t tell you much about any of my clients before 2014, because I didn’t have a CRM system in place…and I’ve been in this business for 21 years!  What was I thinking?!  So when I decided I was going to focus my business on my seniors, one of the first things I did was find a good CRM that would help me track all of my fabulous clients.  I can’t even imagine what my database would look like had I started this in 1995 when I started this business.

There are a ton of CRM options out there to choose from. For instance; Studio Cloud, Successware, Pixifi, Simply Studio, Foto Client, Shoot Q, Infusionsoft, 17 Hats, and my personal favorite, Tave!  Now I don’t have a lot of experience with many of these, but here is what I do know.  My advice would be to research, pick one,  and stick with it, BUT (Personal experience disclaimer here) make the right decision, because changing systems IS NO FUN!  I know the ones I will openly tell you to stay away from, and those are Successware and Studio Cloud.  My friend Matt Hoaglin who runs Allison Ragsdale Photography with his wife Allison in Durango, Colorado, just dumped Successware saying it was terrible to work with. I have never personally tried Successware, but I trust Matt’s opinion, and think it’s best to steer clear.  Everyone has opinions about what works best for them and why, so my advice would be to use the one that you are most comfortable with and that will grow your business, not stifle it.

Here are a few of the ones that I have tried, along with the things I may or may not have liked about them:

Studio Cloud – Studio cloud is the CRM we started out using, and it was good to start with, but had a terrible learning curve.  In 3 years I still struggled with getting to know the ins and outs of it, and we constantly had problems with no resolution to any of them.  Studio cloud seemed almost archaic, and I don’t think they ever had any plans to fix or make it better.  The cost was a little high in my opinion, and one of the reasons I selected their services in the first place was because they worked well with Pro Select, and had SMS text messaging available that I never used.

17 Hats – I would say that 17 hats is probably one of the more appealing options to me personally, but I tried it out for a couple of months and found a lot of roadblocks that really frustrated me.  They are a relatively young company and are definitely growing and progressing quickly.  Their User interface is very nice looking and for the most part simple.  Definitely a popular CRM these days.

Tave –  A couple years ago at WPPI in Las Vegas, I came across Tave and I loved what they had to offer. There were however a couple of things that really concerned me at first when I looked into their system.  What impressed me about Tave, is that when I was back at WPPI just a few months ago, I stopped again and saw that all of those concerns I originally had were eliminated! It was clear to me then that this company was making constant changes based on the requests of its users.  Since I started using their system shortly after the conference, I have been able to focus more time on what matters, and that is shooting and acquiring new clients.  The User Interface is incredible and really looks great.  The dashboard is customizable and gives you a quick update to how business is going.  There is so much customizable automation in Tave you can pretty much set it and forget it.

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Tave is definitely my go to when it comes to tracking my clients and new leads, and of course followup as well as workflow tasking.

My all time favorite feature, is when booking a session based on the date and location, Tave shows me what time sunrise and sunset is.  Why does this matter?  Well, I often times book sessions for that perfect light, and I like to know about when that will be…and 4 months in the future isn’t very easy and convenient to find these times. I used to have to just give it my best guess, but not anymore and I LOVE that.  Tave takes the guess work out of it, and seems more like a personal assistant than a program.

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The long and the short of it is this:  Having a good Client Database System or Studio Software is an essential tool to consider in this business as a photographer.  Tave does a fabulous job of this for us.  I don’t get any money for referring people to Tave, I am just an advocate for their product.

To dive even deeper into comparisons, my friend Nancy Nardi from Seniors Ignite, wrote a great article about the options and all of their features and benefits as well as their lack there of.  Check that out here.

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