Measuring the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on your business

The coronavirus pandemic is affecting all of us in a variety of ways. We’re a small company and the whole Light Blue team is either currently or previously a professional photographer, so we understand the difficulties that you are going through at the moment.

Being able to measure the impact that the pandemic has had on your business certainly isn’t something that you will want to do, however it is helpful if you are applying for some sort of financial assistance for your business.

This guide walks through how to get the details that could help you.

Using charts to get an overview

The benefit of managing your business with Light Blue is that your data’s all in one place, so the information that you need is already here. So you won’t need to spend ages analysing complicated spreadsheets to get an idea of where you stand.

The charts view is your friend, and here are a few different charts that you could load with a couple of clicks and then present as necessary evidence if required.

Note that I’ve got “cumulative totals” turned on and I’m comparing this year to previous years (feel free to go as far back as you feel is appropriate).

To change the data that your chart is displaying, just tweak the options at the top of the screen.

Income,

Enquiries by enquiry date,

Bookings

Planning ahead

As well as taking a look at how things have changed for your business this year, it could be useful for you to take a look at the road ahead so you can take appropriate action.

Identifying bookings at risk of postponement due to the latest restrictions

The lockdown restrictions and rules keep on changing, and in the UK we’ve recently been told that the current restrictions are likely to be in place for six months.

If you’re taking payments for sessions that haven’t happened yet but are at risk of cancelling, there’s a possibility that you may find ourself in a position whereby you need to return some of what’s been paid. We’re not in a position to offer legal advice so if you’re ever in doubt about what you should be doing with regards to cancellations, we recommend consulting an independent legal professional.

Creating custom reports in Light Blue can help to provide the necessary figures in order to manage the potential financial exposure to cancelations of future bookings. That’s a three step process:

1) Find the right records

Use the query tool to search for all of your shoots that are booked over the next 6 months (for example, you can choose another period if you wish).

2) View the list

Then view the results in the List View and customise that view (Window > Customise List View) to show the information that you’re most interested in.

3) Save a custom report

Finally, save the query and list view settings as a custom report so you can view the most up to date information again in the future with a few clicks.

Forecasting your potential income

Getting a clear picture of when you’re going to receive income is very important and helpful at the best of times, but during this unprecedented period of uncertainty your businesses ability to forecast its income is essential.

No forecasting model is going to be iron clad, but the ability for you to look ahead will allow you to remove some of the guesswork from this situation and help you to make some informed decisions.

We’ve got an in-depth guide on how to use Light Blue’s quoting tools to forecast your income, which you can read here.

Keeping an eye on your fixed outgoings

The money coming in to your business is just one part of the equation and even with a reduction in work you will still encounter a certain amount of fixed costs necessary for keeping the business going.

We’re doing what we can to help reduce those costs for our customers and we know that many other suppliers to the trade are as well.

If you’ve been recording your businesses expenditure within Light Blue then it’s fairly quick to get a picture of the fixed costs that you’ve incurred this year. It may also be helpful to look at the figures for last year in order to establish a trend.

Using the query tool, search for purchases that haven’t been linked to shoots and also haven’t been categorised in a way that indicates that they’re a cost of sales. The advanced options allow you to be more precise in your search.

Then you can customise the list view to show the columns that are most relevant to you, and group the purchases by year so that you can compare this years fixed costs to those of previous years.

Need more help?

We’re always ready and willing to support our customers if they need help with things like this. Send an email to support@lightbluesoftware.com or schedule a free 1:1 call via the help page.

5 ways to quickly get more out of Light Blue in 2020

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Your business is constantly evolving as you introduce changes and improvements, investing time now in order to enjoy benefits well into the future.

Let’s explore a few ways that Light Blue can make your business easier to run and to be more effective.

Light Blue is a flexible and powerful tool that offers a great deal of value to photographers. Read on to discover a few of the ways that it could help you.

1.     Email templates

Keeping in touch with your clients is important, but it doesn’t have to take ages! Light Blue’s email and text message templates save you time and mean that you don’t forget to say the important things. There’s no need to type the same messages out again and again, and our powerful mail-merge tags automatically personalise your messages with the relevant details.

Email templates are useful because they can save you a lot of time sending out standard responses to your clients’ queries, help you to use consistent wording, and present yourself with a professional image. You can use email templates whenever you create an email to a client from Light Blue, and you can also use them in workflows to send automated messages to your clients: for example, to remind them about a booking.

Learn how to make your messages more efficient.

2.     Workflow messaging

When you’ve only got one or two shoots to worry about, it’s easy to remember all of the important things that you need to do. However, once you’re at the stage where you’re dealing with multiple jobs that are all at different stages, keeping track of what needs to be done next can be a headache!

Whether or not you’ve planned it that way, every successful photography business has a series of steps that you need to go through to make sure that you’re delivering the best possible service to your clients. Light Blue’s powerful workflows can add a list of tasks and automated messages based around the date of the shoot, so we can remind you when you need to do something and important emails and text messages will get sent automatically.

Discover Light Blue’s time-saving workflows & automated messaging.

3.     Using forms

Receiving new enquiries is great because it means that your marketing’s working well and people want to work with you! If you install one of Light Blue’s contact forms on your website, all of the useful details of your new enquiry will flow straight into Light Blue – no need to type anything into your database. Your client can get an immediate, automated reply, and you can follow it up with a personalised email or text message template as soon as you’ve checked your availability.

In order for you to deliver memorable pictures and outstanding service to your clients, you need to have the right information. Sending questionnaires to your clients is a great way to capture the important details. Light Blue’s forms can be sent out as a questionnaire from a shoot record and will update your records with the details that you need. Your clients are essentially doing your admin for you, while you appear to be really thorough & organised. There’s no limit to the number of different forms that you can use, so you’re free to ask the right questions at the right times.

Gather the important details from your clients.

4.     Online contracts

Converting enquiries into paid bookings is great, but it’s even better when the booking process is effortless for both you and your client.

Confirm bookings with ease by sending contracts from Light Blue. It’s easy to present pricing options to your client, gather additional details, have them agree to your terms and conditions, and even take payment for a booking fee or session fee in one nice, simple flow!

Confirm bookings with ease.

5.     Powerful reporting & queries

One of the great advantages of using Light Blue is that all of the information that you need is in one place. That data can tell you a lot about how your business is doing, and help you to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

That’s where Light Blue’s reporting features are invaluable, allowing you to use everything you’ve entered into it to give you an overview of how your business is performing and where you need to focus your efforts so that you can hit your goals.

You don’t need to spend ages collating the data, there’s no need to be copying and pasting things, formatting spreadsheets or setting up complicated pivot tables in Excel!

Reports & queries pull up your live data, so you’re always seeing the most up to date information.

Take the guesswork out of running your business.

Not currently using Light Blue?

If you’re not already using Light Blue to manage your business, we’d be delighted to set up a free, no-obligation demo!

Book a free demo

Merry Christmas from the Light Blue team

Although we’re still hard at work here in the Light Blue bunker this week, we thought we should take some time out to let you know when we’ll be available to help anyone who’s going to be busy over the Christmas and New Year period.

Whether you’re a wedding photographer who’s looking forward to dealing with all of the new enquiries that tend to come in after Christmas, or just someone who’s using Light Blue to maintain their ‘Naughty or Nice’ list, we’re here to help. We’re going to be taking a bit of a break though, so we won’t be answering emails quite as quickly as normal between Christmas and New Year.

  • We’ll be offering our normal email support hours until Monday 23 December.
  • We’ll be offering limited email support on Tuesday 24 December.
  • There’ll be no email support available on the UK holidays of 25 & 26 December.
  • We’ll be offering limited email support 27, 30, and 31 December.
  • There will be no email support available on the bank holiday of Wednesday 1 January.
  • Normal email support will resume on Thursday 2 January.

We’d like to take this opportunity to wish all of our customers a restful and enjoyable Christmas, and best wishes for a successful and prosperous 2020; thank you so much for choosing Light Blue.

Scheduled website maintenance

We’re going to be carrying out some scheduled maintenance on our website servers this weekend, which is going to lead to some unavoidable downtime for our account management pages and support resources such as our knowledgebase and video tutorials.

However, Light Blue’s online services will be unaffected and you will be able to carry on using all of Light Blue’s features while this takes place.

We’ll be carrying out these updates early on Saturday morning (UK time) to minimise any disruption.

Scheduled website maintenance

We’re going to be carrying out some scheduled maintenance on our website servers this weekend, which is going to lead to some unavoidable downtime for our account management pages.

However, Light Blue’s online services will be unaffected and you will be able to carry on using all of Light Blue’s features while this takes place.

We’ll be carrying out these updates early on Saturday and Sunday mornings (UK time) to minimise any disruption.

Updated Gmail security

Google are updating their security rules for apps that send emails via Gmail (and G Suite) and we’ve been keeping up to date with their changes to make sure that you’ll be able to continue to send emails from Light Blue via your Gmail account.

The new security rules mean that you might need to add your Gmail account to Light Blue again. You can easily tell if you need to do this:

  1. Log into your Light Blue account and go to the email settings page.
  2. If you use more than one email account with Light Blue, select your Gmail account from the list.
  3. If your Gmail account is affected by Google security change, a red warning will appear underneath the popup menu that you choose your email account from.

We’ve recorded a short video that shows you what you need to do to remove your Gmail account from Light Blue and add it again. This will walk you through the steps that you need to take:

Google’s deadline for switching over to the new way of sending emails via Gmail is 21 June.

As always, if you need any help with any aspect of using Light Blue, get in touch with us via email and we’ll be delighted to help.

Get the year off to a great start with Light Blue

We hope that 2019 is going to be full of happiness and success for all of our customers, and that enquiries have been coming in thick and fast over the Christmas and New Year period.

Light Blue is full of tools that can help you respond to and follow up on those enquiries, quickly confirm bookings with your new clients, and get your invoices paid quickly. We’d love to help you get the most out of those tools!

Free, personalised training

We’re always keen to make sure that you’re getting as much as possible out of Light Blue, and you’ll find loads of helpful resources on our website: excellent video tutorials, in-depth webinars, and responsive email support.

We also offer one-to-one training via screen-sharing software, which allows us to offer personalised help to make sure that you’re getting the most out of Light Blue. Whether you need a hand with setting up a particular feature, or want to ask our advice about how to approach a particular situation, we’ve got experience of working with thousands of photographers around the world.

We’re offering all of our customers a free 30 minute screen-sharing session. All you need to do is book your one-to-one session by the end of February!

Click here to book a free screen-sharing session!

Asking your clients to opt into your mailing list

New Mailing List Opt-In Form

With Light Blue 7.1.2, you can now send your clients to a special form that allows them to opt in to your mailing list. Each of your contact records has a special URL that identifies them, and you can get that URL in two different ways:

  1. If you only want to send mailing list opt-in links to a small number of clients, you can use the %ContactMailingListOptInURL% mail-merge tag in an email template.
  2. If you want to send mailing list opt-in links to lots of clients, you can export a CSV file of contact names, email addresses, and URLs from Light Blue. You can then import this spreadsheet into a service like MailChimp to email it to your clients.

Your client portal branding is automatically applied to your mailing list opt-in form, and can customise the text that appears on the form by logging into your account on our website.

Read on to learn how to use either of those methods of sending a mailing list opt-in form to your clients!

Using Light Blue

If you want to email a small number of contacts, you could send an email to your clients using an email template.

After you’ve queried for the records that you’re interested in, either by using the Query dialog or one of your Quick Queries, then you could send an email to all of those contacts based on a template that you’ve already set up.

There’s a short tutorial covering how to create your own email templates here.

You’ll need to include the %ContactMailingListOptInURL% mail-merge tag in your email template, so that each contact receives their own unique link to the special opt-in page.

It’s a good idea to try sending  a test message to yourself first, to make sure that you’re happy with how everything appears & works, before sending it out to your customers.

We’d discourage you from using this approach to send more than a small number of emails, because you can run the risk of your mail host temporarily suspending your account for sending too much mail or marking your address as a producer of spam.

Using MailChimp

If you have a larger group of clients you’d like to invite to opt into your mailing list, we’d recommend using a service like MailChimp.

MailChimp is great for sending big mail-outs to lots of contacts. You can personalise those messages to include information that’s unique to each person, too. That means that you can include the unique URL that identifies each client in the email to that person.

In order to do that, you need to add a list of contacts to MailChimp.

1. Exporting a spreadsheet of contacts, including their unique opt-in URLs

The first step is to export your contacts’ names, email addresses, and the unique URLs that they can use to opt into your mailing list. You should use the Query dialog or one of your Quick Queries to find the contacts that you want to include in this mailing, and then go into the Housekeeping section of the Records menu and select ‘Ask Contacts To Opt-In To Mailing List’.

Light Blue will give you a preview of the contacts who will be included. You can remove contacts by selecting them and clicking the ‘Remove From List’ button. When you click the ‘Export’ button, Light Blue will export a CSV file that you can import into MailChimp.

2. Creating a special “List” in MailChimp

Log in to your MailChimp account and then, in the Lists section, click ‘Create List’.


Give the list a name and complete the other required information, then save the list. You don’t need to include the “Enable double opt-in” or “Enable GDPR fields” options for this list: the purpose of messaging contacts on the list is to ask them to complete their unique opt-in form which will update Light Blue.

3. Adding a special field to the list for the unique URL

Once you’ve created the list, we need to set up a special list field to store the unique opt-in form URL. In the Settings menu, click on “List fields and *|MERGE|* tags”:


Click the “Add A Field” button at the bottom:

Choose Website as the type:

Give the field a name & tag name (e.g. “Light Blue Opt-In” and “LBOPTIN”) then save your changes:

4. Importing the contacts from Light Blue into the MailChimp list

You’re now ready to import the CSV of contacts from Light Blue into MailChimp. To do that, click Add Contacts > Import Contacts:

Choose CSV or tab-delimited text file and click Next:

Choose the file that you exported from Light Blue. Now you can map the columns in the CSV file to the relevant MailChimp fields.
Light Blue’s CSV file includes a full name field, which isn’t relevant to MailChimp, so you can click “skip” so MailChimp ignores it:


When you get to the unique Opt-In Form URL column, choose to map that to the “Light Blue Opt In” field that you created earlier:

Click Save, then click Next.
Categorise the imported contacts as “subscribed” so that we can send the email to them:

When you click Import, MailChimp will import the contents of the CSV.

5. Creating & sending the email message

You can now create your email message which will be addressed to the contacts in this list by creating a new email campaign. To do that, return to your MailChimp account home screen and click the “Create Campaign” button.

Choose to “create an email” and give the campaign a name (e.g. “Opt in mailout”). In the To field, click “Add Recipients”, then choose the list you created earlier:


Enter relevant “from” & “subject” fields, then click on the “Design Email” button to design the content of your message.

Choose a layout format that you want to work with and start to compose your email message. Click on the text of your email, choose to edit the text block.

You can now customise the text of the email so that it can include the unique URL. To do that, click on the “Merge Tags” button and choose the “Light Blue Opt In” tag that you created earlier:

Once you’re done, click “Save & Close”. You can send a test message to preview how the email looks. When you’re ready, click the “Send” button to send the email to all of the contacts that you imported.

Customising your mailing list opt-in form

Your client portal branding is automatically applied to your mailing list opt-in form, and can customise the text that appears on the form by logging into your account on our website.

The customisation options for your opt-in form include:

  • Whether or not you want to receive a notification email whenever a client opts in or out of your mailing list via this form.
  • The heading and text that appears on the form.
  • The text of the buttons on the form.
  • The headings and text that appears on the pages that are displayed when a client opts in or out.

 

Merry Christmas from the Light Blue team

nice-list-email-header

Although we’re still hard at work here in the Light Blue bunker this week (19th December), we thought we should take some time out to let you know when we’ll be available to help anyone who’s going to be busy over the Christmas and New Year period.

Whether you’re a wedding photographer who’s looking forward to dealing with all of the new enquiries that tend to come in after Christmas, or just someone who’s using Light Blue to maintain their ‘Naughty or Nice’ list, we’re here to help. We’re going to be taking a bit of a break though, so we won’t be answering emails quite as quickly as normal between Christmas and New Year.

  • We’ll be offering our normal email support hours until Friday 23 December.
  • There’ll be no email support available on the UK holidays of 26 & 27 December.
  • We’ll be offering limited email support 28-30 December.
  • There will be no email support available on the bank holiday of Monday 1 January.
  • Normal email support will resume on Tuesday 3 January.

We’d like to take this opportunity to wish all of our customers a restful and enjoyable Christmas, and best wishes for a successful and prosperous 2016; thank you so much for choosing Light Blue.

One-to-one training and consultancy

To help photographers get the most out of Light Blue, we offer a range of training and support resources to suit a wide variety of needs:

Some photographers prefer a different approach, so we also offer a one-to-one service that allows us to offer training, setup, or consultancy that’s specifically tailored to your needs. We use screen-sharing software that allows us to work with you and your copy of Light Blue wherever you are in the world, and the session can be customised to cover anything that you need help with. For example, recent sessions have included:

  • Helping photographers set up all of the resources and processes for easily handling enquiries and managing your shoots.
  • Helping identify what information you find useful for running your business, including setting up helpful reports & queries.
  • In-depth training on specific aspects of using Light Blue effectively for your business, such as how to handle specific invoicing and bookkeeping scenarios.
  • Training for new employees, to quickly bring them up to speed on using Light Blue effectively.

Prices for one-to-one training and consultancy start at just £35 (plus VAT, where applicable) for a half hour session. If you’d like to book a session, or to discuss the possibilities, please get in touch via email.