PERSONAL bestsOctober 2006
Sales of student photos have been on the decline across the country for years, when measured as a percentage of parents purchasing packages. Inter-State Studio and Publishing (www.inter-state.com) sought to buck this trend and find a more effective way of presenting image treatment options, which increase the dollar value of orders.
For decades, the company had been using the tried-and-true method of creating sales flyers by affixing two unique photographic prints from a child’s photo onto a conventionally printed, stock flyer (Inter-State Commercial Printing is another division of the company). This was the standard marketing method used by school photographers across the industry, but it was a time-consuming process and not terribly innovative.
When digital printing technology became available, Inter-State’s management immediately began to study and test various production methods and techniques. The company ended up purchasing a Xeikon DP500D webfed digital color press for printing school yearbooks (which it still uses today), as well as an HP Indigo 3050 digital color press. It has since added two HP Indigo 5000 presses.
In 2003, the photography studio/commercial printer developed a new way of creating sales flyers that capitalized on its new printing capabilities. In the following school year, Inter-State tested the use of digital variable printing by creating a personalized, four-page flyer that was produced on its HP Indigo digital press.
The household of each student photographed received a unique, digitally printed flyer that incorporated an image of the child. This approach still fell a little short of the goal, however, in that the return envelope for parents to use when ordering prints had to be stapled to each flyer. Customization of the flyers did boost sales, but management wanted to reduce the amount of labor involved.
Inter-State next tried generating personalized proofs that featured a student’s image with different special features applied, such as theme borders, black-and-white images and optional special effects such as the child’s autograph. Parents reacted very positively to this piece, to the point of not wanting to return the proof with their orders in some cases.
Based on those results, management decided in 2005 to take the company’s personalization efforts up a level by adapting the proof concept for its flyer. In addition, Inter-State developed a way to turn the piece into a self-mailer by running pre-converted paper stock through its Xeikon rollfed press.