Stop throwing money at ineffective ads. Learn the three bold steps one small-town photographer took to attract new clients and grow her business. (Featuring CASSIE CLAYSHULTE)
“It’s all about who you know.”
I have no idea who said this, but I do know it’s true. No one wants to do business with strangers or people they dislike. Even if you’re collaborating with someone you don’t know well, you look for that hint of connection – that vibe that assures you:
you’re in good hands.
To Attract New Clients, Use Your Biggest Asset…
Photographs are EVERYTHING. They entice us to eat new foods, travel to new places, even go on dates with perfect strangers. Photos inspire us to call a realtor, motivate us to get fit, and remind us that we’ve raised remarkable children.
But most small businesses hit a wall when it comes to their photographic needs. Do they tap into their limited resources and hire a professional? Or do they attempt a DIY approach – with often disastrous results? What about stock images?
But you? You are a photographer. You have a head start.
“Don’t you dare laugh at my disposable camera!”
We all begin somewhere.
Cassie Clayshulte began her photography career with a babysitting gig.
With cash from kid-watching, Cassie bought her first camera – a little disposable number perfectly suited for documenting her coastal community of Bluffton, South Carolina.
Dozens of disposable cameras later, one of those images won an award in a local photography contest. This caught the attention of a one of Cassie’s teachers – a mentor who believed in her talent and drive.
When that educator gifted Cassie with her first-ever DSLR, Cassie launched herself wholeheartedly into entrepreneurship and full-time creativity. Today, rather than ruling the disposable camera counter, Cassie rules the Bluffton newborn photography market.
Competition Is Everywhere. That’s Why You Need A Strategy.
Cassie Clayshulte’s story is inspiring, but it wasn’t all hearts and soaring instrumentals and smooth sailing. She worked determinedly at internships that boosted her marketing savvy, sharpened her business acumen, and enhanced her artistry.
As her knowledge expanded, so did her realization:
“I need a strategy for success.”
Up next is Cassie’s success strategy: her approach to networking, word-of-mouth marketing, and continuing education. Learn how Cassie Clayshulte evolved from babysitter-with-a-camera into Photographic Royalty on the Carolina Coast.
#1: Attract New Clients By Partnering with An Influential Business
Far too often, we photographers focus on the small fish, when we should be buddying up with the Big Fish who runs the pond.
Instead of running herself ragged trying to attract new clients one-by-one, Cassie forged a relationship with the local hospital – the hospital where all Bluffton babies are born.
Cassie understood two true human tendencies:
People prefer to do business with friends.
People like to refer their friends to other friend-businesses.
Cassie’s friendship with Coastal Carolina Hospital has become a lasting strategic partnership; some might even call it a sort of “professional friendship.” As official photographer of the prominent hospital, Cassie earns direct marketing access to every family who walks through the hospital’s doors.
“I have a contract to offer Fresh 48 sessions [at the hospital] three mornings a week. Families [receive] my marketing materials four times: when they find out they are expecting, when they find out the [sex] of their baby, when they attend new parent classes, and again when they deliver.”
Cassie worked closely with Coastal Carolina Hospital to craft a marketing strategy that felt natural to expecting mothers and new parents.
“Presented to families as an ‘amenity’ of the hospital, I work alongside the postpartum nurses to educate new parents about newborn photography safety.”
Parents love having an “amenity” like Cassie. She’s a memory-maker first, and a saleswoman second.
“Honestly, I can’t even wrap my head around pressuring a five or six-hour postpartum mother into an intense sales session.”
Wait – Isn’t “Fresh 48” Some New Food Delivery Service?
Close but… no. Actually you’re not even a little close. (Sorry, we just wanted you to feel good about yourself.)
Cassie Clayshulte’s Fresh 48 sessions are simple, in-hospital mini sessions created shortly after a baby’s birth. Thoughtfully structured to be effortless for the parents and efficient for the photographer, each Fresh 48 session lasts no more than 15 minutes.
“I take as little of their time as possible because, let’s face it, new parents are exhausted. [They] don’t need to sit through a long photo shoot or sales pitch. I work hard to make sure my Fresh 48 clients don’t even have to get out of bed!”
Cassie’s Brand Signature: Safe & Simple
Two hallmarks of Cassie’s newborn photography are safety and simplicity. Cassie holds strongly to the belief that babies are beautiful in their first few hours of life – just as they are.
“They don’t need props or cute outfits.”
Instead, Cassie’s Fresh 48 sessions focus on what matters most: honest emotion and exquisite details.
Exceed Expectations with Same-Day Delivery
Cassie knows: every parent’s first few days with their new baby are a deluge of feelings and tears – “ALL the feelings and ALL the tears!” When tired parents are presented with the beautiful photographs of their new baby, it’s a soul-soothing experience.
That’s why Cassie prides herself on same-day delivery for all Fresh 48 session images. After a simple edit and a quick upload to a private ShootProof gallery, Cassie’s clients are ready to see and share their photographs.
“ShootProof has been the BIGGEST game changer for my business. It has made the greatest impact on my client experience and my profitability. It saves me time and increases my revenue – and my clients love it!“
More Than “Lucrative;” Start Thinking “Lead Generation.”
Cassie’s strong relationship with Coastal Carolina Hospital brings her a steady stream of Fresh 48 clients. It’s unlikely, however, that she could sustain her business on newborn mini sessions alone.
Fortunately, that isn’t the point.
Cassie’s in-hospital sessions are less about income-generation and more about lead generation.
“Almost all of my clients mention seeing my work ‘everywhere,’ including at their doctor’s office and throughout the hospital. My relationship with the hospital generates both independent income and new leads for my studio.
About 75% of Fresh 48 clients come back to me for additional sessions.
A large number of my clients also book [maternity portraits] with me prior to their hospital session.”
Since Fresh 48 sessions are foundational to Cassie’s marketing strategy, every interaction with a doctor, patient, nurse, or new parent is an opportunity to attract new clients. All three OB offices that refer to Coastal Carolina Hospital display Cassie’s newborn photos throughout their facilities.
With her images prominent in potential clients’ minds, word-of-mouth referrals abound.
#2: Attract New Clients By Contributing To Your Community
A bit of education benefits everyone – photographers and clients alike. It can also be a vital part of a client-centered marketing strategy.
Cassie Clayshulte created a free online guide to share with parents considering a newborn photo session. The guide provides tips on safe posing for a newborn baby, along with logistical details such as scheduling recommendations.
Cassie’s free guide is proof of her commitment to putting her clients’ comfort and safety first.
“Other than a hospital and pediatrician’s office, my studio is often one of the first places parents take their little one. That’s why it’s important for me to create a clean, safe, and trusting space.”
Cassie has earned a reputation for being a caring, considerate professional. She vocally prioritizes safety, and champions poses that are adorable AND newborn-body-friendly. This reassures parents that their newborn’s joints and airways will be safe during Cassie’s photo sessions.
For first-time parents, trust is invaluable, and it drives Cassie’s word-of-mouth referrals.
Want To Attract New Clients? Make Your Current Clients Really, Really Happy.
Whether she’s delivering a Fresh 48 session or images from a full-scale studio experience, Cassie’s clients are her priority. This is why her in-hospital sessions are short, simple, and easy to share the same day.
“[Bluffton is a] very military-heavy community, so being able to easily share with family members who live across the country is important to [both] my business and my clients.”
- Cassie’s smallest Fresh 48 package includes a brief five minutes of photography and five digital downloads. Additional products and prints are available for purchase through a ShootProof gallery.
- Her largest Fresh 48 package includes a succinct 15 minutes of photography, 15 digital downloads, a digital birth announcement, and a ShootProof Mobile App – a huge hit with Cassie’s clients!
“I encourage all of my clients to share their ShootProof galleries with family and friends. My clients love how easy it is for everyone to order prints of their favorite images. I always end up with several print orders per session!”
#3: Attract New Clients By Proving Your Professionalism
A surprising number of photographers don’t have business licenses, aren’t collecting or filing the necessary taxes, and haven’t obtained appropriate insurance for their business. These basic steps go a long way toward setting you apart from the fly-by-night hobbyist.
PRO TIP: Staying Legal Opens Doors
Before doing business with certain organizations (such as hospitals), you’ll likely be required to provide proof that you’re operating legally and with appropriate insurance. Hoping to land a big contract? Get legal first with a lawyer-approved photography contract.
“My clients appreciate that I’m a legal, local small business who actively invests in helping fellow business owners. Holding myself to the highest business standards means my clients view me as a true professional.”
Enhance Your Image
- SBA: Small Business Association is a powerful resource for photographers! Get details on legalizing your business structure with a business license, EIN, and sales tax ID. The SBA is a treasure trove of education and business tips for all entrepreneurial levels!
- PPA: Professional Photographers of America is a members-only organization providing continuing education, degree and certification opportunities, protection for your business and gear, government advocacy and help with copyright protection, marketing resources, and community involvement. These are all suited for photographers at every career level. Find more U.S.-based organizations like this one HERE.
- In Canada, join PPOC: Professional Photographers of Canada
- In Europe, join FEP: Federation of European Professional Photographers
- PHOTO+ is your direct connection to the PDN PHOTO+ Expo in New York City, and the WPPI: Wedding and Portrait Photographers International conference in Las Vegas. Along with access to popular trade shows, membership provides discounts on educational opportunities, and savings on coveted photography products and services – including 20% off your ShootProof membership!
- NAPCP: National Association of Professional Child Photographers is a members-only association dedicated exclusively to professional child photographers. These specialists enjoy the benefits of a closed community with which to share their experiences, hone their craft, and raise their professional visibility. Through the NAPCP directory and online magazine, members easily attract new clients who are seeking their unique brand of photography.
How Will You Customize These Concepts For Yourself?
Cassie’s approach may not be “simple,” but it’s straightforward.
Be bold. Build relationships. Use your own photography to generate leads as well as income. Treat every client like your best client, and watch the referrals build. Never stop learning.
Apply Cassie’s business tips to your own newborn photography, wedding photography, senior portraiture, hippopotamus headshots…
However you choose to customize these concepts, remember:
“All things being equal, people will do business with a friend. All things being unequal, people will still do business with a friend.”
– Mark McCormack
Don’t be a stranger. That’s how you’ll attract new clients – and keep your old clients around for life.
Tell the ShootProof community: what’s ONE brilliant marketing technique that has worked wonders for YOUR business?
Written by ANNE SIMONE & RACHEL LACOUR NIESEN | Featuring CASSIE CLAYSHULTE