By FoodStorm | May 10th, 2017
Sure you love your catering business, but capturing the right kind of attention isn’t always easy. How do you stand out in the competitive food service industry while still having the time to pursue your passion for food? Try these essential tips for marketing your business and watch as the customers come running in.
It should go without saying, but a website is the central point of discovery for your business and how customers will learn about everything you have to offer.
Done right, your website can also automate transactions and encourage your customers to make repeat and regular purchases through integration with Catering Management Software.
In this day and age there’s simply no excuse for not having a website that is responsive and optimised for mobile use. Not only is mobile traffic increasing every year, business websites viewed on mobile can be instantly contacted by prospective customers from anywhere, via their phone.
Think about the the different types of customers you want to attract. How are they searching for your business? Chances are they’re discussing their catering needs with friends, family and work colleagues over lunch, the dinner table or at a meeting.
When it comes to choosing between two businesses: one with a modern, mobile friendly website, and another with a dated ‘pinch and zoom’ site, who do you think they will most likely choose?
Your website should scale beautifully across tablets, laptops and desktops, and work on all modern browsers. When choosing a firm to design your page, make sure they have a proven track record in delivering mobile friendly websites.
You’ll also want to make sure your web service provider can deploy and integrate a full service eCommerce solution directly on your site. Driving business transactions online not only automates the sales process, but allows for better coordination with your inventory and scheduling systems. Tying eCommerce into a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software also lets you capture customer data for newsletters, special offers and broadcast emails later.
Customers that can pay online are also less likely to cancel or make amendments later. A better online experience for your visitors not only drives business, but makes the day-to-day operations of your company smoother, from inventory to invoicing and tax. An eCommerce platform like FoodStorm, built specifically for caterers, can unlock the potential of your business.
On the internet, there’s more than one way to peel an apple. Here’s an overview of two key types of digital marketing, search and social:
Sometimes referred to as SEM, search engine marketing drives traffic from search engines like Google. It comes in two main forms; Pay Per Click (PPC) and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
Quality SEO gives you the best value over time. It’s about creating fun and engaging content that highlights key phrases and words that customers are actually looking for in relation to your products. However, because it is so powerful, it is often very crowded, especially in established industries and along common or popular keywords. A good way around this is to use Local SEO – including keywords that localise your content by region, town and language.
Pay Per Click is exactly as it sounds, you create ads and pay an amount per click on a link to your website that features on related search results. While it usually costs more than SEO, done right, it can still provide great return on investment.
Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest boast hundreds of millions of active users, and are a great way to network online. The rules of local business still apply, in that there’s no point marketing yourself to people halfway across the world if you can’t cater to them. Most platforms let you target users in your local area and provide detailed analytics on user engagement.
In general, you want to strengthen your self promotion and offer great value, as well as sharing in your love of catering and food creation. Post gorgeous photos, celebrate the industry, be both a voice of authority and a source of entertainment. There’s lots of ways to find your social media persona, just remember that the hard sell generally has less success than a presence that offers engagement and awareness of your brand and what you can do.
Landing the perfect domain name is important for your website, and should be just as important as what your actual business name is. Go for something specialised, either by location or service (or both). Your domain name is like your calling card, and should be branded everywhere; from shirts and coasters to menus, business cards and flyers.
Also, ensure you setup email addresses for your own domain name. For example,firstname.lastname@example.org ismuch more professional than my catering email@example.com. Email providers suchas GMail and Office365 allow you to use your own domain name for your email addresses.
Just provided a customer with a great catering experience? Grab a testimonial from them and post it on your website. You can even offer your champion a link back to their own business site. Testimonials boost your reputation and give a personal touch to your digital footprint.
When it comes to reviews, everyone’s a potential critic. It’s a double edged blade that can both work for and against your business. One bad review probably won’t turn people away amongst a sea of good ones, but it’s important to keep in mind that every service is an opportunity to deliver something amazing. Encouraging your happy customers to review your business is a great way to proactively manage your online reputation.
Too often, caterers and foodservice businesses use grainy and poorly shot photos to show off their otherwise brilliant creations. While the latest iPhone might have a great camera, the truth is, smartphone lenses just aren’t adequate enough to deliver the kind of overall visual experience you want to deliver to your customers.
Check your local area for a quality photographer who can take some great photos of your meals. Chances are there’s a few budding visual artists who are looking for portfolio work, or might lower their rate in exchange for a cost price catering event. In order to find a good photographer you should:
If you can’t find a capable photographer at a rate you can afford, then consider purchasing quality stock images from a commercial site like shutterstock. Afterall, a great photo of beef bourguignon is a great photo of beef bourguignon.
Styling food beautifully is a must for great photographs – beautiful food stimulates the senses and increases the appetite.
You can also incorporate styled dishes into your catering service as centerpieces, or to help direct traffic at buffet service style events. Most importantly, presentation helps capture the imagination and acts as a sign of quality for your company.
One of the biggest mistakes caterers make when they first start their business is not knowing their marketplace. Unlike many online businesses, you’re limited to the locations you and your staff can physically get to, so it pays to know who’s after catering and what the competition is already up to. Here’s some questions you might want to ask yourself when starting your catering business, or rethinking your current marketing strategy:
Save yourself a headache down the track and create a formal business plan. No matter how great a cook or caterer you are, you’ll find catering an uphill struggle without a bit of planning and business knowledge. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see lesser caterers succeed simply because their business sense is excellent.
Business plans can be as simple as coming up with a value proposition and outlying a step by step plan on how you will work towards achieving the proposition. Business plans also help with bank loans and budget organisation, keeping you in the right financial state of mind.
What’s a value proposition?
A value proposition essentially highlights ‘why’ your business exists. It looks at things like:
Answering these questions will help lead you towards what is unique about your company, often referred to as a Unique Value Proposition (UVP). It should be digestible as a single short paragraph or statement that will both sell investors on your idea, and customers on your products and services.
Your catering vehicle (or vehicles) are more than just a functional tool for transferring goods to your next gig. It’s also a great opportunity to brand and advertise your service, so make sure your van is branded with your company’s logo, website and phone number. You’ll want to consider the following:
Food trucks are becoming a popular method of on-demand distribution. Offering a stripped back menu of favourites at various locations around your city or town can create awareness about your business.
Being out and about in your community is a surefire method for ensuring your company becomes the ‘go-to’ catering service. Engage with the community, and think about how your catering business can be of help. For example, run a free or cost price service for the local retirement village once a month, or become more involved in the town’s business goals. You could even try collaborating with other businesses to show that your company values the community and is happy to give back in anyway you can.
Trade shows and community events are the perfect opportunity to showcase your skills, give out free samples, show bags and pamphlets, and answer any questions people might have about catering their next event. Anything from food fairs, to wedding trade shows and local cooks offs will reap rewards, provided you target the right locations and that they align with your specialties and services.
If your catering business also has a shop front as a cafe, restaurant or takeaway venue, make sure you’re letting customers know about your catering services. Window signage is a start and pamphlets placed on the counter and tables, or event branded Coffee Cups will also increase your visibility. Offering promotions is also a great way to market catering to your shop visitors. Consider a ‘business card draw’ that offers a free lunch once a month. Not only does it raise awareness about your catering services, but provides a great platform for building your mailing list.
Try offering free treats, unusual distractions and creative sandwich boards as positive marketing techniques for your shopfront.
Keep up to date with your regular customers. If you don’t have the time to do it yourself, hire a sales team to do it for you, and generate new leads as well. Personalisation makes everyone feel special, and keeps your catering business in the forefront of their minds. Make sure your customers know how to use your website and empower them to take charge of their catering needs.
Leaflet distribution still works and is often a cost effective method for putting a glossy pamphlet into the hands of the right people. When you launch a new product or service, consider distributing a press release to news outlets both on and offline in your local area. It’s a good way to get a bit of free advertising and gain authority among members of the community.
Standing out from the crowd
Standing out in the foodservice industry comes down to the quality of your service, and how you market that service to the public. From optimising your online presence, through to the way you brand and photograph your products, there are plenty of strategies you can implement to reach your target customers. Follow these essential tips for marketing your catering business and watch your sales grow.