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Catering is a highly competitive business segment. Starting a catering business means going to battle with hundreds of other local caterers, all of whom are trying to get the biggest bite out of the pie. To stand out from the crowd, it’s fair to say that you’ll have to make your food and service rise above the rest. However, your food is not your only important business ingredient. Marketing will also be a major component in your success.
Whether you’re cooking up a new catering business or have a successful one, here are three catering and restaurant marketing ideas to help make your business the cream of the catering crop:
1. Get Online
Your first priority is to have a lead generating website. It will act as your branding hub and a springboard for all your other online marketing strategies. Your catering website not only needs to show mouthwatering food photography of menu items, but it also needs to be a content publishing source that attracts visitors in by addressing what they are typing into search engines.
You’re in an industry where customers are very social online, sharing content, and discussing food experiences with their friends online is what they love to do. What better way to take advantage of that than with social media. It’s time your catering company became a social media influencer. Get on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram and begin to build an audience of local people that would be in need of a catering company.
Start a blog. You don’t have to be a journalist to provide people with useful information. Blog about the local food scene, about your recipes, or about events you’ve catered. Provide helpful advice to those that are planning events or looking for advice. Using a blog to help others will make you the local authority and someone they trust.
2. Get Personal
Connecting with people is the key to your success and finding ways to impress people is vitally important. Networking with wedding planners, golf clubs, sports clubs, exhibition centers and bridal shops to name a few, may seem obvious but is such an essential component of your business. Ask to leave your cards or menus in their shops and offer to give a discount to their clients if they refer you. I would even suggest going one step further by using your food to get into the minds and stomachs of local businesses by taking some of your food along and giving them a taste of what you’re capable of. Freebies can make a big difference when selling your catering. People are far more likely to remember you, especially if your food is delicious.
Here are a few ideas for local targets to personally network with and to deliver menus to:
- Banks and financial offices – financial institutions represent a lot of workers who work closely together. Banking hours are often long, and they have a definite need for outside catering. They are also big on corporate events and meetings.
- Law Offices – visit law offices and hand out your menu, as well as a coupon for a free meal. Invite the receptionist to sample your lunch catering menu. Legal teams are a great target market because of long depositions and late hours. There is often a need for catering in law offices throughout the day and evening.
- Ad Agencies – like law offices, large ad agencies tend to work long hours when they have a campaign to work on. They often don’t want to break focus and regularly outside cater for corporate events.
- Consumer market – weddings aside, this is one that’s often overlooked by caterers who want to concentrate on the corporate sector. Why? There is such massive potential in family reunions, graduations, bar mitzvahs, picnics, birthdays, etc. I would argue that sending local mailers out to affluent areas with menus and service details is a catering business necessity.
3. Get In With Food Influencers
Bloggers are handy people to know because they often have engaging readerships. Readers who have opted into an RSS feed or a bookmark because they are interested in what that blogger has to say. Help get their readers interested in you. If you’re doing catering marketing, there are a couple ways you can benefit from some blogger outreach.
- Find popular recipe blogs: You want to find recipe blogs with decent readership. Once you find the blogs that fit for you, contact the owners. Tell them you’re a caterer and you’d like to contribute to their blog and offer up recipes targeted toward their audience. If it’s a diet conscious blog, play to that. If they focus on food for diabetics, provide them with sugar-free recipes. Make yourself useful to them and their audience. If you do, no blog in the world is going to turn you down. When you provide the recipe, make sure to include in your byline that you’re a catering company out of XYZ city and link back to your web site. It’s a great way to get business out there and earn some SEO friendly links.
- Target wedding blogs: This is another niche that caterers are very much related to. Tell them you want to write an article about how to cut costs on your catering bill without spoiling the menu, or how brides can cut down catering costs to spend more money on that gown. Or, if you’ve catered a lot of weddings, come up with an article about five dream place settings and how to get them for cheap. People in the process of getting marriage are rabid and obsessed. Get yourself in front of them and they won’t be able to stop talking about you to their friends. Seriously. Have you ever been around someone in the process of planning a wedding? It’s not pretty. Use their vanity for good.
Starting and owning a catering company isn’t only about cooking delicious food, you have to spread the word and market your company to those that are in need of your service. Most caterers are excellent at what they do, which is cooking, though not that skilled at the business and marketing part. If you’re one of these people it’s okay, you’re not alone. Learning the other aspects of running a business can be an exciting challenge, especially when you see the rewards of your efforts. Using your website as a content hub that gives people valuable information that they are actively searching for, reaching out to your target personas and networking with key influencers will help you grow your catering company and introduce many happy people to your mouthwatering recipes.
For more information on how to grow your business online, download this free inbound marketing ebook and learn how to transform your website into a lead generating machine.