Do you know how to market yourself and boost your business? Do you know how to generate more leads? Every part of your company contributes to the success of your business, but your ability to sell remains the single most important element in your success.
Why is that the case? Because an effective salesperson listens to the shopper’s dreams and fears, overcomes those pain points with creative solutions, and promises solutions that turn shoppers into DEPOSIT-PAYING clients! So, what marketing techniques will generate more leads?
First, find the most relevant person to contact within a company. The Business Chronicle is a good place to find the top businesses in your area across different professions and usually will list the chief company officers. After you find the most appropriate person to contact within a company, offer them a tasting (not necessarily a lunch but a good sampling of your product that folks can taste). If you get this far and your food is good quality (which I don’t doubt), you will be a shoe-in. You’ll almost always get the business once you get in the door with samples of food.
That said, always make sure you have your “elevator speech” ready and go in with copies of your menus. Providing food samples to businesses is the least expensive and most successful form of advertising that my catering buddies have found.
In the early days, my small team of staff and I lovingly prepared platters of freshly-made baguettes, savory items, cakes, and fruit salads, and I traveled to the local business park to offer samples all in the hope of gaining a few lucrative, long-term contracts. I made cold calls to various types of businesses and left plenty of menus at their reception desks. Each time I left convinced that I had done enough to gain an order. Unfortunately, I received few responses to my efforts, and I had to ask myself, why was I not getting the business I was sure my food deserved?
When I called the companies a few days later, their answers generally were the same. Your food was great — but we already have a caterer, and we’re happy with the service that they provide. I had to reevaluate the situation! Next, I began calling the companies beforehand and arranging to meet with the person who actually ordered the food. I realized that I had just been giving some receptionists a very welcome free lunch when they had no intent of actually placing an order! This new strategy of mine proved much more fruitful, and I was able to build up a rapport with companies.
On one occasion, I visited a large pest control company’s headquarters — I had pre-arranged a meeting with the person in charge of organizing the catering. When I arrived, the receptionist politely asked me to leave the free platters on her desk, and she accepted a few menus. I explained that I had arranged a meeting, but the receptionist told me the person was busy and unable to speak with me. To leave or not to leave… On this occasion, I decided to take a seat and wait. One long hour later, a nice, young lady finally came down to talk to me, and we hit it off instantly. She placed an order for 25 people the following day and this became a regular daily order. Who knew a pest control company had so many meetings?! Anyway, the point of the story is that perseverance matters and simply talking to the person in charge of ordering will give you a much higher success rate.
Email and fax campaigns aimed at targeting the relevant parties (those in charge of ordering) also work great. I know it’s 2014 and faxes may seem a bit out-of-date, but plenty of traditional businesses still depend upon them. Fax or email a weekly notice of your “specials” with your contact info and include an “introductory” free snack tray when they call.
Yes, you inevitably may receive some complaints from businesses that will feel that you are cluttering their faxes, but I guarantee that this technique will help you to build consistent business. It is, however, important to check that local laws permit commercial faxing and emailing — every city and place has different rules.
Also, don’t forget to get involved in local events. Volunteer your services or donate food as this will increase visibility for your business. Joining local clubs or chambers also helps. I’ve successfully used many venues such as auctions and school PTO opportunities (Remember, the mothers are the buyers…) and the publicity has rolled in multiple opportunities.
Another promotional tactic that many of my friends have employed to increase exposure and make money at the same time is participate in festivals and competitions that allow you to sell food. If you have one dish that is your specialty, and everybody loves it, then you should offer it. If you participate in such events sparingly but strategically, I promise it will be profitable.
The dish that you select for these occasions should be cost-effective for you and keep well without refrigeration because many festivals take place outside and last hours; food handling rules must be followed carefully and to the letter. Having plenty of flyers or business cards so that attendees know how to contact you and offering a discount if they book you within a certain time period to get quick responses frequently will prove successful.
Finally, with today’s modern consumers, it’s important (some would even say essential) that you have a website for your business. These days, there are no excuses for not having a website. You typically can find a good web designer for under $2,600. They will lay out your information based on your input and make it easy for prospective clients to get the information they desire.
Once you start applying some (or all) of these strategies, and see the leads start coming in automatically, you’ll be well on your way toward catering success.