If you own a catering business, you no doubt have your hands full (figuratively, but probably literally, too). Writing out a massive marketing strategy or executing something complex may not be feasible for you or your business right now. Despite this, are there ways you can get the word out about your company?
Fortunately, there are a number of inexpensive ways that you can market or advertise your catering business. Many of them don’t take very much time and you’ll probably even have fun doing them! So let’s get started.
Offer to speak at a “meet up”
Go to Meetup.com and browse the list of meet ups happening in your area. Which of these interest groups would benefit from something you are an expert on? Probably many of them, but you’ll have to think outside the box.
For example, maybe the gardening meet up would want to know how they could use homegrown herbs in everyday recipes. The mommy meet up could use tips for prepping food easily and quickly. The foodies might want to know about wine and cheese pairings.
But those are just the easy ones.
A team of web developers might want to know what “power foods” will help them code faster and with more accuracy when they’re working. Share an authentic recipe with the a language meet up (with samples if you can afford it). If you look, there are tons of opportunities to share and get the word out.
Sponsor a meet up
Every meet up is looking for someone to sponsor food and beverage. Contact their organizers to see if they need help with catering for an upcoming event. I guarantee you will easily find someone willing to take you up on free refreshments for an introduction and endorsement in front of the group.
Plus, it’s likely that at least one person in that room will need a caterer in the next six months—or knows someone who will. They’ll remember your delicious nibbles and sparkling personality when that happens.
Protip: Look for meet ups that are well-attended and seem active. You’ll probably also want to find one that does not normally meet in a restaurant or bar, but rather in a community center or gymnasium.
Host a seminar about event execution
Whatever your catering specialty is, you have something you can share at a seminar in your local community. The seminar doesn’t have to be about food or catering directly. It can be about something that your ideal prospect needs right now.
One of the best ways to do this is to help them avoid pitfalls and mistakes they might make in planning and/or hiring for an event—things you know all about. After scheduling your seminar, share the date on social media and through your email list. You can even offer incentive to attend the seminar such as a discount off catering services or free refreshments.
Volunteer or donate to a local event in exchange for sponsorship promotion
There are probably events going on in your community all the time, and they are surely looking for volunteers or donations. Connect with a non-profit or an event organizer in your community and offer to help in exchange for being listed as a sponsor on the event website and promotional materials.
You can also negotiate that they link to your website or share an article you wrote via their social channels online. Often, you’ll even be able to put flyers, business cards, or coupons in the goodie bags.
Protip: Don’t limit yourself to traditional events or only to events you’re more familiar with. Those may be harder to break into. What about the yoga event happening downtown or the martial arts convention? Keep an open mind and you’ll surely find an event that will be mutually beneficial to your business.
Host a charity event to feed the hungry
If you’re looking for a PR strategy that also helps people, consider hosting a non-profit event for the less fortunate by providing food for a homeless shelter or community center. Get as many people involved as possible. Here are some ideas to get the word out:
• Ask your friends and family to volunteer and invite their friends.
• Gather a couple of employees or volunteers to pass out flyers at a local supermarket or other busy area.
• Contact your local news stations. They are likely to want to share this event with the public and you’ll probably get some help from their coverage, too.
• Solicit donations from local businesses, whether small companies or large corporations, to donate money for covering the costs of the project. Offer to give them sponsorship in PR materials if you’re doing PR.
This event can be really huge and complex or it can be a simple event and gesture. Don’t let it overwhelm you. Just do what you can to help people with whatever resources you have and solicit the help of your community to do so. Others are looking for ways to give back and by providing that, you’re doing good work in the world and getting the word out about your business in the process.
Start blogging & using social media
You have so much knowledge and expertise to share about hosting events, prepping and cooking, food pairings, and more. Begin sharing your top tips and wisdom in online content and distribute it via your social media channels and email list. Share it with your friends and even send it to other business owners you know who might enjoy it.
I have a secret for you: Your work is interesting. And not just to you. People want to know what you’re cooking, what events you are catering, what recipes you’re whipping up, and everything else.
Social media is the best way to share this with the world and better yet, it’s free! My top choices of social media channels for the catering and events industries are Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. For each of these channels, it’s easy to take a quick picture on your smartphone of your latest recipe or event venue and share it with your followers.
Over time, your base of followers will grow, sending more people to your website to learn about your business.
Protip: To most effectively use Pinterest, take pictures of a dish you made and link the image to a blog post on your website with the recipe.
While email marketing has the potential to be exponentially complicated, it doesn’t have to be. Have a tech-savvy friend help you tweak your website to ask visitors to provide their email. After that, you can use free email software, such as Mailchimp, to share your messages with your list.
Be sure to tell your subscribers any time you publish a new blog post, when there’s an exciting event happening with your business (like the charity event or seminar you are going to host), or other things that would interest them. Avoid talking about the progress of the company. Before sending anything, ask yourself, “What’s in this for them?” If you can’t answer that question, talk about something else.
Don’t be intimidated by email marketing software. If you need help, I’ve written an article about how to set up your first email newsletter to get you started.
Partner with complementary event professionals to share referrals and clients. Try partnering up with a florist or a bakery to get wedding catering referrals or work with an event supply rental company to find out about corporate clients who may need catering for their business meetings or retreats. Be sure to find someone who sells something that you do not sell, and visa versa.
As you can see, there are so many free ways to get the word out about your business. Share the knowledge and expertise that you already have. Don’t worry about doing any of this perfectly. Perfectionism will paralyze you and you won’t end up doing anything. Just do the best you can and learn as you go. The important thing is that you get out there and get started!
Anna Wickham is author of the book How to Get More Catering Customers with Content Marketing and owner of Charm House, a marketing company that helps businesses grow by sharing their passion with the world. Gether free interactive PDF guide to marketing your catering or events business here: http://charmhouse.io/catering.