Catersource 2019 in New Orleans has officially come and gone. It was great to connect with clients and vendors alike, and while we’re sure you did what you could to maximize your time here, you can also do quite a bit after the fact to make the most out of your experience.
Follow-up is important
This should go without saying, but we’re fortunate to be able to put in facetime with those outside of our local reach when we all gather for Catersource. It’s nice to catch up and connect, as well as continue our education with topics from respected speakers, so it’s important to us that we stay in contact throughout the year.
We recommend blocking off some time to follow up with both new and existing connections made from on-site networking. Making the effort to do so shows that you’re thankful for the opportunity to connect face-to-face, and it shows that you want to continue to foster that relationship. An easy way to do so is just dropping by with a quick ‘thank you’ email after returning from NOLA, and sending personalized greetings to potential clients that you’re hoping to do business with.
If a client of yours asks you for recommended vendors, there’s your opportunity to sing the praises of someone you connected with Catersource. Not only will they be grateful for the exposure, but you might find that you’re greeted with your own referral business in return.
Longevity & nurturing relationships
Collecting business cards is one thing, but you want those you meet to take you seriously as a fellow partner, which can pave the way to long-term relationships and the potential for referrals.
One way to stand out in the crowd and show that you care about other industry professionals is to extend ‘surprise and delight’ gestures. If you notice that another caterer is approaching the 10-year mark in business, send them a little congratulatory gift and a handwritten note. You never have to spend a lot to gain respect, because the smallest gesture can mean the world, and they’ll remember you for it!
This is also true in the case of referrals. If a client of yours asks you for recommended vendors, there’s your opportunity to sing the praises of someone you connected with Catersource. Not only will they be grateful for the exposure, but you might find that you’re greeted with your own referral business in return.
Reflect on what you learned
One of the biggest reasons we attend Catersource is to build our rolodex of knowledge in the industry from other catering professionals. We personally take a lot of notes and map out our schedules to hit all of the speaker sessions we can that we think are applicable to our business. Consider even reaching out to a few speakers (post-conference) that you particularly enjoyed; many are really open to any follow-up questions that you may have. This way, you can open up a dialogue to continue the conversation and they’ll be able to provide personalized answers as they relate to your business.
When you return to the office, start thinking about how you can incorporate the new sales techniques mentioned, or maybe transitioning to a new software with proven results. Always think about ways to streamline your business, for both employees and future clients. We specifically learned about implementing ‘mirroring’ from Meryl Snow in regard to client communication—meaning that you want to follow the client’s lead and learn their language when it comes to scouting out your services for an event.
Small tweaks can result in big differences, even if it’s as simple as being more accessible. We’re always to learn about the variety of business strategies in the industry, and we excited to see what next year holds!