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Great Marketing is a Feeling

Great marketing has a clear mission and a story. When done well, it taps into people’s emotions and sells not just a product, but also a feeling. That feeling generated by great marketing attracts your target customer base, as well as dedicated staffing candidates and press. Undervaluing strong marketing or getting it wrong leaves profits and growth on the table.

Tell your story

Catering is hard. Anyone diving into it and remaining afloat during economic trials, health department setbacks, bad hires, faulty equipment, permitting woes, rising rents, and ingredient shortages has a story. You willingly built a business in a volatile, impossible industry with the odds stacked against you, yet you persevered. Define your story on the “About Us” page of your website, and then condense it into a line or two so you can tell it, in different ways, over and over again in pictures and in words, across your social media, in your deck (all catering companies should have a deck), and to the engaged couples coming in for a tasting. Own your story and tell it, because it distinguishes you and generates emotion.

Keep a pulse on the cultural tone

If you are reading this, you survived the pandemic. So did anyone making an inquiry to your company. This experience has made us vulnerable and shaky. We all want to move on and yes, wag a tail feather. However, bragging about how well your company is doing or projecting smugness in any form is insensitive to your peers who are struggling or who have folded. The food industry continues to be in the headlines regarding the avalanche of ruptures it has endured over the past few years, so have grace. Keep your tone confident but humble in all of your marketing materials in this postpandemic era.

Get outside of yourself

With the endless doomsday news cycle, customers want to feel that their purchasing power is contributing to their belief systems and the greater good. One of the most powerful marketing tools is to align your company with a non-profit. In your story, what matters to you? Is it climate change, underprivileged children, battered women, pet adoption, or cancer prevention? Research non-profits in your city that move you and reach out to the operator. I guarantee your call will be welcomed as soon as you say, “I will donate food.” Nurture this partnership to grow and find a way to involve your customers. Host a fundraising dinner with your favorite event planner to benefit your non-profit partner or throw an event with the non-profit as you call upon customers to volunteer alongside your team. People will start to identify your brand with this nonprofit work, and they will feel that by supporting you, they are supporting your mission, so make sure to create and nourish one.

If you didn’t photograph it, it didn’t happen

The best marketing dollars you can spend is on a photographer.

Ever notice the most beautiful weddings you cater for have no good shots of the food? That is because photographers take their breaks during meal service. They need to eat too, and I heavily advise you to make sure you feed them very well so that they may be inspired to photograph your food before they eat it. Some do, some don’t, but your graciousness will nevertheless make an impression on them; maybe you’ll even be able to collaborate with them again in the future.

If you anticipate a particular event to be highly produced or in a scenic venue, consider hiring your own photographer to shoot the kitchen and your team. These shots can be used not only for your social media channels but also for your website and deck to show, rather than explain, your aptitude and brand.

Marketing decks are a secret weapon

Digital decks can be three pages or 30, and when done well, they can save your sales team a lot of time. They can be featured on your website, and they can also be sent out to inquiries. They should feel like a beautiful magazine and be targeted at specific audiences (weddings, corporate clients, drop-offs for private parties, etc.). Strong photos with considerate design can illustrate your operations and why you charge what you do. Additionally, it doesn’t force your sales team to spend valuable time defending your costs, procedures, or boundaries. Also, a client may keep this deck or pass it around to friends if it is particularly stunning, so make it stunning!

Be authentic

In marketing, let authenticity lead you by sticking to your core story and purpose. If marketing sounds overwhelming or outside your comfort zone, then hire someone who understands storytelling so that they can tell your story. Marketing costs, when executed well, lead your business in the direction you want to go. 


Tara Maxey

Certified Catering Consultants

Tara Maxey co-founded, operated, and co-owned Heirloom LA for 14 years. Launched in the recession in 2008, Heirloom LA emerged as a force in Los Angeles as the go-to for celebrity and corporate drop-off catering, full-service catering, and even a food truck which was named “The Best Gourmet Food Truck” by Los Angeles Magazine. While Tara served as Pastry Chef and Creative Director, Heirloom LA was featured in some of the most prestigious of publications. During the pandemic, Heirloom LA pivoted overnight into an online ordering food delivery service, and launched Meals for People, a non-profit that raised over 150k to feed high need families in the area. In 2022, Tara sold her shares and now works as a consultant with Certified...