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Jolt Your Marketing After a Busy Season

We experience it firsthand every year—catering companies are so focused on the forward motion of busy season that they forget to keep up with the marketing side of their business. This is the kind of dilemma that marketing professionals, like Ashley Oakes Scott from Artisan by Santa Barbara Catering, care about when it comes time to recap an entire year of online strategies and make new marketing goals for the following one.

Ashley Oakes Scott

Oakes is the director of marketing at Santa Barbara Catering based in Tempe, Arizona. This month, we sat in on her webinar Jumpstart Your Marketing Plan After Busy Season and thought she offered a lot of clear, actionable steps to take when strategizing for the next busy season. Here’s the breakdown:

Review your last season

The best way to begin any fresh strategizing is to take a quick look back. Scott says that this is the time to gauge your relationships and ask for feedback.

• Check in on the relationships with your vendors and the people you work with on a daily basis. Get honest feedback from them. Determine ways you can cross-promote each other.
• Determine which marketing tactics got a buzz. That one post that really lit up social media—put the tactic into your marketing plan.
• Review your lead sources over the season and where they come from. If they were paid lead sources, did they perform how they should?
• Take a second to see if the format in which you solicit feedback from your clients is the most effective. Send out surveys after events. This will help you capture any negative reviews before they go online.
• Look at your biggest influencer channels. Word-of-mouth in the restaurants industry is still king. This is followed by online reviews, television and Facebook.

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A quick word about Millennials

The way that many of our clients use social media should certainly be weighted in our marketing plan. As Scott points out, they use social media far more than any other group, and they are more likely to order a specific dish because they saw an influencer post about it on social media. And they’re over five times more likely to follow social media accounts in the food space to find new restaurants.

Review your directories

Online directories are the best way to get honest feedback on how you are performing. Online directories, Scott says, operate like mini landing pages for your business. And they’re just a Google search away.

• Google yourself and asses the following platforms: Yelp, Facebook reviews, WeddingWire, The Knot, BBB, One Community, Glassdoor and Indeed. What was the trend?
• Claim your directories so you can update them with your information.
• Respond to negative and positive reviews. It’s crucial to respond to everyone who leaves a review. The communication shows you’re listening and that you care about your business.
• How are your competitors’ reviews?

Analytics: What does the data say?

This is one of the most essential pieces of information you can gain during the review process. Create an audit of all platforms that have analytics attached. What are the trends?

What were your biggest accomplishments?

Refresh of goals

After gauging your clients, vendors and online directories, now is the time to use that information to refresh your goals.

• What was your most profitable menu and/or service?
• What do you not want to sell anymore?
• What are the current trends and how can you incorporate them into next season?
• What other upgrades can you sell with your food?
• How do I market all of the above? Here are some ideas:
   - E-collateral pieces
   - Display ad on website
   - Social media/online marketing ads
   - Create packages to entice people to use more of your services

Content is KING

The content you put out into the ether is still the best way to reach your audience. We all know quality when we see it, which is why it’s important to make sure we’re putting our best material on the frontlines for our clients.

• Higher-level positions come up with talking points, while assistants help fill in the gaps.
• Pay close attention to your lingo. Use words that define you as a business, like chef-inspired, creative, fresh, interactive, locally sourced and seasonal.
• Create a content calendar and use all these words throughout the year so people associate you with them. These calendars really come in handy during busy season.

Use your content calendar to lay out the entire year

Your calendar will help you keep the momentum going throughout the year. The way to get started is by first narrowing down all the upcoming dates that you need to remember to promote certain items.

• Engagement season
• Holiday parties
• Slow calendar times—what promotion can you make?
• Seasonal menu changes
• End of fiscal year
• Conference season
• Graduation parties

A content calendar will feed your:

• Blog
• Video
• Social media
• Video distribution
• Proposals
• Open houses/promotional events
• Future of content

Not just any content. Engaging content.

In the end, it’s about creating engaging content for:

• Contests
• Event photo recaps
• Offer calendar
• Food holidays
• Throwbacks
• Vendor/venue highlights

Photography! Sell your experience

Without visual content, there’s no engagement. Pictures are still the number one online seller. And video (63 percent) has surpassed blogging in usage as a social media marketing asset. Here are some more quick pic tips:

• Partner with photographers from recent events. Reach out and explain how they will be credited.
• After thinking through your content calendar, what are you missing for visuals?
• Create a photo shoot or menu shoot for new menu items or top-selling/most profitable items
• Consider targeted venue shoots
• Use all the above visuals for marketing pieces.

Spice up your collateral

Scott asks: when’s the last time you’ve updated your collateral? There are a lot of fun ways to repurpose your look and get in front of your customer. Once you come up with the collateral piece, be sure to send it out and make a big buzz; send it to venues/vendors and target your demo with social media ads.

Share your work

Send out the work you’re most proud of! And share the process and results with your clients!

• Create an award calendar with entry dates
• Assign an award to a different team member
• Determine which categories will best benefit your business. You can submit to different categories depending on what you want
• Make sure you get a photographer if you know you will want to use those photos for an award submission. It’s great to invest in your own event photographer
• Publicize your awards via:
   - Press release
   - Social media
   - Email blast
   - Ad
   - Email signatures

Media/influencer outreach

Creating a buzz around your work sometimes gains influencers’ attention. One influencer can certainly stir the pot and get eyes on you.

• Events garner influencers’ attention
• Local and national publications want unique topics. Give them something to talk about!
• What is your angle for them?
• Drop off a photo-worthy gift

Reconnect with your team

If you want your team to be excited about next year, you have to be willing to share all your successes and how they will be used to make the following year better!

• Create an internal newsletter so that your team can create buzz too. Everyone can see what everyone is doing.
• Send a recap or plan a happy hour aimed to get them excited.

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International Caterers Association

For motivated caterers, International Caterers Association is a resource that provides Education, encourages peer to peer Relationships and Inspires creativity while embracing all segments of the catering industry. For more information, visit