By STUART LEVENTHAL
The best way to increase catering sales has always been through networking with as many businesses in your neighborhood who share the same customers as you do. That virtually means partnering up with any business in the towns you service that are not a competing caterer. Wedding planners, florists, event planners, party supply stores, costume shops, photographers; all sell to or service people who are your potential customers too. The idea is that by joining forces and working with another business who shares your target customer, together you can both benefit in a number of different ways.
First off you can each swap customer lists which will double your list of customers with no effort at all. This means that if you have 5,000 customers who you send your menus and coupons out to each month and a photographer has a list of 5,000 customers, instantly you now both have 10,000 customers to send your promotions to. That is a huge jump. But, now imagine how big your customer list will grow if you swap lists with five noncompeting businesses, each with five thousand customers on their lists. 5 X 5,000 = 25,000!
There’s a big difference between sending out 5,000 menus and coupons and sending out 25,000 menus and coupons. You are going to get a lot more business back from the 25,000 mailing! Now, if you were mailing your promotional materials out yourself, it would cost you a bundle to mail 25,000 envelopes. But, when all five businesses put their promotional materials in the same envelope, you each pay only for mailing your original 5,000 envelopes plus just a little more to cover the additional weight of the others’ materials. While each of you benefits because 25,000 envelopes are getting mailed each with your menu and coupons in it as well as the other four businesses marketing items too!
Now, if all five of you decided to join in on taking a newspaper add out together, you could purchase a whole page at a discounted rate then divide it up into five equal parts and you would end up paying a lot less for your portion than if you tried to buy the same size adds individually!
Whenever I’m working on advertising or marketing campaigns, I always try to exhaust all my free or almost free ideas first, before I start considering paying for advertising. This is because there are so many free advertising and promotional ideas which only take a little time to implement and they are quite effective. So it is silly to start right off the bat, paying for news, radio or Television advertising when half the time you get little or no return on your investment anyway. There is no reason to start worrying about marketing budgets when you have promotional ideas that take just a little effort on your part to implement for free.
One free idea that is very easy to do is simply for all five collaborating establishments agreeing to post each other’s marketing materials on their premises. You give them each a pile of menus with coupons stapled to them and they give you a stack of their promotional literature with their coupons. You can each set up a small area or display table for interested parties to take the literature they are interested in. Or you each could simply place a set of each of your four partners marketing materials in your customers’ bags at the check out counter.
Think of your Collaborating businesses as partners. You all are looking to gain the same thing; additional business. You are all also seeking low cost marketing ideas. You all are promoting to the same customers, let’s say newly engaged couples, just for an example. You are the only caterer in the group. There’s only one photographer in your group, one tuxedo rental company etc. We’ve talked about how you can use your combined buying power to get discounts from advertising venues. We’ve discussed sharing each other’s customer lists and displaying each other’s marketing literature in each other’s place of business. Now, let’s take it up a notch. Let’s plan to put together some marketing events in which all of our businesses will take part. The events will specifically target newly engaged couples who are gathering information about planning their wedding.
1. Your newly formed group can promote total package deals. One low price for all our services! Planning a wedding is hard work. You will be taking away a lot of stress by offering the solution of ‘One Stop Shopping!’ All it takes is for all the businesses involved to sit down and put together a few attractive package deals.
2. You can take turns hosting an event on each of your premises, switching each month. Or you can all share the costs of renting a hall to throw your shindig in each month. Everyone can set up a booth or table with all their marketing literature. There would be a flower shop booth, a DJ spinning music for the affair as well as giving out his or her business card. You, as the group caterer can show off your catering hors d’oeuvres give out samples tastes, put out a small buffet if you can handle the costs, as well as display an array of photographs of past events you’ve catered with testimonials from all your happy customers. The photographer can have albums highlighting his masterful photographs displayed on a table with business cards and contact info. He can set up a small studio type booth for snapping a few quick free give away photos of the circulating love birds who attend the show. Wedding dress and tuxedo establishments can put on a quick fashion show or bring brochures and samples of the hottest new wedding outfits. You can each take fifteen or so minutes to formally address the crowd from a podium promoting your goods and services. (Remember, any target market can be substituted here for this technique, just pick companies to partner with who specialize in serving the same chosen niche.)
As a caterer, you have many niches that you can market to. Pick one niche at a time to specialize in that is best suited to your interests and particular neighborhood situation. Build up your contacts related to that market niche. Do your homework. Network, then form partnerships with the very best, affiliate businesses in your area, who service that chosen niche. It will defeat your purposes to associate yourself and your catering business with businesses with bad performance records or faulty reputations. Once you’ve conquered one niche then by all means tackle the next niche.