Guest blog post by Brittany McDaniel of Caterease.
It’s not enough just to obtain leads for your catering business. You must mold them into customers for your business to be successful. This involves listening to your leads and figuring out where they are in their buying cycle. Where they are influences the type of communication you should reciprocate with.
Purchasing behavior has shifted from offline channels to more online channels ever since the internet first started. 93% of visitors who come to a website aren’t ready to buy yet. That’s a huge number, so it’s extremely important that your website pages encourage visitors to take an action (i.e. fill out contact form or sign up for an email). The catering business is extremely competitive, and every bit of business is important.
Check out tips on how to nurture leads for your catering business below.
The awareness stage is just like it sounds. Your leads are aware they have a problem. Their daughter could have just gotten engaged and they know they will need a caterer for the wedding, or they were told they need to plan their next corporate event and it must have food.
At this stage, you want your business to be in front of their faces through impression-based marketing. That means having a strong organic presence online, using online paid advertising and having strong word of mouth. Usually, at this stage, you don’t have the person’s information yet, but being readily available for when they are ready to move to the next stages in the buying cycle is important.
Research is typically done online or through referrals in the catering industry. People want to establish trust, especially when it comes to food. They don’t want to host an event and have the catering go terribly wrong. If that does happen, it will most likely ruin the entire event.
At this stage, if you have people entering their information, they will usually say things like they are just curious or they are comparing you to other vendors. They are usually looking to be educated and hear what more you can do for them besides what they have heard or what is featured on your website. This is a great stage to introduce people to different blog posts you may have, case studies or even an introductory email drip campaign. Content is key during this stage; you want your business to look like an expert in the industry.
At this point, the customer has shortlisted your catering services. They are still reaching out to other catering businesses, but they are narrowing the list down to the people who have the most of what they are looking for at the best price. For example, they may have seen your business online, it has stellar reviews and you’re basically considered the best catering business in the area. However, their aunt recommended they use your direct competitor because she had a great experience with them for her daughter’s wedding. It’s up to you to convince your lead to take a chance on something new.
At this point, you will want to position yourself apart from your competitors. You should highlight what awards you’ve won and special dishes you have showcased. Your social media channels will be great for this. You should have a conversation and email communication that would go something like, “check out our photos on Instagram from the Smith wedding last weekend. We were able to showcase some of our favorite entrées.” Photo presentation is huge for the food industry now. If you’re behind on your social media, it’s never too late to ramp up featuring your different menu options.
This is the stage in which the buyer has picked a favorite among the potential catering vendors they have compared. They are about ready to select their caterer, but they still have something holding them back. It could be a variety of things; price, menu, etc.
You should be asking your lead questions like, “is there anything preventing you from using our catering services?” or “do you have any hesitations?” This is the stage in which you want to understand exactly what the lead is looking for, because sometimes leads don’t communicate everything. You may not know it, but the buyer has become emotionally attached to one vendor they are considering now. It might not be you, so now you need keep digging deeper for information from them.
This is the end of the buyer’s cycle. They know how much your catering services cost and the services you promised to provide. The buyer has looked at your competitors, and they are looking for something that will seal the deal with you.
If it’s their first time working with you, then that is usually security. They want to know they can trust you and your business. If they have worked with you before, they will want to know that you can guarantee the same or better experience than before. Reassure them, and always stay on top of them. Just because they purchased your catering services doesn’t mean your job is done. Tell them how much you appreciate their business and that you look forward to your partnership in pulling off a successful event.
If they decide to walk away from purchasing, that doesn’t mean you forget about them entirely. At one point or another, they considered your business, and for whatever reason it might not work for their current situation. Situations change all the time. Put them in your database, put them on a long-term email drip and use some remarketing campaigns. That way, your catering business always stays fresh in their minds.
Brittany McDaniel is the Digital Marketing Manager at Caterease. She writes on various topics within the catering and event management industry and helps manage the overall web presence of Caterease. Caterease is a leading provider of catering and event planning software serving over 50,000 users worldwide. Find Caterease online by going to www.caterease.com.