Here’s a terrifying thought: you no longer have complete control over your catering company’s first impression. Online reviews are the new word-of-mouth marketing.
Not only are catering clients researching your catering company online long before they inquire into your services, but they’re looking to your existing and past clientele to provide that information. According to a survey from BrightLocal, 84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.
So how do you curb the tide of social reviews in your favor?
It starts by tapping into the value of positive reviews and positioning them where they’ll do the most good. Here are 7 surefire ways for your catering company to leverage value from consumer reviews.
(Site note: If you don’t have many reviews, here are the most important review sites to focus on.)
1. Share Your Reviews on Social Media
Whether your clients express it in video, audio, or written form, the information in consumer reviews can be readily shared right from the source on your social media channels.
Try creating typographic quotes of positive reviews and sharing them via Instagram or Twitter. Pairing them with photography can create a stunningly beautiful and visual social media campaign. Visual reviews and testimonials (photography, video, etc.) are especially valuable due to their richness and origin. Promoting them can give clients an idea what your food and service actually look like.
2. Add Reviews on Your Business Cards
Here’s an idea that can provide even more vital social proof. Including several reviews from reputable sources like catering publications, food critics and others on your business card can improve your catering company’s credibility. Furthermore, they are easily passed around between prospects and existing clients who make referrals.
3. Incorporate Reviews on Your Website
There’s a right way and a wrong way to use reviews. You obviously don’t want to seem arrogant or boastful, and you want to preserve the third-party distance and integrity of each review so they seem genuine and not manufactured.
Featuring testimonials on your site with links back to the original source can provide social proof for your catering services and make you more trustworthy in the eyes of catering clients. You’ll want to be sure that they are featured prominently on your target audience pages. They are one of the first things people see when they visit your page and immediately establish credibility. There are also services that permit you to incorporate third-party numerical star ratings on your site.
4. Post Reviews in Your Office & Tasting Room
Online consumer reviews have cultural value to your catering company as well. You can post testimonials and positive reviews throughout your office space and tasting room. They serve as positive reinforcement and encouragement to your team, as well as contributing to a client-focused culture and an ideology that the work we do is selfless, right and good. And of course, they’ll be a sure sign of encouragement for prospects who come in for a tasting.
5. Feature Reviews in Email Marketing
Adding links for review requests and review scores into your catering email newsletters encourages catering clients and list members to leave you positive reviews and subsequently boost those scores. Another creative idea: add a reviews graphic in your email signature. This contributes to a professional image and builds trustworthiness within your network. Bottom line, though: if your catering company wants reviews that you can share, you have to ask for them. Email is a great method for doing that.
6. Highlight Reviews in Proposals
At the point of proposal, positive reviews can help close a sale by demonstrating your focus on execution. This can help ensure that clients don’t get cold feet right before making a commitment to work with your catering company on their event.
7. Do Market Research with Online Reviews
Studying your reviews can give you valuable insight on what your catering business is doing well and where you may need to improve. Those reviews can also be used as points of discussion in team meetings. By analyzing each review as a team, your catering company team remains accountable to each other and to your organizational culture.
One additional point that should not go overlooked is how your catering company embraces and engages with negative reviews, because like it or not, you will inevitably face them. It’s important to own your mistakes and shortcomings. Responding to negative reviews with an openness and willingness to make the situation right reflects well on your business. Prospects like to see your catering company take the initiative, and it can turn a negative review into a positive (and valuable) experience.
Leveraging reviews can make consumers into marketers. This is important, because people like to share good news. We like to be the hookup and refer those we care about to something beneficial. But you can (and should) do more to encourage reviews, like offering coupons and rewards. From improving search traffic to fostering a positive image, the rewards are endless, and your catering company will get out what you put into the endeavor.
How to Apply This to Your Business
Pick one of the tactics above, and do it! In the time it took to read this post you could screenshot a review from Yelp and post it on Facebook, or print a review and post it on the wall.
Better yet, put a weekly process in place to start using your reviews. The best time to set a permanent practice is when you’re motivated, so for best results, get to work now.