When it comes to generating catering sales leads, are you a hunter or farmer? Turns out that the secret for how to find catering clients is that you need to be a bit of both.
That is, you need to set yourself up to successfully find new catering leads. At the same time, you need to proactively seek out new clients.
Here are 8 ways to get new catering clients that you might not have thought of yet
1. Reach Out to New Venues
New event venues are fantastic at letting the town know that they’ve arrived. As soon as you hear of one, your catering sales teams should start doing the research to find out:
- What kind of business the venue books
- How frequently it host events
- If they have an in-house caterer
- Whether they have a list of preferred vendors
If the venue doesn’t have a catering company in-house, that’s a sign for your team to reach out. And even if the venue already has preferred vendors, don’t let that stop you. Some venues sign on multiple preferred caterers, so it doesn’t mean you’ve lost the business.
Once you determine that you could work with the venue, host a tasting or offer to bring a few of your best-selling dishes to the team at the venue.
2. Set up Google Alerts
Want a catering lead-generating tool that costs you $0? Then set up a few Google Alerts!
With Google Alerts, you can set up alerts for specific phrases. The system will send you an email when a new mention of the phrase pops up on the web.
So what kinds of alerts can help you get new catering clients? Consider these ideas…
- Do you want your catering sales team to know about new venues opening in town? Try an alert for “new venue in Chicago,” for example.
- Want to keep an eye on what competitors are doing? Set an alert for the name of your top competitors’ brands.
These strategies could bring in business (see: #1) and keep you up-to-date on the state of catering in your city.
3. Contact Real Estate Developers
Ever see a new building in the city and wonder what it will end up being? Wonder no more: Take it into your own hands and chat with the real estate developer. Ask what the space will be used for. Is it an event space? Will there be a kitchen on-site? Is it a mixed-use building where events could happen?
In the best case scenario, the building is an event space. And it’s your cue to contact the tenets to figure out their catering needs. The lesson here is to be proactive in generating those catering sales leads!
4. Use Social Media to Listen
Sure, we all know how to post on social media. You might tweet a link to a helpful blog post or post an Instagram pic of a new dish.
But the trick to getting catering clients on social media is not to post, but to listen. Social media is a great place to keep tabs on catering trends, competitors, and happenings in your area. For example, you can follow your competitors to find out what kind of events they’re booking.
You can also study what makes your competitors successful on social media. What kind of posts performs well for them? Test them out on your own social outlets! High-engagement posts might hint at what consumers and event planners are looking for.
5. Filter Your eRFPs
You probably sift through a ton of eRFPs regularly. Have you ever thought about how qualified the leads you’re getting are?
One way to find better turn catering leads into sales is to be more specific in your eRFP form. It’s OK to ask more of a prospective client! In fact, the vaguer or more general the online form is, the more likely it is that unqualified prospects will fill it out. When you ask for more details, you can spend less time sifting through catering leads that may not be a fit.
Another consideration for your online eRFP form: make sure it’s user-friendly! You may be inadvertently turning potential catering sales leads away with a messy, confusing form.
6. Don’t Underestimate Word of Mouth
This is one way to generate catering leads that we’re all familiar with. Word of mouth is a great way to find new clients. But it’s hard to control, right? Well, not if you take things into your own hands.
Get involved in your local event planning community. For example, the city’s event association might be working with a planner who’s looking for a caterer for an upcoming event. This is a fantastic way to get your brand (and food!) in front of planners who will need caterers on a regular basis.
Similarly, join location-based Facebook and LinkedIn groups for event planners and caterers. These resources can help you drum up referrals through word of mouth — digitally.
7. Email Your Past Clients and Prospects
Your next catering client could already be on your email list. They could be someone who’s hired you before! Don’t forget, repeat business is the golden ticket in the catering world.
In your next email to your subscribers, you can try a few different things to surface your next catering sales lead.
- We know that word-of-mouth marketing works. So in your next email, ask your subscribers for referrals and combine it with a special deal.
- Another idea is to highlight new catering trends. If your catering company is on the cutting edge of trends, show off your know-how to spark interest in prospective clients.
How do you find catering clients? Have you used any of these tactics to get new sales leads? Sound off in the comments or let us know on Twitter.
Laura Lopez is the Marketing Content Strategist at the Washington, D.C.-based event planning software company, Social Tables. In her role, she puts the “social” in Social Tables through facilitating face to face and digital interactions between their growing, global customer base of over 4,000 strong. She is passionate about bringing together like-minded communities that share a common goal to make each other successful through on and offline engagement.