More and more pizzerias are entering the catering arena, and for good reason: Marketed and executed properly, pizzeria catering operations can add anywhere from 10 to 20 percent to your top-line sales. Since each catered event is feeding 10 or more people, you in addition get paid to market your pizzeria to them as a byproduct of the catering. If you factor in this “advertising affect,” catering is even more valuable.
Whether you’ll be the sole person responsible for generating catering sales or you hire someone, there is a lot to learn from the sales funnels model large sales organizations utilize. A sales funnel’s purpose is to take all of the great, unwashed masses and focus on getting targeted, well qualified catering prospects into your pipeline. Ultimately, we want to get as many possible through the end of the funnel to become repeat catering clients.
You and I could sit down, have a beer and come up with a targeted list of catering suspects, those people who in theory should order catering. It could be all of the offices in a downtown high rise or everyone on a rented mailing list of companies in your city with 20 or more employees.
Our first goal is to take this suspect list and identify those who are qualified prospects. In order for a prospect to be ranked as qualified, you must be dealing with the decision maker and they must order catering often enough and for enough people to be worth pursuing.
If this afternoon we were to walk into this hypothetical downtown high rise and start knocking on doors with bags of homemade chocolate chip cookies, business cards and catering menus, not all offices there would contain qualified prospects. A small insurance agency with two employees would not make my qualified prospect list. Now, give me the office manager of a law firm who orders in four times a week for a minimum of 12 people and I’ll have a very qualified prospect.
Too often my clients complain about lead-generation efforts that fall flat. “Michael,” they say. “I handed out cookies to 20 offices a few weeks ago and not a single order.”
It’s very naive to believe that a half-dozen cookies, a card and a smile will get you a tidal wave of business all by themselves. Marketing’s job is to build a database of as many qualified prospects as you can uncover and to keep in contact regularly. Not staying top of mind with your catering prospects is the equivalent of a young man taking a beautiful woman on an incredible first date and handing her a business card at the door saying, “Susie, I’ve had a great time. Here’s my card. Call me if you ever want to get married.”
What makes you think catering prospects are any different?
At minimum you should send your prospects an email once a month and a mailer once a month. Without this drip campaign, you’ll be out of sight and out of mind.
Why this ongoing communication? We never know when the need for our services will arise. It could take two weeks or two years. But given the lifetime value of a great catering client, it’s a small price to pay. Maybe one of your prospects has a favorite caterer? You still want to stay in front of them for the day they need a different provider. You want to be the first name they think of.
Once you get them to try you, they become customers. My definition of a catering customer is someone who’s used you for catering once. Your goal is to turn them into lifelong, repeat catering clients. A client is worth a ton to you.
The basics of creating catering clients is to deliver on the basics: good food and good service, delivered on time and with nothing left off the order. But don’t stop there. You’ll want to have a marketing system to nurture this relationship. Components of your catering client marketing system should include callbacks, surveys, customer reactivation calls and letters, anniversary event callbacks and birthday letters.
As daunting as mastering a sales funnel may seem, setting up the proper marketing system will allow you to put it on autopilot. Whether you have a full-time catering salesperson or invest a few hours a week yourself, the right sales funnel will ensure the maximum return on your marketing investment.