Catering Marketing: The Ins, The Outs and How To


So here’s the deal. People argue that the problem with Internet marketing blogs is that they’re all theory and no substance. There’s nothing actionable. Nothing people can run with and use today. Well, we decided to change that and offer up a post that does offer some actionable advice, this time for caterers. Why did I pick catering? Well, we don’t have a catering marketing client so I figured that’d be a fun place to start. Also, I love food (and scallops).

If you’re in the catering market, here are FIVE actionable things you can do right now to increase your SEO efforts and market your business.

Market with other people locally

Okay, so that wasn’t meant to be an “aha!” moment, but you’d be surprised how many small businesses fail to leverage this. If you’re a local caterer, you want to get into the minds of the people in your area so that when they have a wedding, birthday or christening, they remember that they already know someone. They know you.

To build these connections, head to Twitter and find folks that you can form real relationships with. A good way to find local Twitterers is to use Twitter Grader and search for your area. Let’s say, Tampa.

Tampa Twitter Grader

Right there is your list of Tampa Twitterers with bio information, Follower counts and the ability to click through and immediately add them. Once you’ve found them, talk to them. Add them and be their friend. You don’t even have to bring up that you’re a caterer. Just be a normal person. Once they find out you’re JUST LIKE THEM(!) and from Tampa, they’ll very likely stalk your profile and find out you’re a caterer anyway. And the next time they have an event that needs to be catered, or they know someone that does, they’ll remember that they have a catering friend on Twitter. And you’ll get the call simply because you created a real connection with someone.

If you’re looking to expand your Twitter Friending passed the Top 100 users (which is what Twitter Grader shows by default), you can use their Advanced Search to narrow down the list to people who have joined in the past week, the past five days, whatever. However, if you make an honest effort to form real relationships with the top 100 Twitterers in your area, you probably won’t even have to do that to form a nice base networking group.

Network & Form Relationships With Related Bloggers

Bloggers are handy people to know because they very often (sometimes?) have readers. Readers who have opted into an RSS feed or a bookmark because they are interested in what that blogger has to say. Help get their readers interested in you. If you’re doing catering marketing, there are a couple ways you can benefit from some blogger outreach.

  1. Find popular recipe blogs: You want to find recipe blogs with a decent readership. Many blogs will display these numbers in their sidebar via some sort of chicklet. If they don’t, you can also go to Technorati, conduct a search, and filter results so they’re ordered by blogs with the highest authority level. One you find the blogs, contact the owner. Tell them you’re a caterer and you’d like to contribute to the blog and offer up recipes targeted toward their audience. If it’s a diet conscious blog, play to that. If they focus on food for diabetics, provide them with sugar-free recipes. Make yourself useful to them and their audience. If you do, no blog in the world is going to turn you down. If I know anything, it’s that overworked bloggers love free, useful content. I know because I am an overworked blogger. And when you provide the recipe, make sure to include in your byline that you’re a Tampa caterer and shoot people a link to your Web site. It’s a great way to get business out there (and score a local citation)
  2. Target wedding blogs: This is another niche that caterers are very much related to. Go back to Technorati and find some wedding blogs with a good amount of authority and again make an offer to guest post. Tell them you want to write an article about how to cut costs on your catering bill without spoiling the menu, or how brides can cut down catering costs to spend more money on that gown. Or, if you’ve catered a lot of weddings, come up with an article about five dream place settings and how to get them for cheap. People in the process of getting marriage are rabid and obsessed. Get yourself in front of them and they won’t be able to stop talking about you to their friends. Seriously. Have you ever been around someone in the process of planning a wedding? It’s not pretty. Use their vanity for good.

Create Linkable Video Content

So maybe you’re not a writer but you do pack a whole lot of pizzazz. If that’s the case, look for opportunities to create a 10 minute cooking show either on your site or someone else’s blog. This is a bit trickier because (a) you need to be able to convey personality and friendliness on camera and (b) it requires a touch of video production skills. No one wants to watch a 90 minute video as you baste that chicken, wait, throw it in the oven, wait, etc. You need to know how fade in and out to create some suspense and excitement. And again, you need to be interesting. A lot of people aren’t.

However, once you have your video, put it on your Web site, upload it to YouTube and use it to separate your catering marketing from the rest of the wannabes out there. These types of videos are especially great for small businesses because they help people get a feel for your cooking and what kind of person you are. When you upload your video, make sure you’re careful to include a good title and description so that it will not only rank on YouTube, but it’ll give you a good shot of showing up in Google’s Universal results, as well.

Don’t believe that people are actually doing this? Go do a search on YouTube for recipe videos. This video on how to decorate a red velvet cake has more than 100,000 views. Yowsa.

Optimize For Your Local Listings and Search Terms

You don’t want your Web site to rank for [catering]. I mean, it’s a nice vanity term, but it’s not going to drive the right traffic to your site. You want to rank for terms like [tampa cater], [florida catering services], etc. That’s what’s going to convert for you and what people will be searching for. And do you know what comes up if you do a search for [tampa caterer]?

A Google 10-Pack of course.

SERP Tampa Caterer

You want to get yourself in that 10-pack and you do that by optimizing your site for local search and by submitting to all the relevant local directories. We already wrote a detailed post on how to launch a small business Web site, so I get to save my carpal tunnel’d wrist and just send you there. Go re-read it. And then do everything on that list if you didn’t listen to me the first time. (You know who you are.)

Drive traffic with Flickr

Flickr is another great site that small businesses can use to drive traffic, while creating new linking opportunities at the same time. It also gives you something to do with those 200 photos of your award-winning chicken kiev dish you have lying around.

When you upload your photos to Flickr, there are few things you want to do:

  1. Tag them: Tag them with every appropriate term you can think of. For your chicken kiev dish, that’s terms like chicken, chicken kiev, food, recipe, dinner, catering dish, etc. Basically anything you think someone might search for to find that dish, include it.
  2. Use keyword-rich text: When you write your Title and Description, accurately describe the photo so that people looking for exactly that can find it. Common sense, but you’d be surprised how many photos are up on Flickr with Titles and Descriptions like IMG000039. People are busy and not always that smart.
  3. Give Creative Commons: You’re going to want to give Attribution Creative Commons on your photos so that folks will be able to use your pictures on their blogs with a link back to you. Encourage the spread of your content.
  4. Link to your site in the description: Underneath all that glorious descriptive text, include a link to your Web site. Flickr nofollows all links, but you’ll still get some valuable foot traffic from people passing through. Also, if you provide a link, when someone uses your Flickr photo and puts it on their blog, you encourage them to give you attribution by linking to your Web site instead of your Flickr page. It’s the little things.

Bonus Tip: Find Relevant Directories

[I, apparently, can’t count. So you get a quick bonus tip.]

If you’re a local business, it will still be worth your while to try and obtain links from directories relevant to your niche. For a caterer, that many mean using local directories, wedding directories, catering directories and whatever else you can find out there. If your catering site has a blog, you may also want to look for blog directories for your geolocation.

If we ever received a client interested in catering marketing, those are some of the first things I’d recommend that they’d do to give them a step up on SEO, while also marketing in their own communities. What do you think? What would you do differently?

Your Comments

  • Patrick Sexton

    Yum. I am super impressed with your small business stuff Lisa. Writing things that give people ideas and direction are post that are visited again and again, unlike many other posts in the SEO world where they get a piece of traffic for a day or two, but then flatline.

    You give great advice here, it would be cool if other comenters would add their tips to the mix.

    My tip for a caterer:

    Communicate with your clients and have a thank you form (it can even be on actual paper) that says basically “Thank you for your business, we enjoyed serving your event, it was lovely. eyc. etc. and then have at the end, if you enjoyed our services let others know by _______” the blank could be visit our Yelp page and write a review, visit our Flickr page, or whatever the caterer has set up. Existing contact points with customers are an effective (and often under used) place to spread social media. This can also be used before a customer is a customer by sending then to their Flickr page for examples of their work, or to their Yelp page and it’s reviews.

  • Sean Maguire

    Practical, effective and easy to implement small business internet marketing strategy. That Jamaica lady writes better with a bag and a cake than I do with a pen, and paper. Plus – Damn! that’s a tasty looking cake.

  • Rhea Drysdale

    I have nothing of value to add, I just want to eat those scallops. Mmmm… tasty.

    Ok, a tip… so this is a personal favorite I discovered with the non-profit back in Florida. Certain local newspapers will have a community area on their site. Ours did and I could blog on it. I could blog about anything I wanted (within reason) with followed and optimized links. Sweet. Here’s the best part though, every week the newspaper would take the “Best of the Blogs” and publish them in the local paper. I received a call from several friends once informing me that they really liked the article I’d written for the newspaper. What?! I didn’t write an article… oh! OH! This is a great way to kill three birds with one stone. Newspapers can help with your SEO efforts, they get certain eyes online and they get certain eyes offline. Test the boundaries of your local paper, magazines, journals, etc. I could see a weekly recipe going over well and leading to bigger opportunities.

  • Charlene Burke

    Great post. Love the local Twitter search info and will pass it on to my fellow information professionals.

    I fully agree with you and with Patrick’s suggestion…though I would refine his suggestion just a bit by recommending any small business invest in custom thank you cards/notes that reflect that business’ brand – inexpensive whether done in-house or not. I’ll never forget a caterer I used in Indianapolis for a luncheon event – when they picked up the buffet stuff (on time :) the driver handed me a copy of my bill with a note card of thanks. Then I received a call the next day to confirm my satisfaction with the meal. IndyAnna’s Catering, Anne Kirk is the owner, outstanding food and service. Sheesh – that’s been 15 years ago and yes, it was that good :) Oh yeah, I used her a few times more after that first event.

    Another way to market a catering business is co-op advertising, i.e. split ad costs in local venues with a bridal shop/event planning biz/venue such as ballrooms and meeting rooms. Use e-mail campaigns to offer additionals every month, i.e. cupcakes 1/2 price with lunch for business meeting, every 5th meal/person free for dinner banquets, loyal customer discount for businesses. Partner with Mom bloggers for banner advertising at a lower rate and small commission for very event booked through her site.

  • Tim Staines

    Catering Marketing Tip: If you read this & you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, hire someone to accomplish these things for you. If you like the results, hire them to do additional work. If you can’t afford it, at least talk to people who might know what they’re doing. You never know, they might just drop a link on your behalf at some point in the future.

  • Todd Mintz

    I think the most obvious one would be to take “Step 1” further and deliver dinner to the influential locals…everybody likes free food and I’m sure that extra step would have an awesome ROI.

  • Joe Hall

    Here’s a few tips that I have used in the past that work very well:

    Have a section of your blog for local recipes. You can write them your self or have folks from the community submit them. The idea here is generating geo specific content that you can leverage for SEO, as well as for reaching out to your offline network.

    If your catering specializes in a certain cuisine look for a niche social network like and scope out a group with in that deals with your cuisine. network like hell and maybe score a few friends and links!

    Also look for local restaurant or food critics that blog and ask them to write a review of your work.

  • Lydia Fabry Mazorol

    Nice post Lisa – if all this info came from you then I’m happy to suggest that you are becoming quite the business woman!

    Tip: Suggest that the (fictitious) catering company connects not only with people who might use their services but those that the catering company themselves use!

  • Michael D

    Wow, wow, wow, nice and organized actionable advice. On the market with other people locally I’ll add that in my experience it pays to be a good neighbor. Get to know who else is in the community, not just via twitter, but with face to face get together events. Getting to know the people behind the businesses has done wonders for our community relations, and I feel good evangelizing the services of local business “friends” I’ve made over the years.

    Once again Lisa, wonderfully detailed information that works. We thank your wrists for sharing. :)

  • Jon Buscall

    Loved this! I often end up writing about kennels to illustrate my web marketing efforts because that’s my other interest. Good for you taking this route. I think it helps people see how transferable these skills can be.

    I would also add:
    If you can’t write (or are uncomfortable about that) take pictures of a receipe you regularly make and load them up into a PowerPoint/Keynote presentation.

    Then create a voiceover, talking your way through the slides, export to Quicktime and upload to YouTube.

    I did this with a piece on effective email marketing and it was the best call-to-action I didn’t know I’d written.

  • TJ McCue

    Hi Lisa
    You do an awesome job of making it practical. I only read this post, though.. You know I found you on SmallBizTrends. But I went to follow you on Twitter and clicked on your page and then got sucked in…. Good work.

    I have a buddy who has created a new recipe site and I’m sending him to your post. His site is pretty cool and one you might enjoy, too.

    He’s gonna love this post. Full of useful ideas.
    Now, I gotta head back to Twitter and do that follow thing…

  • Zeva Brennan

    Hi Lisa

    I have a catering business.
    I’m just starting to use email marketing.
    Thank you for the tips.I will start to apply them
    To my business..
    Thanks Zeva

  • James M

    Some top advice here, and I agree it is extremely important to diversify your marketing strategy, don’t just focus on one channel.

    Working in marketing I come across umteen businesses that just do the opposite of your advice re stay local. They don’t even consider it, they just broadcast their message without thinking how to focus on their target market, and even better, their local target market.

    What Patrick said in his comment is a good point, provide your customers with a means of staying in touch and your success rate will be much higher. Or should I say, your ‘targeted’ success rate.

    The problem is, and I know this from experience, you can advise people what to do, but for them to get off their backsides and do it is a different matter. They seem as keen as mustard when you tell them about it, but unless they have a schedule and stick to it, they will let their online marketing go stale.


  • gina at cateror

    Great post! The only thing I would add would be a comment about information accessibility and websites. Too often on catering/restaurant sites I see Contact Information buried in either sub-pages or footers, where it won’t conflict with the design. Clients and customers, especially those who are looking to connect with local companies, may not be willing to wander around a website trying to find out exactly where the business is located.