Catering Marketing: The Ins, The Outs and How To

April 29, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Small Business Marketing

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?

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