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View Full Version : How did you get your name out there and find customers?


Wood Fired
02-28-2012, 03:13 AM
I'm not going to lie, I'm new to the BBQ catering game, and looking for some advice on how to get my name out there and get some jobs scheduled on my calendar for the upcoming season.

A little background: I'm classically trained, and fell in love with BBQ, over the last few years. I've worked for private and corporate chains, as the sous chef to a high-end private chef, and for caterers/banquet halls that would take parties from 20 to 1,500 in house and would do even bigger number in off-premise locations.

I purchased my equipment from an asset sale, towards the end of September. I did a pig roast for 40 people in October and a corporate gig for 60 people Dec. 23rd (BBQ themed Christmas lunch for employees). Personally introduced myself to guests, while handing out business cards, and answering questions about my equipment.

So, what I'm really getting at is, where do you get your customers from? Do you advertise anywhere specific? Is it word of mouth? I'm open to and appreciative to any suggestions you throw my way.

Thanks,
Ken
AKA Wood Fired

gooose53
02-28-2012, 08:56 AM
Word of mouth is the best advertising if you ask me! I do bbq for free at work from time to time when I'm trying something new or I have some left over. I am able to get a little business from that but, catering is not my full time job and don't want it to be until I retire (and not sure then).

BigBellyBBQ
02-28-2012, 10:59 AM
small inexpensive ads in local penny savers gave me a better return than a 1/2 page ad...find someone to help you with a web page so people can search you online..you also can search local events to vend out of..and remember once you give out a special deal that is what they expect everytime..., unless it is veterans fund raiser or a good cause...

jestridge
03-06-2012, 02:33 PM
I do a lot of family /wedding , also for school fund raiser and for my church. Word of mouth is the best business it can make you or kill you

DaveMW
03-06-2012, 03:58 PM
Have you thought about contacting some party planners? Stop by with some que that you drop off along with a brief pamphlet/letter/flyer (make it look professional) that says what your capabilities are and what type of gigs you are looking for. If you can grab a business card during the drop off then just shoot them off an email a couple of days later asking how she/he enjoyed the food you dropped off and ask them to keep you in mind. Seems like it would be better having an additional 5-10 people that pick food vendors for events thinking of you. Not only that, they might not have that niche with their current vendors and that gives them an advantage too to be able to say that they can also provide que in addition to any other types of food they may want. Just a thought.

chad
03-06-2012, 06:54 PM
Website and word of mouth. Lots of gigs at a couple of churches...small wedding rehearsal, youth fund raisers, church anniversaries, etc. Some don't pay a lot but the good will is tremendous.

ThatsWhatSheSaidBBQ
03-06-2012, 07:20 PM
I'm not a caterer but I am a great marketer. Hopefully, you're past the research phase and have a feel for what a fair, competitive price looks like to your customers and competitors.

Your question is, "what can I do?" The quick answer is--as much as possible. Most entrepreneurs/SB owners fade away because their marketing strategies were weak.

As has been mentioned, word-of-mouth is free and amazing..but it's useless if you have no mouths to spread the word..this marketing weapon will work itself out if you do everything else well.

Satisfied customers > credibility > word-of-mouth > REPUTATION (all FREE)

If you're serious about catering, you'll have to make investments (I didn't say "spend"..I said "invest")

Ways to invest time/money:

1) get involved with your local chamber of commerce...they will do you a lot of good. Networking is important!! and local businesses always scratch each others' backs..(club memberships are also a great way to get your name out...getting involved with your community will give you a boost also<your CoC can help with this one)

2)Tie in with other business..if Bobby's Mobile Bounce house is doing parties, try to find a way to get your Q there..this can be done by talking to Bobby himself and asking him to scratch your back...you'll have to do the same for him!

3) Find a mailing list and (you get the bulging envelopes like everyone else!) get your business in there with the others!

4) Invest in amazing biz cards (and pass them out), sponsor a t-ball team (or 2!), make friends with a journalist at your local paper and have them do a piece on your new endeavor,

5) Maybe get annoying with "take one boxes", door hangers, circulars, or flyers..

6) Radio ads are costly but effective..

Top-of-mind-awareness is crucial...do NOT give people the opportunity to forget about you for even 1 day---


I could literally give you over a 100 different things to do.. You have to be as creative as you can.

Things to Remember:

1) If you don't commit, your marketing efforts will be a bust.

2) Be patient..good marketing takes time..if you don't see instant results, that doesn't mean it's not working..people often need to see/hear something multiple times before they respond.

3) Be consistent in everything you do...DON'T keep changing things up!

4) It's INVEST not "spend"

5) Some of the tactics mention cost money and some don't..Don't just use one or two..If you REALLY want to get out there, try using 20 tools, or 40, or 60...seriously..and stick with them.. If your product is good and your marketing is solid, you'll have more trouble finding free time than you will finding the occasional 20 person work party..

The bottom line is this: people always say something will or won't help without every trying..people always shun something because it takes too much time and effort, people always avoid spend--which prevents them from "investing"...and all of these people fail..Do the exact opposite..no excuses..just do it..and you'll blow your own mind!

Hope this helps...feel free to PM if I can ever answer any more questions for you!

that's hot
03-06-2012, 07:41 PM
I'm not a caterer but I am a great marketer. Hopefully, you're past the research phase and have a feel for what a fair, competitive price looks like to your customers and competitors.

Your question is, "what can I do?" The quick answer is--as much as possible. Most entrepreneurs/SB owners fade away because their marketing strategies were weak.

As has been mentioned, word-of-mouth is free and amazing..but it's useless if you have no mouths to spread the word..this marketing weapon will work itself out if you do everything else well.

Satisfied customers > credibility > word-of-mouth > REPUTATION (all FREE)

If you're serious about catering, you'll have to make investments (I didn't say "spend"..I said "invest")

Ways to invest time/money:

1) get involved with your local chamber of commerce...they will do you a lot of good. Networking is important!! and local businesses always scratch each others' backs..(club memberships are also a great way to get your name out...getting involved with your community will give you a boost also<your CoC can help with this one)

2)Tie in with other business..if Bobby's Mobile Bounce house is doing parties, try to find a way to get your Q there..this can be done by talking to Bobby himself and asking him to scratch your back...you'll have to do the same for him!

3) Find a mailing list and (you get the bulging envelopes like everyone else!) get your business in there with the others!

4) Invest in amazing biz cards (and pass them out), sponsor a t-ball team (or 2!), make friends with a journalist at your local paper and have them do a piece on your new endeavor,

5) Maybe get annoying with "take one boxes", door hangers, circulars, or flyers..

6) Radio ads are costly but effective..

Top-of-mind-awareness is crucial...do NOT give people the opportunity to forget about you for even 1 day---


I could literally give you over a 100 different things to do.. You have to be as creative as you can.

Things to Remember:

1) If you don't commit, your marketing efforts will be a bust.

2) Be patient..good marketing takes time..if you don't see instant results, that doesn't mean it's not working..people often need to see/hear something multiple times before they respond.

3) Be consistent in everything you do...DON'T keep changing things up!

4) It's INVEST not "spend"

5) Some of the tactics mention cost money and some don't..Don't just use one or two..If you REALLY want to get out there, try using 20 tools, or 40, or 60...seriously..and stick with them.. If your product is good and your marketing is solid, you'll have more trouble finding free time than you will finding the occasional 20 person work party..

The bottom line is this: people always say something will or won't help without every trying..people always shun something because it takes too much time and effort, people always avoid spend--which prevents them from "investing"...and all of these people fail..Do the exact opposite..no excuses..just do it..and you'll blow your own mind!

Hope this helps...feel free to PM if I can ever answer any more questions for you!


that is some really good advice !


M

ThatsWhatSheSaidBBQ
03-06-2012, 08:49 PM
Thank you. I tried to condense as much as I could. Always happy to help! I'm always willing to help with any marketing questions.

C Rocke
03-06-2012, 09:25 PM
Some things that have worked for us...

Social Media - Facebook Business page and Twitter. Foursquare to a lesser extent. Need to be consistent, and inventive. Drive traffic back to your site to increase your page views.

localcatering.com and decidio.com - Cost per lead, lead generators. Plenty of competitive intelligence and party planners, etc to pursue as resources

Hoovers.com - Subscription site with position and contact information on companies and corporations. Contact meeting planners, HR, and Facility Managers

Host a Party - Host a BBQ party at your home or a venue and invite local bloggers, corporate meeting panners, Yelpers, Party planners, bridal consultants, photographers, wedding dress makers, wedding cake bakers, reception hall staff, etc, etc - Captive audience with immediate impact. See if a local micro brewery or winery will co-op on the alcohol.

We stay away from flyers, mailers, purchased lists, etc - Focus more on the way that our prospective clients search and communicate (Social media, etc)

ThatsWhatSheSaidBBQ
03-07-2012, 08:01 AM
Some things that have worked for us...

Social Media - Facebook Business page and Twitter. Foursquare to a lesser extent. Need to be consistent, and inventive. Drive traffic back to your site to increase your page views.

localcatering.com and decidio.com - Cost per lead, lead generators. Plenty of competitive intelligence and party planners, etc to pursue as resources

Hoovers.com - Subscription site with position and contact information on companies and corporations. Contact meeting planners, HR, and Facility Managers

Host a Party - Host a BBQ party at your home or a venue and invite local bloggers, corporate meeting panners, Yelpers, Party planners, bridal consultants, photographers, wedding dress makers, wedding cake bakers, reception hall staff, etc, etc - Captive audience with immediate impact. See if a local micro brewery or winery will co-op on the alcohol.

We stay away from flyers, mailers, purchased lists, etc - Focus more on the way that our prospective clients search and communicate (Social media, etc)

Another great point. In this day and age, social media is almost always necessary. Facebook, Linkdin, forums (BBQ Brethren?!), etc.

Focusing on areas where prospective clients search is another extremely useful method. We definitely want to make sure that we make ourselves available for clients where THEY look, but we still do not want to neglect other valuable marketing vehicles. Placing focus in one primary sphere will limit your effectiveness. It is important to spread yourself evenly over all chosen methods (some methods do require less maintenance); make sure you're giving 100% to every tool.

Also, Wood Fired:

An important question, "How did you hear about us?" is a great way to quantify the usefulness of each tool. Try to ask this every time you get a chance and keep a record.

Once again, remember not to have the "I don't" mentality.."I don't need to do this" "I don't see the value in this" "I don't have to go this far" etc.. Don't limit yourself..if you limit yourself, you limit your success..This isn't an opinion; it's a bold fact.

Maintain and generate..maintain current clients and generate new ones..(a lot of people tend to maintain and forget about generating)

If you start getting too busy, bring in new help..if you're still busy, take on new employees...If you become overwhelmed again, bring in more people...lather, rinse, repeat...you could end up with an enterprise you never expected... Don't take my word for it--look at some of the most successful organizations in your field...they didn't grow complacent and their success is overflowing...I'm sure SM is probably a great example of this--maybe you could ask for that testimony.

PinkbootfarmQ
03-07-2012, 08:46 AM
When I got started I founds all the outdoor Sumer events, car shows, concerts, dog shows, craft fairs etc... I co tacked the organizers and spent an entire summer vending, I handed outa card to every person who got plate, it was hard to judge how much food to make at first, but as I got more in to it I got better at it. I started booking up for the fall and the next summer for weddings and what not. Turns out, I like vending better than doing big events, I have more controle over what's going on, and once I got used to it I made more $ in the end. Now in the off season I do farmers markets, and a BBQ CSA. I book a few catering gis every year, but mostly I do vending, and markets, I find it way more fun.
Good luck

Wood Fired
03-08-2012, 03:20 AM
I appreciate all the input. Thank you.

Wampus
03-08-2012, 07:02 PM
GREAT thread. Thanks for posting and replying. Great stuff!:thumb: