As a wedding caterer, your main goal is likely to make sure the happy couple have a great day, and that everything goes as smoothly as possible. On top of this, though, you’ll face the added challenge of creating a stable, competitive business that earns plenty of custom and does things by the book.
Making this happen will require plenty of effort in areas such as marketing and customer service, and these areas can be confusing at first. To help you make the most of your wedding catering company, we’ll take a look at the three essential areas to get to grips with when forming.
- Putting a marketing strategy in place
First things first, you’ll need to get customers. To do this, you’ll need an effective marketing strategy. This can be done via various methods, including digital marketing, print adverts, and business cards (you should keep a deck of them handy wherever you go). The most important methods in this day-and-age are marketing via your website and social media.
For obvious reasons, brides and grooms are often picky about who caters their wedding. Many will want to consume lots of online content about your business before their guests consume your cooking, which means it’s crucial to have an informative, up-to-date, professional quality website for your business.
A good website can also help you draw interest from prospective customers (this is called “lead generation” in marketing-speak). Websites are an excellent potential source of leads because they can attract visits from people using search engines to find a service provider. So, if someone types “wedding caterer” into Google, your website might appear in the results.
There are certain things you can do to increase the likelihood of people finding you via web search, including:
- Getting your website listed on Google My Business. (which are particularly useful for appearing in local search results).
- Using relevant, descriptive page titles (technically known as “meta titles”) and headers on your website — which will help search engines understand what your website is about.
- Regularly publishing useful, relevant content on your website (e.g. brilliant, informative blog articles about wedding catering).
Before you do all this, you will of course require a website. How to set one up is a straight choice between building your own via a service like SquareSpace, or getting a web development company or freelancer to build one for you. If you’re choosing the latter option, make sure they give you access to a content management system (CMS), which you can use to keep the site’s content up-to-date.
Social media platforms — especially Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn — can be just as important as a website for marketing your catering business.
Instagram has become many couples’ go-to place for wedding inspiration. As a result, it’s now a key marketing platform for all sorts of wedding service providers, including photographers, planners, and of course, caterers. Take (or commission) some beautiful photographs of your food and staff, then post them on your Instagram using relevant hashtags (such as #weddingfood, #weddingstyle, #weddinginspo).
Another key social platform is Facebook, mainly because it remains the most popular of the bunch. As of 2018, 79% of adults in the UK use Facebook, while only 47% use Twitter and 41% use Instagram.
Many wedding caterers get some of their custom through partnerships with other businesses in the wedding industry. These business-to-business (B2B) relationships are best targeted via LinkedIn, the business-focused social platform.
- Managing your online reputation from day one
What people say online about your business can make or break its chance of closing sales.
This can be a problem, as customers writing reviews on platforms like Google Reviews and your Facebook page can say pretty much whatever they want. No matter how good your service is, there’s always a risk of complaints.
The best step you can take to manage that risk is to closely monitor all the online places where people might comment about your business. You can automate the process by using an online monitoring tool, like Mention, to track what people are saying about you on social media, online articles and just about anywhere else on the web. When you spot a bad review, it’s best to respond in a calm, professional manner, refuting false claims with clear facts where appropriate.
A tactic widely used by social media marketers is to funnel customer complaints away from public social profiles, and into a private messaging channel such as Facebook Messenger. They will reply on the complaint itself with a short message, such as “We’re sorry you’re unhappy with your experience. We’ve sent you a DM”, and then privately message a more detailed response to the unhappy customer. This approach helps resolve complaints whilst limiting the amount of negative feedback other customers see.
The brighter side to reputation management is making sure positive customer feedback gets noticed. If you spot a good review or favourable comment, share it via your social media accounts, and be sure to thank the customer.
You should aim to increase the volume of positive feedback online by asking happy couples to review your business on social media and Google (you’ll need to set up a Google My Business account first).
- Setting up your company properly
We’ve marked this down as step three — but really it should be step one. Officially forming your company is an essential requirement for trading legally and building your reputation as a professional caterer.
If you plan to trade at low volume and/or with a very small team, you might choose to set up as a sole trader. More probably though, you’ll need to set up as a limited company. This has the benefit of potentially paying less tax, limited liability (meaning you won’t be personally responsible for any financial losses made by your business), and simply looking more professional.
At Companies Made Simple, our goal is to help you through the forming process. From registering your company to organising its accounts and business address, we’re here to take the pressure off.