Early in my career, I was introduced to a man who, starting with a single tire store, grew his business into a million-dollar empire. One vital tip he shared was, "after you have been in business for ten years, something magical happens. Customers from long ago will appear seemingly out of nowhere and significantly add to your sales volume."
This fact was verified many times as clients for whom we had catered one event six, seven or eight years in the past suddenly reappeared with requests for new catering services. It was great to get a late Friday afternoon call from a previously satisfied customer who was having a big event and now needed us again.
Every day you are in business, you are building an important base of potential repeat business--event by event and delivery by delivery--and if you to learn how to drive that process, it can be a game-changer.
I recently returned from the annual Catersource Conference and Tradeshow. This year it was hosted in The Big Easy, (New Orleans). I was struck that a number of attendees I spoke to, were in essence looking for the "magic bullet" that would automatically and quickly increase their sales. As I stress in my seminars, no such thing exists. The process of acquiring customers and converting then into clients, (our code term for "repeat business") is not complicated. It does require hard work, organization, persistence, patience and a modest, but necessary, investment.
Following are some ideas that will help you grow your catering operation through repeat business:
1) Always acknowledge a thank you after a first order. This can be a postcard, an email or a phone call. Don’t wait too long… a same day or next day follow-up after the first delivery is invaluable.
2) Start multiple email lists. Have a list for frequent orderers, those who have only ordered breakfast, those that you serve only once a year, etc. By sending custom emails to selected groups you can cross-sell. It’s a lot easier to sell to a current client than to start from scratch with a cold call.
3) Send out a monthly newsletter. This can be very general and not "salesy.” Keep your name and your business alive in the minds of active and potential customers.
The late Ron Vogt from Milwaukee WI started a catering business from a shopping mall fast food outlet and sold it after he reached the million-dollar sales mark. Ron said two words that have stayed with me for many years: “business fades.” What Ron meant was that your sales will naturally decrease because of any number of reasons including:
- Customers move away.
- Customers die.
- Customers get different jobs and don’t need to order catering from you anymore.
- Customers are unhappy.
Learning to retain the ones you have and grow your repeat business is the best way to counteract this trend.
Catersource was great and what I have outlined here is only the beginning. Please feel free to call or email me, and we'll talk about your operation and what The Corporate Caterer can do to help you succeed.