How to Know Who the Ideal Customer Is for Your Catering & Events Business
One of the best ways you can boost your digital marketing efforts for your catering and events business is by knowing your ideal customer. With catering being an $11 billion industry with an annual growth of 4.6%, now is the time to tap into reaching your target audience.
Knowing who to sell your catering and events services to starts with developing an ideal customer avatar. That’s a step beyond identifying your target audience and getting into the “nitty-gritty” of who, why, and how to sell to your ideal customer.
In this post, I’m going to discuss my insider-tips for when I want to find customers I love working with, how to get dream clients, and when I want to find clients who will pay my rates. Each of these strategies starts with knowing my target audience and developing my ideal customer avatar.
Why You Need to Have a Target Customer
Successful marketing strategies start by developing a clear picture of your target audience. When looking specifically at the catering and events industry, that's segmented into two categories--social and business catering. You must understand the difference between these two when marketing to your target audience.
Social Catering Customers
In social catering, you're marketing to B2C (business to consumer) customers. These individuals are seeking services for a variety of functions, including:
With the B2C market making up 63% of the market, tapping into this opportunity and knowing who your target audience is now is critical. Depending on the event you're catering, social catering orders could range from $20 to $30 per person and higher for formal occasions.
Business Catering Customers
This catering segment is where you'll find your B2B (business to business) customers. Your targets include administrators, event planners, office professionals, medical sales professionals, and other business professionals. Under most circumstances, these individuals are placing weekday catering orders for business events. These events include:
With 37% of your target audience making up this segment, you'll find these orders occurring at least once monthly. The kinds of orders include buffet-style catering, box lunches, and platters for this target audience.
Why Is This Important?
Now that I've shown you these differences, you're probably wondering why all of this matters. Great question!
Keeping up with the competition and staying ahead of the curve are both as important as knowing your target audience. So, what do I suggest?
Figure out what the competition is doing and how they're marketing to your target audience.
What strategies are they using online?
How are they reaching them?
What tactics are working?
Which ones are missing the mark?
Learn from the research you conduct and apply it to how you're understanding your target audience. Remember, consumer trends will continue to change, and your company must adapt to these fluctuations. Therefore, your company must keep up with the current marketing and website trends. That means keeping up-to-date with the needs of your customers.
How is a Target Audience Beneficial?
Focusing on your target audience gives your catering and events business significant opportunities for sales growth. Here's how:
You can concentrate on promotional resources on your target audience. However, make sure you're designing the advertising message to resonate with the customers in that group. That way, you're improving your potential for brand loyalty.
Maintaining your competitive edge is critical. When you keep a tight focus on your target audience, you can establish yourself as an expert. In doing so, you're simultaneously meeting your audience's needs and wants.
Keeping up with the competition also means reacting to changes in your target audience's opinions and interests quickly. You must also keep a careful eye on any of the attempts of other competitors, luring your target audience away.
Think About Your Menu Offerings
Did you know your target audience and your menu offerings have a lot to do with each other? It’s true. When your target audience is choosing a catering company, the menu offerings weigh heavily on their decision. They want to make sure what’s on the menu will fit in with the event they’re planning.
For example, if you’re featuring a menu consisting mostly of sandwiches and salads, you’ll find targets in the business industry order. However, if you feature a wide variety of seafood, vegan, beef, and chicken plates, you may find other individuals ordering for social events.
The Ideal Customer Avatar
Please don’t make this marketing mistake.
You have a list of enticing services. They’re ready to go. You know what services you’re selling. The mistake? You don’t know who to sell these services to.
Making this mistake is disastrous for your marketing plan and, to be honest, your business.
You could have the best catering and events services in your area. However, if you’re selling them to the wrong person, your sales figures will reflect that mistake. That’s why you must know your ideal customer avatar.
When I'm trying to find customers I love working with, the first thing I do is create an ideal customer avatar. That defines individuals who can find the perfect solution to their pain points when selecting your services.
If you haven't already created a customer avatar, you're probably already using them without realizing that it's happening.
Before selling your catering and events services effectively, you must understand:
Who your ideal customer avatar is
What their pain points are
Where they hang out online
For example, when I find clients who will pay my rates, that's an ideal customer avatar. They not only love my services, but they see the value of them and understand the message behind what I'm providing. Your ideal customer avatar will do the same. They're willing to remain loyal to your business and make referrals.
No one knows for sure who their ideal customer avatar is, which is why the profile becomes an essential tool. Think about your ideal customer avatar as your company's best-case scenario. For example, it could be someone who books frequently, an individual who brings in a lot of referrals, or a regular who likes high-ticket event planning.
What to Include in a Customer Avatar
Creating these profiles means that, under some circumstances, you'll have to survey your existing customer base. In doing so, you'll find out who your ideal customer is and how to serve their needs.
Every profile consists of at least four components:
Profile name (That's right, you're giving your ideal customer avatar a name!)
Demographics (age, gender, location, ethnicity, etc.)
Socioeconomics (household income, education, occupation, hometown, etc.)
Psychographics (hobbies, interests, favorite entertainment, anxieties, etc.)
Avoid waiting for survey results to come in before creating the first draft of your avatar. Instead, make assumptions where data is missing. Then, complete the research for those missing areas when you have time.
In the meantime, you can benefit from an avatar that's ready to go--even if you have to verify a few missing elements later on.
How to Research Your Avatar
As I mentioned before, you’ll likely need to conduct research using surveys with your existing customer base to create your avatar. However, another way to complete this research is by doing a ten to fifteen minute Skype chat with one of your existing clients, as well.
What happens if you don’t have a customer base? That’s a good question! Don’t worry; there are solutions. Here’s what I suggest:
Contact your current email subscribers
Reach out to your social media following
Speak to any of your existing leads
Research your competition's customers
Read online reviews by competing customers
Make sure you're upfront about what you're doing. Tell them you're researching how to serve them better. Ask them if they're available for a ten to fifteen-minute call or if they would like to participate in an online survey.
Think About Your Marketing Efforts
If you're spending all your time attending bridal trade shows promoting your catering business, then the majority of your customer base will be bridal clients. However, if you're spending some of that time marketing your catering and events business at local networking and professional groups, there's a chance you could secure leads for clients needing corporate event catering.
Even though creating customer avatars is essential, your marketing efforts also play a critical role in who you're attracting. The methods you're using for promoting your catering and events business will have the most effect on which market you’re attracting to your services.
Why You Need an Ideal Customer Avatar
When your catering and events business can identify its ideal customer avatar, that means you're able to accomplish one strategic goal. That includes building your brand's message, its services, and the rest of your business to ensure it serves the client group you define.
Defining your ideal customer avatar gives you a clear indication of where, how, and when you should be marketing your business. The best rule of thumb I suggest following is to avoid marketing to everyone.
Because then it's impossible to sell services to anyone. The only exception to that rule is significant corporations with substantial marketing budgets.
Because you can't afford to toss money into every marketing effort that crosses your path, here's a great place to start. When you want to get dream clients, you have to know who they are first. Then, you can target your marketing dollars strategically toward converting them.
Qualities of an Ideal Customer Avatar
Your ideal customer avatar already exists within your target market. You just have to do some fine-tuning and some deep-diving to find this subset. Ideally, your ideal avatar possesses the following qualities:
1: They're Delighted to Pay for Your Services
When I find clients who will pay my rates, I know they're part of my ideal avatar. It's natural for companies to want every customer to select their services and pay for what they're offering. However, not every potential customer is going to happy about doing that.
One of the things you should expect is having potential customers that take months, or sometimes years before you can convince them to spend their money. The main reason is that they have a difficult time seeing the value in the services versus the cost.
However, there are other potential customers who are eager to jump in with both feet and have no trouble seeing the value in your services. These are the members of your ideal customer base. You want to provide services for customers who are happy to pay for your services.
2: They Show Appreciation for What You're Doing
Your ideal customer doesn't view your company as a heartless corporation. Instead of showing now gratitude, they view what's happening as a two-sided relationship. Therefore, they're willing to show gratitude because they appreciate the effort you put into the services you're providing.
You'll always come across customers who never view your services as "enough." These individuals will either cease being a customer or always demand more for their money. Remember, your ideal customer sees the value of your services.
3: Communicating With Them is Easy
Every brand wants to see a steady flow of customers. On top of that, it's ideal to find customers who are willing to provide honest feedback. Because you're running a customer-oriented business that's about relationship-building, communication is critical.
Customer feedback is the only way you can honestly improve your business. That's where customers have an opportunity to shine. They can tell you about their needs openly and without criticism.
4: They Return
It's no mystery that your existing customer base costs less than acquiring new ones. You'll also find that it's the best way of identifying your ideal customer avatar. When the competition is fierce, and your loyal customers stay, you can use them to figure out how to attract more.
When customers keep coming back, that signals loyalty. It's also a sign of an emotional connection to your brand. Your company is drawing them back even when competitors are doing everything they can to lure them away.
How a Customer Avatar Helps Your Business
Whenever you have direct interactions with a customer, it's critical to understand the avatar. Here's how the customer avatar is helpful to your catering and events business:
Content marketing: you'll understand which blog posts, infographics, lead magnets, podcasts, videos, and other marketing materials you should be building to attract and convert your avatar
Copywriting: all the content you write for your brand, including messaging, website content, advertising, email marketing, blog posts, social media posts, and so on will have the write descriptions to attract and entice your avatar to want to buy
Design choices: knowing your avatar means your design will suit their needs optimally. For example, if your avatar is female-focused, you can feature inspiring images. Or, if your audience is older, you can use larger fonts
Social media: understanding your avatar will help you determine which social media channels are most successful, what to post, how often, and when posts will receive the most engagement
You can fine-tune your marketing and sales processes when you have a better understanding of the person who has an interest in your services. Those messages will resonate and propel your avatar to want to choose your business.
You Can't Sell to Everyone
Even though it's a nice thought, it's impossible to sell to everyone. Even if your marketing budget has no limit, there's no way you could handle that kind of demand.
You're the leader of your catering and events business. That means you have the power to accept and turn away as many new customers as you want.
It's okay not to want to provide services to some people. If the idea of turning down business is frightening, think about it differently. For example, just because someone wants to give you money, that doesn't mean you have to accept it.
You'll know what I'm talking about if you've ever had experience with a nightmare client.
It's understandable to sell to anyone, and we've all made that mistake in the beginning. The trick is not repeating it because we fear we're going to run out of work. Instead, go back to that strategy we already discussed--knowing your services and who you're selling them to.
How to Develop Your Ideal Customer Avatar
Pinpointing your ideal customer avatar starts with understanding who they are and why they’re choosing your business. Here are some steps for developing your ideal customer avatar:
What Are Their Demographics?
When I'm trying to find customers I love working with, I brainstorm the following questions:
What's their age group?
What's their gender?
Where are they living?
How much are they earning?
What's their educational level?
Where do they work?
Are they married?
Do they have children?
What's Their Psychology?
Next, when I'm thinking about how to get dream clients, I continue the brainstorming process with these questions:
What is their attitude and personality traits?
Can I determine their values?
What are their hobbies and interests?
What kind of lifestyle do they live?
What are their dreams?
What are their fears?
Where Do They Hang Out?
The next step in the brainstorming process is figuring out where your ideal customer avatar hangs out. I ask myself:
Where do they go, or what do they like doing for fun?
What do they like reading?
Who are their favorite authors or books?
What blogs or websites are they checking out?
What events or places are they attending?
Which social media channels do they prefer hanging out on?
It's much easier to find your customers once you can answer these questions. When you can get an idea of where they hang out, you can get an idea of what solutions they're trying to find.
Dig a Little Deeper
Now it's time to use this information to dig a little deeper.
You're doing great, but let's keep going! You're about to hit gold!
The following set of questions will help you understand your avatar's feelings and motivations.
What problem are you solving for your avatar with your service?
Why do they want your service?
How does your service help them?
How does using your service make them feel?
How do they feel after using your service?
What happens during a typical day for your avatar?
What values does your avatar have?
How do those values relate to your services?
Who does your avatar consult with before making purchasing decisions?
What objections does your avatar have regarding choosing your services?
We've been discussing the use of a customer survey, and it's benefits—here's another example of where it's an excellent tool for mining for details. Choose your questions carefully. Gear them toward getting the data in this set of questions. Then, you can see your avatar's answers, in their words, that you can use to help write promotional copy later.
How to Use Your Ideal Customer Avatar
Creating and implementing a marketing strategy isn't easy. While the Internet and social media are making these marketing efforts more accessible, catering and events businesses still experience challenges.
When I'm trying to find customers I love working with; I try to create strategic content and marketing campaigns tailored to my ideal avatar. Knowing who this helps, but it can still be a challenge determining which campaign will convert.
It’s easy to think every customer is an ideal customer avatar. However, that isn’t true. Focus on how you can serve specific pain points within your B2B and B2C niches. Otherwise, you’ll fall into the trap of marketing to everyone and anyone—which means you’re reaching no one.
Once you know who your ideal customer avatar is, you must make sure you're aligning your company's branding, content, and messaging. Ask yourself the following questions:
Are you matching the images on your marketing materials, social media platforms, and website with that of your ideal customer avatar?
Are you writing your website copy, so it speaks directly to your ideal customer avatar's pain points?
Does your content seem lifeless, or are you writing in your voice to ensure it's authentic and "human?"
How Are You Helping Them?
Creating content and ensuring you're aligning everything according to your ideal customer avatar is one thing. However, if you're not thinking about how your catering and events company is helping them, then you're missing the mark. When I'm determining this, I ask myself:
What are the most significant problems my potential customer is trying to solve at the moment?
How can my catering and events business solve these problems?
When answering the first question, I try to put myself in my target audience's shoes. What are their biggest aspirations and dreams? What's stopping them from achieving them?
For example, my ideal customer avatar is a bride who wants to plan a destination wedding but doesn't have a budget to travel. So, she'd like to use catering and event planning to create a visually impactful and delicious "travel" experience for her guests.
I can help provide her with both of those solutions with my catering and events business. So, that would solve her problem on both levels.
Develop Your Content
It's a good idea to create content that meets the needs of your avatar. However, when writing social media posts, every single one of them doesn't have to focus on your avatar.
There's a magic to using social media and reaching your ideal avatar. That means you're not always reaching your best customer. It also means your best customer may not always be on your radar.
Therefore, your best strategy is to create more than one avatar. That way, your content is reaching a variety of customers. Other kinds of content will also dig deeply into an avatar's problems.
Each time you write content, it should focus on solving the avatar's problem using the communication style, channel, and content types that resonate with them.
Become a Thought Leader
This principle goes hand-in-hand with content creation. However, there are differences. Thought leadership is about how often your content is shared, quoted, and mentioned. When you're creating content, ask yourself if it's valuable enough for your audience to share.
When I think about thought leadership, I try to make it about ensuring the other person looks smart--not me. Yes, you're the one who is receiving credit for the work. However, they're the ones benefiting from driving value to their community.
Therefore, I can't emphasize the importance of creating quotable and sharable content that makes your avatar look smart.
Superior Customer Service
You can manage your community using excellent customer service with your avatar. The main reason is that their profiles are providing communication preferences and values you were able to identify for your customer base.
That's why you must do your homework. That way, you also know which social media channels to use to reach your avatar when they have questions.
I suggest that over-time, you should create a spreadsheet of the most common questions you receive from customers. Then, couple them with the responses that resonate the best.
Remember, personalized customer service is the key to providing excellent customer service. Your ideal customer avatar will love the "human" factor when receiving a "real" response, instead of one that's a copy and paste.
Now that you know how to know who your ideal customer is for your catering and events business, I’m looking forward to seeing how you develop your marketing materials to reach them and take your catering and events business to the next level!
If you need help along your journey, I suggest signing up for our Success Recipes weekly email. Then, you’ll receive my strategic know-how and insights for helping your business become a success. I also suggest signing up for my guide, Ideal Customer Avatars: A Comprehensive Guide.