How can you diversify a catering business, and what marketing strategies will help?

I have been putting a lot of hours into diversifying our business this week. Chancellor Rushi Sunak’s announcement that the government is going to spend £30 Billion to try and bolster the economy again led to many musings in my mind. They certainly gave impetus to my current aim to diversify our catering business. If, like us, you are in the catering industry and are wanting to find ways of making money in our Covid-19 stricken economy, hopefully you have already started to think about how to diversify your business. We have already touched on some of these ideas in our blog post: How will Covid-19 change the catering industry?

Diversification could lead to a totally new business.

But what if your idea for diversifying transforms into a completely new business in another sector that ties in with your knowledge base? There are certainly merits in thinking of a business model that might compliment what you are already doing and using it to bolster an area in your current business that is struggling.

So, a catering company might decide to set up a cake shop, grocery or a bakery. They may go in a different direction and create a cookery school and work in partnership with local colleges as well as the public. Another idea might to try and launch a product range in local farm shop. There are a myriad of ways a catering company owner could use their knowledge of food and people to set up a new complimentary business.

If that is the case, and you do end up trying to set up a new business, you will need a new business name and “brand”, as the marketing industry calls it. There are few steps you can take when deciding on a new name that will instantly help any new business move sharply off the starting blocks.

Why is branding so important?

Now, if you want to get technical, a brand is more than just a name. The marketing world includes your business name in the catch all phrase “your brand”, but it also describes the personality that your business has when viewed from the outside (and hopefully the inside too). There are lots of techniques that the marketing world uses to convey this personality to your customer base. For example, your logo, website and slogan all play a part in trying to conjure up a connection with potential customers.

Now, before you ridicule this as marketing nonsense, there is much sense in this. Gone are the days where people lived in little villages and knew the name of every business owner in town. In years gone by, you could get away with naming a company “Mr Jones the Baker” and surviving due to lack of competition in your village. No-one knew any better; they couldn’t compare your prices with those of the baker in the neighbouring village, nor could they travel easily to buy from said business owner.

Nowadays, in the time of the internet, people can compare you with another similar business and drive to the one they think will give them a better deal. All the more reason to ensure that the first thing they read – your business name – catches their attention as effectively as possible.

So, in order to determine what brand would be best for your business, it is always wise to have someone complete a brand proposal and evaluation. A digital marketing agency or freelancer can do this for you. If you are wanting to watch the pennies, a freelancer will probably complete one for a one-off fee.

So, what will a brand proposal and evaluation contain? Here is a description of the first stage of such an evaluation and proposal.

Describe your business

The first stage will be for you to give the agency a brief as to what type of business you want to create. Try and stick to the pertinent details, such as business sector, services or products you will sell, location, number of staff and other outline details. Let’s think about our village baker again. The brief might read something like, “A bakery store, open early morning to catch the morning commute 7am-2pm, Monday-Friday and 9am-3pm on a Saturday. The store is located in a little village on the outskirt of a larger city. It is family run, with the husband and wife baking and selling the bread. There is scope to hire in a non-family member for busy periods.”

Based on this information, the digital agency should then analyse the current market trends for this sector. They should be able to give you information such as:

  • Your local competitors (in the city centre, but also other surrounding villages) and the state of their online presence (do they have a website or social media presence?)
  • The branding used by other similar businesses (for example: business names, reoccurring themes in their branding that seem to work in your sector).
  • Some of the keywords people search for when trying to find a bakery. (For example, “Cupcake central” or “Miss Smith’s Bakery”)

Customer Journeys

They should also be able to provide you with a basic customer journey. This is a technique that helps you get into the mindset of potential customers and what they experience when seeking out bakers in your area. They may also write some user personas to help them get into this mindset. The main purpose of user personas and customer journeys is to try and think of the process people go through when choosing one business over another and then their experience when using that business. This is such a huge topic, that it deserves a blog post in and of itself. We will be looking at this is more detail next month.

Brand Recommendations

The next step a good digital marketer or marketing company should take is to offer a few ideas for a business name. There should be an explanation behind each name and how the user personas, customer journeys and research of your competitors have informed these names.

A good company should use sound SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) principles to inform these descriptions. For example, if a name like “Village Bakery” is really common as a baker’s name, it’s not going to be easy to rank in the top 5 on search engine results pages; too many companies that have been around longer than you are going to rank more highly just because they will have a more established internet presence.

Next Steps…

At this point, it will be over to you, as the business owner, to decide what name best encapsulates your business. It’s important to consider all of the information that the proposal and evaluation has included.

Once you’ve decided on a name, you can instruct your company to design a logo and website for your company. Then you can set up social media accounts and start a blog to help your website rank well on search engines.

Challenging Circumstances can lead to Big Ideas

All the way through this crisis, I have always tried to encourage those around me to use these times as a catalyst for change. What starts out as a brainstorming session on how to diversify your current business can mutate into a new idea or direction that transforms your business model and prospects. Thinking big and stepping out to try a new idea might be a way we in the catering industry can survive.