Would buying online ads to promote your catering business be an effective way to reach new customers, or a waste of time and money?
Traffic from online advertising is always going to be unpredictable and there are a lot of things that can be done wrong that will limit your results.
That said, if you are willing to put the time and money into running a campaign, it could build your customer base and ensure that you are not losing traffic to competitors.
Here are 5 things to consider before you start spending on online advertising...
1. How much does online advertising for a restaurant cost?
Online advertising works like an auction, so the cost varies. You can’t just pay an amount up front in exchange for a certain number of clicks through to your website. If a lot of people are competing in your field, the cost of winning the auction to appear before the potential customer will be higher.
Other factors that affect the CPC (cost per click) are competitiveness of location (cities are more expensive than towns), ad quality (ads that haven’t tempted people to click in the past are less likely to win the auction), and conversion value (people can afford to bid higher for big-ticket items). Different advertising platforms also vary according to how much competition there is to win the auction - if nobody is bidding then you’ll win easily, but it’s also likely that not many prospects are looking.
As a ballpark figure, you can expect to pay around $2 per click in the restaurant industry. Remember that this is just to get the person to view your website - it’s up to the quality of your site then to convert them into customers. Advertising platforms will be able to track this as well though, making it possible to calculate the cost per sale. This is why analytics are crucial...
2. Tracking prospects
You will need to have a system for tracking the behaviour of people on your site, so that you can measure the success of your advertising. Each advertising platform provides a free way to do this, with Google Analytics being perhaps the most useful and powerful. It’s also the most complex though, so if you’re only advertising through Facebook, their Pixel might be enough for you.
3. A good landing page
If you’re paying for traffic, you need to be sure that people will like what they see when they arrive. There’s no point throwing money at paid ads if people don’t buy anything when they arrive.
Having a good online presence doesn’t require hiring an expensive web developer. People are looking for catering - not a beautiful state-of-the-art digital experience. The most impressive thing you can do is provide the information they are looking for. This can be done for free with a company facebook page, or cheaply through Wordpress/Wix/Weebly etc. Starting from scratch, you can be up and running in a matter of hours. Here's a tweet I saw get some traction recently among people that want restaurant websites to be cheap and functional...
4. How much time will I need to spend?
Even if you are pretty tech-savvy, learning an advertising system will not happen overnight. You can be up and running in a day though and many of the features of an advertising platform will be above and beyond what you need.
Working your way around the system is time-consuming, and it’s just the beginning. Once an ad campaign is up and running it still requires a lot of your time. You need to be ready to check in on the performance of the campaign regularly to improve targeting and avoid spending money on ads that aren’t working. You also need to be ready to stop entire campaigns if they are not working - you might discover that whole channels are just not worth pursuing customers through.
5. Are you ready for growth
It may seem optimistic, but it’s worth thinking about whether you will be able to handle the increased traffic that will come if your advertising goes well.
Don’t risk putting people off by being unable to offer great service when they first ask for it. One of the reasons people like running their catering on Spoonfed as soon as they open for business is that the system is ready to scale up as needed - no need to struggle with taking on a new system in response to greater demand right when you need to focus on providing great service.
Restaurant Online Advertising - Is it worth it?
We believe that most caterers would benefit from online advertising, but you need time to start it and monitor performance, and you need to be somewhat tech-savvy. Time, in particular, feels like a limited resource for most caterers.
It also has to be done right. If you aren’t targeting your potential customers properly, by using niche keywords and not bidding on areas you can’t win, costs can inflate pretty quickly with not much to show for them.
And there are other ways to promote your business. We have always maintained that free samples are one of the most effective ways to build up your customer base. This is a promotion channel that plays to your strengths (you already know how to prepare great food), and targeting is much easier (the office down the road is down the road, while online ads might end up showing your ads to a totally inappropriate audience). Just remember to leave branded napkins or something that lets people know who made the samples!
If you’d like to know more about Spoonfed, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to talk about how you can scale up your catering business.