All businesses, including culinary businesses go through periods when numbers are a bit lower than they were last month or maybe even a few months before. Business fluctuates for many reasons depending on consumer buying behavior, the time of year, competition etc. There are many factors, but I find that for most chefs their numbers really start to plummet in the summer, particularly for personal chefs who offer prepared meals either in the home or delivered from a commercial kitchen.
For many years, my summers were often slow and I would panic when school got out because I knew that meant that I would lose some of my clients as they went and traveled with their family or they didn’t need as much food. Well this last summer, things have not slowed down for me like they have in years past. There could be many reasons why, but I know that continuing to invest in marketing has been a huge factor in keeping things steady. I have had some of my coaching clients call me in almost a panic mode explaining that their client load is low and that they are not sure what to do.
When you find that your revenue has dropped and you aren’t serving as many clients as you need to in order to keep your head above water, I want you to ask yourself these 5 questions:
1) What has helped me get new clients in the past?
Take a look at your ideal clients and review where they found you. Was it a magazine ad? Google? Event? Facebook Ad? Whatever is is, make a note of it and go back to what has worked in the past. I think sometimes chefs assume they constantly have to be coming up with new marketing ideas (and there is definitely a time and place for that) but do what works and invest in what you know has helped bring you clients before. Don’t be afraid to even ask for referrals from some of your best clients.
2) What am I currently doing to market the particular service that is low on clients?
This might be an obvious question but I am a little shocked when chefs come to wondering why they aren’t getting clients and then I find out later they haven’t been doing much in terms of marketing. You don’t just invest in marketing when you need a boost in clients, it’s something you do year round to constantly be bringing in new leads and clients on a consistent basis. That’s what is great about marketing campaigns – when you have a plan in place you don’t have to worry about what you should do next. You already have a game plan for how you’re going to get new clients.
3) Am I sending out regular emails to my list of leads?
I find that a lot of culinary business owners neglect their email list. What I mean by that, is often you have a bunch of people who have signed up for an opt-in on your website but you forget that they are potential clients! Do you send out regular emails to them? There is no magic number of emails, but some marketing agencies have suggested at least 4 times a month. You don’t want to become annoying and just send emails to send them, but do your leads know about the benefits of your service? Are you helping to remove doubts/fears in their mind? Do they know how your service works? Have you delivered value to them and offered content without wanting something in return?
If you want to turn your leads into customers, you have to build a relationship with them and marketing gurus have proven time and time again email marketing has the highest ROI of all your marketing efforts. The reason why is that it requires no money to put together and the results can be new clients and sales!
4) Am I taking an opportunity to upsell my current clients?
It’s always easier to sell more to clients who already know you and trust your product/service. That is why each summer I try to find a way that I can upsell my clients. This summer I came up with a smoothie promotion that they can add fresh prepared smoothies to their weekly meal delivery for just $21 extra. Let me tell you, I definitely got a few bites! Was it a huge increase in revenue? No, but I’m making more money than I was yesterday and I’m able to gauge who is open for upsells in the future.
5) Am I posting beautiful pictures of my food regularly on social media?
Social media can be overwhelming. To stay top of mind, you really have to post every day on social media platforms or else other businesses will get the worm so to speak. Sometimes getting new clients is as simple as posting amazing pictures of your food. Do you invest in a food photographer for your business or at least use photo and editing apps on your phone so that your photos look more polished? I see a lot of chefs posting dark, ugly photos of their food and it really doesn’t do their food or brand justice! On the flip side, an amazing photo of your food will sell itself. Believe me, we have gotten a handful of clients from Instagram and Facebook simply because they saw a post and the food caught their attention. We are in a visual business so be visual!
Of course, there are many other questions you can ask yourself when your client load is low, but these are a few to get you thinking! It really comes down to whether you are making an effort to stay top of mind and reach your ideal clients. Clients are not going to magically appear, they are either going to find you through great SEO on your website, through social media and other marketing channels. Maybe you need to put together a summer promotion to incentivize people to sign up for services when they otherwise wouldn’t.
Are you lost as to what to do with your culinary business next? Don’t worry, you are not alone. I have found that it’s easier to accomplish your goals and create your dream business when you have a community of chefs and a coach who is there to support you and offer expertise. Learn more about my culinary business coaching programs.