Five reasons contract caterers should have a digital media strategy for customers.

1. Increased brand recognition

Digital media can help customers’ perception that an in-house contractor has High St. credentials and is not just the ‘canteen’. As more High street operators move in to the contractor’s space. This will become even more important.

We have noticed that customers are “purchasing with purpose”. Customers want to know about our ethical credentials and supply chain, and more than ever before. You can’t pack all this in to a piece of POS or a menu. Digital media supplements and provides a richer picture of all that we do – and enhances our brand.

To attract and retain the best team members you need to have strong brand, social media is one of the ways you can do this

Active social media implies ‘proof of trust’ to google – which is another aspect to maintaining brand recognition

2. Increased brand loyalty

Social media allows you to provide Instant responses to customer’s comments and requests. Brand loyalty traditionally came from WOM (word of mouth). Social and digital media is a natural extension of this. Market research proves that companies who engage in conversations with their followers are the most likely to gain brand loyalty from those individuals.

Mobile provides opportunities like mobile loyalty apps – they provide digital media with purpose, they save on the earth’s resources and they are much more convenient for customers.

Team members are a key audience and without them we can’t provide a contract catering service. Highlighting their achievements and providing recognition builds loyalty, which is essential in an age of recruitment challenges or the war for talent.

3. More opportunities to convert customers

Every post you make on a social media platform is an opportunity to gain a customer.

When you build a following, you’ll simultaneously have access to new customers, recent customers, and old customers, and you’ll be able to interact with all of them and their followers.

The Dunbar number says we all actually really know 150 people-and if they all know 150 people that’s 22,500 people very close to you.

Evidence suggests a higher number of social media followers tends to improve trust and credibility in your brand, representing “social proof”. This is because people tend to ‘show-off’ or pay compliments on social media, so the more of them you have, the more valuable and authoritative your brand will seem to new users and your network.

To precisely target your customers you can choose from a wide range of channels- including Instagram, Twitter, mobile app, blog etc. to pick the one(s) that most fit your target audience

4. Provides a richer customer experience

In 2013, 30% of millennials posted a food picture to a social media network every week, in 2016 this has increased to 64%.

In contract catering we are lucky to work with an eminently sharable subject -food, everyone loves talking about it on social media. It shouts everything from “I am healthy”, “I am naughty” (look at these cakes), I am treating myself (look at me at a top restaurant), “look what I made” (aren’t I clever) to “I am going on a diet!” And the proof? There are 300 million food photos on Instagram. In context, there are 57 million travel photos and 69 million sunsets. Food is only beaten by a mere 16 million extra selfies at 516 million.

Customers’ expectations don’t change when they come to work, they want the same benefits and convenience that social media provides to them outside work. Customers have this expectation and we need to deliver it.

Social media gives customer engagement opportunities and they want their voice to be heard. If a customer is unhappy, apologise publicly, address their concerns and put it right immediately. And if they compliment you, you can say thank you. This is what makes it a personal experience.

Use digital on a mobile app with menus, specials, opening hours, pre-ordering, feedback and payment to provide customers with everything they need.

Remember your internal audience, you have to “talk” in their language. What millennial uses emails now?  It’s all snapchat or messenger apps or photos on Instagram. We used this insight to develop an internal system for our chefs for sharing their photos. We called it Pearogram and it works exceptionally well. It’s on the home page of our MIS, so it’s a great way to engage, by supplementing ‘serious’ information on an informal chat –like, Instagram style forum. It’s an opportunity to share best practice and drives up standards. It brings in an element of competition and engenders a sense of pride. We have harnessed the modern way people communicate with one another to improve our business.

5.  Improves customer insights

Customers are discussing brands, companies, and experiences on social media all the time. Customers don’t pick up a phone any more to call a help line, the vast majority turn to Facebook, Twitter  etc., to provide real-time feedback. We could tell straight away what customers thought of Perkee our Fairtrade and sustainable coffee because they were tweeting within minutes of it launching.

Customers engaging in social media often do so in a more detailed and authentic manner. As a result, the source of information is often faster and more accurate than traditional methods of generating consumer insight. When you develop new concepts like we do there’s a wealth of information on social media to inform our thinking. We have recently used insight gathered on social media to improve and broaden our veggie, vegan and gluten free ranges. We have made our customers part of the story- they asked for a bigger range, we said “Ok, why don’t you come and join the testing panel?”- and they have.

Think of all the food commentators, experts and influencers all in the same place – what are they talking about or sharing? think how you can you leverage this?

TIMITI

Measure and track what customers engage with. Henry Ford used to say half his ad spend was wasted but he didn’t know which half. I know absolutely which posts engage and which ones don’t, I know if they are shared, clicked on etc. I know what to do more of and what to drop. We use the RULE TIMITI, Try it , measure it, tweak it.

Read Lin’s ideas for creating social media to SELL, SERVE, SPEAK, SAVE & SIZZLE here.

This is a transcript of a presentation made by Lin Dickens to the BIFM catering SIG held on 13th September at Salters’ Hall.

Marketing Director

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