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Smart holiday marketing

Question:

I want to market holiday parties better but I don’t want to go with a cheesy newspaper ad. Any ideas?

– Abby Billek Singh, Owner, Canteen 900, Forty Fort, PA

Answer:

‘Tis the season to book holiday parties! It is probably smart to avoid a traditional newspaper ad. Natalie Kalb, Director of Marketing and PR at Mercadito Hospitality, based in Chicago, says, “No one uses newspaper ads any more.”

In addition to the declining newspaper market in most cities, newspapers target the general population. The challenge with booking holiday parties is that you are marketing to the business community. Further, in each company there is typically one key decision maker. Unlike the person who makes the office supply, coffee, or computer brand decisions, though, that person may be challenging to identify and may range from the CEO, to an administrative assistant, to an accountant with a knack for party planning.

There are a number of good strategies I have seen to get the business community to think of you as a go-to place for holiday parties:

Business media. If you are going to go with a print advertisement, rather than a newspaper read by the general public, advertise in chamber of commerce publications or with regional trade publications.

Leverage your guests. Any guest you have is a potential catering client. Make sure from Labor Day on, every guest in your restaurant knows you are a great place for holiday parties through signage, notes on the menu or messages on the check.

Package extras. Without crossing over into the realm of kickbacks, think of adding other things event planners will value in pricing your events. For example, consider including a gift certificate for a dinner for two or a gift basket of private label coffee and tea in the party package that can be awarded as a door prize or raffled for charity.

Cater business meetings. Offer to cater or host local chamber meetings, rotary events, or seminars so the business community sees your space and can be impressed by your food and service.

Christmas in September. If you can get a list of office event planners, host a mock holiday party for them to show off what you can do.

Yelp/tweet the party. Employees have a great time at holiday parties—especially because someone else is picking up the check. Encourage jubilant party guests to post their review so others think of you as a perfect venue. 

These are just a few ideas to start. I would love to hear from operators who have tried other things.  One final piece of advice—offer a discount for an annual event. Once you have sold one holiday party, try to book next year’s party early to make your restaurant part of a company’s annual tradition.

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