Your grand opening event should be defined by a set of goals. What is the outcome you hope to achieve by holding this event? What is it that you want to happen?
Here are some goals to think about as you start planning:
• You want people to know who you are, where you are located, and what you offer. Not everyone will be able to attend your event, so it’s just as important for people to hear about the grand opening as it is for them to attend the grand opening. If they hear about it, there’s a good chance they will think about your store the next time they need something.
• You want to get people talking about you. The more they talk about you, the more you are on their minds and the more they will remember you the next time they need your specific product or service.
• You want to get people to come to the grand opening. At this stage, your business is your baby. You’ve worked hard to create a final product or service and you want to show people what you’ve worked so hard to accomplish. Getting them in the door will enable you to teach them more about your business and to show them what you have to offer.
• You want to build relationships with local officials and potential business partners. Customers aren’t the only people that will attend your unveiling. A grand opening opens up the potential to showcase your product or service to potential clients, business partners, investors, suppliers, and vendors. It’s a prime time to network and build relationships within the community.
Who Do You Want to Attend Your Grand Opening?
Grand openings can be a major source of publicity for your new venture, but that doesn’t mean that you should invite everyone. Narrowing down your target audience will depend on the type of business you have. Are you a specialized store that appeals to a niche market or do you offer goods and services that might have more mass appeal?
Here are some insights on what you should think about when inviting people to your grand opening:
• Budget – A big party is always fun, but it’s not always feasible. You want your marketing money to be as effective as possible by narrowing down who your ideal customer is and who is going to be most helpful in getting the word out about your new business. Your budget should equal 20 percent of the first-year marketing spend, with a minimum investment of $6,000; three quarters of this budget should be for advertising. For a more detailed explanation, email Teodora Thompson, Event Marketing Specialist at Miami Marketing Co. email@example.com
• City Officials – Inviting local officials will add credibility to your brand, but depending on the size of your community, these officials may be too busy to attend. It is a fact that if you are an important part of the community — creating jobs, increasing revenue growth, bringing in the tourist dollar — then you may have a better chance at getting these officials at your event.
• Your Network – You already have a connection with these people, so don’t be afraid to reach out to them. One key tip: Avoid selling them something. Approach them in a way that gives them a reason to care — networking opportunities or maybe even a special VIP discount for your closest contacts.
• Employees’ Network – When it comes to using your employees to help market your business: “They have their own network and that network has their own network. By offering a Friends and Family discount, you can build a good-sized crowd without spending a lot of money.” Networks multiply.
• Local Press – This is probably a no-brainer, but by inviting local press you’re not only checking off a huge marketing step, you are also adding value to your opening. If people think there may be a photo op or a chance at being quoted in the paper, they may want to attend.
• Customers – Who is your ideal customer? Women? Parents? Craftsmen? Other small businesses? By defining who will use your product or service, you can hone in on your marketing plan and use your money in a way that will be most effective.
Here are some other people you may want at your event: funders, company representatives, vendors, and members of other professional groups or business associations in your area. Do they fit into your business niche? Will they add value to your opening?
What Is Going to Draw People to Your Grand Opening?
You’ve determined your ideal outcome for the grand opening and narrowed down your target audience. Now it’s time to brainstorm how you might get these people in the door. Ask yourself, Why should people care about your grand opening?
How you lure people in is going to, again, depend on your business type, and you may need to implement more than one incentive to get people to attend. Grand openings present a great opportunity to offer your potential customers something to look forward to, but keep in mind this is a one-time thing. It may be tempting to offer incentives on a regular basis, but people will come to expect this, and that’s not what you want. You want them to experience your product, your customer service, and come back based on that — not the freebies.
Here are some ideas:
•Free samples of your product. If you are a food business, offer free food and drinks.
•A really big one-day sale. Something major. A 10 percent discount won’t entice people.
•Live entertainment. If you are a fashion company, roll out a red carpet and have a fashion show.
•Have a celebrity there that people can hear speak and/or meet.
•Talk to your local radio station and see if they can host a day of music at your site.
•Offer something for the kids. Make it an all-day event for the whole family.
•Free classes or maybe a free consultation if you offer a service.
•Give a free tour of your business’ facility. Let them see how it works.
•Have a contest with fun prizes that incorporate your business logo or name in some way (T-shirts, hats, umbrellas).
•Work with a charity and use your grand opening to help raise money. This connects your business to a good cause and the community.
For B2B businesses, your focus is going to be on the business community so having an event where people can network, get their picture taken with local officials, or even get their name in the paper is what you are going for. As mentioned above, offering a VIP discount printed on a card and mailed to your network is another way to make them feel exclusive. Kuhn reminds you to take advantage of the free mailing lists if you are a member of a professional organization. This is another great opportunity to offer VIP incentives and spread the word.
How Should You Market the Event?
Ah, marketing. It’s the lifeline for any event and your grand opening is no exception. There’s no sense having a grand opening if you’re not going to put a good amount of time and energy into marketing the event. It’s important to let people know what you are offering and why they should care about it.
There are three steps to marketing a grand opening:
1. Marketing before the event (keep in mind your target audience):
•Advertise locally. Send press releases to your local media and ask them about covering the grand opening the day of as well.
•Look into radio and billboard advertising. Be creative in your ads.
•Posting flyers and signage in popular places is also an effective way to generate interest.
•Facebook and other social media advertising. Publicize in ways you think your target audience will see, hear, and share.
•Send out direct mailings via the post office. This is an inexpensive way to target your audience by zip code.
•Reach out to your local network and local business organizations. Word-of-mouth can also be a powerful marketing tool.
2. Marketing the day of the event:
•Hand out flyers, balloons, or paper fans with the grand opening information printed on them.
•Post signs or have someone in your business uniform (T-shirt/hat) standing by the road with a sign.
•Advertise on the radio. Again, even if it doesn’t bring people to the actual event, people will hear the advertising and be more likely to remember you in the future.
•Post to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with live updates. Create a hashtag for your event (for instance, #mygrandopening). This connects attendees and leads their followers to a page full of images and posts all about your event, and subsequently, your business.
3. Marketing after the event:
•You want to keep the momentum going. The more people talking about the grand opening, the better. Encourage people to post about the grand opening on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Use the same hashtag for your event as you did the day of the event.
•Ask people to write reviews of your business via Yelp or Facebook. An incentive may come in handy here, too.
•Give people some kind of “thank you” for coming, such as a discount or a free item on their next visit. Use Facebook to post the offer or have coupons ready as people leave the opening.
•Send out a post-event press release to your local media. This lets people know what they missed and what they can expect from your business going forward.
How Should You Run the Event?
One decision you have to make is whether the grand opening will be the first time you open your business doors to the public or whether you should do a soft opening one to two weeks before. The latter allows you to test out what works and what doesn’t and fix any problems that may arise. Given the large attendance you expect at a grand opening, you don’t want those kinks to be exposed in front of everyone. Just be careful not to wait too long, otherwise it’s not a grand opening anymore.
Other areas you should think about ahead of time:
• Staffing – You don’t want to risk being understaffed. Your customers are expecting great customer service, and this is your chance to give them that from the start. If the event isn’t as successful as you thought, you can always send staff home.
• Parking – If your business has a parking lot, don’t assume this will be enough for a big event like a grand opening. You’ll want to have alternative, nearby options (and permissions) and give instructions to parking in your advertising before the event. Make it easy for the community to attend.
• Permits and Licenses – It’s a good idea to check with your local office to see what ordinances may prevent you from throwing a great grand opening. You’ll want to consider the size of your expected crowd, noise levels, the aforementioned parking, and the activities you have planned. They may all require a permit or a license to happen.
• No-shows – The turnout at your grand opening isn’t guaranteed. What happens if few people show up? It’s wise to make sure you have enough friends and family there so there is always a base level of people while other attendees come and go. The last thing you want is people feeling awkward or on display.
• Ribbon Cutting – If you are going to have a public official or press present for a photo opportunity, you will want to have a ribbon cutting. If not, then you may not want to do an official cutting. If you decide to do a ribbon cutting, your local Chamber of Commerce can usually provide the ribbon and the scissors.
What Are the Proper Expectations Regarding Your Grand Opening?
A final thing to think about prior to your grand opening is your expectations. Every entrepreneur thinks their product or service is the best, but that doesn’t guarantee success. You should be realistic with your goals and the outcome of your grand opening. There will be things that work and things that don’t work. Make note of these details and take feedback from your employees and customers. Learn from this experience and strive to make your next store opening even better!
To speak to a grand opening marketing specialist Teodora Thompson, please call 305-389-0566.
Many thanks to contributor: AllBusiness, Scott Kuhn