Cue the balloons, sound the trumpets, and roll out the red carpet. After months of slaving away to make your dream a reality, the time has finally come to welcome your throngs of new customers. Let the celebration planning begin.
You do understand the undeniably sticky power of first impressions? The devastating effects a less-than-stellar public reception can make on your business. (You’ve heard of Yelp, right)? And the often exorbitant expense associated with those balloons, trumpets, and red carpets?
I’m not here to rain on your grand-opening parade. You’ve earned this day. So don’t blow it.
Keep Your Mind on What Matters
Focus less on the festivities and more on strategy, ROI, what your potential customers really want, and how to convert them into long-term loyalists. If, like most small businesses, you don’t have the budget to throw an epic extravaganza, these affordable grand-opening ideas are for you.
As a small business owner myself, I’ve seen plenty of money go down the drain along with the party punch. I’ve worked with dozens of businesses to plan events that tie directly to converting event guests to customers.
Successful events aren’t as much about cutting a ribbon with a giant pair of scissors or landing the hottest DJ in town these days — the modern grand-opening event creates a relationship with your potential customer base by offering them value and making a positive first impression from the get-go.
Let’s dig in.
Start at the end.
grand-opening events have one basic goal: let people know you’re there. But why throw a party just to let locals know you’re open for business? Why should they care? Determine what you want these potential new customers to know about you and what actions you want them to take. Use this as your starting point.
Say, for example, you’ve opened a bakery. Your number one priority is getting anyone within a 50-mile radius to salivate over the thought of your signature red velvet cupcakes, your secret-recipe pies, your beautifully handcrafted confections. Right?
Then, your marketing efforts and event budget should be 100% focused on getting your goods into people’s mouths. Those people — should they like what they taste — are your initial circle of brand marketers.
Or, let’s say you’ve opened a charming boutique with locally crafted jewelry, accessories, and home trinkets. You want patrons to buy into your unique selling proposition — supporting local artists by committing a sacred space to their creations.
You want them to love you for being a hub for local artists and to be proud to wear and display your wares.
One final example. If you provide any type of service — hair cuts, facials, massage, manicures, teeth whitening, fitness training, toe readings (yes, that’s a real thing) — whatever it is, you want to be top of mind for the next time locals are in need of that service.
Your goal is to ensure them they’re in good hands — literally.
Pinpoint that big, juicy goal for your event, envision it and work backward from there.
Map out your event.
You’re no dummy. You know not to plan your event during a busy holiday or a time when locals will be out of town.
Of course, you’ll want to nail down that perfect day or weekend but more importantly, you want to structure your event in a way that inspires your guests to take the actions you’ve determined in your first step.
The three basic elements of an effectively structured event are:
- A reason for people to go (free or highly discounted stuff).
- A reason for them come to back (return incentives and upsells).
- A mechanism for you to capture their name and contact info (raffles and giveaways).
Let’s look at ideas for our three grand-opening scenarios:
Think free tastings, loyalty cards, and special event return incentives. Decide on one day, one weekend, or one evening where you’ll invite guests to sample your delicious confections. Make it interactive.
Have guests rate each sample and give feedback on a raffle entry form to win a free basket of goodies. As guests leave, hand out small branded bags with a to-go sample and a professionally printed business card that has an offer for buy-one-get-one-free pies, a complimentary birthday cupcake, or a loyalty punch card (or all the above). Zazzle.com offers cute loyalty cards at a decent price.
The local artists accessory store
Think one-time-only purchase incentives and creating a personal rapport with each guest. Consider a Saturday or Sunday (if you’re usually open Sundays) and have artists on-hand to share their inspirations or demo their crafting process. Offer purchase incentives like buy one piece, get a $25 gift card or 25% off all purchases.
If the price is right, guests will walk out with two or three pieces and a great story. Don’t forget the raffle form to capture their contact info! Give away three gift certificates of say, $50 each, so winners can pick out what they want (and possibly spend more than $50 or give it to a friend). From my experience, more people will enter if they know their chances of winning are higher.
The service-oriented business (like a salon)
Think hands-on complimentary or highly discounted services (or a mixture of both) and package upsells. Consider providing your signature services for 50% off for one weekend only. I’ve seen this done successfully by a local spray-tanning business.
The owner ran her grand-opening event from a Friday through a Sunday and booked every slot available on her schedule by offering $15 spray tans and 50% off teeth whitening services. She gave guests a goody bag with free samples from her product reps, a $10-off card, and limited-time package incentives. She collected contact info through her booking software.
Go Forth and Plan
Next up in this two-part series, we’ll tackle the big questions of food and entertainment and how to monetize your event. Until then, let me know your questions or share your creative ideas for grand-opening events in the comments section below.