How to Host a Killer Grand-Opening Event

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How do you host a killer grand-opening event that doesn’t kill your business? Forget the balloons and focus on conversions.

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.

But wait.

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.

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Planning your grand-opening party is a lot of work, but if done right, it can be what paves the way for your success.

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:

The bakery

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.

Will you use these grand-opening ideas for your own event?

About the Author

Lisa Kasanicky

Lisa is a freelance writer for Scott's Marketplace and the creator of Arizona Spa Girls, a website dedicated to beauty and wellness. With a writing career that spans more than 20 years, she is author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Girlfriend Getaways," a beauty columnist and freelance writer for hire. In 2006, she co-founded and produced an award-winning event series that advocated local businesses while raising funds for a local charity. Follow her adventures in beauty and relaxation on Google+ and Twitter.

Comments

  1. Susan says

    Lisa, What would you suggest for the opening of a new firehouse? The firefighters are volunteer and the building is paid by taxpayer dollars? So we are on a budget, but want to make it fun for everyone? Any tips greatly appreciated….

    • Shannon Willoby says

      Hi Susan! You might be able to get a local bakery to donate some goodies in exchange for a little publicity. (They could collect names/email addresses as well for a raffle for attendees, helping to build their email list!) Other local business owners might want to get in on the action as well by donating a product or two to be raffled off to attendees. Free pictures with firefighters or a picture in the fire truck (if allowed) would be fun for the community and wouldn’t cost anything. (Perhaps a local photographer would do this in exchange for the exposure.) Tours of the new station would be a fun, free activity for attendees as well. Hope that helps!

  2. says

    Lisa, What would you suggest for a new Princess Tea Party Birthday Party venue grand opening event? Any tips would be most helpful. I have been currently open for the last 2 years doing mobile parties and am now opening a venue to host the parties as well as walk in options, and monthly events. We have a very loyal fan base on social media.

    • Desh says

      To recreate your favorite princess movie and maybe have your outside lit up too. (Stringed lights are always a go) are just some ideas to make the place seem really royal for your tea party theme the specified motif for the grand opening anyway would be to have your customers dress in ball gowns to help them get into the idea next thing you know they’d just come up for a spot of tea randomly. Pip pip horray for you you now have your loyalists a hang out where they give you money 🙂 #winwin #capital #federalismatitsbest

  3. Rebecca Stohl says

    I was seeing if you had any suggestions on opening a food truck. We have a regular spot to set up. We want to get people to know We are there and have amazing food at a low cost. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    • Shannon Willoby says

      Hi Rebecca! Social media would be a great tool for you to announce locations of your food truck, specials, contests, etc. I’d work hard on finding out what channels will perform best for you, but I can see Facebook and Instagram being great, visual ways for you to show what you have to offer and entice customers to come out and buy!

  4. Kari says

    Loved your article! Thanks for the great input & suggestions. Do you have any suggestions for a activewear & accessory pop-up launch? I will be open 1 wk of every month but with the launch party just the one time (the evening before my first pop-up starts) thanks for the help!!

  5. Kartik says

    This is a great article. Thank you very much. I want to launch a dental clinic and have no clue what to do for grand opening. I know this is a bit different and more challenging then the regular stores as a lot of people don’t like dentists. Any feedback will be appreciated.

  6. Tunu says

    Hello Lisa,
    Beautiful ideas you gave up there.
    Kindly help me out with ideas/games to make a success the launch of a BOUTIQUE.

    Kartik,
    i cant say am sooooo much of an expert but i got 1-2 few ideas, mayb they might work;
    Medical is a field that intimidates a lil bit but you can make the launch less uptight, and interact a lot with your potential patients, let them ask you related quetions and u can as well do a brief dental educative presentation as well as performing FREE dental check ups and informative advices that will assure you they will be back for the gental dental checkup, as well as advices on the same.
    Making it less uptight, interactive and informative, will def bring them back with their friends and the friends of their friends.
    ALL THE BEST!!!!!!!

  7. Ahsan says

    Hi. I am from Maldives and we are about to launch our new store by next month with Tvs and related products. Any suggestions on making it better

  8. Alynne says

    This is a pretty great article… I am stumped trying to plan a small music studio grand opening… we have three studio rooms and a waiting area.
    Our space is small but our teachers are great!! We can’t really get a band in here.. we were thinking having some of the existing students perform a recital or two through out the day. Renting a space is going to cost too much, and we put a lot of work into creating our little space so I want to try and pack people in here without them feeling claustrophobic…
    I do a lot of baking so I’m going to be making a lot of the goodies for the day… because it will be rather chilly I was thinking of doing a hot cocoa/coffee/cider bar…thoughts?

    • Shannon Willoby says

      I love all your ideas, Alynne! A hot cocoa/coffee/cider bar + goodies sounds great and I think it’s awesome to have recitals. Maybe you could do a giveaway (must be present to win) of a couple free lessons? That is enticing to get people there, and then keep them there for a bit with the free goodies and music.

  9. Deann Schneck says

    I’m opening a paint and sip style art studio where people paint beautiful pictures step by step. We’re kicking it off with a Harry Potter event, they’ll be 2 separate sessions, one in the afternoon for families and children and another in the evening for adults and BYOB. Any suggestions for me?

  10. Benny says

    Hi,anyone have any idea what activities are suitable for an orange juice vending machine grand opening????

  11. says

    Hi Lisa this is a great article! Much appreciated. I have a grand openning for my mattress shop in 3 weeks, any ideas about getting the invitees to attend? I was thinking of a raffle but anything else?

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