A grand opening is a thrilling time in your life, and an exciting landmark in your journey as an entrepreneur. If you’ve reached this point, odds are that you’ve put tons of mental, physical, and emotional labor into getting to this point. You may have even spent years turning your business from a pipe dream, to a hobby, to a business plan, to a real-life store!
For most people, this is just the beginning of your business’s story. But for you, this is the culmination of everything you’ve poured yourself into, for ages.
So how do you make it go right? How do you prepare as much as possible, so that you have the best grand opening you can?
Whatever your business does, however your grand opening goes, you want to make sure that you give it your all. Do your homework, make a solid plan, and execute on it to help give yourself the greatest odds for success that you can. And however those odds play out, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’ve done everything you could.
Consider a soft opening first
Grand openings can be a huge source of good publicity, whether that’s local press or word of mouth. But you may not want the grand opening to be your actual first day of business. A “soft opening” sees you open the business a little bit before the big “grand opening” event. You can still market your business. In fact, you should be marketing, leading up to the event itself. But the actual shindig should be a few weeks out from when you first open your doors.
A soft opening has a lot of benefits. For one, a couple of weeks quietly running the shop will give you time for event planning, while still bringing in some revenue. You don’t just have your space and your inventory sitting idle. You can plan and execute the opening, and then dedicate time and mental space for the grand opening itself.
For another, if your grand opening is a success, you’ll have a lot of customers showing up. You don’t want to be learning the ropes and dealing with that big influx of business. Soft-opening for a couple of weeks gives you a chance to really familiarize yourself with the layout that you’ve developed, make sure that you know how to work the point of sale system, and more, in a relatively low-pressure setting. That way, when the grand opening comes, you know you’re ready for it.
Make a good first impression
One advantage of the soft opening is that you make sure you can put your best foot forward. But even if you open the doors for the first time to have a grand opening, take time to make sure that the place is at its peak. Make sure your store is easily navigable. Make sure that your merchandise is well-organized, and easy to reach. And make sure that your store is clean. (Consider bringing in janitorial services for that one.)
If you’ve been test-driving your business for friends and relatives, that’s fantastic! But the people seeing your store are starting from a clean slate. They don’t know you the way other people do. Your talent and charisma may speak for themselves, but your store is going to do the talking before your customers even have a chance to say hello to you.
Know how to market
There are plenty of ways to market both your business and your event, and if you aren’t working that angle thoughtfully and often, then you aren’t doing everything you can to set yourself up for success. Marketing can be a frustratingly obtuse world, but you can learn it.
Social media marketing
One crucial part of reaching people is to have a solid social media marketingstrategy. Paid social media marketing can be very effective at targeting people you think would be interested. But there are also more basic social media techniques, from branded hashtags to making sure that your grand opening has a Facebook event page.
There are other things you can do to get the word out locally. Are there any local press groups, from websites to local periodicals, that might cover you? Would local restaurants let you put up fliers or table tents? Can you afford a local TV spot? Can you partner with a local charity in some way for your grand opening event? Not all marketing is online, especially when it comes to community-based events.
Market the business as well as the event
You want people to come to the opening, but even if they can’t make it on that day, you want them to know who you are, what you do, and how to find you. Make sure that in addition to saying “grand opening!” that you also communicate what your business is for people who want to find you later.
You should absolutely be paying vendors and marketing partners for the services you provide. They’re local business owners, just like you, and they deserve to be paid for their hard work.
That said, you need to consider your budget. You may not be able to do everything you want to do, or you may need to get creative in order to incorporate everything you want, depending on what your budget is. Your budget should be no more than 20% of your marketing budget for the first year. And you should spend a significant portion of THAT budget advertising the event, in addition to paying for it.
Build allies in the community
A grand opening is a great chance to partner with other local organizations. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
– Can you showcase other local businesses? For instance, if you’re a local retail shop, can you get a local caterer or food truck to show up? If you’re a restaurant, could you host a giveaway in conjunction with another local business, or could you have a raffle for a local charity?
– Can you get any local celebrities or officials to attend? (If you’re creating jobs, local officials might be happy to come by, though depending on the size of your community, this may or may not be easy for them to do.)
– Can you partner with your local Chamber of Commerce of small business alliance? Are there startup incubators who can help you make connections and get off the ground?
Plan the event itself
So it’s an opening! But what makes it a GRAND opening? Will there be food and drink? Will there be special pricing or discounts? If you’re going to hype this as an event, you need to be ready to really make it an event.
But at the same time, ask yourself: Who is this for? If you just want to have a celebration, that’s understandable! You’ve worked hard to get to this point. But you may be just as well off doing that with a few friends. If you’re trying to bring in customers, think about who you’re targeting as a customer and what they would want, rather than just what would generate buzz.
You don’t need to go off the rails. A simple open house might do the trick. But if you look at some of the other resources we’ve discussed – including tapping local resources and relationships – you may be able to find a great way to pull off a memorable opening, without spending a ton of money. An event planner might be a good idea. But at the same time, that’s one more expense, so it may or may not be the best call!
A good grand opening can be a wonderful kickstart to your business. Just remember to be thoughtful about the timing, marketing, and planning. Seek out resources in the local community that you can partner with, or who can assist you. Set a smart budget, and acknowledge that while this is a valid marketing expense, it doesn’t need to be your whole marketing budget.
If this sounds like a lot of planning, well, it is! But it’s planning that can lead to a great opening day for you and the start of a beautiful relationship with potential new customers.