This customer acquisition tool is too important to treat like a party.
A successful grand opening is a giant impression-making machine. It’s a complex customer acquisition tool, and there’s more to it than the event itself. Do you know how to operate one of these contraptions?
Attendees aren’t going to hand you a grand opening do-over card if you don’t get it right. You get just one chance to show people what you’re all about. It requires clear goals, strategic planning, and careful execution. This is no time for distraction. Focus on these fundamentals.
Decide What You Want To Accomplish
What’s the one big reason for this event? Put it into words. Make it no more than a sentence.
Get past the obvious goal, which is to create awareness. You want people to talk about your business, but what do you want them to say about it? What you plan for your grand opening should be in service to this accomplishment.
Customers want to have relationships with your business. How will you make those connections? Your grand opening is where you can strengthen alliances with vendors, too.
Food and entertainment might work against you. Why are you opening your doors for business? Show attendees what they’ll experience when they return. Are there interesting things going on behind the scenes? Can you share this with tours or demonstrations?
Do The Math And Determine Your Budget
There’s no mystery to making and sticking to an affordable grand opening event budget. Use the same thinking that went into creating your business operational plan. Create checklists and start looking at costs.
Do you have enough money to put the “grand” in grand opening? Figure out the true cost of the perfect event if money was no object. Ballpark estimations will fast track you into the realm of “budget creep.”
Think about each event element’s outcome. Do you envision a huge crowd? They’ve all got to park their cars. Attendees will blame you for the traffic snarl. You need a solution, and you have to know the price.
The money you budget to pay for your grand opening isn’t an expense. It’s an investment that should pay you back. If you don’t see a return on something you’re considering, cross it off the list.
Pick A Date And Work Backwards
It’s not as easy as looking at a calendar and finding a date that jives with your own schedule. Swallow a humility pill. Your grand opening will have plenty of competition from things that are more important, at least from the perspective of attendees. They might rate “Dancing with the Stars” higher on their list of priorities.
The date and time should connect their convenience with your importance. That’s the sweet spot.
- Use the research you’ve gained during your biz dev planning. What do you know about your target market? Look at dates and times that are in sync with their lifestyle. Avoid holidays.
- Plan as far in advance as you can. You’ll have plenty of rivals for time and commitment.
It’s unlikely your grand opening event will be free of scheduling conflicts. It won’t work for everybody, but it needs to be amenable to most.
Blow Your Trumpet!
When you’ve nailed the date and the details, it’s time to shed all shyness. Resist the urge to rely on today’s default modes of communication. You’ve got a core list of people you want to be at the grand opening. Make those invitations personal. Social media and other online resources will keep it top of mind. First, though, you must get it in their minds so they’ll put it on their calendars.
- Go old school and create a press release. They still have value. The value increases when get it to the right people who’ll spread the word.
- Is your grand opening open to the public? Look for ways to make it feel exclusive.
Which makes a deeper impression on you: a general email invitation, or a personal request? If you want someone to come, tell him or her. The road to missed business opportunities is paved by email invitations that ended up in a spam folder.
Get Ready To Rumble
It’s impossible to over-prepare for a grand opening. Your challenge is to avoid the trap of forgetting there’s more to an event than just the event itself. Give every element three states of being: Before/During/After. Have a plan for each phase.
If you’ve established what your grand opening must do to grow your business, you have a strategy. Follow up with the tactics of execution. Chaos won’t crash your event if preparation is the doorman.
A grand opening signifies that you’re ready to do business. You don’t get to call a time out when it’s over. The event communicates your commitment to a continuum. It doesn’t have a start and stop date. The most effective grand openings have comprehensive programs focused on what occurs after
Do It Right – Or Don’t Do It At All
You’ll succeed because you’ve found ways to be different – and better – than your competitors. Don’t derail your quest to be different. Have a grand opening because it’s in sync with how you’ll interact with customers, not because it’s what everybody else does.
Smart business owners engage outside professionals to handle special projects. They know it make no sense to reinvent the wheel. Bring in an event organizer if you’re not comfortable planning a grand opening. They’re experts at operating giant impression-making machines. There’s no need for you to crack open the instruction manual.
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