Congratulations on the opening of your business! Planning 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, the 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 most incredible 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.

1. 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.

Benefits of a soft opening

Building Hype

Soft openings act as a preview to the real deal, so your customers can help generate free publicity and awareness for the proper opening set to occur later. 

Create Future Revenue

Soft openings are a great way to set yourself up for a temporary revenue stream down the line. Hand out coupons for certain discount percentages, BOGO deals, or other offers that are good for a specific date or block of dates in the future. 

Preseason Practice

A soft opening is also a fantastic way to train employees and prepare them for business without sabotaging their tip potential. They’ll learn the ins and outs of your specific procedures and best practices, without actual paying customers to worry about. If you’re opening a restaurant or cafe, soft openings give staff the opportunity to practice table service, gain knowledge, and create consistency.

Offer a Limited Menu

Your soft opening might be more manageable if you consider only offering select entrees, appetizers, drinks, and desserts from the menu. After all, there’s less mental preparation to worry about when only a few items are being prepped, cooked, and poured.

Get Essential Feedback

Guests can provide valuable feedback for all aspects of the business, from the food to the service to even the environment. Collect comments directly from customers on the food, drinks, service, and overall atmosphere.

Make Adjustments

Implement the feedback and tweak things that could use improvement before opening.

2. Hang a Coming Soon Sign

Let the community know that your business is coming soon to generate buzz and excitement.

3. 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.

4. Grand Opening Activities and Communication

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 marketing strategy. 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.

5. Promote on Facebook

Facebook is by far the most powerful social media event marketing platform. It offers you hyper-targeted ads, lets you share all types of content, comes with many bells and whistles…and everyone’s on it.

What to do on Facebook before the event

  • Install the Facebook Pixel on your event website.
  • Create a Facebook Event and link it to your ticketing app.
  • Add any co-hosts you’re working with to the event page.
  • Share the event in relevant Facebook groups.
  • Post relevant images and videos from your past events.
  • Promote the event page with Facebook ads.
  • Set up a contest and give free event tickets to the winners.
  • Continuously optimise your ads and create Custom Audiences.
  • Use your mailing list and website visitor data to create Lookalike Audiences.

What to do on Facebook during the event

  • Create live polls to engage with your audience on social media.
  • Post images and videos from the event to the event page.

6. Spread the Word with Local marketing

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.

7. Develop Media Awareness

Two weeks prior to your event, issue the press release (see Appendix) to your local newspaper.

What should your press kit include?

  • Your business story: Share the story of how your business started. Tell people about yourself and your motivations for opening your business.
  • Business facts: What’s the inspiration behind your business, menu or services? Where do you source your products, food or wine? What’s the history behind your business location?
  • High-resolution images of your logo, interior design, and services or menu items: Make it as easy as possible for the people you invite to share your branding, photos of your products or dishes and your establishment’s interior design. Remember, your goal is to get these people to create content to help promote your business. Make sure you’re providing them with visual assets that compel people to make a reservation or book your service.
  • Your team and their bios: From your head chef or team leader and sommelier to your business partners and investors, share their story, history, credentials, and why they became a part of your team.
  • Additional press: If your business has already been featured in articles or the press, including only the best snippets. This gives the media attending your grand opening something to base their coverage on.
  • Contact information: Include the contact information of whoever is the best touchpoint for journalists, media, and influencers to refer to—whether it’s to fact-check something or have their content reviewed before it’s published. Include your business Facebook and Instagram account name and any branded hashtags you want them to use.

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.

“Most entrepreneurs fall short when it comes to marketing, so we create personalized strategic plans to help them attract new customers, boost conversion rates, build customer loyalty and grow their business.”

global advertising charity network

Budget appropriately

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.

8. Start Networking

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!

9. Create Grand Opening Ambiance

Create an ambiance that aligns with your business theme and target consumer. Have a main draw (plants, great furniture, neon signs).

10. Hang a Now Open Sign

Let locals know your business is open by hanging a now open sign.

Say Thanks!

Regardless of how large or how long your grand opening event is, organizers need to make sure many things are in place ranging from big things such as speakers, rooms, meals to smaller logistics parking spaces, your morning coffee, afternoon tea, name badges, floor maps, poster boards, etc. Make sure to show appreciation to everyone involved that worked tirelessly to ensure your grand opening event was a success.

Good luck!

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.

Further Reading

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