Spring is the season for new beginnings, and it certainly feels that way in the local, small business community. It’s a beautiful thing to see so many new businesses opening their door for a fresh start and with great hope for what this opportunity can blossom into!
In my work as a public relations consultant and strategic communications specialist, I have the pleasure of coming alongside many businesses – of all sizes and industries – to help them strategize, plan, and execute an effective grand opening event. This does (and should) look unique for each and every business. Based on their business model, budget, timeline, personal style, and definition of a “successful” launch, I’ve gained quite a bit of insight into the dos and don’ts that I wish every business owner knew when planning their grand opening.
Keep reading for my tried-and-true advice. While none of this is one-size-fits-all, there are certain elements of a successful grand opening that I find to appear in each one I’ve planned over the years. If I was helping you plan your business’s grand opening event, virtual launch, ribbon cutting, or anything else you’d like to call it – here’s where I’d have us begin.
Know what you want, and what defines a successful grand opening event for you.
If you’ve been following my blog long enough, you’ll know that I feel passionate that a business is your baby in many aspects. The element of creating, nurturing, and growing something is very special. For this reason, I want business owners to feel excited about their grand opening event! Yes, feeling nervous and a little stressed is normal, but at the end of the day this should be a momentous occasion that brings you joy and relief. When you envision your grand opening event, what does it look like? What time of day is it? Who is there? About how many people? The answer to all of these questions will help you define what a successful grand opening event looks like for you. Notice my emphasis on you. Other people will have opinions, but unless those people are your business partners who are equally invested in the emotional and financial side of your business – take them with a grain of salt. My point here is that first and foremost, you should develop a clear vision for what you want this grand opening event to be!
Dare to break the rules!
While doing your research and asking for advice is wise (hey, I’m laying a lot on you here myself!), do keep in mind that some rules are meant to be broken. And when it comes to planning a grand opening event for your business, you get to set whatever rules you want! Short of needing to follow common sense (and the law), your grand opening event can take on any shape or form. Who says it needs to be a large, public gathering? Who says it needs to take place during a certain day of the week or time of day? Who says you can’t keep it to close friends and family? Who says you can’t have a bouncy house, ice cream truck, and petting zoo? As you can see by these questions, you can take your grand opening event in a lot of different directions. Don’t confine yourself to a prepackaged box, and think twice before working with a PR professional or event planner who wants to put you in said box. This is a really important event and deserves to be custom-created to your exact vision!
Involve media strategically.
As a public relations professional, I think there is great value in leveraging the media for your grand opening event. And there are many ways to do it. You can invite them to the actual event. Having television cameras and reporters onsite can really add to the appearance of success and attention. But this is not everyone’s style. I respect that some business owners would prefer not to have media onsite because it stresses them out, or they feel like they won’t be able to devote equal attention to other guests. Most often, media is not an intrusion or a distraction and stands to bring a ton of PR benefits to your business. But there are also alternative options like issuing a press release with photos from the event to the media after the event took place. There are pros and cons to every scenario and you want to choose your strategy carefully to ensure it aligns with your desired outcomes. Most importantly, do not let misconceptions or intimidation be the reason you hold back on seeking earned media coverage for your business’s grand opening event. In all my years of experience, I have not once seen the media be rude, malicious, or ill-intended to a client. So take heart and have confidence in putting yourself out there in the public eye – it’s the eye you want to be in front of after all.
Spend money where it will have a lasting impact.
As a small business opening its doors for the first time, I strongly discourage business owners from blowing thousands of dollars on things that won’t have a lasting impact. This is stuff like fancy catering, decorations, entertainment, and overpriced vendors that – sure, in the moment they look impressive – but as soon as the event’s over, no one is going to remember. Worse yet, they’re not necessary for establishing your brand and reputation in the community. Everyone loves a great party, don’t get me wrong, but when that “party” tips your financial scales in the wrong direction before your business ever gets going, it’s going to be something you live to regret. Instead, focus on investing a sensible budget into things like professional photography, a business membership with your local chamber of commerce who can help you plan and promote your grand opening, and a public relations professional who will ensure you get the media attention you desire. These investments will provide lasting content and relationships that serve your business well into the future.
Think beyond this single event.
And finally, do think well into the future! Your grand opening event is an exciting occasion, but it’s only the beginning. Spoiler alert: it’s not likely that once you host your business’s grand opening that you can sit back, relax, and watch the customers knock down your door. Even if that happened, you’d certainly have other issues to address! When I work with clients, I like to create strategies that have layers or phases, especially when they are first opening up shop. There is the pre-launch phase which includes much planning and strategizing, the grand opening/event launch itself (often scoped over a week’s time), and then multiple phases for what happens thereafter.
How will you continue to leverage earned media coverage to stay top of mind with your customers? Is there more earned media you could gain through strategic pitches, feature stories, or op-eds? And what is your sustainable, ongoing strategy for growing and fully utilizing all communication channels available to you to reach your target market? Yes, these are some pretty big questions – but don’t let that intimidate you into non-action. Rather, be sure to seek advice and link arms with professionals who can guide you through this important process. A solid communications plan for your business is the single best thing you can spend your money on, especially when you’re just getting started!
Have you lived and learned a few things from your own grand opening event? Or maybe you’ve attended one and have important feedback on what went well – and what did not. I want to hear from you! Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.