A grand opening is a marketing opportunity that can make a big splash with your new business. While COVID-19 is adversely affecting many companies, some are moving forward and opening during the pandemic. If your business is in an area with minor social distancing restrictions, people may look forward to getting out of the house and attending your grand opening.
Here are 13 grand opening ideas to consider:
1. Hand Out Unique Gifts
A unique, memorable, or useful gift keeps your brand in a customer’s sight for years. The best gifts have a connection with your business—for example seed packets for a garden store or reflective tags for a bike shop. In addition to unique gifts, promotional gifts such as pens, magnets, cups, stickers, and stress balls are useful and popular.
Here are more unique grand opening gift ideas:
- Branded face masks: A useful gift that costs around $1 to $2.50 apiece to create
- Ear savers: A more affordable alternative to face masks that cost from 50 cents to $1 apiece
- Travel hand sanitizers: Customize the bottle with your logo with a cost from $.75 to $2 per bottle
- Laptop webcam covers: This item provides reassurance when people are using their laptops and cost anywhere from $.10 to $.75 apiece
- Screen cleaners: This item can clean a tech item screen or sunglasses and cost $.15 to $1.50 each
- Travel chargers: An attractive choice if you have high-tech customers and are available for $1 to $5 each
2. Rent (or Purchase) an Air Dancer
Air Dancers are those crazy tube creatures that flap and sway. They are an inexpensive and fun way to get attention without having to pay an employee to sign twirl, wear a costume, or approach people on the street.
Air Dancers have gotten more sophisticated since the original single color, big-eyed floppy creature. You can purchase ones that look like clowns, chefs, animals, and even holiday-themed.
You can find Air Dancers at party stores or places that rent promotional or inflatable products. Rentals start around $20 per day. You can also purchase one on Amazon or through a promotional company to get them branded. An Air Dancer is a cost-effective choice if you want to use it more than once. To purchase, they cost $50-$200 depending on size, design, and if you want to include your logo.
3. Facebook Event Page
A Facebook event page is a free and easy-to-setup way to advertise your grand opening — it should be part of your grand opening set up. It’s especially useful if you already have a following on a Facebook group or fan page. Use the Facebook event page similar to a webpage—direct people there from any social media outlet.
When creating your event page, be sure to include images and videos that make the event appealing. Also, include anything special like prizes, live music, grand opening specials, or discounts. Once you have the event page link, promote it on social media, through your newsletter, or with Facebook or Instagram advertising.
As you get closer to the event, add posts on the event page with more information about:
- Product and services highlights
- Personal messages about why you and your employees are excited for the grand opening
- Event teasers to build excitement
- A branded hashtag—so it’s easier to collect photos from those who attend the event
4. Invite the Local News
We’re hungry for good news. Local newspapers and television stations are looking for a positive story, which includes your grand opening. Don’t be shy about inviting the press because it’s a free opportunity to market your new business. When inviting the news, be sure to invite print, radio, television, and any local podcasters.
Here are a few tips when attracting news coverage for your grand opening:
Make your grand opening news-friendly: Will there be something interesting to video? Do you have a special occurrence planned, such as an appearance by a local celebrity or a live demonstration? If so, be sure to provide a schedule of events.
Invite and remind: As soon as you know your grand opening date, send a short message to get on news professionals’ radar. For newspapers, forward a full press release about a week before the event. For radio and TV, send the press release 24 to 48 hours before the event. The day before the event, call and email reporters to ask if they are attending.
Create a grand opening press release: Include the 5 Ws—who, what, where, when, and why—and a quote from you about the event. Write the press release as if it would appear directly in the newspaper. Often, a reporter will pull verbatim from a press release.
After the event, be sure to reach out to reporters, thank them for attending, and send any promised photos.
5. Invite Influencers
Influencers are any individual with a large following on social media or a large network. Influencers can add credibility, draw in more attendees, and attract the press. Remember, they don’t need a large following on social media, just a large network.
For example, those in the city council, leaders in business organizations, principals, or PTA members may have access to a network of people that could bolster your grand opening awareness and your number of attendees. Additionally, consider influencers that align with your business or industry, such as other well-known business owners.
6. Purchase a Local Billboard
Billboards can reach a lot of people and make a quick impression. They’re best for restaurants and retail locations.
Regarding cost, physical billboards average $250 per month in rural areas, $1,500 to $4,000 in small or midsize cities, and more than $14,000 in larger markets. Digital billboards can cost over $15,000, depending on the location. You can also choose a blip billboard, which is when you share the billboard with other businesses and organizations. You only pay for the time your ad is displayed.
If you choose to use a billboard for promoting your grand opening, consider the location and number of impressions. You want a billboard located where your ideal customer will see it often. Is that the highway near your exit or the main street through town?
After you choose your location, create an ad that is eye-catching, and has minimal text. People most likely won’t have time to take in an address, phone number, or website. Stick with the basics such as your store name, date of the grand opening, street location, prizes, or exclusive deals. Use a bold image to make a lasting impression.
7. Provide Free Food
People love food, and free food can draw in grand opening attendees. During COVID-19, make sure all food service is handled with the proper CDC recommended food service guidelines so your patrons feel safe.
If you are not a food-based business, consider prepackaged treats. These will feel safer to patrons and allow those who do not want to remove their masks tuck the treat away for later. If you make freshly baked goods, consider putting them in baggies or supply baggies for those who prefer to take them home.
Suppose you’re opening a restaurant, cafe, or bakery and want to hand out free samples. You’ll need to set up a food station outside your store where attendees can maintain social distancing. Make sure your employees are following social distancing as well and are wearing masks and gloves. Additionally, you should let attendees know if a food item has a known allergen.
8. Create a Game to Win Prizes
Creating games that give away prizes can add an element of excitement to your grand opening. Prizes can include items such as gift cards, merchandise, services, or something business-related but not sold by you.
Here are games to consider to give away the prizes:
- Online pre-event contests where each social share earns a chance to win
- Spinner wheel
- A secret number in a handed out flyer
- A photo contest with a hashtag
- In-store scavenger hunt
- Door prizes
- Offer a prize for the best mask or best social distancing costume
9. Have Live Music
Bands, DJs, or live performers can add a festival spirit to a grand opening. However, they can be expensive, and an issue to implement in this time of social distancing. Live music is best suited for restaurants and bars.
If you have an outdoor venue or a large parking lot, social distancing with live music is possible. Also, check that your city does not have any permit requirements for live music.
10. Provide Product or Service Discounts
Discounts and exclusive deals are a great draw. Consider extending discounts for at least a week after the grand opening event. This extension allows patrons who could not make it for the grand opening day stop by the store to take advantage of the discount. Be sure to promote the discounts and put the expiration date in your advertising.
11. Give Handouts
Handouts such as flyers, postcards, business cards, or bookmarks are tangible ways to promote your event. When creating a handout, be sure to include essential information, and make it eye-catching with the right balance of images, fonts, and white space.
When creating a flyer, consider including a coupon or a promise of a freebie if the customer brings the flyer to the opening. That strategy may increase your event attendance and give you a sense of how useful the handout was.
With less foot traffic from the pandemic, you may need to invest in having your flyers or cards delivered to people via direct mail or inserted into local newspapers and magazines. Also, consider dropping flyers off at complementary but noncompeting stores near your business.
12. Partner With a Local Business
Partnering with a local business is a grand opening idea that can provide the benefit of increased foot traffic and publicity. If you get several companies to work together, it can be a community event. Consider including a local pro-business organization, such as the Chamber of Commerce as well.
To make a community event happen, get together with other business owners on your block or plaza and coordinate dates, pool resources on events, food, or advertising. Consider creating goodie bags where every business contributes coupons or freebies.
13. Partner With a Charity
Is there a charity that aligns with your business or company goals? Making it part of your grand opening helps their organization as well as your business.
For example, you can donate a portion of your business’s first-month profits to a particular cause. Mentioning this in your advertising and press release may attract larger crowds. The charity or nonprofit may promote your grand opening to their network as well.
Here are ideas of a business with a complementary charity:
- A novelty pet supply store invites a local cat rescue to set up an adoption table
- A health and wellness store sponsors a blood drive and provides healthy snacks for the donors
- A children’s clothing store works with local police or the National Child Identity Program to provide fingerprinting and identity kits for children
Starting a new business is an exciting endeavor. The grand opening is your chance to celebrate the first of many successes in your future. While event planning has new challenges such as social distancing and wearing, you can still get creative to make your business launch special.