Opening your own business can be one of the most exciting moments in your life. There’s a pride that comes with creating something and sharing it with the world. All of your hard work in preparation will come to fruition, so why not make it a grand affair?
If you’re not sure where to get started, we’ve compiled a list of 33 grand opening resources and tips for starting your business in style. If you haven’t already, make sure to also read our Ultimate Guide to Grand Openings.
It’s classic quid pro quo. You partner with a charity to market your business, the charity gets more funding and recognition, and you get applauded for your philanthropy by customers who are now more willing to buy from you. Prominently feature your charity in your grand opening — make it a part of festivities. Perhaps, invite the charity and publicly donate to its cause.
Grand openings don’t just happen — they take great planning in order to be successful. If you’re working on getting the word out for your grand opening event, use this 12-point checklist that focuses on topics you should discuss with your team.
Grand openings won’t be complete without sending eye-catching invitations to attract your target market. Depending on the event size, type and concept, your invitation should be written in a way that evokes excitement to increase your grand opening attendance rate. To help inspire some ideas, here is a collection of grand opening invitation wording ideas to use when making your own.
5. Contact Your Local Chamber of Commerce
Eric Hunt, Ambassador, Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce
For a small business, creating a “grand” grand opening can be overwhelming when you are not sure where to begin. One of the greatest resources I can recommend is to contact your local chamber of commerce. As a chamber ambassador, I attend and participate in around 75 ribbon cuttings a year. Promotion and organizing how a grand opening will be organized is key. Will you cut a ribbon? How do you get local government officials and special guests to attend? Where do you get those giant scissors that look really cool in photos? Chamber staff and volunteers are versed in the protocol and can be a great asset when planning your grand opening as well as conducting business in general.
6. Know the Right Questions to Ask Your Event Staff
From a customer’s perspective, there’s nothing worse than an under-prepared or discourteous staff. Prepare your staff (and have ample staff in attendance) with the answers to the questions in this article.
7. Decorate Creatively
Balloons, signs and creative merchandising are all powerful ways to decorate your business for a grand opening. You want customers to feel excited and informed by your choice of decorations.
8. Feed Your Guests
Few things keep people around more than free food. Whether it’s popcorn or barbecue, be prepared to offer something in the way of food and refreshments. Food encourages the crowd to linger longer, increasing the odds of making a sale.
Melani Deyto, Director of Marketing, TextMarks
Get people to subscribe to your text message marketing list prior to your grand opening. Promote a call-to-action like Text MYSTORE to 41411 to get updates on our grand opening and hear about future deals and promotions. As your big day comes near, send out a text blast to all your subscribers to remind them to come to your grand opening event. Your customers may not see your emails or social media posts, but they don’t ignore text messages.
Your grand opening can introduce your business to a wide market and a variety of potential customers. One way to achieve this is by giving gifts during the opening to convince your visitors that they should check out your store. There are a number of best practices when including gift giving during your grand opening. You can even include a raffle with your products as the prizes to get the crowd interested and begin building demand for your products.
During your grand opening, or even during your soft opening, be sure to collect testimonials from satisfied customers. Use comment cards or even set up a camera to interview customers about their experience at your grand opening. Save it for your blog or your future newsletter.
12. Engage Your Guests With an Activity
Keep your grand opening event lively and something that influencers would talk about the next day by including performances like flash mobs and live entertainment. There’s nothing worse than a bland event, so come up with a creative activity that will surely impress your visitors and have more people coming to visit your store the next day.
13. Create Activities That Speak to What the Grand Opening is All About
Greg Jenkins, Partner, Bravo Productions
If you have invited media to your grand opening, they will need a good visual to put in their print, digital or broadcast mediums. The grand opening should communicate a story so create activities that speaks of what the grand opening is all about. It might be tours of your facility, showcasing fashion if it’s a retail outlet, or a surprise guest like a renowned or local author if opening a bookstore. If opening a heating or a plumbing plant, why not showcase those items in a creative way. Use some of these items to create seating or tables for your guests. Take that heating and plumbing steel and reconfigure it into a floor lamp. Maybe that bathtub becomes your bar. You will definitely want to serve refreshments, and the more you can tie the menu into your brand or the appeal of your guests, the more they will find the experience enjoyable. Tray-passed hors-d’oeuvres are always a nice touch as well as a signature drink (even if non-alcoholic).
14. Add On-site Advertising Products During Your Grand Opening
Marty Buckholt, President, Air Ad Promotions
Whether it’s your first location or your fifth, the opening of a new business means building a large, talkative audience as quickly as possible. On-site advertising products like advertising flags, banners, tents, advertising balloons and pennants are the essential, grand opening tools to attract attention, see an immediate return on investment and sell more without blowing your budget. In contrast to social media or online advertising, customers who use an advertising balloon see upwards of a 90 percent impression rate — why so high? Because you can’t miss them — they’re 20 feet tall!
Use your mailing list to send thank you notes to your guests. It refreshes your business in their minds. It’s also a good idea to send out a newsletter with photos from your grand opening and an additional press release for the media.
16. Make the Event Memorable With Your Promotional Items
Shelley Grieshop, Creative Writer, Totally Promotional
It’s best to choose promotional items that are related in some way to your business. For example, a new coffee shop could gift their open house visitors with a customized coffee sleeve to slip over their cup. Another idea would be to give the first 100 customers something special. A new fitness center might place their name and logo on sports bags. The bags could also be available for purchase to members after the open house. Lastly, contests are always a welcome idea at open house events. If your building is historical, ask visitors to guess the age of the structure and award the winner with a gift card and logoed item. The bottom line is you want to get your name in front of as many people as possible for as long as possible. Promotional items can do this at a price that start-ups can afford.
Most grand opening events will include serving drinks so it’s important that even your drink menu will be able to represent your brand. Depending on your budget, you can either have a full bar or opt for a drink menu tailored for your special occasion, which costs less. Serving specially crafted drinks can be great conversation starters and even a memorable experience that guests would not mind snapping a photo of and sharing on their social media in a heartbeat. Read up on how to spice up your grand opening with drinks to impress.
18. Promote Your Grand Opening in Niche Social Sites
Robbin Block, Creative Marketing Strategist, Blockbeta Marketing
Typical promotion includes posting a Facebook event and reaching out to targeted groups, but it goes beyond the top social sites. I advise clients to get listed on niche social sites. They can include any type of website targeted by geography, demographics and, most important, psychographics — touching upon the interests that people have like foodie for restaurants, parenting, and so on. Look for the ones that offer opportunities to list events, and even content, for free. Often, those sites rank higher in search results than the client’s website. The content with keywords will help drive links back to the client’s website, which is good for search rank and awareness. For example, to promote small business events, I use localized sites like Alignable and Townsquared.
19. Set Up a Means to Collect Guest Information
Julia Angelen, PR & Social Media Consultant, Z Group PR
When organizing the grand opening, the goal should be to gather potential customers, create awareness and to capture data about those that are interested in the product or service. The people who attend your grand opening like local politicians, chamber members and business professionals may not be your ultimate customer. Yes, those groups and individuals are important for awareness, but they may not buy your T-shirts or tea bags. To grow your customer base, all of the invited guests — those who attend or don’t attend — need to be captured and categorized in some way. Creating a survey, feedback card or simply having event staff interviewing customers can ensure that you have the demographic data that you will need to continue marketing the business.
20. Hire a Professional Photographer to Make the Event More Special
Kate Marlys, Owner, Philly PR Girl
As a PR and event professional, I know grand opening parties work. You get to show off your space to media and, at the same time, welcome friends and family to see your hard work and celebrate the opening of your business. I strongly recommend hiring a professional photographer to shoot the event. Those photos can be sent to media as well as posted on your new businesses social media accounts throughout the year. It’s will lead to greater social media interaction, more sales and help launch your business overall.
21. Give Out Customized Gift Certificates to Your Guests
Jim Herst, CEO, Perceptive Selling Initiative, Inc
There is no limit to what can be conceived, designed and distributed as gift certificates can be customized for any purpose. Grand opening gift certificates might be, as an example, a theater ticket with a stub for initial use and the “body” section reusable at a later date. An example would be: Grand opening May 1 to May 10 on the stub, June 15 to June 25 on the body. It also doesn’t cut in too much on your event budget because the costs related to gift certificate printing, with the possible exception of design and graphics, are typically established with local sources. Alternatively, you can partner with another noncompetitive nearby merchant and have your gift certificate valid simultaneously in each business. For example: Shop here to use part 1, and use part 2 at this other business. Such use cuts your cost in half and earns you more visibility by connecting with your partner merchant’s customers as well.
22. Arrange Activities That Create Anticipation and Suspense
Teana McDonald, Founder, 3E Connections, Inc.
The goal is the experience. If you are a retail clothing boutique, start the buzz a few months earlier by doing pop-ups or activations at events or cool venues around town. Then, when it’s time for your grand opening, you have laid a foundation and your guests will understand your brand and know what to expect. But, you have to step it up now and do something different than what you did at the pop-ups and activations. Create a social media station, provide a signature drink, create selfie spots throughout the venue, use light-up hashtags around the venue (so folks know how to join in on the conversation), have a main event (like a fashion show, fire dancers or, acrobatic dancers) and end on a bang — maybe with you dropping the curtain or opening up the wall to your much-anticipated shop. Make them wait and create some suspense around the opening.
23. Feature Your Products During the Entertainment
Grant van der Harst, Managing Director, Anglo Liners
If possible, you should try and put on some form of entertainment that is related to the business you are launching. This will help to make it more memorable, and it will make your guests more likely to leave with a positive attitude towards your brand. For example, if your business is going to specialize in high-quality speakers, make sure that whatever form of entertainment you put on shows off your speakers, such as having a band or singer perform using your equipment. This will allow you to show to your guests that your product is worth investing in too.
24. Set Up Giveaway Exchange Booths and Acquire Leads
Dan Salganik, Co-Founder, VisualFizz
Grand openings aren’t always as grand as you want them to be. That is why you have to ensure that you are doing what it takes to make your opening memorable. Whether you run a printing shop or a coffee shop, what you can do is set up stations where your attendees can exchange emails, social media follows, social call-outs or more for products. Why not have multiple “booths” with different prizes? Building your mailing list and social media following will help you in the long run and may be more expensive to retrieve than the small giveaway product.
25. Make the Evening News
Justin Kerby, Founder, Cave Social
If you want to promote your grand opening, find the local angle and make a pitch to your local news outlet. This is a great way to get media coverage without going out of pocket. You’ll need to craft a message that resonates with your local community — doing good in the neighborhood, revitalizing your part of town or employing local talent. If you can find a local angle, the area media will listen. When you’ve put together your message, send a media advisory to the assignment desk of any outlet you’d like coverage from and make your pitch. Making the evening news is a great way to promote your grand opening.
26. Send Out 3D Invites for Your Grand Opening Event
Kreg Peeler, Founder & CEO, SpinGo
One of the more innovative event invites I have seen is 3D invites. This can be a regular invite with objects attached or even a small box with objects inside. So, where can you get 3D invites made? I recommend using Southern Fried Paper, an event branding and invitations company. They do amazing work. Of course, if your budget is limited, you can always design these yourself, you just have to get creative with the materials you use so that you don’t break the bank.
The absolute first thing you should do, after realizing you want to host a grand opening, is to set a budget. Grand openings are part of your marketing budget. Some things to consider for your grand opening budget include extra staffing, decorations and refreshments.
Blogging is a part of your overall marketing campaign, so start long before you set a grand opening. The point is to get customers engaged and excited about your business. In your blog, you’ll share progress reports and other information relevant to your business. Most importantly, you’ll set up your blog to create a mailing list, which is golden when the time comes to invite customers to your grand opening.
This goes hand-in-hand with the tip above. These days, creating an online presence — regardless of your business type — is crucial to success. Many potential customers like to check you out online before visiting your grand opening just to find out more about you. Be ready for them.
Bing is the second-largest search engine in the world and can drive a lot of traffic to your business. Because most advertisers are focused on Google, you may also be able to acquire clients on Bing at a lower cost.
Interested in more advertising for your business? Try Bing Ads Today With a Coupon.
Now that you’ve amassed a decent mailing list through blogging, leverage it. This article explains how to craft your email to maximize the chances that your recipients will open it and click on it.
All of us are acquainted with direct mail, also known less-affectionately as junk mail. You’ve worked hard to create the perfect grand opening letter, so don’t let it end up unread in the trash. This article discusses how to ensure that more recipients read your mail.
33. Use Social Media Before, During, & After the Event
Cristian Rennella, Co-founder, elMejorTrato.com
Based on my experience of the last nine years, I can assure you that the best advice for small businesses grand openings is to use social media marketing before the event, during the event and after the event.
You must advertise on social networks and target your ads. During the event, take as many photos as you can with your logo in the background and ask for the social media handle of the people in the photos so you can tag them once it’s uploaded. Once the event is over, share these photos and even offer a discount or an interesting promotion for those who decide to re-share it on their own personal page with their friends.
Over to You
Making the most of your grand opening day will set the tone for your business, but preparing for the event doesn’t have to be stressful. With the right grand opening resources and tools, your big day will be as enjoyable to you, the business owner, as it is for your guests.
Know of more grand opening resources and tips worth sharing? Let us know in the comments below.