New beginnings are definitely something worth celebrating. It’s not uncommon for new businesses to hold a grand opening event, you may see signs or banners for them on a regular basis. Unfortunately, though, some of these events hardly create even a blip on your consciousness as you go about your daily life. For those looking to throw a killer grand opening event, this somewhat common practice is no small detail when it comes to the strength of your marketing plan and attracting customers.
The key is to create a truly memorable experience for guests, vendors, and the community. You don’t just want to start your business off on a good foot—you want to start it off on a stellar foot. Let’s dive into some ways that you can make your grand opening party an event that no one will forget.
- Think about what type of party you want to throw:
Seeing as your grand opening is an important part of your marketing strategy, a good amount of thought should go into the type of party/event you want this to be. Do you want it to a casual, family-friendly affair? Are you going for a more upscale/formal feel? Is a more professional atmosphere appropriate?
The type of event you throw should have a good flow with the overall feel of your business. For example, you might not want to do a pizza party or barbeque if you are opening an upscale hotel or boutique. On the other hand, a black-tie event is going to seem odd for the grand opening of a toy store.
When choosing what you want for your grand opening, be it a red-carpet event, a small ceremony, an open house, or a family-oriented community event, consider what will get your target audience in the door and keep them there.
- Consider doing a theme party:
Many people, and particularly Millennials, love the thrill and challenge of being able to wear a costume that hits on a theme. Now when you think “costume” party, you might think that this can only really apply to a more casual event or events that are focused on kids or younger adults. While that can be true, it really depends on the theme.
Let’s say you are opening a new Halloween store, nothing could be more appropriate than a Halloween costume-themed grand opening party. But even hotels and upscale businesses can have a “theme” party that is appropriate for their style. For example, a Great Gatsby type party with 1920’s inspired dress and swing/jazz music playing in the background.
Business-owners who are opening a restaurant can have an easy theme already built in—something based around the cuisine being served. Mexican food? A mariachi band, sombreros, and margaritas. French? A night in Paris theme with champagne and samples from your appetizer menu. You get the idea.
- Know your audience:
This is somewhat a continuation of the thoughts from numbers 1 & 2 on the list, but it’s worth expanding on. When it comes to entertainment, décor, themes, music, and more for your event, you want to gear things towards your target audience. If your target audience is families with children, a swanky red-carpet party isn’t going to be very attractive.
Similarly, if you plan on having music, select music that will generally be well-received and liked by your target audience. The electronica popular with Millennials will leave golden oldies loving Baby Boomers scratching their heads and wondering what in the world that sound is. The wrong choice of music may still attract attention, but not necessarily in a good way.
- Start with a ribbon cutting:
Maybe the most iconic image to pops into people’s minds when they think of grand openings, there is no need for modernity to let this quaint tradition go by the wayside. A classic slice of Americana, a ribbon cutting is sure to draw attention in a number of ways.
People don’t see ribbon cuttings every day, and so the performance of this little ceremony is sure to attract attention, even from people who are just passing by. Is there a high-profile or well-respected member of the community who you can get to perform the ribbon cutting? Someone with celebrity or semi-celebrity status (even if it’s just their status around town) will not only attract people, it will help them keep your event and your business well in mind.
- Get guests involved with some live music:
An energetic performance by a live band will not only attract a crowd, it’s likely to keep them sticking around for a bit. Singers and musicians can bring atmosphere to your grand opening and help drum up (pun slightly intended) interest in what is going on.
Some businesses may choose to go with a DJ for their opening, but if you are looking to have your party fit into the “epic” and “unforgettable” categories, you’ll need entertainment that will wow. What kind of band will appeal to your target audience?
Music can be a bit tough to nail down since there are so many different styles and tastes. Going the classic route and hiring a live brass band is going to help appeal to a broad range of people. It’s not something typically heard or seen on a regular basis which makes it a great special element for a special event.
Far from just marching or jazzy music (which in themselves can be fun and high-spirited), professional brass bands can play a wide range of musical styles and genres. With or without lyrics, their music can be friendly to the sensibilities of the majority and the exuberant nature of their instruments makes it nearly impossible not get into a toe-tapping mood (happy customers are spending customers).
If you’re looking for that red-carpet, black-tie, or lower-key upscale vibe to your party, a live band is also a great way to incorporate some background music. It helps keep the mood light and gives guests something extraordinary to talk about.
- If you’re going to do live entertainment, do your homework:
It can be a real roll of the dice (or at least feel like it) to book a live band that you’ve never seen or heard before. This is where doing a bit of research can help you feel confident in your choice and let you book a band that will give your event that wow factor.
- Ask family, friends, or business associates for suggestions. You may need to leave some room for varying music tastes, but getting the scoop on a band from someone who has seen them play–or even better yet actually hired them for a function—can help you get an idea of what their performance is like or what it is like to deal with them on a professional level.
- Read the reviews. As with any reviews, you need to take it all with a grain of salt. But checking out what people have to say about the band can help you create an overall picture to help you decide whether you want to work with them or pass.
- Check out bands Facebook pages, websites, or other social media pages. You’ll not only get a feel for their “personality”, but you’re also likely to find samples of their work so you can judge for yourself.
- Consult with a professional booking agent. They frequently work with local bands and know them well. They can be a great resource in helping you figure out which band is the right fit for your event.
- Give tours:
You want potential customers to see all that you can offer them, so why not show and tell? People are visual creatures and what they see can leave an impact, but hearing more information on what they are seeing can be even more memorable and motivational when it comes to gaining a client.
Left to look on their own, guests might not get to see or understand the full extent of your business offerings. Or in the case of grand openings for businesses like hotels, a guided tour can give guests a more comprehensive idea of what they can expect if they come to stay. A guide can also give a presentation that can generate enthusiasm in guests, more so than just having a solo look around.
A guided tour is also an extra special touch for your party. It includes the human factor, a live person there to show them around and answer questions on the spot. It’s a great way for a business to connect with customers.
- Keep your guests engaged:
Many businesses open their doors to let customers look around, maybe even offering special sales or discounts to entice people to spend money. But without something to really catch their attention, curious people may wander out just as quickly as they wandered in. Since your grand opening is really about marketing, you want to connect with your customers, make them want to stick around and get them in a spending mood. The longer they stay, the more likely they are to spend.
So, what are some features of your grand opening that can keep customers engaged? This can somewhat depend on the type of business you are opening as well as your target audience and/or your theme. For family events, face-painting, games, and other kid-centric activities are a great way to make a lasting impression.
For other businesses that might not have a specific focus like families or kids, there are some pretty tried-and-true elements that everybody loves. We already talked about live music which can definitely engage a crowd and make them stick around. Can you offer food? Drinks? Display photos or videos that highlight your business? Find things that will appeal to the senses.
- Everybody loves a swag bag:
Award show after-parties do it. A-list celeb parties hand them out. Exclusive launch parties would be a disgrace without them. Swag or gift bags have a way of making guests feel special. Putting some extra effort (and budget money) into giving out gifts to grand opening guests can have a number of benefits if done well.
- Giving gifts is a way of graciously showing your thanks to guests who supported your grand opening. A little appreciation is a personal touch that can go a long way.
- Give customers a little taste of what you can do for them. Give gifts that consist of exclusive discounts and special savings for those who showed up. Customers feel appreciated (people love exclusive deals) and you are likely to get more business.
- Giving out your business information, brochures, and pamphlets during the event is good, but a real gift is better. Yes, by all means, have that information available, but no, don’t call it their gift.
- Give items that people will use. A small gift bag with everyday items branded with your business is a great choice. Pens, magnets, drinking (or shot) glasses and the like are all items that people will see and use.
- Everyone loves the chance to win:
If you want to make your event memorable, nobody forgets the time they won something free. Holding a drawing can also hold the attention of your guests. Get creative with your prizes and make it something that will benefit you both.
Guests can submit their names and you can set a time during the party to hold the drawing. This is another great way to engage your guests and help keep them around. Let the prize be something worth staying for.
So, get out there and throw an incredible launch party that your community will never forget. Know your target audience and appeal to them (but don’t limit yourself). Incorporate elements that appeal to the senses. Show your guests a good time and give them entertainment they can buzz about to friends and neighbors. Don’t be afraid to get creative. Let guests (who are potential customers know how much you appreciate your support. And of course, don’t forget to have fun.