advertising business grand opening

Throwing A Killer Grand Opening On A Budget : Getting The Word Out & Planning

7:57 AMKathryn Curling

Are you planning or thinking about planning an awesome grand opening event? Are you on a budget? Well who isn't these days if they have a small business?! I wanted to share a little bit about my experience with my recent grand opening of my shop Gypsy Beard Studio! I was on a very, very tight budget and timeline. Luckily I had lots of friends and family that helped pitch in on bringing food and decorating. An hour before our grand opening when I was in the bathroom changing into my dress and feeling nauseous, they were the ones helping me pull it (and myself) all together. Thanks guys!

Step 1. Planning
Before you start anything,  I hope you have some sort of brand established for your business. In my recent post, Starting A Business On A Budget, I talk about the importance of this.  Having a brand says a lot of about who you are and creates a great first impression with your potential customers. Keep your brand in mind in all promotional and marketing materials you use. Have a logo that you use on everything so that customers will instantly recognize you or your products.

At this point you'll want to check with your city to see if you will need any special permits or permissions to have a large event. Most likely you won't have an issue. Make sure that your location has sufficient parking and space to accommodate your turnout. You don't want to step on anyone's toes by hogging all of the parking on the street.  (This wasn't an issue I was very worried about since nearly every business downtown shuts down after 5 PM and luckily we had several back up parking lots.)

Pick your date, time, location and what the event will entail as soon as possible and start spreading the word. Work out a daily schedule of to do's for several weeks leading up to the event. Plan a vague schedule for how you want to the night to go. If you'll be having food and drinks plan your menu and consider reaching out to sponsors for such items. Consider joining your local Chamber of Commerce. They will work wonders for you in terms of spreading the word about your business and offering advice. Which leads me to my topic:

Create A Buzz

One of the very first things I did when I got the keys to my store was paint the name of my store, coming soon and pretty doodles all over the windows. I also attached balloons to the inside side of the windows to get peoples attention. (I saw this on pinterest and immediately knew that I wanted to do it.) People were intrigued because we were different and had a very unique name for our small country town. The created a little bit of buzz about us! People were curious to know what a place with a weird name like "Gypsy Beard Studio" could be. Our Google Analytics showed so many people looking us up from their phones as they would drive by and see our name and web site on the windows. It was kinda neat!

Social media and word of mouth are your two biggest allies. Not only are they free, they are where your customers are at. Create an event page on your Facebook page and invite anyone and everyone. Tell friends and family and have them share the event for you and invite people as well. Tell the barista at the coffee shop and the cashier at the grocery store. Tell your dog groomer and your hair stylist. Literally, tell everyone. At some point they will mention you to someone else.

 Old school flyers are still one of the greatest ways to get the word out! Make or have someone make a flyer for your event and plaster it everywhere possible. Think about where your potential customers hang out and frequent. For me that was the local book stores, college, thrift stores, bars, tattoo shops and coffee shops. In the places that I wasn't technically "allowed" to leave a flyer, I still did. lol I made mini flyers that I could hide in books, on magazine racks, taped to the inside of bathroom stalls and bathroom counters in restaurants and stores, and cars in parking lots of stores with your potential customers.

I'm quite a fan of guerrilla and non traditional marketing and advertising. Try to think outside the box when it comes to advertising. Peak their interested and make them want to know more.
  • Draw your shop name, web site or hashtag in chalk on every sidewalk you see. 
  • Have someone in a bear costume walk around town with a sign for your shop. 
  • Creating a video or doing something that goes viral is a great way to advertise. How can you do something similar to the ice bucket challenge? 
  •  Have someone park their classic car or VW van in front of your store with "GRAND OPENING" on the windows or balloons attached to it.
  • Leave stickers with your web site URL or hashtag in random places like public restrooms, bathrooms,
  • People are more apt to share and promote things that evoke an emotional response. How can you reach them emotionally?

Create a hashtag for your event and encourage your friends and family to start using it when they Tweet or post pictures  about the event before hand and DURING. Having a photo booth encourages people to take selfies and have fun. Hang a sign with your hashtag. A great idea is use a service to display a live feed of tweets and posts with your hashtag on a screen or on the wall with a projector.  It encourages people to post more tweets and photos and gives them something to do/enjoy while there. There are a few websites that allow you to do this such as and .

Take all the free press you can get!

Write up a press release or have one written for you and submit to your local paper. I did this and had the editor in my shop the next day interviewing me and we were featured in Saturday morning's paper! While I knew that most of my demographic didn't read the newspaper, it turns out their parents and grand parents do! It created a lot of community interest and I had folks from the chamber of commerce and city popping in my doors just to welcome me.  Most newspapers these days also integrate their news onto their social media platforms which turned out to be a big plus for us because people were liking the story and commenting on it on Facebook.

Get in touch with local radio stations. Most of them are more than happy to give your business a shout out for free. No need to purchase air time! I happened to meet a local DJ here in town that has given me shout outs more than once.

A lot of businesses do an official ribbon cutting with members of the local chamber of commerce or the mayor present. I didn't push to do anything like this, but it would definitely be a great idea and opportunity for businesses. Having prominent city officials or even a popular local musician present will always draw a larger crowd.

My last bit of advice is to quote that old song, "let give them something to talk about".  Make this a memorable event for everyone. Get people talking about you. Whether through live music, door prizes or food, get the conversation going about you. This will get people in your door faster than you can imagine.

If you have any questions please send them my way in the comments or via email: .

Have you ever thrown a grand opening or done any of your own guerrilla marketing?  Share your experience and tips! I'd love to know what DID and DIDN'T work for you.

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