today we are blessed with yet another great post by biz ladies regular meg touborg of design investors llc. educating us on various topics like creating a compelling work environment, forming successful biz partnerships, making a strategic biz plan, successful biz dev and first time funding, meg is now enlightening us on effective grand opening marketing practices to get our businesses off the ground and running. thanks meg for yet another helpful post! –stephanie
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Opening the doors of your very own business is an exhilarating process, and of course you want to inform as many of your prospective customers as possible about your grand opening. In this article, I will focus on different practices you can use to call attention to your new venture. The key to success is doing a variety of things to get the word out, not just one main event. I recommend strategizing a medley of contact points, including a formal announcement, an event in your office or shop, press and blog attention. My advice is fairly classic, as I have found that gimmicky concepts can be risky when you really want to get off on the right foot with your audience and jump-start your revenue plans: wacky ideas are very fun to brainstorm, but can be cumbersome to execute and as a result, typically don’t end up producing real value.
**For the purpose of this article, I will assume that you have fundamental marketing elements that are necessary before you construct your grand opening plan; these include a brand identity/ logo, a web site, and an initial biz plan containing a description of your target customers and a budget.
It is really important you know both generally and specifically who is your primary target for your firm’s services and products. This definition will determine what kinds of marketing activities you develop, and will ensure that your time, energy and budget are spent wisely especially at the beginning, when you will be spending cash before you have sales or orders. Your targets should be the decision-makers who will decide to use your company’s services. The purpose of your grand opening will be to communicate to this group of targets what is special about your company, your experiences, and how you will help your customers solve their problems—more creatively, or more efficiently, or more inexpensively, or whatever your unique attributes are, than the existing competition.
Sources of target names include your known customers at your prior job/firm, the results of extensive internet searches, the results of your networking efforts and personal referrals you have gathered.
Target Customer Database
Whatever activities you pursue to announce yourself, they all depend on a really good contact database of your targets. A lot of time and effort goes into this tool; but once it is set up, it is (relatively) easy to maintain as your business and contacts expand over time. There are sophisticated soft ware programs, but using an excel spreadsheet works just as well at the beginning. You will want to have separate columns for first name, last name, firm name, address and city/state, zip code, telephone number and email address separated. You will want a column to remind yourself of the source of the target name: eg, “web research”, “ Uncle Joe’s client list,” “ alumni directory”, “ media” etc. This database is your bedrock, and you will use it to make cold calls, to mail postcards and e-blasts, to issue invitations and to check RSVPs for events—all necessary for the grand opening as well as for future business development efforts. Eventually, you might use it to record sales and orders too, so it really pays off to take care to set it up with proper spelling and information. The internet will enable you to verify addresses, zip codes and spelling.
You will want to create some kind of an announcement that can be mailed, emailed and also left behind for complimentary businesses to distribute on your behalf, or to put in gift bags if you can determine a complimentary event happening around the time of your opening. Depending on your type of business, your budget, your taste—your announcement can be a handsome heavy stock card, it can be a letter personalized through mail merge technology with your database (“Dear Sue” is much more appealing than “Dear Customer”), or it could be a colorful postcard and e-blast version with imagery. It is a very good idea these days that any time you put something in the mail, to follow up with an electronic version. I think an announcement should be mailed/blasted right before the day of ‘opening.” I like to send the physical card first, then use the e-version as a reminder ~1-2 weeks later, but you could do the reverse order too if it seemed to suit the personality of your business better. Remember when budgeting that a hard copy announcement can have multiple layers of expense: creative fee (unless you design it yourself), printing costs for card and envelope, postage.
- Whatever the format, remember to include your logo and multiple ways for customers to reach you: your office phone #, your office hours, maybe your cell #, your email address and the web site of your firm
- Depending on your type of business, you could include some kind of “offer” in your announcement. There is not a hard and fast rule here, the best approach is to find a benefit that your customers will appreciate. Ask the opinions of a few of your targets! You do NOT want to sell your products or services short, yet, you do want to excite as many potential clients in for “trial” of your services. SO…this could be anything from a complimentary one hour consultation for the first month of opening…a free “gift” if you are a store (eg, a notepad or pencil box with your logo), or free shipping with your first order (if you make things) etc.
You have worked so hard for this moment, it seems fitting to give a party! But beware—grand opening parties can be wonderful to plan, but incredibly expensive to host. Invitations, catering, valet, decorations, full bar, décor rentals, music or entertainment may easily exceed your budget and may not actually bring revenue in the door. Also, such a display may not seem right for a start up venture in this economy. Instead, more personal events seem to be more effective. AND, you can do more than one this way, if you find that your date conflicts with key targets’ availability, hold another different event 2 weeks later.
- “Please join us for wine and cheese (4-6pm)… for dessert and prosecco (after 7 pm) …for coffee and continental breakfast (8am onward) “ …do the trick and can be accomplished with sufficient fanfare but still enable your guests to actually talk with you and learn about your services. (an IPod does great music for virtually free)
- One of my companies did a “tea and scones” (and sherry!) event that was unusual and really well-liked, and again, guests really got to mingle, hear about the subject at hand; as you might imagine, it was an inexpensive event to host
- Do have a gift bag (ideally with your logo printed on it, or a very tasteful sticker with your logo) with a single memento in it, a small gift that says something about your business acumen or interests, and will ensure the guest leaves smiling. Include your business card and a simple thank you note for coming
- Make sure you have a photographer on hand (professional or very good amateur) so you could submit photos with your press release and editor outreach, and depending on your business, you may post these photos on your web site and your Facebook page
- Keep a guest book at the door, and have someone on hand to ensure names and contacts are captured. Afterwards, review the attendees against your invite list and your database: call one-by-one those targets you expected to see but didn’t and invite them in for an individual glass of wine or coffee
Perhaps you have existing relationships with the press, in which case, now is the time to use them. If not, you can write a formal press release and submit it to your target media publications. Just as with the customer database, build a comprehensive list of the editors’ contact info. Journalists are always looking for “news” so be sure to include what is hot and different about your firm/company , and a brief biographical sketch about your own experience and talents. These days, bloggers are a fantastic source of press, and are supportive of new ventures as they can appreciate the entrepreneurial spirit from their own trade. Be sure to research the blogs read by your target audience, not just your peers, as your objective is to tell prospects about your firm and its services. Bloggers may want to take their own pictures, or may ask for you to submit yours and may want an interview in addition to your formal press release.
If your shop or office is in a well-trafficked location, be sure your windows and doors are marked with your logo and hours. If you design/print/sell things, be sure to have attractive displays in the windows, and consider lighting at night so that passersby can be intrigued by the new enterprise on the block
Advertising is a fantastic way to get attention—but as it is general, not specific to a set target, it can be a tough way for a business on limited funds to reach its specific audience. However, perhaps there are highly targeted journals or electronic newsletters that you know your audience reads, or there maybe local broadsheets, theatre playbills or other means that would enable you to be exposed to exactly the right audience for not much money. In this case, you will want the ad to be professionally designed to send the right message and jump out from the page, and you will want more than one insertion to catch people’s eyes. It can take a lot of exposures to draw attention, so negotiate more than a single insertion up front.
Do some research to see what is happening around the planned timing of your opening, and there may be an opportunity for your company to have gifts or an announcement card in a compatible gift bag, or maybe even to have your logo exposed as a sponsor (in exchange for a bartering of services, sharing of names, or a $ contribution)
Talk it up!
You are your own best publicist, and do talk about your upcoming launch with as many people, in as many places, as possible. Your enthusiasm and energy will be appealing, and remember to have biz cards with you wherever you go to hand out.
- Map out your ideas and timing, work through the costs, and ensure the total sum fits in your budget
- Build your database of customer contacts
- Design and mail and blast an announcement
- Plan an event, or two, that will enable your customers to meet you (and be impressed) and see your operation, while enjoying simple and unexpected refreshment
- Get ready behind the scenes: web site up to your standards; initiate a Facebook fan page; print your business cards
- Pursue press …investigate advertising
- Find compatible businesses and events, and see if you can determine effective tie-ins and cross promotions
- Bring good humor to the process and have fun with it! Your excitement will be contagious
ABOUT MEG TOUBORG
Meg combines her love of design, fashion and popular culture into her career as “the business side of creative people and entrepreneurs.” Her past roles have spanned from product development, to sales, to operations and marketing and licensing for premium brands such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Coach, Kate spade and Waterworks. She has three children and enjoys involvement in the public schools. In 2007, Meg became an entrepreneur herself and with her business partner, founded Design Investors LLC in Westport, CT.
ABOUT DESIGN INVESTORS LLC
Design Investors LLC was established with a singular objective: to support the growth and profitability of the design industry’s most promising products, business services, and media companies. The firm partners with founders and management teams of portfolio companies to infuse creativity with capital, and reinforce business plans with an extensive resource network and many years of relevant management experience. Appreciating the unique vision and opportunities available to each investment, Design Investors works side-by-side with companies to maximize value through building market leadership positions.