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Opening Ceremonies

Your company's grand opening could be your best marketing plan.

Considering everything that's involved in getting your business off the ground, you may be tempted to treat your opening as a minor detail, but an effective opening is an important part of your marketing plan. "Planning an opening is no different from planning a business," says Cindy Kurman, president of Kurman Communications Inc., a PR firm based in Chicago. She offers these tips:

  • Budget for the opening. Decide what you're going to do, figure out how much it will cost, and include those expenses in your first-year marketing budget.
  • Plan ahead. Kurman says it's not unreasonable to plan as far as a year ahead, especially for a splashy event with VIPs and celebrities.
  • Know who you're trying to reach. Your company's grand opening needs to target not only your customer groups but your suppliers, the media and possibly other audiences.
  • Figure out staffing and create a timeline. Decide who's responsible for what, and when it needs to happen.
  • Keep good records. Track what you do and what you spend. Make checklists so nothing gets forgotten or overlooked.
  • Consider a soft opening. Begin your operation before the grand opening to work out the kinks and make sure your employees are trained and know what to do.
  • Make your event(s) appropriate. Make your grand opening compatible with your business. "Don't just give a party-do things that make sense for the business," says Kurman. "Make sure the person who's attracted to your event is the person who you want patronizing your business."

One of Kurman's clients is Tru, a four-star restaurant in Chicago. Pastry chef/co-owner Gale Gand, 43, opted for something different. "We gave small dinners and private showings with personal tours [to prospective customers]," Gand says. "We didn't feel [a big party] reflected the soul of the restaurant." The strategy worked: Tru has become one of Chicago's most popular fine dining establishments.

This story appears in the May 2000 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »