(YoungBiz.com) - Starting your own business is great, but, boy, it can be a lot of work, too. There's the funding to get and the business plan to write, licenses to apply for and employees to hire. Whew! Sounds like you're ready for a party.
Good news: This is the perfect time to throw a little shindig. It's called a grand opening, and it's not only fun but great publicity for your biz. And guess what? You don't have to have a store to hold one. Here are five steps to take to plan a really grand event:
- Step 1: Decide on the type of event and a budget. Considering everything involved in getting your business off the ground, you may be tempted to treat your opening as a minor detail. But a well-planned grand opening is an important part of your marketing plan. To get your business rolling, you have to bring people through the door, and a party provides the perfect opportunity.
But that doesn't mean you have to pull out all the stops and spend tons of cash to hold a successful grand opening. As a matter of fact, it's probably better that you don't--you'll have plenty of other expenses to cover as your business gets off the ground.
There are lots of ways to hold a grand opening. You can roll out the red carpet, or you can throw a simple pizza party, host an open house or hold a small ceremony. If you have a homebased business, invite your friends and neighbors, suppliers and the media to a grand opening party at your house. Serve refreshments and give free demonstrations of your product or service. Give away free samples, business cards and fliers.
Make a detailed list of all the party's expenses, and make sure the total cost fits into your budget. Once you've considered invitations, food, beverages, decorations, giveaways, you'll know whether you can pull off your dream opening--or need to scale it down a bit.
- Step 2: Give yourself plenty of time. Allow at least two to three months to allow time to print and mail invitations. You want as many people to attend as possible, so give your guests plenty of notice.
Decide who on your staff will be responsible for which duties and set deadlines. Track what you do and what you spend. Make checklists so nothing gets forgotten or overlooked. And touch base occasionally to make sure everyone's on the same page.
Also consider a trial run. Begin your business operation before the grand opening to work out the kinks and make sure your employees are trained and know what to do.
- Step 3: Know whom you're trying to reach. Your company's grand opening needs to target not only your customers but your suppliers and the media as well. It's your first big chance to begin building relationships within your community.
Letting the media know you're the new business in town is an excellent way to generate free publicity--both before and after your grand opening. Two to three weeks before your event, be sure to contact the local media by phone or by mailing out a press release. Consider inviting the mayor to do the honors if you have a ribbon-cutting ceremony, and make sure you inform the media. Those photos will likely end up in your local paper, along with a story about your new business.
Planning for the media is just as important as planning the event. One key is making a press kit available. A press kit doesn't have to be fancy to do the trick. Buy some two-pocket folders and include a fact sheet about your business and products, frequently asked questions and a copy of a press release. Throw in a business card for any follow-up.
- Step 4: Make your event compatible with your business. If you're opening a food-related business, you may want to give out free samples of the items that will be on your menu, along with samples of the menu itself.
Offer a guided tour of your facility, no matter how large or small. As part of the planned event, offer samples and schedule demonstrations.
Remember, don't just think of your grand opening as a party--think of it as a "theme" party. You want to attract the people who will be patronizing your business.
- Step 5: Have reasonable expectations. As the saying goes, Rome wasn't built in a day. And while your grand opening should get your business off to a good start, you'll need to make marketing an ongoing priority in your business. Some low-cost, ongoing ways to spread the word about your biz are:
Wear a T-shirt or cap that advertises your product.
- Put up signs and posters.
- Hand out fliers, business cards or brochures.
- Give away free samples or discount coupons.
- Ask your friends and family for referrals.
- Advertise on a Web site--or create your own.
- Get a booth in a flea market or fair.
Remember, your grand opening party is supposed to be a social event. Sure, it's a great chance to network, but you don't want to beat people over the head with your marketing messages, either. Keep the atmosphere festive and refrain from giving people your business spiel the moment they walk in the door. A simple, "Hi, I'm Joan/Joe Entrepreneur. The food and drinks are this way. Make yourself comfortable," will do.