Lots of work goes into starting a franchise unit, and your opening day is a milestone achievement. To celebrate, think about hosting a grand opening day event that introduces your franchise to the community.
In this guide, we'll share strategies for making this big day a success.
Strategy 1: Start with a soft opening
In the days or weeks leading up to your grand opening, open your doors and/or website to a select group of friends and family members who will give you feedback on the look, feel, and experience of your business.
- If you have a physical location, invite your soft-opening audience inside to meet your team, sample products, and place orders.
- If your business is conducted remotely, ask your audience to visit your website and social media pages and talk to your customer service team.
Try to get feedback from every person who participates. To start, ask what they think of your product or service offerings. Then, find out about the interactions they had with your team. You can also ask about any specifics that need some tweaking before you open your business to a wider audience.
Strategy 2: Adopt your franchisor’s best practices
Most franchisors will offer you support and resources as you gear up for opening day. In terms of support, many will send a franchise representative to your site to help you with preparations and lend a hand through the first days of operations. The resources they provide may include a grand opening checklist and a kit that contains coupons, promotional ideas, or signage to help you announce your arrival to your community.
Your site rep will likely be experienced in helping franchise units start strong, so follow their suggestions. Feel free to ask about folding in some of your own ideas to build your initial customer base and make your opening day a success.
Strategy 3: Talk with other franchise unit owners
Reach out to other franchise owners to learn what worked, what didn’t, and what they wished they had done differently when starting out. Try speaking with them over the phone or in person, if possible. This will help you a rapport and create a lasting connection that could benefit you both for as long as you own the franchise unit.
|You can often find other franchise owners in the directory listing of your franchise disclosure document (FDD). Some franchisors also list their owners' contact info on their intranet site.|
Strategy 4: Hire a marketing firm
If you need more support, consider working with marketing professionals who specialize in small business successes. You can ask for advice on announcing your opening, attracting customers, and planning a memorable event that will make your community excited about your arrival. Some may offer you a consultation and provide you with steps you should take to make your opening day a success. Others will help you plan the event, invite key members of your community, and ensure that the right details are in place to make an impact. Both options should provide tremendous returns for your business. With this in mind, choose the option that works best for you and your budget.
Strategy 5: Select the right date
Find the best day and time for your grand opening celebration. One way to do this is by consulting your community’s calendar of events, sports schedules, road construction timelines, or other guides. These resources can help you spot activities that could draw people close to your site or, conversely, keep them from attending your event.
For many businesses, weekend days that don’t coincide with a major sporting event or holiday are best for grand opening celebrations.
Strategy 6: Connect with your community
Wondering how you'll build a buzz for your opening day? You can take one step long before the event takes place: getting out in the community. Get involved and plant your brand so people in your area become familiar with it. Some ideas for doing this could include:
- Sponsoring a local team or co-hosting a community event to get exposure for your brand
- Offering samples or coupons for your products at other neighborhood events
- Talking about your grand opening with people you meet at other venues
For some of these events, you should prepare talking points or bring along visuals to make an even greater impact. Here are some tips for creating excitement:
- Always make the conversation about your customer’s preferences and not your own opinions of your products.
- Share how your products or services can meet a need or eliminate a pain point. Depending on your product, you may talk about convenience, low cost, high quality, or any other point that your customer could find meaningful.
- Talk about the specials that will be happening during your opening day celebration. You might mention how the discounts provide an excellent way to try a product others are buzzing about.
- Bring signs, catalogs, or promotional materials that will leave a lasting visual impression on your target audience.
Strategy 7: Work your platforms
Create social media accounts on the platforms your target audience uses most. Share updates of your construction projects, tease giveaways, and offer opening day coupons for people who like and share your page.
Be sure that every photo, video, and message you share does something more than inform your audience. Try to build suspense and excitement over what’s to come. A few ideas for killer social media posts include:
- Sharing photos of local tastemakers and influencers sampling (and loving!) your products.
- Allowing your social media followers to select your next giveaway (from a set of pre-selected options).
- Offering fun, engaging, and easy-to-enter contests with unique prizes. These could include a VIP parking spot for your opening day event, a personalized shopping experience, or a basket of samples delivered to your customer’s place of work.
Strategy 8: Invite key people in your community to attend
Ask several well-known people in your area to attend your opening day event. Many political figures (including the mayor, city council members, and political candidates), art icons, and others may show an interest in attending. This is especially true if you can offer some of the following incentives:
- An opportunity to be photographed cutting the ribbon to your business
- An opportunity to be part of an event that’s giving a portion of its proceeds to a popular charitable organization—and, more so, to be the person who delivers an oversized check to that organization
- The chance to connect with and speak to a large audience
- An opportunity to feature or sell artwork, play a gig, or demonstrate a talent in front of an audience
After confirming their attendance, promote the news on your social media platforms. You can also reach out to local media outlets that may send reporters, photographers, or videographers to cover your event. Representatives from newspapers, television stations, and radio stations will want a few weeks of notice to plan to attend your event. Most will also appreciate a reminder several days before it occurs.
Strategy 9: Build a buzz with your neighbors
If you have a physical storefront, reach out to the owners of businesses that neighbor yours. Share your plans for opening day. Then, invite them to plan overlapping events so they can benefit from your influx of customers (or draw an even wider audience to your block). You may also want to offer your neighbors an ongoing friends-and-family discount to build goodwill with them.
Any steps you take to join forces with the owners around you can pay off in big ways. This is especially true if those businesses have a great reputation in your neighborhood. Demonstrate that you will be a good, considerate, and generous neighbor, and many will reciprocate.
Strategy 10: Put your friends and family to work
Ask your friends and family members to help you hype your business. Ask them to show up on your opening day. Encourage them to share your social media pages and tell others about your new business. You might also give some of them a stack of coupons to share with their network. Be sure to reward them with discounts or free merchandise for showing support for your business.
Strategy 11: Advertise
Look into the costs of advertising your opening on popular radio stations, in your city’s newspaper, in local magazines, and through targeted mailers. Many media outlets offer affordable options to promote your business. Some could also allow you to negotiate a discount (these are often available for a fledgling small business).
You can also get great exposure for your business through paid advertisements on social media platforms, but be strategic about where you advertise. Many new franchise owners see great results from focusing their ad efforts on Facebook and Nextdoor. However, you should also consider other platforms your audience is likely to use.
Ad space is finite, meaning you have a limited amount of time or space to share your message. Your franchisor may have some ready-to-print ads you can use to announce your opening day or some pre-recorded commercials that will get your market excited about your business. Ask your franchise representative about the ad options that are available and whether you have the option to share a unique message with your market.
Strategy 12: Set the stage
After making sure your store, site, and other critical parts of your operation are in place, you can set up some signs, balloons, and other elements that’ll make your place of business feel like a fun place to spend time. Some options you might consider include:
- A large banner on the exterior of your storefront announcing your opening day
- A quippy message on a sidewalk sign or a sign near the road that will catch passersby’s attention
- Balloons, flowers, and decorations that set the right tone for your business
- Fun, upbeat music from a live band or DJ
- Novel, low-mess refreshments for attendees
- Parking lot inflatables or games
- Tables set up with grab bags and sign-up sheets for giveaways
- Frequent contests with great prizes on display
|Too often, attendees show up for opening day amenities without spending any time in the business. A great strategy to avoid this is to set up the refreshment stands, games, and activities in front of the store but require attendees to get a free ticket from a counter inside your business.
Likewise, you should consider placing sign-up tables and contest sheets at the back of your store to encourage attendees to experience your store, see more of your products, and possibly make some purchases while they enjoy the free amenities.
These twelve tips can help you introduce your franchise to your target market and leave a lasting impression on your customers.
After opening day, you’re ready to embark on the work of running your business, managing your team, and exploring growth opportunities. We can help you every step of the way. Log into your owner’s portal for strategies and support you can use to make your franchise a lasting success.