So you’ve decided you want to open a new business. Whether this business is a new concept for a single-unit business you’ve been dreaming up your whole life or you’ve fallen in love with a franchise concept and you’ve signed up to be their newest franchisee, nothing is more exciting that the prospect of a prosperous business future – but also, possibly nothing is more daunting! We know that this is a huge undertaking and, without a strong foundation of knowledge of your industry and hard work, can hardly be feasible in this booming market. But you, the business owner, know about your product. You’re an expert on its concepts and are ready to share them with our economy. But all businesses share one thing in common – they are a business! Regardless of whether you’re in food, retail, fitness, or any other industry, at the end of the day, you’re still running a business. One of the biggest fears I encounter when helping businesses get up and running is how do we do that?
Every business owner wants to be successful. But success is built upon slow and steady gains. It is juvenile to expect that on day one of opening your doors, your business will be flooded with customers and your register will be overflowing. You will have to work to get each and every customer through your door. Fortunately, supporting local business is a huge trend currently, and taking advantage of the time between deciding to open a new location and actually getting it open for business can create a huge difference in your numbers starting off. By advertising a business that is not yet open, but soon to come, it creates a buzz of something new and exciting but is still exclusive because it is not yet accessible. So you dangle the carrot and create an awareness, so that when it becomes available, business is already booming.
Coupled with your hard work and determination, here are some ways you can achieve this “Day One” dream and help you creating a lasting impression on your customers that will keep your business flowing beyond grand opening.
Participating in Community Events (1-3 months before grand opening)
If the community members are the clientele, the first step is letting them know you’re there or coming soon. You can participate in local events, community festivals, farmers markets, etc.—basically events where you know your clientele will be. If your business involves small products you can giveaway as samples—especially food samples—come prepared to give away a few things because people love free stuff. If your product involves more expensive items or is something more figurative like a membership, host a raffle where you have them sign up to win a free membership. You should also absolutely hand out coupons that detail your new location and also the dates of grand opening. Ultimately, the biggest takeaway from these events is to make connections. When it feels like a personal relationship has been established, it leaves a lasting impression on the customer, making them much more inclined to remember you down the road and ultimately seek out your business without further prompting.
Establishing Connections with Local Businesses (1-3 months before grand opening)
Aside from making connections with potential customers, it is also important to create connections with other local businesses: the people who are already receiving support in the community. Again with the samples, you can take some of your products, flyers, coupons, etc. to these businesses, especially those that share a building with your location; if their customers are willing to travel to their location (which is also your new location) to consume their products, you’ve already overcome the task of getting the customers to your area. Each of these businesses is a connection point where if you spark an interest within their business, it is likely to trickle down to their customers and ultimately convert them to your customers as well.
Mailing Flyers/Coupons (1 month before grand opening)
This may seem like an age-old tactic that is wasteful of paper and adds to the pile of community junk mail, but this is not the case. Even if the flyer ends up getting thrown away, someone had to read and touch that flyer to get it to the trash (or more optimistically, the recycling bin). So worst case scenario: even if they’re not interested in your product themselves, they have still received an awareness that the business is coming. They may know someone who would be interested and say “did you see that this new business is coming to x location?” Even if it doesn’t prompt a direct sale with its intended recipient, it is a cheap and effective method that is guaranteed to get the message out about the new business.
Private Events (1 week before grand opening)
There are many added benefits to hosting private events in the week leading up to grand opening. The most important benefit of these types of events would be that it gives you and your employees a test run to see what is missing, familiarize themselves with the process of running the business in a controlled environment, and most importantly make mistakes that you learn from. Nobody is more forgiving than family. If strangers love supporting local businesses, families love supporting their family members even more. Hosting a private event for family and friends creates the perfect space to encounter and overcome many of the obstacles that come with opening a new business. And then to move a step beyond family and friends, partnering with local businesses to invite them in for a private event creates a personal relationship with that business and also creates a less-forgiving but still practice-worthy environment for trials of business operations. This would not be like having the store open for a full day, but limited timeframe with a shortened range of open hours where people can sample the products and ultimately prep your employees for the real thing.