How to Attract Customers on Your Opening Day
8 min. read
Updated October 25, 2023
You’ve planned your business carefully. You’ve secured your funding. You’ve just about finished setting up shop. All your metaphorical ducks are nicely in a row.
Before you simply open your doors to the public, you may want to strategize.
With a plan in place for your opening day, you’ll be able to ensure that you get plenty of customers in the door and generate enough media buzz to keep bringing in business long after.
No doubt you’re probably excited (and maybe a little nervous) at the idea of finally opening your business, and a solid opening strategy is your key to making your first day unforgettable.
Here are some strategies to help ensure that your opening day is a success.
1. Get your “story” straight
What story does your business tell?
Maybe, like Jillian Darlington, creator of the MomCo app, you started your business to solve a personal pain point that the industry wasn’t solving.
Or, perhaps your story is about how you bootstrapped your business by starting several side businesses and never gave up on your dream, even in the face of adversity.
Think of your story as though it’s an elevator pitch; it has to be succinct, memorable, and deliverable in a few sentences or a short conversation.
Tom Smith of Insights From Analytics recommends doing PR outreach to local media and sharing your story. “Yes, you need to create your ‘story’—and make sure everyone associated with your company knows it,” he advises. Do this from the start, and you’ll make any media coverage of your big opening more cohesive and easy to package.
2. Start building your social media campaign in advance
If you are planning on waiting until your business is fully operational to start being more active on social media, don’t.
Get in early. Start building interest as soon as you can.
“For one of our restaurant clients, we planned an online social campaign, teasing the opening and showcasing the unique atmosphere and food,” says Amy Wise, VP of Marketing and Client Relations for Appleton Creative, Inc. They then shared press coverage of the restaurant’s grand opening on their social sites, creating a kind of social media feedback loop.
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“The organic coverage was then shared and utilized in our social campaign,” she explains. “The resulting buzz helped us gain features in newsletters, blogs, social media posts, radio shows, magazines, and newspapers.”
Katherine Faubion, General Manager of CycleBar, shares her experience on beginning social engagement early: “We researched and connected local social media groups that were a fit with our target customer base, including mom groups, wellness groups, and nonprofits.”
By targeting local social media groups and influencers that align with your business and by creating buzz early, you can build a social media campaign that will have people excited about your business before the doors even open.
3. Alert the press
With your social media campaign planned and in progress, it’s time to ensure that you get media coverage of your big opening day.
“We utilize as many organic opportunities as possible, maximizing our public relations efforts by sending out and publishing press releases and media advisories, as well as reaching out to our local network of media,” says Amy.
How can you get the media interested?
Focus your social media campaign on your unique story, or what makes your business special (sometimes known as your unique selling proposition), or something visually engaging about your business. “If there is something of visual interest about your business, invite media members in advance of opening for a sneak peek—we had three news crews show up to film our cycling studio!” says Katherine.
If your business doesn’t have a huge visual draw, don’t worry! There are other ways to draw media attention, such as holding a ribbon-cutting ceremony—we’ll get to that next.
4. Partner with your local Chamber of Commerce and hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony
Don’t be afraid to make your opening day an event worth writing about—it’ll increase your chances of being covered by local media outlets.
Katherine of CycleBar recalls how they partnered with their local chamber of commerce for their ribbon cutting ceremony, which was a huge success. “This drew local officials and fellow business owners,” she says. “We used the photos to do follow ups with local publications announcing the business.”
Spread word of the ceremony on your various social channels, and be sure to invite any VIPs in your area, such as city officials, nearby business owners, and other prominent industry leaders and tastemakers in your area.
5. Don’t forget paid advertising
With such an emphasis on a big social media push before opening, it can be easy to forget paid advertising.
“It’s always a bonus to be able to leverage coverage and information with paid advertising—be it social, PPC, or traditional,” says Amy.
The best strategy will vary by industry, but it might be wise to incorporate paid advertising in addition to organic or guerilla marketing.
6. Consider holding a VIP night or soft opening
A soft opening or a VIP night gives you a chance to work out some of the opening day kinks while also upping buzz around your business before it opens for the general public.
“For a recent restaurant opening day, we did a media preview, followed by a grand opening VIP event. There was a soft open to the general public, but it didn’t become common knowledge until the publicized events,” explains Amy.
7. Offer discounts, giveaways, or sales for your grand opening
If you’re holding a grand opening, be sure to make it special for those who attend.
You can do this by offering a special discount; treating your customers to a giveaway bag with some samples of your product (if appropriate) and branded merchandise; or holding a sale on a certain product or service.
What you choose to offer as a promotion will largely depend on the type of business you’re in. “A lot depends on the price-point of the product and the product demographic,” explains Amy.
“For example, during a recent client opening of a frozen yogurt store, we coordinated to have onsite media coverage and youth games and discounts, such as free youth yogurts with an adult purchase. We also ran a social promotion that included a discount if you proved you were following the business on social media.”
If you plan on offering giveaways, consider partnering with other local businesses. Not only will this draw in more customers, but you’ll be deepening your business’s roots within the local community.
Opening a brewery? Partner with the bakery down the street and feature their cupcakes at your grand opening party. Or maybe you’re starting a clothing company and can partner with a local beauty salon to give away coupons for their services in your goodie bags.
“We partnered with other businesses to generate buzz and put together lots of freebies for customers—we had free donations from healthy Fit Foods, a lash boutique, a smoothie store, etc.,” says Katherine. “Your customers get great free stuff and discounts, and other businesses can promote themselves and invite their customers to see what you have to offer.”
8. Extend special pricing following your grand opening
To keep the hype high following your grand opening, continue offering a special pricing structure or certain discounts for a week or so.
This will encourage patrons who couldn’t make your grand opening to visit your new business as soon as possible.
“We made special package pricing available to folks who visited us in the first few weeks,” says Katherine, who offered a grand opening discount following the official opening of CycleBar.
9. Avoid the “reverse curse”
One final note: Beware of attracting too many customers.
Wait—what? While this can seem counterintuitive, it’s something to be aware of.
“Businesses shouldn’t solely focus on getting customers in the door opening day—they should also plan for what I call the ‘reverse curse,’” warns Elle Kaplan, CEO and founder LexION Capital.
“Having too many customers can be just as damaging as having none at all,” she explains. “When I first opened my doors to LexION Capital, I learned this very abruptly when I had more potential clients sign up on day one than I expected in the entire first year. When I wasn’t prepared to deliver high-quality service to so many, I had to temporarily turn some prospective clients down while I scaled up. Fortunately, my prospective clients understood, but yours might not—especially if they’ve already committed money to your business.”
Avoid the “reverse curse” by getting a sense beforehand of what your product stock looks like and how long it would take you to reorder, or what your booking prospects look like if you’re a service business. Be realistic with your customers, and with yourself, and you’ll avoid unhappiness on both ends.
“It’s an overlooked problem because most people see it as a blessing,” says Elle. “But, you should always have plans for growth and best-case scenarios in place.”