Retail commerce | Marketing
Attract a Crowd!
January 01, 2016
A grand opening with just a handful of attendees isn't very grand. Likewise, a special in-store event is anything but special if it doesn't attract more than a handful of regular customers. Fortunately Scott Kuhn, CEO of ad and marketing agency Sheehy and one of the brains behind consultancy The Store Starters, has plenty of practical advice to help you bring in the crowds.
Develop your plans.
That's right: "plans," plural. In his white paper "Top 26 Tips for Planning a Successful Grand Opening Event," Kuhn cites the need to formulate not just a marketing plan but also a public relations plan and a social media plan. And when planning the event itself—Will it be a daylong open house with giveaways? An invitation-only cocktail party? A family-friendly fun fair?—you'll want to have your target audience and your budget pinned down first so that you don't waste time and energy on flights of fancy that aren't financially feasible or of interest to your audience.
Reach out to the pros.
The skills and knowledge needed to be a successful retailer aren't necessarily the same as those that ensure a successful event. Kuhn goes so far as to suggest hiring a wedding planner: "If you envision an extravagant grand opening that's more party than promotion, then using a credible wedding planner may be a stroke of genius. A good planner will have access to caterers, tables, chairs, tents, entertainment, and more." Along similar lines, if you're not confident in the photography and videography skills of your staff (or yourself), it may be worth hiring a pro, as you'll want good-quality photos and video to post on your site and social media and to send to local media. If you're planning to offer food—always a good way to attract people; just the aroma will lure in passersby!—you're better off with a caterer than trying to do it yourself. And don't forget about security: "Protecting your facility and the valuables of your employees is critical at a major event. Keeping your attendees safe is also an important practice to begin. Hiring a temporary security guard will help ensure the event proceeds without any major disturbances and provides comfort for those in attendance," Kuhn writes.
File the necessary paperwork.
If you're planning to serve food, do you need a special permit? What about for live entertainment? Will you need a performance licence for music? Does your insurance policy cover all aspects of the event?
Consider promotional giveaways.
Key fobs, T-shirts, umbrellas, tote bags, note pads, and the like embellished with your store logo are relatively inexpensive freebies that will remind attendees of your store long after the event is a distant memory.
Consider contests and sweepstakes.
Who doesn't love contests—especially when there's a giveaway involved? You could give door prizes to the first 50 attendees, conduct a raffle, or reward certain actions: a gift certificate to the person who posts the most pictures from the event or before the event on social media; prizes for those who guess how many widgets are in a jar; discount coupons for all those who make use of the karaoke machine. But "if you choose to give away something, make sure that people know about it. A great promotion is only a draw if people know it exists," Kuhn notes. "And take the time to ensure your actual contests, sweepstakes, or giveaways are in accordance with all applicable... gaming laws."
Try getting your vendors involved.
Perhaps they can donate prizes for giveaways or product samples to help defray your costs, or maybe they'll even be willing to underwrite certain expenses in exchange for promotional consideration.
Invite other local businesses to participate.
This goes along the same lines as reaching out to vendors. A local restaurant might cater the event in exchange for significant promotion, and noncompeting businesses might donate prizes for the same reason.
Ask local luminaries to attend.
These can range from business leaders and government officials to performers and athletes. And if you're going to have a ribbon-cutting ceremony—always a plus when opening a new store—invite them to perform the honours. And don't forget the media...
Promote the event ahead of time.
Send out press releases, submit information to the local newspaper's events calendar and community-organisation newsletters, post flyers on public bulletin boards at area gyms, parks, and the like. And share the information on all your social media and your website as well as in your enewsletters and direct mail.
Invite friends and family—and have your employees do the same.
"Maybe you offer a little paid time off to the employee who brings the most guests or whose guest spends the most at your store. Or, although this may feel a little counterintuitive, maybe you acknowledge the person who brings a friend from the farthest away," Kuhn suggests in another white paper, "35 Ways to Increase Traffic to Your New Store Opening." "The point is to have fun with this. It will help keep your employees motivated during one of the most hectic, stressful times in the life of your store."
Have ample signage.
Balloons outside your door, sandwich boards in your parking lot, and signs with arrows along the roads leading to your store can alert people who might not have heard about the festivities and remind those who forgot about them.
Spread word about the event afterward.
Okay, this doesn't fall into the category of driving traffic to the event itself, but it helps ensure that you get the most bang for your promotional buck. Send out another press release with photos, and be sure to post photos and videos on all your social media as well as on your website.