To make a splash with your franchise grand opening, you will need two things: an event plan and a promotion plan. These steps will help you plan every detail of your opening, attract traffic and get media coverage.
Planning Your Grand Opening
Define Your Demographic
Your franchise company has probably already given you plenty of information about your possible demographic, so study that information carefully before planning your event and choose activities that will appeal to the specific demographic your franchise serves.
Don’t try to please everyone all the time, but if your event is an all-day or all-weekend event, you can plan multiple activities that appeal to slightly different groups. For instance, if it is a family-centric consumer franchise like chocolate, you can plan some activities that appeal to adults (like high-end candy tastings), some that appeal to kids (doodling on chocolate lollipops), and some that appeal to both (edible family photos printed on chocolate).
Always remember that successful marketing is all about your customer, not you, so before planning your activities, set aside your list of what you want to do and ask your family friends, is this something YOU would like to do?
Plan Your Offerings
Plan your activities and special offers so that you have plenty of variety throughout the grand opening period. And switch it up often – vary the activities throughout the day. This will encourage people to return and bring friends. Offer several different one-day-only or half-day-only deep discounts or free offers. Mix it up with limited-time samples, giveaways, raffles and contests. Keep the pace moving and fun.
Publish a schedule of your event activities in your promotions and post it prominently on your sales counter and on your front door so people can see what’s coming up next and perhaps linger or return.
Schedule Plenty of Staff
You will want to have plenty of staff on hand and probably some volunteers as well. Estimate the number of people you expect to attend each day and increase that number by 30 percent. You will need enough staff dedicated to sales to handle all orders and answer all questions. As the owner, you should expect all your time to be consumed with hospitality, answering questions, networking and media contacts. Do not plan on having any time or energy for sweeping floors, dusting, restocking or ringing up sales. You don’t want your sales staff burned out either – they’ll be spending long days on their feet handling crowds of enthusiastic buyers – so schedule plenty of people in reasonable shifts to get everything done.
In fact, you should probably plan to be quietly open for a couple of weeks before the grand opening. This will give you a chance to gauge the amount of physical work (cleaning, restocking, etc.) required and to work out any kinks in your equipment, point-of-sale system and staffing.
For the event itself, you should probably have at least one person in charge of starting, ending and conducting activities. If children are invited to participate, you will need a few more people. Choose someone creative and enthusiastic and ask them to add some pizzazz to the activities – maybe a staff song and dance, a little staff cheer or a costumed mascot.
You will also want two to three people to act as general go-fers and troubleshooters. These would be people who can change stuck credit card rolls or fix wobbly tables; or if you’re in a mall, deliver cross-promotion coupons to other stores or hand out flyers to shoppers. At least one go-fer should also be a designated photographer or videographer; pick someone who understands concepts like proper lighting, framing and “no backs or butts.”
At the end of the grand opening, thank your staff and volunteers with a team dinner or individual gift baskets.
Have all your promotional materials prepared well in advance. If you use a local printer for banners, posters, postcards and invitations, the wait time may be long and there may be errors. Give yourself plenty of time to deal with glitches and the unexpected.
Also remember that as the date approaches, your responsibilities and the demands on your time will inevitably snowball. Equipment installations will be delayed, product deliveries will go missing and staff will get sick. Your hard deadline for having everything done and perfect for the grand opening should be one week in advance of the event. This will give you a few days grace in which you can relax, enjoy your new franchise, plan your sales pitches, rehearse and think of more fun details and last minute color to add to your event.
Promote Your Event
Preparing the Press Release
Start your press release with a brief description of what is newsworthy – the fact that you are opening a new store. Keep it short and sweet; this is not the place to ramble on about the franchise philosophy or history. Your press release should include all the pertinent information: date, time, place, schedule of activities. Include a brief statement explaining what makes your store different or unique in your area (one or two sentences, tops).
Include some color commentary in the form of quotes from your customers. Interview yourself as if you were journalist and include a quote about why you chose this particular franchise and location. If you grew up near your location, are a member of local organizations, or have children in local schools include a little personal background; people like to support fellow residents and will enjoy relating to you as an individual. Include all your contact information (phone, email, Skype, Facebook address) and a statement that you are available for interviews and photos.
Publish Event Details
Plan to publish your grand opening details to local newspapers, activity guides and radio. You can find lists of local print media by conducting a simple online search and you can find local radio station information by city athttp://www.ontheradio.net. Many radio stations have a community activities section online and make community announcements for free.
Set Up Cross-Promotions
If your franchise is located in a mall, visit neighboring stores and brainstorm possible cross-promotion opportunities. For instance, if you’re a candy franchise and there’s a nearby spa, offer the spa free logo-printed candies for their clients in exchange for the spa giving their clients a gift or discount coupon to your franchise. Offer it as a limited-time program for the date of the grand opening only (like 100 candies and 100 coupons).
Simple coupon for coupon exchanges work well too, because there’s no cost to you for hard product, but if you have a retail franchise showing local businesses what you can do for them is a great way to show off your products and get repeat, commercial-size orders.
Media and Influencer Invitations
Two weeks before the event compile a list of local news anchors, radio personalities, local celebrities and political leaders. Include your local town or city council members and the mayor. Get their personal email addresses if you can or the email address of an assistant. Send them each a tightly worded but colorful and enthusiastic invitation to your grand opening. Attach your press release.
One week before the event send a follow up invitation, stressing that event is coming up in a few days. On a slow news week, some stations scramble for “filler” stories and you might get lucky and find yourself on the evening news. Although it takes a little more time, address every invitation to only one email address and use a personalized greeting. If you have gotten confirmation from a news outlet that they will attend, be sure to mention that to the politicians on your list.
Plan a Soft Opening
Depending on the complexity of your event and activities, you may want to plan a private soft opening for family, friends and personal guests. Keep it short, only a few hours, and offer some abbreviated activities to get their feedback.
Another idea is to offer your media and influencer list a private soft opening a day or two before the grand event. Again, keep it short and include some luxury samples and discounts. This will enable media people to spend some relatively quiet one-on-one time with you and they’ll be able to get clear footage without a lot of background chaos and noise, which they can air right before your event starts.
If you feel a little overwhelmed by the logistics of planning a franchise open house, ask your franchise representative what they can do to help. You can also hire a local party consultant to help with planning.
The most important takeaway is to have every detail nailed down well ahead of time so you and your staff have a few days to breathe, have fun and practice your smiles.