Grand Openings: How to Build Buzz, Wow Your Customers and Make a Lasting Impression

by Megan Shroy

When it comes to marketing a grand opening event, getting people in the door is only half the battle. Once they’re at the event, it’s even more important to surprise and delight them, inspiring attendees to walk away with a positive impression and motivation to return.

In 2017 alone, Approach has been able to come alongside knockout brands like Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea, Charleys Chicken Fingers & Cheesesteaks and Circle K to host grand opening events from coast to coast.

Earlier this month, we worked with our client Circle K Southeast to host a grand opening in Savannah, Georgia, celebrating its largest store in the U.S. (and their seventh in the region). Working with our marketing partners from the Circle K corporate headquarters and Tarheel Promotions, we planned and hosted an event that was truly memorable for attendees, and generated authentic, positive engagement with members of the local community.

We can all think of events we’ve attended that have been super impressive and others that have just been “meh.” What’s the difference? At Approach, we believe it’s all in the details.

Here, we share six big picture PR strategies and small touches alike that help to create a seamless and delightful experience at any grand opening event:

1.    Build the right buzz.
Media relations is a crucial element for any grand opening. Advance media coverage will help spread the word and drive customers to attend your event. Coverage secured during the event showcases the excitement and benefits of the business and entices customers to visit in the future. (Plus a great review never hurts either!) For Circle K, we combined traditional PR tactics, grassroots efforts and social media marketing, to create multiple touchpoints with key audiences, including community members, local government officials and business owners. Among the tactics we implemented were deliveries of Circle K Premium Coffee to local businesses, street teams to hand-deliver VIP invitations to local dignitaries and social media promotion of grand opening giveaways like concert tickets and big-screen TVs.

2.    Connect with movers-and-shakers.
One goal of any grand opening should be to create lasting relationships and positive engagement with members of the community. A great place to start is by connecting with prominent local officials, organizations and businesses. In Savannah, we invited the mayor and city council members to participate in a ribbon cutting ceremony and sent a custom invitation to local businesses and organizations including the Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce. These efforts paid off, as the groups helped to promote the event to their members, driving additional awareness and building brand advocates.

3.    Practice makes perfect.
Grand openings can take place several weeks or months after a location has officially opened for business. A delayed grand opening helps ensure staff members have acquired solid experience in day-to-day operations and arepersonally vested in core brand messaging and company culture. At the time the Circle K grand opening was scheduled, their team was expertly trained and well-prepared to confidently represent the brand and deliver stellar customer service experiences.

4.    Bring everyone on board.
Involving your entire staff builds internal excitement for celebration – after all, employees can serve as excellent brand ambassadors. By including all staff members at the event, the Circle K management team ensured there was plenty of manpower to handle the uptick in customers. Inviting the staff to the event also instilled a sense of pride, ownership and team-building. It’s important to remember that grand opening events can have a lasting impact on employees as well as customers. Be sure to use this opportunity to bring your team together, building excitement and solidifying your sense of camaraderie. 

5.    Make your space look extra special.
It’s a party, have fun! A grand opening is no ordinary day. In addition to invited guests, special décor draws attention and interest from passersby. With the help of a promotional partner, Circle K displayed flags, banners, balloon arches and grand opening signage. They also hosted live radio station broadcasts from the store, held media interviews on-site and gave away free products and Circle K swag to every customer who walked through the door. These details go beyond building excitement, they wow customers and leave a lasting impression. 

6.    Have a clear call to action.
You have a captive audience… now what? Circle K used the grand opening event as an opportunity to promote their new mobile app. They spread the word with highly visible in-store signage, geo-targeted Facebook posts and made sure their staff members informed customers about the special grand opening offers only available through the app. A clear call to action can keep customers engaged. Use your grand opening event to keep customers coming back for more.

When it comes down to it, a successful grand opening is the result of skillfully pairing many moving parts. Mastering event planning and activation details, big and small, will ensure that your event will pack a punch and that your brand will continue to wow customers for years to come.