July 26, 2021 By SmartBiz Team

Are you ready to open a brick and mortar store? A grand opening event is in order! You can elevate your profile in the community and increase sales with a few tried and true strategies.

An opening party doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Targeted advertising, social media campaigns and media coverage can all bring potential customers in the door. Here are easy-to-implement ideas and strategies to elevate your brand in the community and build relationships with consumers.

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How to Prepare Before a Grand Opening

When planning your grand opening, you’ll want to take the below steps well before the big day:

Set Goals

As a business owner, you’re likely a goal-setting expert. An obvious goal will be to introduce your brand. Create clear and consistent promotional materials, signage, handouts and advertising. You want the community to instantly recognize what you stand for and what you offer consumers. You also need to establish how your business is different - and better - than what’s already out there.

Determine Budget

The cost of your opening event should be included in your annual marketing budget. Consider the extra costs like staffing, refreshments, decorations, entertainment, giveaways and advertising. Some sources say that 20% of your annual marketing budget should be allocated to your grand opening. Of course, this is just a guideline. Some business owners can go the thrifty route, and some might go all out. Try to strike a balance that won’t impact your ability to keep marketing efforts going throughout the year.

Apply For Permits

No small business can open without several key business permits and licenses, and there are additional legal boxes to check when throwing a successful grand opening event. For example, your municipality likely requires you to obtain a banner or sign permit for any grand opening banners you plan to display. This permit may also limit what your banner can say. If you’re serving alcoholic drinks at your event, you’ll need a temporary alcohol license as well.

Establish Partnerships

Foster a good reputation with the community you serve. Check out local charities and explore ways you can help them reach their goals. For example, if there is a charity or other non-profit entity in need of items for the homeless or another at-risk population, you might set up a collection bin or a money donation jar. Create an ongoing mutually beneficial partnership that extends beyond your opening.

For more ideas about building your reputation in the community, review this SmartBiz blog post: What Small Business Owners Can Do To Become Community Leaders.

Book the Date

Can you capitalize on a time-of-year, community event or holiday? Some examples include opening during the “Back-to-School” shopping days in August, planning a “love” theme around Valentine’s Day or taking advantage of the Shop Small Saturday buzz after Thanksgiving. There are even calendar observances trending on social media that you can work into a theme. Think #nationalbeerloversday, Positive Attitude Day or Avoid Stress Week. Check out our marketing ideas based on the calendar here: Marketing Calendar: When to Promote Your Business

Promote Your Event

Here are a few easy and cost effective ways to get the word out there.

  • Hand out flyers or balloons printed with the when/where details of your grand opening. Post flyers near prominent intersections, in local coffee shops, libraries or other community gathering places.
  • Contact local media with information about the event and offer an interview about how your business can help stimulate the local economy. Explore placing ads in your local paper or on the radio. If there’s a local radio station that offers prizes, ask if you can donate goods or services for a give-away.
  • Promote on social media. Determine if your target shopper is on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or another social media platform. Many have cost-effective advertising options where you can target posts to reach a specific demographic. If you don’t have the bandwidth for social media set up, advertising and updates, consider hiring a freelancer. The SmartBiz Small Business Blog has a comprehensive guide about how to hire a social media specialist here: Small Business Marketing Tip: How to Hire a Social Media Strategist


You don’t want to be scrambling on the day of your big grand opening! Be sure all decorations, giveaways and other in-store assets are set up well in advance. Have you properly trained your employees? It goes without saying that each employee should be an expert on your products and services.

10 Grand Opening Ideas

Small business owners have used the below grand opening ideas time and again to successfully engage their communities with their new operations:

1. Soft Launch

A soft opening can take the form of simply opening your doors without any of the usual fanfare and commotion. It can also mean hosting a “friends and family” night or a charity event before your formal opening. All these options let you smooth out any kinks in your operations before you try to reach a larger audience. A local charity event also comes with the numerous business benefits that accompany giving back to your local community.

2. Pop-Up

Chances are you’ve been to a memorable, exciting pop-up in your life -- or you have at least heard of this unique setup -- but maybe you’ve seen them promoted as one-off events by established businesses. New companies, though, can just as easily use the “get it hot while it lasts” vibe of pop-ups for grand openings.

Set up a stand somewhat near, but not necessarily right next to, your storefront to promote your grand opening. Hand out your promotional products, whether brochures, discounts, or other items, to passersby and encourage them to swing by your storefront for more. See if you can partner with other local businesses to use the area in front of their storefronts as pop-up sites. Arrange for them to offer discounts on their products or services for people who buy yours or vice versa.


3. Giveaways

Branded, free items elevate virtually all grand opening ideas for small businesses. Set up a table outside your storefront and give out branded magnets, pens, or other everyday items to passersby. Doing so helps you subtly spread the word about your brand.

If you can’t create your own branded items for giveaways, try hosting a social media giveaway of highly desired items that aren’t yours. Established businesses do so time and again with bottom-line results that more than cover the cost of purchasing these highly sought-after items. Try partnering with other businesses to assemble a gift bag of items to one lucky winner.

4. Offer Freebies

What are three things people universally love? Food, entertainment and freebies. You don’t have to break the bank. Check with local restaurants, bakeries, etc. and ask if they would be willing to offer a bulk food discount in exchange for free advertising. The same with a band or another entertainer. You’ll beef up your grand opening offerings and support other small businesses. For freebies, consider promotional items that are useful and promote your store. Our blog has great ideas to help you create effective promotional ideas: Promotional Items for Your Small Business. You’ll learn how to target your audience, choose appropriate promotional items and set a budget.

5. Social Media Event

Advertising your grand opening should take place not just on the street, but on social media too. You can also hold your grand opening event entirely on social media, especially given the continuously growing popularity of Facebook and Instagram livestreams.

Make a Facebook event page and a corresponding page on your website, include instructions for how to join your livestream, and invite your local community. During your livestream, engage the audience in activities that keep people’s attention while showing what makes your brand special. For example, you could try playing an audience-participation game related to your offerings. The best part is, nobody has to leave home to experience the fun of your brand.

6. Local Celebrity Appearance

If your area is home to a local celebrity, find out what it takes to get this figure to appear at your grand opening. This figure could be a local artist with a strong following, a community thought leader or activist, or a prominent governmental figure. No matter whom you get to appear at your event, see if you can get their permission to include their photos all over your promotional materials.

7. Goodie Bags

Sometimes, marketing your small business is all about evoking nostalgia and joy. That’s why offering goodie bags to your visitors can be a great grand opening idea for your small business. Goodie bags can channel the early childhood excitement of leaving a party with a bag full of candy, though you might want to replace the treats with branded items. As long as you include a mix of practical, unusual, and fun items related to your company, your goodie bags should make the desired impact.

8. Use Traditional Media

Traditional media remains a great way to get your event out there. Countless people still watch TV or listen to the radio, so not promoting your event on these channels overlooks a vast swath of potential customers. And if you have especially strong relationships with local journalists, perhaps you can get your grand opening broadcast live as well. If the reporting is strong enough, local residents might head over to your event right as they hear or see how it’s going.

9. Publicity Stunt

Though a significantly riskier brand awareness strategy than the other grand opening ideas listed here, a publicity stunt isn’t entirely off the table. If your out-there antics go viral, you could find yourself with a substantial customer base from not just your own backyard, but all over the internet. Pressboard has some examples of publicity stunts from which you could potentially take some inspiration.

10. Fundraiser

For a less risky small business grand opening idea, try throwing a fundraiser for a locally important cause. To be clear, you shouldn’t raise funds for your own operations during this event – instead, you should raise money to donate to a local organization.

Your event promotional materials should name the organization for which you’re fundraising. They should also explain how event attendees can donate to the cause while, ideally, getting something in return. That something could be branded items that keep your company on the minds of your attendees. People who go to your event could be more likely to buy from you since you’re investing in your local community.

Don’t Forget To Follow up After Your Grand Opening

After your grand opening event, you should tactfully keep up with attendees to develop long-term relationships. Email marketing and automation can help on this front, especially if you fill your emails with discounts. The goal is to target a potentially interested audience – people who were at your event – and convert them to actual customers.

To start this process during your event, collect email addresses by offering some sort of perk. That could be a future discount, a chance at a prize or a free subscription to your newsletter. Don’t spam your customers, you want to thank them for their time and business. Post images of your event on social media and write a post-opening press release.

Still nervous about pulling it all together? The below two SmartBiz Loans blog resources about event planning should help: