There are few days more important in your business’s life than your opening day. Not only is it the day when all your hard work finally pays off and all the pieces come together, but your opening day sets the tone for your business’s future success.
So, it’s important to have a strategy in place to make your opening day as successful as possible and begin brainstorming ways to create opening day buzz early on. To learn more, we turned to the experts at the Young Entrepreneur Council for their feedback on tactics they’ve used to create a winning opening day strategy.
1. Tap into your network
When it comes to opening day success, one of the biggest “musts” is drawing a crowd. After all, we’ve all experienced how off-putting it can be to walk into a completely empty store and wonder if they’re actually open—or if you misread the sign.
“A top lesson I learned very quickly about my first day of business is that empty spaces are foreboding,” says Eran Eyal of Springleap.
How can you make sure to draw a crowd? Eyal recommends leaning on your existing business (or even social) network to support you on your big day. “Look to your close circle and incentivize them to help you look busy by either physically milling about or—if the event is virtual—commenting. Suddenly, second and third-degree connections of your close circle become your power crowd,” he says.
2. Assume something will fail—and be ready
“The first time we launched Contactually, we had a major bug in our process that we hadn’t fully tested,” says Zvi Band. “During the second product launch, a server failed. And during the third product launch, queues got backed up.”
The takeaway? You’re going to fail in some way—or at the very least have some small mishaps. “First, assume that something will go wrong, and prepare your team,” suggests Band. “Second, take it in stride; just work with your team to solve the problem, and keep going.”
This is one instance where expecting failure isn’t pessimistic, but rather pragmatic.
3. Give a coupon for their next visit
If the hardest part is getting people in the door on your first day, the next biggest challenge you’ll face is bringing them back a second time.
“Most customers that come to your place of business on opening day will likely purchase something,” says Kristopher Jones of LSEO.com. “However, the key to a successful opening day is to get the customers to come back a second and third time.”
This means you need to have a strategy in place to get them in the door again. “Consider providing an incentive, such as a coupon for a percentage off next visit, to inspire the customer to visit again soon,” suggests Jones. “Getting customers to come back often is the key to long-term success.”
4. Implement your paid advertising strategy early on
If you have plans for a paid advertising strategy, Anshey Bhatia of Verbal+Visual recommends you start strong—and soon. “If you or your PR firm can get you placement in top industry publications, and you’re putting out sponsored ads on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, plus retargeting, you’re already winning,” he says.
Bhatia stresses the importance of implementing your strategy as early as possible, rather than waiting until your business is more established; this way, you can create conversation as soon as you open your doors (whether real or metaphorical).
“Having the right press connections and a strong paid advertising plan in place—ready to go for your first day of business—will allow people to know who you are and generate strong buzz right from the get-go,” he says.
5. Be prepared for an influx
“When I first opened my doors to LexION Capital, I had to temporarily turn potential clients away because we had more people eager to join than I’d ever expected,” says Elle Kaplan.
While this sounds like a great problem to have (oh, now you’re telling me to worry about having too many customers?), it’s worth considering your capacity. What is your plan of action if you sell out, or how far in advance do you plan to book your services? What’s important here is that you have a plan, so that you’re not caught off guard.
“Many entrepreneurs focus on how to get customers in the door, but they encounter the ‘reverse curse’ when more show up than they’d planned for,” says Kaplan. “It’s vital to plan for highly successful scenarios just as much as potential rainy days.”
6. Get the community engaged with local chambers
“If you’re looking for a full house on opening day, don’t miss a chance to meet the local business chambers and associations supporting the business community,” advises Michael Spinosa of Unleashed Technologies.
Events like a ribbon cutting ceremony, a VIP night, or other industry-focused events can be a great way to both create buzz and bring in new customers early, and Spinosa recommends leaning on your local chambers and associations for help.
“They have tremendous power to help increase your exposure and even coordinate special events on your opening day that get the buzz around town,” he says. “These groups are especially productive for businesses focused on the consumer market.”
7. Staff effectively
How you treat your first customers will set the tone for your business. They will be your first online reviews, and—if you treat them well—your first loyal brand ambassadors. So, having enough well-trained staff to keep everything running smoothly is essential.
“Whether you are an online business running a new Kickstarter campaign or a physical store, it’s very important to create a great first impression,” says Andy Karuza of FenSens. “One way to do this is to be able to quickly and effectively offer customer support.”
While you might want to err on the side of bare-bones staffing at the outset (especially in an effort to save money), Karuza argues that this is one area where you shouldn’t skimp. “Don’t worry about the overhead costs,” he says. “Bring on extra staff and make a great first impression.”
8. Collect contact information
“Your very first day of business is your first opportunity to start a long-term relationship with your customers,” says Obinna Ekezie of Wakanow.com. “The key is to collect contact information, including email.”
While this sounds like an easy win, it can be a good idea to offer something to your customers in exchange for their sign up. This could be a certain percentage off their next purchase, points in your loyalty program, or similar. “Consider incentivizing with a chance to win a gift card,” suggests Ekezie.
9. Create a customer loyalty program
To further the point of customer loyalty programs, instigating one from the outset can be another effective strategy to bring people in the door.
“This simple, yet powerful strategy is used by many large corporations and continues to be effective for driving revenue,” says Anthony Pezzotti of Knowzo.com. “Customer loyalty programs can be inexpensive to implement and will help you stand out, as well as develop stronger relationships with your new customers.”
Loyalty programs can also be easily combined with other special promotions to bring in early business; for example, if you run a points-style loyalty program, users who come into your business within the first week could earn double points. The promotions that suit your business will, of course, vary depending on your industry, but it’s wise to brainstorm ways you can combine strategies that will both bring people in early and keep them coming back.
10. Create pre-launch buzz that can’t be ignored
“The first day of a brick-and-mortar business opening is incredibly important, as it sets the tone for the days to come,” says John Lincoln of Ignite Visibility. “One of the best things you can do is create pre-launch buzz leading up to your launch event.”
“First, consider the pain points of your customer,” he says. “What would get them really excited? Next, craft a strategy to offer something out of the ordinary at your launch event. Then, promote.”
If you’ve already had your opening day, what strategies did you use? Did you try something that we didn’t mention on this list? Let us know! Share this article on Twitter or Facebook and join in the conversation.