This checklist is for businesses/event hosts. If you’re a chamber, you want my ribbon cutting marketing checklist.
Having a Grand Opening is a great way to announce yourself to your community, and get some traction for your marketing endeavours.
One element of a Grand Opening is often a Ribbon Cutting (or Tying) Ceremony, usually through your local chamber(s) of commerce. The ribbon cutting ceremony itself will often be very quick. The Chamber will thank you for having your business there, you will tell people what your business does and invite them to stick around, and you will cut the ribbon.
Chambers are a great resource for this event. They know the best times to have your event, what others in your area have done, will bring the big scissors and ribbon, and have a list of people that would be interested in attending.
People will attend Grand Openings / Ribbon Cuttings: because they want to know what’s going on and see who you are, to support you, to try and do business with you, or to network with other attendees. No matter the reason, having people in your business is a good thing.
But the benefits of your ribbon cutting don’t stop when the people leave. In addition to your promotions, others (like the chamber or the newspaper if it’s a slow week) will also be promoting your business. So even if people didn’t come, they’ll know about you. And after the event you can still use the event to promote your business by sharing pictures and writing a press release.
Proof: every month, the Facebook ‘post’ by my local chamber with the highest engagement is consistently a Photo Album of a ribbon cutting or other networking event.
Planning The Event
- Contact your local chamber. Chances are they know the best time/day for maximum attendance
- Also, avoid major holidays or probable travel days
- Know how long you want the event to be. I’ve been to quick 15 minute ribbon cuttings where we were in and out, but others have an open house several hours long to encourage customers to come throughout the day.
- Decide if the event will be inside or outside
- If your location is small, you may have more room outside, but you’ll have to worry about weather
- If you don’t have a storefront, talk to your chamber about other options. They may allow you to have a quick event at their office, or do a small ceremony in front of a logo-wrapped vehicle.
- Decide if you want staff to prepare/pick up food or if you’ll get it catered
- *cough, cough* the chamber knows who caters in your area
- If you cater, tagging the business in free promotions (press releases, facebook) is a great was to increase your reach and goodwill.
- Don’t forget that with food, you’ll need beverages, platters or coolers, cups, plates, silverware, napkins, trash, etc. However, this is a great time to give out your new koozies!
- Other equipment to consider: chairs, tables, tents, table cloths, extension cords, trash cans and bags, balloons, decor, signage, microphone, podium, etc.
- Every event and every business is different. So if you don’t think you need these things, you may not.
- Be prepared to (or have someone on staff) speak at the Ribbon Cutting.
- Be short! Just tell them you’re happy to be there, what your business does, and how attendees might get involved or benefit from your services.
- Offer tours or demonstrations as available. This is great way to increase word of mouth!
- Consider other ways to attract potential customers to your Grand Opening
- Live entertainment or local radio live from your store
- day-of discount or future-dated coupon
- Collect business cards at the event. Within a week following the event, contact everyone to thank them for coming.
- Offer raffle prizes, giveaways, and/or product samples
- #ChamberPro tip: raffle prizes are a great reason for potential customers to give you their contact info 😉
- Don’t forget to have brochures ready!
- Plan to have someone take pictures, even if it’s just on a cell phone
- If your location is hard to find (or is too new for a gps), have signage out directing attendees where to go
- Have staff assigned to set-up and clean-up if available
- Pre-test any electronics or equipment, just in case.
Of course, you don’t want to break the bank for one event, but keep in mind that this will be many people’s first impression of your business. Make sure that they want to come back.
Chambers & Your Event
Your event is just that – yours. While the local chamber is a great resource, you will be doing most of the work. If you’re not sure if what your chamber does for you, just ask. Specific chamber services vary by organization. Here are some things they might do:
- Invite the mayor/local government, media/newspaper, etc.
- Offer a press release template
- Take photos
Plus, most chambers will:
- Promote your event, especially to their local members, on several platforms
- Don’t undervalue this! They have a list of people that are specifically interested in attending events like this.
- Bring the ribbon & big scissors
- Be there for you when you have questions
- Promote your business post-event
- Don’t forget the basic information on everything –
- the name & location of your business,
- Date & time
- who’s invited (even if it’s everyone),
- Miscellaneous event details (food, entertainment, prizes/giveaways, other businesses involved, etc.)
- Consider the basic platforms you have access to.
- Social media
- Word of mouth
- Snail mail or flyer distribution
- Invite your current customers, neighbors, business partners, staff’s families, suppliers, friends, etc.
- Don’t forget the people that helped you get started! Banker, accountant, attorney, advisors, etc.
- Write a press release
- Don’t worry, there’s a ton of free templates on Google.
- Invite the media and government officials – even if the chamber does. They probably get lots of invites from the chamber already, so this is a good way to stand out. Plus, this open the door for a business relationship.
- Give to chamber
- Create a flyer
- Distribute to current customers
- Deliver to chamber office
- Ask neighbor businesses to display
- In addition to promoting on your Facebook Page, create a Facebook Event
- Tag involved businesses
- Invite the chamber or others as Event Co-Hosts as appropriate
- Invite your Facebook friends to the Event
- Post the flyer in the event discussion
- Have an employee or friend do a Facebook Live video of the Ribbon Cutting (and announcements) on your Page.
- Consider paid marketing strategies
- Find outside event websites to list your grand opening on.
- Literally Google “events in [city]”
- I’ve found luck with TownPlanner.com and my local news station