You have taken the plunge and decided to open the doors of your own firm. Now you just need to let the whole world know. This article will focus on different practices you can use to call attention to your new venture.
The key to success is doing a variety of things to get the word out, not just one main event. I recommend strategizing a medley of contact points, including a formal announcement, an event in your office, press and blog attention. My advice is fairly classic, as I have found that gimmicky concepts can be risky and unprofessional when you really want to get off on the right foot with your audience and jump-start your revenue plans.
First Things First
Before you construct your grand opening plan you need to have fundamental marketing elements of a marketing toolkit including a brand identity/logo, a website, business cards and an initial business plan containing a budget and description of your target customers, and positioning.
Target Customer Database
Whatever activities you pursue to announce yourself, they all depend on a really good contact database of your targets. A lot of time and effort goes into this tool; but once it is set up, it is (relatively) easy to maintain as your business and contacts expand over time. There are sophisticated software programs, but using an Excel spreadsheet works just as well at the beginning.
You will want to have separate columns for first name, last name, firm name, address and city/state, zip code, telephone number and email address separated. You will want a column to remind yourself of the source of the target name: eg, “ Uncle Joe’s client list,” “ alumni directory”, “ media” etc. This database is your bedrock, and you will use it to make cold calls, to mail postcards and e-blasts, to issue invitations and to check RSVPs for events—all necessary for the grand opening as well as for future business development efforts
You will want to create some kind of an announcement that can be mailed, emailed and also left behind for complimentary businesses to distribute on your behalf, or to put in gift bags if you can determine a complimentary event happening around the time of your opening. Your announcement should be professional (i.e. not cheap folded paper) and reflect your firm’s style.
Any time you put something in the mail you should follow up with an electronic version since different people in your database may prefer one method or the other. I prefer to send the physical card first to make the full impact of the cost involved, then use the e-version as a reminder 1-2 weeks later. Remember when budgeting that a hard copy announcement typically has multiple layers of expense: creative fee (unless you design it yourself), printing costs, and postage.
- Whatever the format, remember to include your logo and multiple ways for customers to reach you: your office phone #, your office hours, your email address and the website of your firm
- Give something away: Depending on your type of law, you could include some kind of “offer” in your announcement. There is not a hard and fast rule here, the best approach is to find a benefit that your customers will appreciate. Ask the opinions of a few of your targets! The goal is to excite as many potential clients in for “trial” of your services. This could be anything from a complimentary one hour consultation for the first month of opening to some small gift for referrals.
Holding a grand opening is a good way to attract attention to your new small business and build relationships with people who could turn into long-term customers. Depending on your marketing budget you can use inexpensive but effective techniques to attract customers or turn it into a major event. A few marketing ideas can help you develop a grand opening that best suits your business. But beware—grand opening parties can be wonderful to plan, but incredibly expensive to host. Invitations, catering, valet, decorations, full bar, décor rentals, music or entertainment may easily exceed your budget and may not actually bring revenue in the door.
- Less expensive ideas: “Please join us for wine and cheese (4-6pm)… for dessert and prosecco (after 7 pm) …for coffee and continental breakfast (8am onward) “ …do the trick and can be accomplished with sufficient fanfare but still enable your guests to actually talk with you and learn about your services. (an IPod does great music for virtually free)
- Gift bag: Do have a gift bag (ideally with your logo printed on it, or a very tasteful sticker with your logo) with a single memento in it, a small gift that says something about your business acumen or interests, and will ensure the guest leaves smiling. Include your business card and a simple thank you note for coming
- Photographer: Have a photographer on hand (professional or very good amateur) so you could submit photos with your press release and editor outreach, and depending on your business, you may post these photos on your web site and your Facebook page
- Guest book: Keep a guest book at the door, and have someone on hand to ensure names and contacts are captured. Afterwards, review the attendees against your invite list and your database: call one-by-one those targets you expected to see but didn’t and invite them in for an individual glass of wine or coffee
Perhaps you have existing relationships with the press, in which case, now is the time to use them. Send press releases announcing your grand opening to media outlets such as your local newspaper. If you’re having a ribbon cutting ceremony, indicate the day and time as well as any special events, such as giveaways, you may have planned. Also, emphasize what makes your business unique, such as being the only ice cream parlor in the area that serves frozen yogurt.
Journalists are always looking for “news” so be sure to include what is hot and different about your firm, and a brief biographical sketch about your own experience and talents. These days, bloggers are a fantastic source of press and feedback and are supportive of new ventures as they can appreciate the entrepreneurial spirit from their own trade. Be sure to research the blogs read by your target audience, not just your peers, as your objective is to tell prospects about your firm and its services. Bloggers may want to take their own pictures, or may ask for you to submit yours and may want an interview in addition to your formal press release.
If your office is in a well-trafficked location, be sure your windows and doors are marked with your logo and hours. Be sure to have an attractive lobby or entrance area and consider lighting at night so that passersby can be intrigued by the new enterprise on the block.
Advertising is a fantastic way to get attention—but as it is general, not specific to a set target, it can be a tough way for a business on limited funds to reach its specific audience. However, perhaps there are highly targeted journals or electronic newsletters that you know your audience reads, or there maybe local broadsheets, theatre playbills or other means that would enable you to be exposed to exactly the right audience for not much money.
In this case, you will want the ad to be professionally designed to send the right message and jump out from the page, and you will want more than one insertion to catch people’s eyes. It can take a lot of exposures to draw attention, so negotiate more than a single insertion up front.
Find compatible businesses and events, and see if you can determine which events they are attending and whether there are effective tie-ins and cross promotions you can share. Do some research to see what is happening around the planned timing of your opening, and there may be an opportunity for your company to have gifts or an announcement card in a compatible gift bag, or maybe even to have your logo exposed as a sponsor (in exchange for a bartering of services, sharing of names, or a $ contribution).
Join community organizations before your grand opening as a way of creating a buzz about your business through networking. Groups such as your local chamber of commerce may be able to offer you grand opening assistance benefits at a reduced cost. You may also get to rub shoulders with local politicians who would view attending your ribbon cutting ceremony as a welcome photo opportunity.
Talk it up!
You are your own best publicist, and do talk about your upcoming launch with as many people, in as many places, as possible. Your enthusiasm and energy will be appealing, and remember to have biz cards with you wherever you go to hand out.