by Michael B. Perini, ABC
perini & associates
A great public relations tool to develop and maintain relationships is hosting a pre-opening reception. We just lead an effort recently for a upscale business that had moved to a new location. The tips below work for any type of business; small or larger. And, these ideas work regardless of type of industry.
First, why go to the trouble of putting on a special event? Here are three great reasons.
1. To express appreciation to your employees.
2. To thank your vendors and sponsors.
3. To build that all important “fan” base.
Sure, this activity takes time but in the end, if done right, will create buzz about your business and drive customers to you.
These few small adjustments to your pre-opening reception can have a huge impact. I recommend you follow this advice to fast-track results.
1. Start with a plan. Sit down and prepare a written plan to use as a roadmap. The plan will be a great tool in keeping you and your team on track. There are lots of moving parts and you need to be sure that you stay on top of all of them.
2. Decide on a time and date. A critical element is choosing the right time and date. This means having your facility ready; open for business. Meet with the general contractor and get a commitment that all will be ready for the reception. Also, spend some time looking at the community calendar. Try an avoid conflicts with other activities if at all possible. Pick a start time that lets folks get from work and maybe freshen up a bit, especially for an early evening affair.
3. Inform your staff. Meet with employees. Share with them your vision for the reception and explain why it is important and what their role will be. A discussion on proper attire and protocol will take an ordinary event and turn it into an extraordinary one.
4. Think logistics and think again. Food. Refreshments. Parking. Hostess. Music. Sound system. Outside signage. Inside dazzle. There are numerous moving parts and selecting the right vendors can make an average evening go to A+. Success is really in the details and many businesses aren’t willing to take the time or spend resources here. Don’t cut corners as logistics is the fuel for a successful outcome.
5. Add 1-3 special “party favors”. When guests arrive have something for them to do; to take home. At our last affair we had a small clipboard that we handed out at the door to be used as a gift registry. It also served a purpose of updating customer information and showing to the customer that the business owner really cared about their preferences for purchases. We also tagged items with special flyers to publicize an upcoming auction. Finally, a piece of chocolate with the logo of the store was presented to all as they left the affair. The key with favors is selecting those that add to the reception and are fun to accomplish. Don’t over due this as the list is endless. Again, one to three is enough.
6. Give a thorough cleaning to your facility. Dusting. Sweeping. Cleaning the restrooms. Power washing the entry way. I know this seems basic but again, I can’t tell you how this is often not thought of till last minute. Think of it this way. If you invited guests to your home you want your house to be seen in the best light, right? This same high standard goes well when hosting a pre-opening reception. It is all about first impressions.
7. Come up with a guest list and add to it if necessary. Lists can vary from 50 to 200 and maybe more. Early on you have to decide how many would you like to invite. This reception is a VIP affair and the numbers should reflect this fact. Start with your current customer data base and then add community representatives, i.e. nearby business owners, local government officials, chamber of commerce and other organizational leaders. Once the invites are out the buzz will begin. You are likely to get a call from someone who feels that they should have been invited. Work this call delicately but the goal should be, if at all possible, to add them to the list. In the end, if you miss someone special, then host a unique reception later on with those people and build that negative into a positive activity for your business.
8. Design an invite that reflects your business. Hand addressed envelopes are preferred with the invite. The invite should be designed by an experienced PR/Marketing graphic designer so that the product integrates other business materials for a consistent look. The goal is to put the invite into the mail 14-21 days from the event. Any later and you will have nightmares wondering about the total numbers which are necessary for all those logistics (Food, refreshments, etc.) mentioned earlier. Be ready to forward your invite via email and have enough printed copies for anyone who comes into your business that might not have been on your list.
9. Give a “pre-game” talk and set up a slide show before you open doors. Yes, a prep talk is necessary. It gets everyone into the event and allows for questions and last minute adjustments. There won’t be time to go over things once the doors are opened. Also, a very useful tool is to produce a slide show that contains images and information about the business. Also, a great way to thank customers and sponsors. Brainstorm with staff on photo ideas and messages to be used. Project the production on TV monitors placed throughout the facility. This product has “shelf life” and can be used for other occasions.
10. Mingle, mingle and mingle again. A business owner meeting and greeting each person at the door adds a special flair and clearly shows the importance of each guest. In addition, time should be set aside at the halfway mark for several minutes of remarks by the host. A toast or two should be considered. Most attendees will expect some kind of “official welcome,” so go ahead and plan for it. Have the key messages written down on the back of a business card or small piece of paper so that they can be easily referenced just in case of stage fright. Yes, it happens and you don’t want to wish you had said something but couldn’t remember in that moment. Thank all appropriately but also use the venue to highlight upcoming business activities.
One last tip. Take photos. Shoot video. You will go home tired and excited about a successful reception but the work doesn’t stop when you turn out the lights and lock the doors. Follow-up is vital and having good photos/videos will be useful. I will share some thoughts on next steps after the pre-opening reception in an upcoming post.
Finally, if you shore up these 10 areas you will have a successful event that will be the conversation for some time and drive your business to new levels.
If we can help, please call.