What a whirl wind! We just had the grand opening of the Hi-Five Sports Zone this past Saturday. It's our first small box, youth sports location. It's in a retail area on Geary Blvd in the Richmond District of San Francisco. We had over 500 people participate in the four hour grand opening. This exceeded our expectations. We're following three marketing principles that anyone can apply. We're getting a lot of community buzz which is exactly what any local retail location needs.
Stage One Announcement - We're Here!
The first stage is to get the word out that you're opening up. You have to start as soon as you lock in your lease.
Put Up Temporary Signage ASAP. Put announcements in your windows and a temporary banner up high before your permanent signage comes "Coming Soon XXX". Go to the local sign copy. We had good service from Fast Signs.
Hit the Local, Local Media. Locate and contact all the local newspapers (the community ones). You want to hunt online for all the online community bloggers. Sometimes this is the same source but in more urban areas they'll be different people. You want to write a basic press release announcement. Call them first and tell them in a couple minutes what you're doing. Follow up via email with the press release. Ask them to at least write about your grand opening.
Create Contests and Give-A-Ways. Our business is focused on youth sports so we gave away a number of birthday parties to local schools to auction and a blogger to contest away. We received hundreds of contest participants who gave us their emails in exchange to enter. Most of our costs are fixed and we're just opening so we have lots of time "to give away". We can't save the rental time - just like a hotel or airline. Make the offering appealing. For every entry you get between 4 to 5 people will read your name and learn a bit about you. In our case we figure that's a few thousand people. It's well worth the effort. Also, give-a-ways to some non-profits are tax deductible.
Street team. Create a basic small opening announcement and get it professionally printed. You can use the local printer to build a local business relationship. If that's not possible I like www.48hourprint.com. You can always find an online coupon for them. Try to be different and get attention. You have to go to other shop owners, community leaders, public officials, etc. We spoke with the city supervisor, principles at schools, shop owners, PTA leaders, anyone who would listen. She if the shop owners will let you put a promotional flyer in their space. You'll return the favor for them down the road.
In our case, we have a full mascot costume. It was custom made and cost a few thousand dollars but in our case, youth sports, it's dead on to our market. We send out two employees, one in costume and one to speak with people and hand out fliers. Kids love our Hi-Five Murphy.
Affiliate With a Charity. It is good to give and charities are always looking for new ways to raise funds. You can do good and help promote your business. In our case, we partnered with the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital. We give $1 from every program registration for a class we receive and we raise funds outside our programs as well. Don't just pick any charity. Pick one that fits and benefits your community. In our case, we know two of the top three children's conditions the hospital treats is child obesity and diabetes. Our business promotes an active lifestyle with children. This is a good charity and a great fit for us. (Read article Public Relations, A "Secret" Weapon DIY)
Stage 2 Awareness - What We're About
It's great to get your name out but people need to know what you're about. We provide youth sports classes, leagues, birthday parties and recreational sports space for adults to rent. You can start by crafting your message and details in signs in your windows. In our case, we put the description on our permanent signage 20 feet up in giant letters. Hey, you're paying premium rents to be in a retail space so you should invest in excellent signage. We doubled our initial budget. Yeah, it's just that important plus we get tens of thousands of cars passing along on Geary Blvd every day.
You need an elevator pitch. It is the one sentence that gives a summary of what you do in a very positive way. "We're the most environmentally friendly way to clean your carpets." "We're a spa day for your dog." People can quickly pick up on what you provide, weed out your business for themselves and remember what you do when they tell others.
Hand Out Information All the Time. We used our dog mascot character, Murphy, to create a free standing 4 foot tall - brochure caddy right at the door. Foot traffic had about 100 information pieces taken out of the caddy per day. It cost a couple hundred dollars to custom make but it was way cheaper than having someone stand outside the building and awkwardly say "hello" and offer a brochure.
Direct Mail Your Opening. Direct mail is still a good return on investment for grand openings. It will cost you about 80 cents a piece for the printed material and bulk rate postage but it allows you to reach far more households than you can with specific targeted efforts. If you're ambitious you can use door hanger flyers that loop onto door knobs but that's a lot of running around. It also doesn't work well for areas with apartments. Repetition is useful if you have the budget. Ideally you'll send the piece 3 times to the same households.
Local Newspaper Advertisements. I must admit I'm not a big fan of media buys in general. In our case, we focus on adults ages 24 - 44 and that's the generation that's giving up traditional media. If you want to do it then look for a barter deal with the paper (read article How to Double Your Marketing Budget).
Contact Community Bloggers. They love to report on what's new in the community. If you open your doors to them and treat them like a VIP they will give you a lot of print. They also like providing contests so make sure to offer that option to them.
Local Social Media. You want to ask people in the community to like your social media pages. Don't be shy, put it in your promotional pieces. People are interested in what retail and services are new in their community. You can also add some special discount or coupons for social media only. This helps you distinguish what is working. It also gives people something to chat about.
Talk to Passers By. Lots of people will look in the windows. Take a few minutes and let them step in. Tell them what you're about and hand them a marketing piece. Personal contact means you're friendly and inviting.
Stage 3 Participation - Try It, You'll Love It
Ultimately you need people to try what you offer. Make your grand opening a big event. This is the time for you focus on gaining customers and not focus on revenues. Set aside a "freebie budget". That is an amount of give-a-ways, discounts, etc. that are part of your marketing budget. You need customers to enjoy what you offer and tell others. Create a positive relationship, ask for some way to contact them (email is best), and give them a reason to try, to buy and to tell others.
We provide youth sports and recreation so we had sports stations and half-time events every hour with a DJ, cheerleaders, a break dancer and of course our mascot Murphy. We offered kids prizes for participating and being active with our games.
We also offered steeply discounted birthday party events at our facility to everyone who registered through our grand opening. Each party is 20 - 30 children and their parents who get to experience our quality facility, our great sports coaching and how much we care about children. We know that for every one party we throw, we'll get between 2 to 6 future party registrations. We have 12 parties booked through our grand opening. This is a great "viral tool".
For your business you may want to try risk free services. If they don't like it you'll refund. You can aim for deep discounts on unfavorable hours of operation (when you're usually idle). You can discount retail items steeply that usually are purchased with high margin counterparts. There are many, many strategies to try.
Retail is not easy, fully 53% of new retail operations fail within their first four years according to Statistic Brain. But beat the odds with a very strong opening and follow the zen of the three marketing phases.
If you want to follow our grand opening results, visit Hi-Five Sports Zone online and watch our grand opening video feature, of course, our mascot Hi-Five Murphy.