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Six Keys to a Successful Opening Day Event

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On Nov. 11, the Brooksville, Fla., community welcomed the second location of Mike’s Auto Body with a grand opening that featured antique cars, giveaways, food, music and even a mechanical bull.

“There wasn’t a day that went by when we were building the new location that we didn’t have people stop in to ask what was going on,” says Felicia Weisberg, the shop’s office manager. “We figured with so much interest, we should celebrate it and share it with the community.”

For the team at Mike’s, the grand opening represented over a year and a half of hard work and was a way to celebrate that and extend its reputation into a new community. The new location, which is about 20 minutes away from its Spring Hill location, was built because the flagship location was at capacity. Not only did opening a new location answer Mike’s Auto Body’s need for more space, it also answered the Brooksville community’s need for a large body shop to service all of its needs.

Weisberg says that before the 30,000 square-foot shop opened in the area, there were only a few smaller body shops for the community to choose from. Because of this, the proximity to the first location and the positive word-of-mouth that it had in the built up in the area, the Mike’s Auto Body team knew that this was an ideal location for its second shop.

Planning the grand opening took about three months. Weisberg and Elizabeth Gannon, who co-owns the MSO with her husband, John, were the key players in planning the celebration. At first, Weisberg dedicated about an hour each day toward planning the opening. As the date approached, Weisberg doubled and sometimes tripled that.

In the end, their hard work paid off. Thanks in large part to the involvement of the local businesses and vendors donating items (including food) the event cost less than $5,000, which includes the cost of entertainment and 300 goodie bags. Over 1,000 people attended the grand opening along with 12 local businesses and seven vendors.  With a population just shy of 8,000, according to Suburban Stats,  those numbers speak for themselves. Although the location is still new, Weisberg says that 70 percent of the customers that have come in have mentioned that they heard about the location from the grand opening.

 Although this is the first grand opening that Weisberg has planned, she hopes to be a part of the planning process as Mike’s continues to grow its reach. Weisberg shares what she learned in her first experience planning an opening day celebration.

 

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Pick the Right Time.

This sounds obvious, but there are many factors that go into getting people to actually attend an event—starting with the date.

The very first thing that Weisberg did was pick a date and a time that would attract the most people. The event was thrown on Saturday, making it possible for people who work during the week (including Mike’s employees) to attend. The grand opening started at 10 a.m. and went until 3 p.m.

“It was an ideal time because it wasn’t too early and it would last long enough so people that were doing something early in the morning or had to work an early shift could still attend,” Weisberg says.

Another reason for the date was because it happened to be Veteran’s Day. On top of many people having it off, it also gave Mike’s the opportunity to show its support of veterans. One of the tow-truck drivers at Mike’s is president of the local VFW, so Weisberg saw an opportunity to celebrate the local chapter and set up a booth.

 

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Appeal to the Masses.

“Once we picked the date, we need to figure out a way to get people of all ages to want to come out. We really wanted people to bring their families,” Weisberg says.

This is where the activities came into play. Providing food was key, since, according to Weisberg, people will always come out for free food. The grand opening had a combined total of 1,000 hot dogs and hamburgers and went through 1,400 bottles of water. To make the event stand out from a typical grand opening, the shop partnered with The Frigid Frog, a Italian ice shop, to provide a cool treat. Showcasing customer cars, giveaways and a mechanical bull were all activities that were chosen to appeal to a wide variety of ages. The total cost of the entertainment was around $2,500.

 

Utilize Your Vendors.

“Our vendors were excited,” Weisberg says. “They all wanted to be a part of this special day.”

Because Mike’s has a great relationship with all of its parts vendors, it was easy for Weisberg to get them to sign on. During the grand opening, seven of Mike’s vendors set up booths and gave stuff away. The vendors donated the food, which covered a huge expense.

 

Get the Local Businesses Involved.

In a small community, getting the locals involved is essential. Weisberg, a self-described “face-to-face” person, went into local businesses and told them all about the grand opening. She then asked if they would hang up a flyer and beyond that, if they’d be interested in putting an item in the goodie bags. The 300 goodie bags, which were given out in limited quantities at the beginning of each hour and restricted to one per family,  featured Mike’s branded treats and coupons, menus and other small trinkets from local businesses.

“The local Chick-fil-A gave us a free sandwich coupon for the bags,” Weisberg says. “It was a great incentive for them because 300 people now had their phone number and information and were encouraged to go to Chick-fil-A next time they were in the mood for a sandwich.”

 

Spread the Word.

Beyond having the information displayed in the window of local businesses, Weisberg partnered with a local radio station and put out a 15-second commercial on local television promoting the opening.

Weisberg says that several radio stations contacted her to partner with them, but the one that they decided on had a special connection.

“The lady that does the marketing for the station has been a customer of ours for years,” Weisberg says.

The station made on-air announcements about the event and then came out on the actual day and played music. Although Mike’s did have to pay for a portion of this particular station’s time and others offered to do it for free, Weisberg says that they felt the decision to celebrate its customers was more important than saving on the bottom-line cost of the event.

The shop also put all of the information on the new location in its monthly directory and posted on its website.

 

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Make it Count.

Like Weisberg says, people will always come for free food, but it’s important for them to remember what the event is actually for. That’s why, during the celebration, the shop was open and areas were roped off so people could walk through and see all of the equipment.

“It was important to have the shop open for customers,” Weisberg says. “People are always questioning big buildings and what’s inside. It was great for them to get a look.”

 Throughout the day, staff members took shifts answering questions from people touring the facility.

Parting Advice…

For any shop that’s looking to throw a grand opening, Weisberg says to get the community and local businesses involved. She says that because they were able to do this, they saved both time and money.

 

A Winning Goodie Bag

Sixty goodie bags were given away at the top of each hour of the opening, resulting in 300 total. Weisberg said as a team, they decided to do it this way in case of a mad rush happening at a certain time of the day, which would have left people who came at a different time empty handed.

A goodie bag is not only fun for people attending, it’s also a way to market your business. Weisberg shares what was inside hers:

  • A reusable canvas Mike’s branded tote. This was used to store all of the items.
  • Thermal cups
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Lip balm
  • Golf towels

All of these items were branded with Mike’s logo, phone number and address. The items were carefully selected because they could be used by either gender and a wide variety of ages.

In addition, small businesses and vendors provided items to be placed inside, including menus and magnets. The total cost of each bag was $8.

 

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