New business owners are often all too content to softly open their business, invite a handful of their friends and celebrate the long road they traveled to get the thing open in the first place. But this isn’t the way to do it – a successful, public grand opening is of the utmost importance.

Unsure why? Read this Psychology Today article about the extraordinary importance of first impressions and you’ll begin to see why grand openings are so important.

You want to forge lasting relationships with members of the community – potential customers, fellow businesses and potential vendors. By only inviting your friends, you miss out on a crucial opportunity to ingratiate yourself to the community, create a strong brand identity and generate sales leads. Here are five tips for throwing the perfect grand opening event.

Start Early

Planning is key to any event, and given the importance of a grand opening, it’s doubly important that you cross your t’s and dot your I’s. Set aside a budget and try to stay within it. Secure any sound system, audio equipment, lighting, catering, bar service, security, and decorating as early as possible – if they’re the best/most cost effective in their industry, chances are they’ll be snatched up early, so book well ahead of time.

Make The Event On Brand

If you’re opening up a yoga studio, does it make sense to hold a night-club-style banger? If you’re opening up a brewpub, does it make sense to have a daytime, all-ages event? No, and no. You have to zero in on your audience, and focus in on a branding that works for them. Of course, this will be a public event, so don’t be exclusionary, but try and make your branding as effective as possible to your target audience.

Incentivize Attendance

Next, you have concern yourself with how to actually get bodies in the door. For this, promotional products like custom printed t shirts or hats work well, since they function both as a gift and a form of continual advertising. Try giving out t-shirts with your logo on it to the first 50 or 100 people to show up to the event; this will help ensure a healthy attendance, as well as develop positive brand reinforcement.

Advertise Locally

Regardless of where you live, most places have a local paper, magazine, radio station, or TV network (often all three). While it can be beneficial to advertise over social media, a lot of people get their local news from these local sources, so try getting in touch with a media outlet in the area. If you live in a bigger city like Toronto or Montreal, you might even be able to target certain local media publications that are on brand (e.g. if you’re a hip restaurant opening in the West End of Toronto, you can contact BlogTO for ad space).

Reach Out To Surrounding Businesses

Finally, reach out to the people who’ve been where you are now – surrounding businesses in the area. Not only will they be good counsel on what to expect being a business owner in the area, but you might be able to share distributors or even clients and customers. These are symbiotic relationships you definitely want to cultivate.

Open your business in style with a grand opening that’s well-planned, on brand and packed with people. Use it as an opportunity to reinforce your brand with potential customers and forge relationships with local businesses. Now wouldn’t that be grand?