We have only one Opening Day and you want to use it as a first draft of a series of marketing campaigns. Unfortunately, there are so many distracting details to focus on before seeing the first client that it is easy to miss this opportunity. Let’s at least think about how to make the biggest splash we can.
Planning ahead of time
To turn your practice launch into a marketing event requires a plan. That plan should begin several months before opening the doors of your practice. The Opening of a new office, or even a new location, is a big event for the whole community. We want to use the natural enthusiasm of that day to increase people’s awareness of your services.
Your plan needs to include several aspects. First, let’s identify all the interested people who might be interested in your Opening Day celebration. here is a list of some of the people you might include:
- The mayor of your city
- Your landlord
- Other tenants in your building
- Other nearby therapists
- Friends and family
- The leadership of medium-sized employers in the area
- School social workers, guidance counselors, and other school personnel
- Physicians who you want to know you
- Any clergy you want to meet
The goal here is to include as many people you can think of who might be interested in knowing that your practice is beginning. I would not be shy to reach out to people that you have not yet met. This might be the beginning of a relationship.
Using the marketing tools you will depend on in the future
Once you have your list of potential attendees, start collecting email, physical addresses, and phone numbers for each. Call their offices or check the internet. The primary goal is to get your email addresses into MailChimp or ConstantContact. (I prefer MailChimp.) Doing so lays the foundation for the marketing that you will be doing in an ongoing way. Email lists are marketing gold.
As you are working on your lists, you will want to work with your designer to create a design for your email marketing platform. Marketing your Opening Day is a opportunity to test out some of your branding and the technology you will use.
Typically when announcing an event such as this, you will send a “Save the Date” notice and then a more detailed announcement as the event approaches. This double approach gives you two chances to get people’s attention per event. The more times you get noticed, the better.
Pick a date and a time for your Opening
The date for your Opening Day celebration does not have to be the first day you open. Typically that is usually unwise. The actual Opening Day, i.e., the first day of seeing clients has way too much going on to schedule a marketing event. Instead, I would set a date within a couple of months of the first day. You have some time to get your feet under you before attempting a marketing event. Take your time and do it right.
Most events of this sort happen on a Friday afternoon. We found that school people prefer to get out a school a little early but not too early, say 1:30 pm or 2:00 pm. And then others may prefer an after-work time, perhaps, 6 pm or so. Those parameters can guide you. We usually advertise the Open House or Opening from 2 pm to 6 pm. That seemed to provide a decent range allowing most a chance to drop by.
Planning the event itself
Usually, you will want to set up a table with some light refreshments, i.e., fruit, veggies, desserts, and some beverages. People do not come for the food, but they do like having something to nibble on. It gives us all something to do with our hands.
Additionally, we always thought about the flow of visitors and staff. In the beginning, our offices were small enough that everyone could take in the whole office in a few minutes. No thought about the flow required. But as we got larger where we placed the food and staff made a difference. Our team became the tour guides walking visitors from office to office. Of course, we needed to have all clinical documents hidden away, and all computers turned off.
There does not need to be an agenda or speeches. The event is about meeting people and putting faces to names. I cannot tell you how many times I have been to events like this. Whether put on by my organization or another, I seem to always meet someone I have heard about for years but had never met. And as an aside, go to other organizations’ events. Doing so is a no-cost way to become known in your community.
High turn-out is not the goal
No matter how many people come to your event, it will be a success. How do I know so? Because just by having the event, you create a positive way to get your name in front of potential referrers, twice. So even if no one comes at all, you get something positive from the effort.
But in my experience, some will come, not a huge number but some. Some will come out of curiosity or to check out the competition. Others to be supportive. The motive for their attendance is not the important thing. That you got a little attention is the primary goal.
And what do we do if the Coronavirus changes the way people respond to invites, like this? I say we send out the announcements anyway, even if we must forgo the gather itself. People still want to celebrate your Opening Day, even if they cannot attend a gather.
Have a good time
And don’t forget to enjoy the process and the event itself. Marketing your Opening Day is exciting. You are launching your practice and there will be many who are eager to celebrate with you. Cheers.