Johnny Earle is the founder and CEO of Johnny Cupcakes, a maker of T-shirts and accessories and not, in fact, of cupcakes. Johnny Cupcakes operates five bakery-themed stores and regularly opens pop-up stores.
Pick An Optimal Time
Weekends and evenings are best, because people don't have to rush from work. Don't open your doors at the same hour as everyone else. On weekends, wait until early afternoon. That gives you greater opportunity to pass out fliers and stir excitement on the street. Also, fewer hours adds a kind of limited-edition urgency to the experience.
Promote Extensively And Creatively
Start reaching out to journalists and calendar editors a month in advance. You can approach bloggers a little later. Make your marketing collateral as distinctive as possible.
Tease people's curiosity by offering a mystery gift or a surprise guest. The words free and mystery are always a good idea. Limit the number of gifts, but keep it reasonably large: for the first 100 customers, for example. That won't bankrupt you.
Enlist Your Neighbors
Surrounding businesses won't love it when your customers block their entrances and overrun the parking lot. Warn them in advance, apologize for the inconvenience, and invite them to get involved. Businesses love to cross-promote, so suggest they provide products for your grab bags or other giveaways.
Recruit Local Food Vendors
People show up for free food. So why not get food for free and establish relationships with other local vendors in the process?
Staff Up--Inside And Out
Recruit volunteers if you must, but make sure you have enough people working the floor and the registers--and also keeping an eye on the street. Stanchions will help keep order. But someone should be out there enforcing the single-file line--and, not incidentally, talking up the company and answering questions.
Hold A Soft Opening
Invite friends, relatives, vendors, and members of the press to a run-through a night or two before the event. Employees get on-the-job training before facing more-critical hordes, and glitches will reveal themselves.
Advertise Coming Attractions
Make sure departing guests walk off with your calendar of upcoming events and sales.
Produce lots of photos and videos to post to social media after the fact, so people will see the business at its busiest and liveliest. You'll also want the record for yourself. You'll be so swamped and distracted during the event that the best way to enjoy it may be retrospectively.
As told to Inc. editor-at-large Leigh Buchanan