Home shows have become a marketing staple for contractors and suppliers, especially those who concentrate on remodeling and home improvement. They offer a tremendous opportunity to talk directly to consumers and to help them solve problems. It is estimated that 75 percent of the people who attend home shows are there to get educated on a particular type of project they are considering. Home shows may vary a little from place to place, but the common thread is homeowners looking for solutions to home improvement problems.

“I think it’s an excellent way to have a face-to-face conversation with a potential client in a relatively short amount of time,” says Larry Taff, MCR, GCP, UDCR, president of TZ of Madison, Inc., Madison, Wis. “It is also a way to showcase photos of your past projects and get some qualified leads.”

Preparing for a Show

It’s important for a remodeler to have some idea of how to prepare for a show. First of all, it is important to be able to show your work. Bring photos or sample products. Remodelers also need to make sure they know what the rules of the show are. For instance, what the size of the booth will be, what the hours will be, and how well lit the facility will be. They also need to know if there are rules of selling on-site because some shows will allow it while others say the show is meant for information sharing only. This can vary from year to year at the same show. Therefore, it is important to request the ground rules well in advance and to plan accordingly.

“I’ve been exhibiting at home shows for about 15 years. And I’ve noticed that people looking to start large projects come back for two to four years before they get started. They will interview contractors whom they feel the most comfortable with and make a decision on their remodeler,” explains Taff. “They typically don’t make a decision in five minutes. They take their time to look at all the issues and follow up after the show.”

People in the booth should have good body language, standing at attention.

“Try to have well-trained people at the booth who know how to work a show, not sitting down in the corner reading a book,” advises Taff. “They need to feel comfortable engaging with the public, or staff it with someone who can work the booth. If you don’t have that ability, then you may just be wasting your time at a show like that.”

Starting a Show

Some communities don’t have a home show but that should not deter you from starting one. Taff suggests first talking to local or state association chapters that have experience hosting home shows. It’s easy to find a chapter that has had a successful home show. Some host three to four shows per year.

“You don’t have to necessarily reinvent the wheel,” adds Taff. “You can get the information through NARI national as well.”

Part of the shows that Taff’s Madison NARI chapter puts on includes seminars. It helps to educate the general public. By being involved with educating potential remodeling clients, a remodeler is acknowledged as being a professional and knowing what they’re talking about.

Making the Most of it

There can be a lot of tricks to the home show trade. If a remodeler is going to be involved with a trade show, they have to have a system in place to follow up and contact people they meet at the show. They also need to rate these contacts on how likely they are to get business from the potential remodeling clients.

“I think that’s the biggest mistake people make in going to a show is being there, putting their time in and then having no way to get some of those names down and trying to qualify clients,” explains Taff. “You can easily talk to hundreds of people. If you don’t have a way to rate them, you lose track of who you feel are good potential clients. You also need to be able to follow up with at least a letter within a week and then contacting them after that; otherwise, you’ve just wasted your time.”

Another thing a remodeler should do is somehow set themselves apart from other contractors, however that be. At shows, Taff wears yellow suspenders.

“It may sound corny, but it breaks the ice and when I do a follow-up letter I refer to myself as the guy in the yellow suspenders,” says Taff. “If you’re at a show with 30 general contractors, they’ll always remember me. All I can say is that it works.”

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