Make the most of a home show

DreamBuilders Home & Remodeling in El Dorado Hills, Calif. found most of its business through referrals. However, eight years ago, owners Kathe Russell, CKBR, and Mike Russell, CR, decided to grow their business, and as part of the new marketing mix, added exhibiting at a home show.

Now 60% of DreamBuilders’ business comes from the six home shows they do each year. If a home show is in their service area (and attracts their bread-and-butter clients, Baby Boomers), they will take a booth.

Here’s what they learned.

The booth. The first year they did a home show, they used fold-up tables with draping provided by the show and made posters with project images. Although it was a successful show for them, as Kathe puts it, “it wasn’t the best we could do.”

In the past, they tried to re-create a kitchen as the company’s booth. The

After several different displays, DreamBuilders has found that what works best is a large-screen TV running a slideshow of before and afters, plus a static visual display of before and after images.

problem with that—in addition to the time it took to assemble and disassemble—was that attendees got the impression they specialized in kitchen cabinetry or countertops. The kitchen set-up didn’t convey they were a full-service remodeling company.

What works for DreamBuilders—and only takes 30 minutes to put together—is offering attendees three different ways to engage with them, via a large-screen TV with a slideshow of before and after pictures, a display of enlarged before and after images and through the company’s portfolio book, again, filled with before and after images.

“People are not going to look through all three,” Kathe says. “They’re going to choose whatever visually appeals to them. And people want to see before AND afters.”

Get people to engage. One trick the Russells have found to work well for them is to be a seminar speaker at the show. This introduces you to the attendees, builds instant credibility with the audience and oftentimes, drives traffic to your booth.

“You have to maximize your exposure,” Kathe says. She does not stand outside her booth, “like a barker,” because that’s not the impression she wants to give. Instead, the moving images on the TV screen will often draw people in. You nee to look ready to engage so don’t talk on your cell phone or eat in the booth, she cautions.

Follow-up is key. “You have to make contact with the leads on the Monday after the show,” Kathe says. “Do not wait until Tuesday or Wednesday or someone else will get them. DreamBuilders has about a 10% response rate of the people who go through their booth, meaning about 10% of people will fill out the contact card.

This card has basic information, including name, phone number, e-mail address, project type (using predetermined categories with check boxes), how soon they’re looking to start the project, referral source and comments. The response card is designed to be filled out quickly because Kathe knows you won’t hold their attention for long.

They learned the hard way that they need to have a dedicated person who is making contact after the show to set up appointments.

Handouts and giveaways. Although it’s tempting to offer attendees free candy from a bowl or pens, keep in mind that many will grab freebies, but few of those are actual prospects. Kathe’s advice about handouts? “Don’t overload them,” she says. “We used to give out a big folder with sheets of information, but now we just hand them a brochure and business cards.”

The brochure contains information on remodeling in general and is a soft cell of the company, with the company’s name, contact information and Website address. SOme people pick up a business card, don’t fill out a contact sheet but call shortly after the show to make an appointment.

“Offer attendees a way to engage with you,” Kathe suggests.—Nikki Golden

For another perspective about making the most of a home show exhibit, listen to the NARI Radio podcast “How to attract attention at a home show” with David Pekel, CR, of Pekel Construction in Wauwatosa, Wis.

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