Swingline Windows has been exhibiting at the Pittsburgh Home and Garden show for 17 years. But this past March was the first time the company didn't build a booth but, rather, towed its exhibit onto the show floor.

The display is a 8-by-16-foot construction trailer, and inside is a 128-square-foot built-out Owens Corning Basement Finishing System, complete with Sensaround sound system, wall hangings, and working electrical.

Swingline operates a BFS franchise as a wholly separate company. Last summer, Ken ( Big50 1998) and Jeff Moeslein, father and son, attended a “swap meet” in Toledo, where BFS franchisees met and exchanged ideas. A fellow franchisee from Philadelphia had built a showroom on wheels and hauled it all the way to Toledo for the meeting. The Moesleins were impressed enough to want to replicate the effort. “All good ideas are copied,” says owner Ken Moeslein. He estimates the company invested about $15,000 turning the trailer, which it already owned, into a finished showroom.

Set-up at the show was swift — and inexpensive. “We pulled it in,” Ken says, “took the doors off, plugged it in, and we were done.”

Response at the 10-day show, which ran from March 5 to 15, was highly productive. In the din of the city's convention center, says Jeff, consumers could enter the trailer, close the doors, and “suddenly, silence.” Ken says the display on wheels produced about 500 “very good” leads, of which, he says, at least 70% became confirmed appointments.

Compoa

Jeff says the BFS franchise, which he manages, is marketed primarily through television, direct mail, the Internet, and door hangers.

“We had been marketing the product,” Ken says, “but this was the first time we introduced it in this manner. A common response was, ‘Oh, that's the basement finishing system.'Which is good to hear, because it means your marketing is working.”

After a summer tour of rib fests and farm shows, the trailer display has found a new home: It occupies a few spots in the parking lot of Swingline's new building.