Alex Dean has seen the future of home-remodeling shows, and it's practically in his back yard. Dean, president of The Alexander Group, Kensington, Md., spent a recent Saturday morning manning a table at Chevy Chase Bank's first-ever Home Building & Renovation Expo. Held at bank headquarters in downtown Bethesda, Md., about four miles from Dean's office, the event featured just 19 exhibitors, drew a few hundred attendees, and lasted a mere five hours. It was tiny, in other words, compared to the typical sprawling, multi-day, suburban home show.

But what the event lacked in quantity, it made up for in quality. Dean went home that day with 17 strong leads, each a qualified, local homeowner with a keen interest in remodeling and an educated awareness of the financial and time commitments ahead.

Keys to the event's success:

  • Local sponsorship. The expo was sponsored jointly by Chevy Chase Bank, a Mid-Atlantic chain with 220 branches, and its subsidiary B.F. Saul Mortgage, along with the Metro DC chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). The bank picked up all expenses but gained by promoting its home equity loans and other lending programs. Marie Perazella, Chevy Chase vice president of marketing, says she was very happy with the results.
  • Invitation-only attendance. The bank mailed 40,000 invitations to homeowner account holders within a targeted geographic area. “It was very neighborhood-oriented,” says David Merrick, a Maryland remodeler who helped NARI plan the event. “Everybody is a warm lead,” says Ethan Landis of Landis Construction, another exhibitor.
  • Narrow focus. Invitations articulated the emphasis on building and remodeling and one-on-one meetings with high-end builders and remodelers. Notes Dean, “nobody was looking for pots and pans.”
  • Serious program. Merrick says the “fantastic educational program” featured a panel discussion on the merits of hiring a design/build firm versus an architect and contractor, among other topics. Attendance was “standing-room only, and the questions were educated. People followed presenters out of the room.”
  • Overall verdict? A winner. “It was 500 times better” than the typical home show, says Dean, whose total investment was limited to a few hours and a stack of brochures. Chevy Chase Bank's Perazella agrees, noting plans to do more expos in the future.