Dutchess Building Specialists

Is your home show act getting stale? Consider these approaches for changing what happens there.

The conversation piece: The crew from LeFaivre Construction Co., in Taneytown, Md., built a bed in the shape of a bulldozer for a client. Before delivering it, they set up the bed at the company’s booth at the Carol County home show, drawing in attendees and sparking interest.

The limited-time offer: Last year Callier & Thompson, a St. Louis remodeler specializing in kitchens and baths, printed 35 coupons worth “a significant amount off” kitchen projects. The coupons were distributed to the company’s seven design consultants to give, at their discretion, to home show attendees who agreed to start a project with the company. Typically, co-owner Gary Callier says, those customers were prospects still trying to make up their minds about whether or not to proceed with a kitchen or bath project from Callier & Thompson. The coupons were a closer. Some consultants used all five of their coupons.

The stand-out: At last year’s nine-day Seattle home show, Shirey Contracting, in Bellevue, Wash., set up a full-on outdoor living space in its 10-foot-by-20-foot booth with outdoor cabinets, appliances, and a barbecue. Owner Donna Bade Shirey says that suppliers loaned her company everything in the booth. “Every year," she says, "I try to do something different from other remodelers.” Shirey, who once took a class on how to work a home show, finds that all the tips she picked up there work:

Don’t wear red; Always smile; Don’t fold your arms; Never eat in the booth

The script: Dutchess Building Specialists counts on the one area home show the company participates in to generate 10% to 15% of revenue. And this year the company did just that, generating jobs for February, March, and into spring from its participation in that three-day event. Something the Poughkeepsie, N.Y., company did this year that it had never done before made that show more productive. “We decided that we cannot afford to sit behind our display,” co-owner Brian Altmann says. So instead of retreating into the booth, or attempting to get the attention of show-goers walking the aisles with standard remodeling company lines such as, “Thinking about remodeling your kitchen?” or “What kind of project did you have in mind?” which are easily blown off by attendees, Altmann wrote out a script of seemingly mundane questions intended to start a conversation. Example: “How’s the parking out there?” or, “Did you have to walk far to get in?” Then, before the show, the company’s project managers, lead carpenters, and management role-played the scripts.

Something else DBS did that was different: Instead of attempting to draw people out with the intention of setting up an appointment, the company’s personnel invited show-goers to an open house at the DBS showroom being held the following Wednesday. They also distributed a postcard with the year’s schedule of remodeling seminars presented by Altmann, with the first listed two weeks after the home show. “We invited them to bring their photos and their questions,” Altmann says. The seminar was full.

—REMODELING contributing editor Jim Cory is the editor of REMODELING's sister publication, REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR.

This is a longer version of an article that appeared in the May 2011 issue of REMODELING.