Disappointed with poor leads at home shows, Jeff Metke now allots half of his $20,000 marketing budget for Portland's Tour of Remodeled Homes, which this year netted him jobs worth $675,000. Another $275,000 job is near contract.

Metke, of Metke Remodeling & Woodworking, a $1.8 million company in Lake Oswego, Ore., says planning for the March tour wraps up this month, but preparations occur all year long. The effort is worth it because it brings prospects right to his latest project, a showcase for his work.

On the Remodelors Council tour, 900 people visit 16 homes. Metke's commitment begins Aug. 15, when candidates submit their projects. The tour selection committee looks at the proposed project, considering accessibility and parking, and making sure the home presents one of a range of remodel budgets. The committee also makes certain the project will be finished by the end of January.

Metke pays for professional photography and develops a project description for the Tour by mid-November.

Open house

Long before readying the home, Metke works with clients to see who wants to open their lives to a crowd. If they're willing, he helps homeowners with deals on the products he installs -- often meaning four-figure discounts. (Suppliers provide discounts for exposure.)

Courtesy Metke Remodeling & Woodworking

Prior to the Tour, Metke's team "stages" the home. This year, a custom furniture shop volunteered to augment the home's furnishings, and in exchange, used the home to shoot photos for its catalog. Metke's crews also touch up paint and check to see everything is in proper and working order.

This past year, 650 visitors came to Metke's project over two days. From that came 20 solid leads and 10 proposals, which led to six jobs.

The approximate $10,000 Tour marketing budget includes prep time, entry fees, photography, brochures, staff salary for time spent at the site during the Tour, and a pre-Tour wine-and-cheese reception for architects, designers, "warm prospects," and friends.

Based on his success, Metke has decided to avoid home shows. "Our project on the Tour last year was a $500,000 job," he says. "This year, it will be $1.1 million. You don't sell those at a home show."