In part one of this two-part series, we looked at how contractors can select a home improvement show that maximizes their investment. This week, we explore how contractors can get the most bang for their buck from their booth space. 

The first step is for contractors to avoid assuming that they already know how to do that. “I learned how to do home shows the hard way,” says Phil Isaacs, owner of California Energy Consultant Service.  

To that end, Issacs and other professionals offer 10 ways to get the most traffic, leads, and sales from a home show investment.

1. Pick the right people. If there's only one thing you do, it should be finding people in your organization who have the energy and the enthusiasm to convey your vision to customers—and sell jobs. Passive employees just won’t be successful, Isaacs says. “If you don’t have really good guys, and you do everything else right, you’re still going to fail.”

2. Don’t wing it. John Gorman’s firm just got back into the home show market last year, and it wasn’t really prepared. “We had some results, but not enough. It just felt bad,” recalls the owner of Save Energy Windows and Doors. This year, he’s invested in a more professional backdrop, giveaways and even shopping bags, which are like walking billboards.

3. Know your space. Before you even get to the show floor, tape out the booth in your garage or workspace so you have a good idea of how the space will work and how much you actually can fit into it, suggests Sue Huff, vice president, sales for Market Place Events, which operates 40 home shows nationwide. “There’s nothing more stressful than getting there, and having too much or too little,” she says. 

4. Think about set up and break down. Isaacs used to arrive at home shows with two or three trucks of equipment and displays but little plan of how things were going to come together. Now he uses a big trailer to haul everything in one load, and he has a checklist for each task that needs to be done, along with the necessary tools and supplies to do them. “In the old days, it used to take us a day to set up. Now we’re in and out in a few hours,” he explains. 

5. Pick your space strategically. It’s worth the extra money to get a corner space, Isaacs suggests. Then start looking for booths that are near bathrooms, food, and entrances. He also recommends avoiding in-line booths, which are sandwiched between two other booths and typically don’t get as much traffic.

6. Go with the flow. Booths must have clear, wide exits and entrances to invite people into them, says Isaacs. If people feel trapped in a booth they want out quickly, and they aren’t in a comfortable place to talk business. Ideal entries and exits should be wide enough for three or four people to get through, he says. 

7. Think billboards for signage, not bulletin boards. Contractors need to have a focused message that quickly tells attendees who they are and what they do. Clutter, fine print, and complex language get ignored, warns Huff. “When you’re on a show floor in a 10 by 10 space, you have three steps or three seconds to get someone’s attention,” she says. “Keep it simple.”

8. Book appointments in the booth. Many contractors make the mistake of just being happy with a lead. But with technology such as computer tablets and Wi-Fi, booking appointments right in the booth is a no-brainer, says Gorman. “If you can book it at the home show you’re a big step ahead,” he says. Huff adds that if you’re not booking quickly, your competition might beat you to it. She even recommends setting the appointment the next day before the show opens again. “You’ve got to move fast,” she adds.

9. Use lead cards. Ideally, hundreds of people will be coming in and out of your booth. There’s no way to remember all of them, let alone book their appointments. That’s where the lead card comes in. This pre-printed form captures name, address, phone number, distinguishing characteristics and even likelihood of sale, says Huff, adding that her firm supplies them for vendors.

10. Come early and stay late. Huff says that she’s heard several stories about exhibitors who made their biggest sale of the day right when the show opens or closes. Too many contractors make the mistake of showing up late and leaving early, she observes. But a lot of serious shoppers don’t want to contend with the hordes of people during prime hours so they either arrive early or late. “It’s a challenge to stay, let me tell you,” Huff admits. “But it’s worth it to stick it out.”