It's home show season!

AH, SPRING. The birds sing. The flowers bloom. The home shows commence. Home shows represent great selling opportunities for plumbing companies. It's a chance to stimulate sales, acquire customers and build relationships with existing customers. Too bad most companies blow it. Here are 10 ways to get more from your next home show: Market the show in advance. Call or mail your customers and invite

AH, SPRING. The birds sing. The flowers bloom. The home shows commence. Home shows represent great selling opportunities for plumbing companies. It's a chance to stimulate sales, acquire customers and build relationships with existing customers.

Too bad most companies blow it. Here are 10 ways to get more from your next home show:

  1. Market the show in advance. Call or mail your customers and invite them to the show. Offer them a special prize or drawing for dropping by your booth. Aside from a chance to renew relationships and stimulate sales, lots of people means lots of energy.
  2. Hold a contest. Contests give you a reason to collect names and addresses for later marketing. The best contests are inherently pre-qualifying. I like an "oldest water heater" contest. The owner of the oldest water heater gets a free one, provided you install it. Entrants think they might have the oldest water heater, they are aware of the need to replace it and they are willing to pay for the installation. Sounds like a qualified lead to me.
  3. Give everyone second prize. Make every entrant a winner and give the winning entries a reason to do business with you. Second prize is a gift certificate with your company.
  4. Spread your magnets around the show. Put your magnets on every metal doorframe or other metallic surface you find. Periodically, walk the show and replace the magnets.
  5. Create a wow factor. Create something that makes people want to stop and gawk. I like the magical faucet. Attach a faucet to a piece of clear PVC mounted on a base in a small tank of water. Use a fountain pump to pipe water up through the PVC. At the top, it spills down back down the out-side of the PVC, so that it appears as though water is pouring out of a faucet suspended in air.
  6. Work shifts. Being "on" during a home show is hard work. It's draining. Give people regular breaks (for example, two hours on and two hours off) so that they present the company's best face.
  7. Get rid of chairs. If you have chairs in your booth, people will sit, especially when tired. Nothing makes your booth look more lifeless. Remove the chairs. Remove the temptation to sit.
  8. Create roles. Assign someone the role of blocker, who stands in the middle of the aisle to direct traffic into your booth. Assign a greeter. Assign someone to collect leads. The blocker directs people to the greeter, who greets, smiles, delivers an elevator speech (i.e., a presentation about your company short enough to be delivered on a short elevator ride) and directs the prospect to someone who can provide more information or to the lead collector for follow-up.
  9. Hire temps. If you lack the personnel to properly man your booth, hire temps to help.
  10. Follow up. Do everything well, but blow the follow-up and your home show effort is for naught. Have someone call everyone who dropped by your booth. Create a set script to determine whether the need is immediate, soon or for future reference. Immediate leads are "hot." Follow up right away.

Temporary storefront
Few plumbing companies operate showrooms. Frankly, few plumbing companies are located in the part of town where consumers dare to venture. That's because the nature of the business is contractors go to the customer, not the reverse. As a result, contractors invest in trucks rather than real estate.

The home show is a temporary role reversal. Think of your booth as a temporary showroom in high-traffic location. Home shows give you a chance to compete with the big boxes on an even footing. It's a great opportunity. Make the most of it.

What are you home show ideas? E-mail them to me at [email protected] For a free copy of my e-book, "21 Ways to Get More Out of Your Next Home Show," call Liz Patrick toll free at 877/262-3341.

Matt Michel is the CEO of the Internetbased Service Roundtable, the nation's largest private contractor group. Serving plumbing and HVAC contractors, the Service Roundtable delivers new sales, marketing and business tools every week for $50 a month without a long-term commitment. You can learn more at www.ServiceRoundtable.com and subscribe to Matt Michel's free e-zine, Comanche Marketing, at www.ComancheMarketing.com