Contractingbusiness 1582 Michel 0

87 Ways to Get More Out of Home Shows, Part 4

Dec. 11, 2008
This is the fourth of nine articles written by Matt Michel. This article can be read in its entirety on the Service Roundtable website ( The article gives advice of what to do and what not to do at home shows.

This is the forth of nine articles written by Matt Michel. This article can be read in its entirety on the Service Roundtable website ( The article gives advice of what to do and what not to do at home shows.

31. Make the Booth Homey. You can make your booth more inviting by bringing some simple touches from home. Add a table lamp to contrast with the overhead glare of fluorescent lighting (at least, add one while you can still buy incandescent lights). Bring a few house plants.

32. Don’t Forget Storage Space. You will need places for your booth workers to store personal belongings during the show and for you to store ad premiums and literature. This is even more important if the show takes place during colder weather. Coats are bulky.

33.Use a Trailer. Ben Stark, a Dallas/Fort Worth air conditioning contractor built a trailer for home shows and other events. The trailer interior is the room of a house with a duct traversing the room. The trailer is designed to allow Stark Air employees to demonstrate the various products the company sells. Ben pulls up, opens up, and is set up in minutes. Even better, the trailer was practically free. By featuring a manufacturer on the outside of the trailer, Ben was able to get most of the trailer’s cost paid for by the manufacturer.

34. Get Creative. Design something that makes people ooh and ah. An example is a plumber’s magical faucet. Attach a faucet to a piece of clear PVC that is 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 outside of the PVC. It takes a little adjusting to get it right, but when you’re done it appears as though water is pouring out of a faucet suspended in air. People will look at it, marvel about it, and poke it.

If you own a thermographic camera, this can be a simple, creative attention getter. Point the camera at consumers walking down the aisle see their heat image on a large video screen.

35. Use a Fog Machine. Party City and other retailers offer low cost fog machines that you can use to create some movement and life to some aspect of your booth. Have fog drifting out of a refrigerator or an air conditioner. Strategically use floodlights or Christmas lights for dramatic effect.

36. Display a Mechanic. Well, not a real mechanic. Rent or buy a mannequin. Put a company uniform on it and set it on a revolving pedestal. Again, the idea is to create
movement and action.

37. Build a Money Cage. A money cage is one of the most powerful contest and promotional tools ever created. The money cage is a cage with a slot to drop a big pile of cash and one or two powerful blowers attached to blow the bills around. The money cage can be constructed using chicken wire or clear Plexiglas.

When a money cage contest winner enters the cage, the fan is flipped on, the money is dropped in, a race timer counts down the seconds, and the contest winner grabs as much cash as possible before time expires. What he grabs, he gets to keep.

A money cage is an event. It draws a crowd. People shout and cheer like it’s a game show. It’s exciting. It’s fun. It’s memorable.

Money cages can be used at home shows and neighborhood fairs. They can be used in your parking lot or a retailer’s parking lot. When a consumer wins time in the money cage, he should be encouraged to invite friends and neighbors to cheer. The length of time in the money cage ranges from 10 seconds to 20 seconds. Ten seconds may not sound like a long time, but it’s plenty.

Money cages are effective employee promotions as well. When an employee wins a contest and earns a trip to the money cage, do not announce the winner beforehand. Set a time after hours on a Friday or on a Saturday so that all employees can show up and bring their families with them. If a chance in the money cage isn’t enough to motivate the employee, the employee’s family will supply whatever motivation is lacking once they see a money cage in action.

After a home show, give the employee who collected the most leads a shot in the money cage.

Building a money cage is simple. Build a sheet metal frame with Plexiglas sides. Frame a small slot at the top to drop the cash. Connect one or two blowers to the bottom and/or top and let ‘er rip. Of course, it’s wise to test it a few times before you use it. Make sure your configuration and blower speed results in enough air circulation with the cage that the money dances in the air, but not so much that the cash simply sticks to the sides (that’s no fun). Inevitably some will stick, but the bulk should swirl around.

If you envision carting the money cage to home shows and other events, make sure you design a money cage that collapses for easy transportation. Also, don’t forget to mount a sign at the top displaying your company name and logo.

The amount of cash you use is up to you. You can drop $1,000 in the money cage and someone may only be able to grab $20 or $30 in a ten second trip. Yet, when you promote it, you promote the cool thousand.

The money cage can be used successively at home shows or fairs. You can have a ten second trip every hour, on the hour. To win a trip to the money cage, make it a requirement that consumers complete a registration form, which is actually a lead sheet, containing all of the information you need for future sales and marketing efforts.

Money cages are fun. They’re exciting. They are effective in motivating people, whether consumers or employees, to take actions you desire. Go ahead. Have fun with a money cage.

38. The Greatest Home Show Marketing Idea Ever. In the 1990s, I was struggling to come up with a way to create a home show promotion that was focused on the product. The idea was to give away a furnace to the registered homeowner with the oldest furnace. A contractor in Walnut Creek first tried it. It generated so many qualified leads that he was unable to run all of the leads. He gave many away to friendly competitors.

Based on his results, I realized that an oldest appliance contest is the greatest home show marketing idea ever. Contractors have run oldest furnace, air conditioner, and water heater contests. While there are no guarantees, I’ve often received overwhelmingly positive feedback.

In the contest, offer a free appliance to the homeowner with the oldest appliance, provided the homeowner pays for the installation. Every registration for the contest is a qualified lead. First, the homeowner thinks he just might have the oldest appliance in town, which means the darn thing should probably be placed in a museum, not a home. It’s ripe for replacement.

Second, the homeowner is willing to pay for the replacement. In other words, he knows he needs a new appliance and is willing to spend a little money to get one. So even if he doesn’t have the oldest appliance, you know he’s already willing to spend something. He’s already half bought. You only need to convince him to pay the difference between the installation and the full price.

In the contest, collect information from the homeowners and inform them you’ll need to make an inspection. After the show, schedule the inspection. While you’re in the home, collect the information necessary to prepare a proposal. Some contractors make a presentation on the spot and offer to refund the price of the furnace if they win.

Others take a two-step approach, calling the homeowner to inform him that he didn’t have the oldest furnace, but telling him that he did win second prize, which is a gift certificate with the contractor’s company (everyone wins second prize). While he’s got the homeowner on the phone, he might tell him, “You know, even though you didn’t have the oldest furnace, your furnace is still pretty darn old.

You’re wasting a lot of money on utilities and the comfort level of your home could be improved with a new furnace. I’m going to put together a proposal for replacing it and drop it off with your gift certificate. You may not want to replace it right now, but chances are that you’ll have to replace it in a few years whether you want to or not. At least you’ll know what you’re in for.”

Remember, stress the difference between the price the homeowner would pay if he won the contest and the total price. Say, “You know, it’s only a little more than if you had won the contest to go ahead and replace now. Plus, you can use the gift certificate.”

You can reduce costs by persuading a manufacturer to donate a furnace in return for the promotional value (and the promise to push the manufacturer’s brand with all of the second place winners). This makes the contest virtually free for you. The manufacturer donates the equipment and the homeowner pays for the installation.

The contest continues to work well for contractors across the country. Recently, Juan Cardona from JC Heating and Cooling used the Service Roundtable’s Oldest Appliance Contest Toolkit, adding his own creative spin.

Juan placed dinosaur prints the full length of the aisle leading to his booth. He said, “This was a hit with kids, dragging their parents to find where the prints led to. He had a cavewoman emerge from the cave and used a fog machine from the cave. Juan would activate the fog machine periodically. He also played a soundtrack of dinosaur sounds throughout the show.

Here are Juan’s results:

  • Over 400 people stopped to look.
  • Sixty people signed up for the contest.
  • Juan visited forty of the sixty, following the show.
  • Juan made 12 sales, totaling $93,600.00 to date (Juan said he’s still following up).
  • Spent $2689 for booth space, performers, advertising, handouts, and artistic talent.

Juan is located in a small town in West Virginia. The home show attracted 2,500 people, who paid $8 to get in the door. Imagine what this can do for you?

39. Everyone Wins. For any drawings, you may only have one grand prize winner, but everyone who enters should win second prize, which is a gift certificate to your company. A gift certificate is the same thing as a coupon, but carries more intrinsic value. People keep gift certificates until they can use them. They toss coupons.

40. Print Concession Napkins. Print a notice on the napkins about a contest that people can enter by bringing a napkin to your booth or offer a special prize (i.e., an ad premium) when people bring the napkin to your booth. Leave the napkins in the concession area. Place some on every table and by the condiments.

Matt Michel is president of the Service Roundtable, an organization dedicated to helping contractors prosper. Matt is also the publisher of Comanche Marketing, a free marketing e-zine. Subscriptions are available at

You can contact him directly at [email protected].
Or send your comments to Contracting Business at [email protected].