Are you spending money on events but not getting the leads you should? Here's a step-by-step way to look at your event marketing to ensure it's effective.

1) The booth. What's it say about your company? Everything. Which is why many owners are tempted to overspend. You don't have to. Here's the key: Design a booth space and display that not only portray the image you want to project but take little effort to put up, take down, and transport. There is a whole range of low-cost options available.

Can you get a supplier to help foot the bill by picking up some of the cost in return for your endorsement of their products?

Also, skip the rug or carpet. It's probably never going to exactly match the configuration of your booth space. It's also a hassle to clean and move around. The best solution is some type of tile flooring in a jigsaw puzzle style.

2) Location, location, location. Select a booth location in the center aisle or just to the left of the entrance. Research shows that those are the most heavily traveled routes.

3) Bell to bell. Big booths impress, right? Not always. Actually it's far more important to have an attractive display with energetic, well-dressed, and well-groomed people in it. They need to be there from bell to bell. You can't sell appointments from an empty booth. Keep shifts brief (no more than four or five hours); that way booth staff maintain a high level of energy and enthusiasm. And no snacks or cell phones in the booth.

4) What's your hook? Show-goers are just walking by. Well, why should they stop at your company's booth? It's up to you to entice interest. And there are plenty of ways to do that. For many people, interactive games ? such as a prize wheel or slot machine ? bring out the inner risk-taker.

You can also interest show-goers with giveaways. Customized giveaways with your company name and logo help to brand your business in the market. Using an interactive contest that offers a high-value grand prize leaves the door open for asking about your free estimate or consultation.

You should be prepared to ask everyone who stops at your booth about what they're planning for their next home project. Event staff proficient at engaging passersby will make all the difference in the profitability of your event.

5) Qualify, don't crucify. You'll need to quickly qualify the prospects who visit your booth. Find out where they live, so that you know whether or not they're in your market area. Also, be sure to find out as much as possible about their project goals, so that you can decide if those goals meet your minimum criteria for size and fall in line with the scope of work performed by your company.

Don't over-qualify. Often salespeople staffing these events have the tendency to pre-judge prospects before ever setting foot on the homeowner's property. You can avoid this by having a separate staff of event promoters who are scripted and trained in the qualification process.

6) Price taboo. Don't discuss price. Many prospects will be relentless in their efforts to acquire pricing information at trade shows and events. This is always a challenge.

Disarm overzealous price badgers with a script like this: "Have you heard of the Better Business Bureau? Well we're members in good standing and proud of that. We maintain that status by abiding by all the BBB's guidelines and recommendations. One thing the BBB strongly recommends is that we never give pricing information without first seeing the property. Actually seeing the property is always a factor when calculating an accurate price. The BBB even strongly discourages quoting ballpark numbers, probably because some contractors have given one price at a show like this and another at the home when they saw what actually needed to be done. As you can imagine, that resulted in a lot of complaints. We're extremely flexible. We will come out free of charge days, evenings, and weekends. When is the best time to catch you at home?"

7) Close for the appointment. Once you have successfully engaged and qualified the prospect, the next step is to book a specific date and time to visit their home for an estimate and demonstration. Assume they are interested in exactly that. Begin to write their information on your clipboard. For example, you could say: "You said you were coming from Doylestown, correct? And the ZIP code out there is 44325, right? And that's a 330 area code for the phone, right?"

Now you have collected their contact information. The easy thing, at that point, would be to hope you can reach them sometime in the future. But a lot can stand in the way of that. Besides, the best time to secure an appointment is directly after the prospect has seen your display and you've gotten them excited about what you have to offer. That excitement will diminish over time.

And don't be put off by prospects who say they need to check their calendar first. Get them to commit to an appointment by offering alternative times and dates. Try to determine whether there's one day during the week that's less hectic. Remember, a tentative appointment is better than no appointment at all. You're going to call them back to confirm anyway.

8) Button up and pre-position. The final step is to give the prospect an appointment reminder so that they're certain to be aware of your meeting time. Put this on bright colored paper and tell them to place it somewhere highly visible. And why not distribute a refrigerator magnet? That will keep your reminder in plain view. It's also a good idea to provide the prospect with any information about your company and products that will help keep them enthused before you get to the home.

? Sales and marketing consultant Tony Hoty has been a home improvement company salesperson and owner. Visit his website at or call him at 888.447.3969.