In February, Memphis, Tenn.–based Remodel America Corp. participated in its first home show. Les Stone, company president, worked his booth at the Memphis Home & Garden Show himself so he could gauge the traffic. “People said this show was lightly attended, but we got 30 leads in two and a half days,” says Stone, who paid $1,300 for a double booth.

By early April, those leads had produced $40,000 from two sunroom installations. Stone now wants to put his company into one show per month in the Memphis-Little Rock, Ark., market.

Make the Commitment Home shows play a big role in many contractors' marketing. Home Comfort Now, a replacement window and sunroom contractor based in East Hartford, Conn., participates in between 80 and 90 shows a year and generates 80% of its leads from these events, as well as from fairs and festivals.

Following a period of neglect during which its show business declined precipitously, New Pro recommitted to exhibiting at 50 shows this year. Through the first quarter of 2004, the Woburn, Mass.–based window contractor generated $850,000 in sales from show leads, only $29,000 less than what show leads generated in all of 2003.

“We can't wait for show season to come along,” says Denise Hinton, marketing manager for Statewide Inc.'s Vancouver, Wash., office, which expects to generate more than $2 million from show leads alone in 2004.

Valuable Exposure Contractors see home shows as an inexpensive way to expose their products and services to a captive audience of remodeling-minded homeowners. Even though contractors generally won't quote prices at these events, most say they still convert show leads to sales faster than leads from other forms of promotion. Contractors note, however, that a home show's productivity can be made or broken by a demonstrator's training.

Home Comfort Now, which expects to do $7 million in sales this year, maintains a bullpen of 20 to 30 part-time home show demonstrators who receive a two-day orientation on a 10-point script. Marketing director Kimberly Hebert says a demonstration manager and a field-training manager supervise this team, which is scheduled a month in advance of all shows. Each booth is manned at all times by two or three demonstrators, whose bonuses are based on appointments booked and sales generated.

A sizable number of Home Comfort Now's show leads come from the Eastern States Exposition, a huge, 17-day-long fair held in September in Springfield, Mass. “We're still writing business off of that show,” Hebert said in April.

But all shows are not created equal. Hinton says Statewide —which exhibited at 17 shows last spring and will be in at least eight this fall — won't exhibit at shows with fewer than 3,000 attendees.

Home Comfort Now draws the line at one-day events that cost $1,500, which Hebert says are “too risky” in terms of their return on investment.