From file "032_rcs" entitled "Marketing3.qxd" page 01
Credit: Courtesy Four Seasons Sunrooms From file "032_rcs" entitled "Marketing3.qxd" page 01

Hot enough for you? It probably was if you happened to be at the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul last August. Anticipating the heat, employees of Renaissance Exteriors, a Twin Cities home improvement company, handed out roughly 5,000 fans to some of the 1.7 million people who poured through the 10-day event. The fans were photographs of a company-built Georgian conservatory, printed on heavy cardboard stock and stapled to a stick.

Conversation Piece Renaissance Exteriors, which specializes in Schuco Windows, James Hardy siding, GAF roofing systems, and Four Seasons Sunrooms, wrote some $867,000 worth of business from the 3,800 names generated from its marketing program at the fair. The company staffed its 20-foot-by-20-foot booth with three shifts of six company employees wearing khaki shorts and orange race car driver shirts. But it was the sticks that stuck. In people's minds, that is.

The idea seemed natural because every year a food vendor captures attention by putting some unconventional food item on a stick at the state fair. “It could be baked potatoes on a stick, walleye on a stick, or spaghetti on a stick,” company president Jeff Pattison says. So Renaissance designed its “sunroom on a stick” and had 10,000 made. Employees handed them out from the booth. “We'd say: ‘Sunroom on a stick. Would you like one?' People kind of looked confused,” Pattison says. “Like it was something you should eat.”

In fact, the idea was to create a conversation piece, something different enough that fair-goers would take it back to their cars and maybe even return home with it.

Lessons Learned Pattison says that the “sunroom on a stick” helped turn the company's involvement in the state fair into a solid success, producing a per-lead marketing cost of about 2.5% on a marketing investment of $20,000.

He says he has two regrets: that the company printed too many (just 5,000 of the 10,000 were given away) and that the fans didn't have an 800 number printed on them to better track the lead flow. “Now,” he says, “we put a telephone number on every single thing we do — anything we can track and measure from a marketing standpoint.”