After Don Bruce opened his 7,000-square-foot showroom on a high-traffic thoroughfare in Nashville, Tenn., he found it helped broaden the customer base for his American Home Design by attracting prospects who want to hire a contractor based on more than an in-home presentation.
Not all home improvement companies have a showroom. “I think it's really advantageous, especially if you're a business with a fair price,” says Miles Wilkins, president and owner of The Board Store Home Improvements, which operates a multiroom facility in La Crosse, Wis. The showroom, he says, is especially useful for homeowners who have questions they want answered before moving forward.
WILLING & ABLE Bruce estimates that showroom visitors buy at a rate 20% to 30% greater than other customers. He and others suggest these methods for maximizing showroom productivity.
- Put someone in charge of greeting. At American Home Design, the receptionist and three trained demonstrators (on weekends) handle that.
- Provide a guest book for sign-in to collect contact information. Illustration: Barry Blitt; photo: courtesy American Home Design
- Don't have salespeople working the showroom. They tend to overqualify prospects and would rather be running leads anyway. That's why American Design and Build, in Bel Air, Md., assigns marketers to work the company's 6,000-square-foot showroom. “We instruct [the marketing reps] not to bombard walk-ins with questions,” says vice president Kevin Carmen. Seat visitors, offer coffee, and find out why they're there.
- Don't talk price. Why? Because conditions vary and you haven't seen the house yet. “We want to make sure we price it properly so the homeowner gets the best job,” says Mike Kelly, of Kelly Window & Door, in Raleigh, N.C., whose company operates a 30-by-50-foot showroom.
SAFE EXIT Some clients choose the showroom as neutral turf. Kelly Window & Door advises website visitors that they can call for either a free in-home consultation or a showroom appointment. About 5% of callers prefer that the first meeting takes place in the showroom. Another 5% to 10% will want to look at products there after the in-home appointment. Wilkins estimates that 20% to 25% of those who meet with a Board Store rep will at some time stop in to see the showroom, either before or after the appointment.