March 2, 2005

Home Show Sales

Last year I had my company, Faux Real LLC, join the Home Builder's Association of Central New Mexico. The dues are fairly high, but this active organization has frequent dinner meetings which are a great way to meet builders who might want you to stain one of their projects some day. The HBA is a national organization with local branches in every state. In Albuquerque they publish a top-notch housing magazine, called Su Casa. The magazine features interviews with home builders, articles on new design ideas, and legal issues of interest to those in the trades.

Aside from the annual "Parade of Homes," the biggest event sponsored by the HBA is The Home Builder’s Showcase which takes place each spring at the Fairgrounds or the Convention Center. It is held for two consecutive weekends on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Hundreds of building material suppliers and subcontractors rent booth space to showcase their products and talents. Booth rental fees run from about $650 (for a 10' x 10' single) to $4550 for a booth eight times as large. Electricity is a small extra charge, depending on the wattage you request.

We decided to try renting a booth at the Builder's Showcase last spring to see if it could bring us more business during the summer doldrums. We met hundreds of people and talked until our throats were sore, but it was worth it. We got about 60 leads and five or six completed jobs (so far) from six busy days manning the booth. The hours are long so I divide my crew; two people man the booth in the morning and they are replaced by two fresh bodies in the afternoon.

We bought sixteen 2-foot square concrete "pavers," which are made by a local concrete casting company. We have molds and can pour and trowel concrete ourselves, but it is not as smooth and consistent as what we can purchase. Materials Inc. also charges us less per paver (about $17.00) than it would cost us in labor to make our own.

We rent a ten-by-ten foot square booth and put gray outdoor carpet on it so the pavers won’t slide around. On set-up day we run the finished pavers in on a dolly and lay them side-by-side to create a variegated "floor" in the center of the booth so that clients can walk on them and discuss the visual texturing techniques, the colors they like, and the several types of sealer we use.

At the back of the booth we set up a fabric-covered folding screen which we rent from a display company. The fabric is black and has a texture that the one side of Velcro will adhere to.

We already had some of our best floors professionally photographed. (See Newsletter Issue 21) We took the 8 x 10 glossies to Kinko’s and had them enlarged and laminated. If you put many tabs of stick-on Velcro on the back side of these they will hang nicely on the screen. The display company can also rent you two small halogen lights on extension arms which clip to the top edge of the folding screen and illuminate the photos and the entire booth. Halogen light is by far the truest light for looking at colors. All art galleries and museums use it. The display rental bill for two weekends came to about $380.00.

You should have a nice postcard or brochure made up, as well as a thousand business cards, so folks can have something to take away with them. Many booth renters include a bowl of free candy on the table, also.

We brought our own tablecloth for the table (supplied by the show sponsor) and a laptop computer on which we could run our PowerPoint presentation. The motion of the changing photographs can catch the eye and bring clients over to you. To make the table more elegant I purchased a large vase of spring flowers.

I highly recommend that you go to the trouble and expense to "do" a home show booth. The first one, where you are setting up the system, is the hardest. We plan to do about two per year. Be careful to do some research up front to see which of these trade shows you should take part in. There are money-hungry shysters in this business, as in any other. Ask other floor subs to tell you which show worked best for them.

You may have noticed a delay between this Newsletter and the last one. I decided to go to one letter per month, rather than bi-monthly issues. I just bought and moved into a new home and sold my old one. The writing deadlines seemed to be coming awfully close together. Thanks for waiting!

Happy Staining!