homeowners and would-be homeowners. If you participate in these shows, you may reach both owners and buyers, although it’s likely that more of your audience will be homeowners. When deciding whether to participate in a home show, you should consider that most people do not buy anything at home shows. There are some exceptions, but the main goal of most exhibitors is to get leads.
Marketing home inspections at a home show is tricky. Home inspections are a time-sensitive professional service. You need prospective clients to think of you when they start the home-buying process. Although you may get some leads at a home show, the people you meet might forget your name by the time they are buying a home — unless you find a way to be memorable. As with any marketing effort, you should measure your return on investment. For example, you may not want to participate in a home show that occurs during your busiest time of year for inspections.
Exhibiting at a home show makes more sense if you offer services for homeowners as well as buyers. Advertising your expertise in testing for lead, asbestos or carbon monoxide, as well as with conducting energy audits, radon tests, indoor air quality testing or all of these is a good strategy for home shows. Having a compelling display attracts attention and generates discussion.
If you offer consulting services to homeowners, you might want to highlight these services during a home show. Many homeowners have problems with their homes that they do not fully understand. Showcasing your consulting services at home shows can be great way to generate leads for this kind of work.
Based on our home show experiences, we offer the following ideas for generating leads and improving traffic flow.GENERATING LEADS
Design Your Display Around One Goal
Design your booth strategy around one well-thought-out goal. Possible goals include selling something, introducing your service to the public, creating a public relations opportunity or getting leads to follow up on later. We believe the best goal is to generate leads.
Don't Try to Sell at Your Booth
Hundreds of people may walk past your booth. You often have very little time to speak to people. If you try to sell to each person on the spot, you may significantly reduce the number of people you reach. It takes very little time to find out if a person is a prospect and collect his or her information, but it takes much longer to make a sale. While you are occupied trying to make a sale, other prospective clients may be walking right by your booth.
Have something interesting at the booth to draw people in. You need to solve a problem or fill a need. Sometimes you have to make people think about the problem first. Termites are a good example. If you offer termite inspections, you could display a well-established termite colony in a transparent display case — this is a strategy that has worked well for us. Samples of molds in tightly sealed containers also may be interesting. A strong visual that does not look like a sales gimmick is usually successful. High-quality photos may work if they are poster-size and very clear.
Approach Those who Show Interest With Open-Ended Questions
Be sure to approach anyone who looks at your display or demonstration. An open-ended question such as “How much do you know about termites?” is often a good beginning.
On the other hand, you could ask a closed-ended question and offer a follow-up response for each possible answer you may get. If you test indoor air quality, you may ask, “Do you get sick more often in the winter?” You can follow up this closed-ended question with another leading question or an interesting fact, depending on the response you get.
Make the Question General and Qualify the Prospect
Ask a direct question that starts the qualification process immediately, like “Do you ever worry about the quality of air in your home?” It’s good to remember that people love to talk about their children and that parents will spend money on things that may have a positive impact on their children’s health or safety.
Responses to questions like this can tell you a lot quickly and can help you qualify or disqualify the prospect. A qualified prospect is a person who could benefit from your service. A well-qualified lead is one who understands the benefit.
Offer Your Service as a Prize and get Contact Information
One way to make the draw more effective is to offer your services free as a prize. This attracts people who are interested in your service — and that is a good thing! Offering prizes or discounts on your services are reasons for people to give you their contact information. Items such as pens or tape measures that include your contact information make good gifts, and people tend to keep things like these around their houses to use. Including useful information on the back of your business card is another way to advertise to people who might need your services in the future.
You need a strategy for keeping a good traffic flow going through your display space. Visitors who you may need to help move along fall into two categories: people who are not prospects — you need a polite way to move these people along. People who are prospects, but who already have given you their information —moving these people along is more difficult because you don’t want to let them know that you are trying to move them along.
Be Polite, but Keep Them Moving
For the first category of visitors, a good way to move them along politely is to say, “Thanks for dropping in and enjoy the show!” Alternatively, you could say, “It’s been great talking with you. Be sure to take a brochure.”
Say Goodbye, and Offer a Follow-Up
For the second category of visitors, close the conversation by saying something like, “It’s been good to meet you. We’ll be in touch next week.”
If you make a commitment to attend a show and collect information from prospective clients, be sure to follow up with them. We know from firsthand experience that it’s very easy to go back to your business the next week, get busy and fail to follow through on your leads. Consider sending prospective clients a calendar, a memory stick or another small gift to help keep you in their minds when they need to look for a home inspector. People enjoy receiving an unexpected follow-up gift.
There are many sources of help for successfully exhibiting at home shows. We suggest attending home shows to collect ideas. Take note of which booths are the busiest and ask the exhibitors about their experiences. Have they been successful in the past? Watch how participants connect with attendees. Could you do the same?
Will you be the only home inspection company at the show? We prefer to exhibit at the home shows at which our competitors are not also exhibiting. Do you have it in you to talk a good game? Do you present yourself and communicate well? Most home inspectors do. However, if the whole idea of exhibiting at a home show makes you nervous, do not do it. Spend your time on other marketing activities instead. No strategy will be successful if your heart is not in it.
Thanks to Roger Hankey for his insight and contibutions on this article.