Now I don’t want to brag, but I’m pretty good at home shows. When we did our first show 10 years ago we “lived it” for 10 days straight (yes, this show was 10 days long!) We brought out a plasma TV to our 10×10 space, and at that time not everyone had seen a flat-panel TV. We had some great comments at that show like, “I heard the gas leaks out of them!” and “Those things give you radiation poisoning.” To be fair, many people were just blown away by this new technology, and it did get a lot of attention.
I was so excited to be in front of so many people. We begged for names and offered a drawing of a DVD player. (This was still a cool giveaway 10 years ago.) Thinking I was brilliant, I collected the mass of names like a squirrel hording nuts before winter.
After the show I began to touch base with these leads, but that process turned out to be less-than-joyful experience. You see, we have all been taught that’s okay to be rude on the phone, especially to someone trying to sell you something. Never mind that they gave me their contact information willingly. Never mind that some of them checked off the box asking to be contacted about a TV or home theater. To them, I was just a sales call. It was next to impossible to get an appointment or any business out of them.
So, I decided home shows were a waste, and I never did one again. Just kidding. I tried again…and again.
By year three we decided to go big or go home. We put together a 900-square-foot space (in a 30×30 room). In this space we built walls and housed them with electronics, control, speakers, and TVs. We built a stage, and I did technology talks. I believe the topic was “Understanding Today’s Technology.” We taught people about technology and how to buy a TV, and we didn’t take their name and we didn’t try to sell them something. And guess what? It worked.
The results were not immediate, but we realized that if we could become the experts in the five to eight minutes we were with them, then they would remember us. Then three months, six months, or even eight months later, when they were finally ready, they called us.
For the next few years this is what we did. The last years that we attended that show we won “Best Décor” and “Best in Show.” Our “Best in Show” year we built a “Kid’s Home Theater” inside the room with heavy drapes complete with a projector, kids seats, stuffed animals, and a kids’ movie demo (Madagascar) that we played during every tour. We also had a “kitchen” where we showcased lighting and a small LCD TV, and an outdoor area with an outdoor system.
Throughout those years we became a destination. We would often be told that our booth was the first or the last place they would stop when touring the show. We were told they looked forward to our space the most. By consistently impressing the public, we became the experts.
Are you wondering why we stopped, if we were so successful? It was a huge commitment. The booth took us a week to build, which meant installers were off the job during that time.
When we started the show, no one had heard of us, but eight years later we were a “name.” We had accomplished our task. Our company grew to where we wanted to be and we had become the established integrator we had hoped to be.
We still do a home show every year. This one is smaller—only four days, and closer to the store itself, and we are back to a 10×10 booth. But, wait there’s more. At this home show they build a house, and yours truly has an agreement with the show to design and install the AV in the house. What better way to experience audio video than in its natural habitat? We’ve installed home theater systems, whole-house audio, and control systems. We always try to bring something new to the show—something interesting. Our theme this year is, “The Connected Home,” and we are loading it in as I write this.
Considering doing a home show? Here are my three quick and simple rules:
1. Make Friends. The people that run the show are your best friends. You never know what you many need at the last minute. The more they know about you the better your chances are to end up in a local news spot (I’ll be doing this later today).
2. Ask for Help. Ask your manufactures and distributers for help. This could be in the form of co-op, giveaways, brochures, and sometimes new products. It never hurts to ask. Who remembers Sony’s first OLED? Guess who had it first at the home show?
3. Not Everyone is Your Client. It is so easy to get discouraged when you see person after person walk by your booth. Remember that all you want is a handful of great leads. Not everyone at the home show should be your client. Actually you don’t want a lot of them as clients. You want the select few, and it is your job to sort through the bad to get to the good. Always be on your game because you never know who you’re talking to.
I must run now and get ready for the show!
Heather L. Sidorowicz is project manager/designer for Southtown Audio Video in Hamburg, NY.