Talk to contractors and the one thing they just about always want are more leads. What's the best way to fulfill such a need? Go out and bring the leads to the contractors, which is exactly what TW Perry had in mind when it put on its "All About the Home" show.
"We always want to do something to connect homeowners with our contractors," says Tonya Farina, TW Perry's director of business development and marketing. "In this business you're intimately involved with customers. You have to want to help your customers."
Farina describes the show as "networking on steroids" because it brought together more than just contractors and vendors to also include homeowners, bankers, designers, and representatives of community groups. Much as the contractors liked working with homeowners, vendors delighted in an opportunity to interact with potential clients.
"It was a win-win for everyone who was there," says Jennifer Purdy, marketing manager for the Gaithersburg, Md.-based company.
Three out of the four Excellence Awards judges gave TW Perry's entry the highest rating possible and said its show was a great way to improve customer loyalty. They also remarked from experience just how hard it is to put on a home show, so any single lumberyard that attempts one merits applause.
The show grew out of years of talking to customers and asking them what they wanted from TW Perry, which pulls in about 60% of its sales from remodelers.
"Sometimes they would reply tongue-in-cheek, other times seriously, but they said 'get us leads,'" Farina says. "Some of them didn't expect us to give them leads, but some did."
The company started a contractor referral page on its website a few years back to help do that, but it wanted to improve upon the concept. "In the past three to four years, many of our customers have struggled with the new normal that is the building products industry," TW Perry's Excellence Award entry notes. "Many of them never had to advertise and just depended on word of mouth to sustain their businesses. They had the experience and skills to do the actual jobs; they just didn't always know how to spread the word about their abilities."
While TW Perry advertises the referral page on its box trucks, Purdy says the company concluded it wasn't enough. The solution: Host an event that enabled contractors and potential customers to meet face-to-face, adding to the mix other key players in the remodeling and homebuilding process.
The dealer next had to decide when and where to host such a gathering. With TW Perry locations covering a large swath of Maryland and northern Virginia, the dealer concluded it could not find a location that would please all of its customers. It settled on the Montgomery County Fairgrounds in Gaithersburg because that venue was near the company's corporate offices as well as its Chevy Chase, Md., location, one of its busiest.
The home show brought together 35 contractors, 30 vendors, and eight community organizations, including banks and charities. It also featured two workshops and a kids' craft area to keep the little ones entertained. The event had a $40,000 budget, of which 60% was covered by its three "premier" sponsors: Andersen, Trex, and Versatex.
Aside from renting the space at the fairgrounds, TW Perry's budget also covered renting the draperies used to separate the booths, paying for food at the event, and advertising, which Farina says was the largest cost. Most vendors paid $500 to participate. Contractors took part for free.
With more than 70 participants, designing the floor plan was one of the hardest tasks. The building housing the event was so large fears arose that contractors in the back wouldn't have as much of an opportunity to interact with homeowners as those near the entrance. The planners also wanted to place vendors near contractors they believed would be good potential clients.
"It was very strategic," says Farina. "It was worse than planning where you seat people at a wedding."