Ask Steve

Ask Steve: How Can I Pull in Prospective Customers at a Home Show?

When you present your company correctly at a home or trade show, people can pre-experience your service

Hey Steve,

For the first time ever I’ve allowed myself to be roped in to being in a home show coming up here in our big expo center. The event organizers promise there will be 40,000 people attending. I was just wondering if you have ever had a booth at a home show? I paid for a small inside booth and was thinking of having all my equipment there to show off. I could also give out a discount coupon and have balloons for the kids. Do you have any thoughts for me, Steve?

-Thinking in Tennessee


When don’t I have thoughts, Thinking? Reflecting back on our home shows, they were exhausting affairs but extremely rewarding. Remember that the biggest reason people have a hard time buying ANY service (including carpet cleaning) is they can't see it, touch it, taste it and/or pre-experience your service before the purchase.

When you present your company correctly at a home or trade show, people can pre-experience your service. (This will cut the FEAR FACTOR of the transaction enormously.) So doing a home show right is a fantastic opportunity to reach out and connect with thousands of prospective clients.

On the other hand, if you do a home show wrong it will just be an expensive waste of time. (Or even worse, your mishandled booth will be a negative moment of truth for 1,000's of prospective customers who will be turned off by your company forever!)

Now I’ve answered questions on home shows before, Thinking. But your smaller inside location presents some extra challenges. One suggestion: Dump the idea of featuring your equipment prominently. Only other carpet cleaners will salivate over carpet cleaning equipment displays!

So what can you do for your show attendees that will get their attention and hopefully motivate them to call you?

1) ACTION: People want lots of action! Home show attendees get over stimulated very quickly and just kind of drift through the aisles. So you need to pull them in to your booth. For example, if you can get power to run a small portable upholstery extractor, set up a small counter height work with an upholstered cushion on it.

Hey, let’s run with this idea! Imagine right at the front of your booth having a light colored solid olefin sofa cushion (olefin won’t stain and cleans beautifully) with all sorts of name brand staining agents lined up next to it. (Heinz Ketchup, grape juice, Coke, coffee, pet urine… OK, burn the urine idea but you get the idea!) Now have a carnival barker-type employee calling out to families walking by, “Hey kids! Come on over here. This is your big chance to trash some upholstery!”

Let the kids (and their parents!) dump all these nasty liquids on the cushion. (Heck, have them dump their own drinks too!) Let ‘em stir the stuff all around on the cushion and then kiddingly say to the crowd which will now have formed, “Now you kids have ruined my sofa! Or maybe not…” And start cleaning away as you magically transform the trashed cushion!

If you can’t run a portable unit inside the exhibit area, then you could set up a big monitor and run a dramatic video of your company cleaning really trashed carpet!

While you have people stopped watching this transformation, have other employees hand out $20 off coupons on any upholstery (or carpet) cleaning. They should also point out the other area of your booth to fill out your entry coupon to win your grand prize of $250 in cleaning credit! That’s right…

2) Always run a contest: Your goal? To force people to stop and fill out a coupon for a drawing. (We always offered $250 of carpet cleaning.) You should also have a box for them to check if they would like a "free home inspection" and fill out what time is best to contact them over the phone or by e-mail.

NOTE: If you do this be sure to have extra staff to follow up the next work day to schedule the appointments. We would typically get several hundred requests and it is a negative moment of truth for people to request a call and not get one. Be prepared for a high rejection rate since lots of people just sign up for everything at a show and don’t even remember who you are! But even so, we booked around 15% of the hundreds who filled out coupons so it is still productive work. Home show attendees also want…

3) Humor, lots and lots of humor: Ask children to dump some of their hot dog or Coke on the cushion and then caution them out loud, "Don't do this at home, kids!” Lighten up, relax and have FUN! You should also…

4) Take the initiative! Don't wait for people to stop and enter your booth. Few will. Instead, we had several of our employees out front handing out $20 off coupons to everyone who passed by. (Be careful to follow the home show rules regarding where and how you can solicit customers.) But you do need to get OCD about all these people just drifting by! So slow people down instead of letting them just walk on by. Then if a prospect stopped or asked a question, my front end people would pass them off to me or one of my managers in the back end. You’ll also make your space more inviting when you…

5) Install attractive lighting: Most exhibit halls are murkily lit by high fluorescent lights. You want to make your space stand out with warm spotlighting. Remember too that…

6) This is exhausting work: We scheduled rotating breaks for our people every two hours. You need fresh, enthusiastic employees working your booth to invite people in.

NOTE: For more ideas, download my “How Carpet Cleaners Clean Up Big in Home Shows” Special Report HERE. Or just write me at and I’ll e-mail you a copy - no charge!

P.S. Why not give out a bottle of Lifetime Free Carpet Spotter spotter to everyone who fills out a request for a home inspection? This lets you reward those prospects with serious interest and will keep your contact info in front of them.

Steve and ICS want to consult for you! For a personal reply write Steve HERE with your questions, problems, struggles and challenges! Your help is on the way! 

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to i Cleaning Specialist Magazine.

Recent Articles by Steve Toburen

You must login or register in order to post a comment.



Image Galleries

The 2014 Experience Conference and Exhibition

A look in photos at the 2014 Experience Conference and Exhibition, which was held from April 24-26 at the Embassy Suites Convention Center and Spa in Frisco, Texas.


Beginning April 21, Google will start judging websites based on their mobile friendliness. What exactly does this mean to you cleaning website? Find out in the latest edition of The Hitman Advertising Show, which will also cover tips and suggestions on getting mobile compliant.
More Podcasts

ICS Cleaning Specialist Magazine


2015 April

The April ICS issue features content on concrete polishing, green cleaning, air duct cleaning, injection sprayers and new products.

Table Of Contents Subscribe

Janitorial Work

In addition to residential and commercial carpet cleaning, do you do any janitorial work on the side?
View Results Poll Archive


The Carpet Cleaner's Book of Unlimited Success! (ebook)

Don’t worry about the recession or about your competition.  Now you can be the owner of over 400 ways for carpet cleaning professionals to make more money and get more jobs!

More Products


Director_Buyer.jpgThe premier resource and reference guide for the cleaning and restoration industries.

Click here to view


facebook_40.png twitter_40px.png youtube_40px.png


Truckmount.jpgEquipment listings and specifications from the leading industry manufacturers.

Click here to view