HPAC Magazine

Leaving your comfort zone

June 26, 2014 | By Patrick Callan

The value of exhibiting at consumer shows

WEB EXCLUSIVE Trade shows are the nuts and bolts of the HVAC/R and plumbing industry. There is no doubt about it. Year after year, from Newfoundland to Vancouver, you will see many of the same faces proudly showcasing their companies’ latest innovations to local professionals. But as successful as exhibiting at trade shows has been and will continue to be, there is another genre that is worth considering when planning out your marketing strategy: consumer shows.

For manufacturers of HVAC/R and plumbing products, exhibiting at a consumer show can open up a whole new realm of sales opportunities. It is also the best way to introduce a different section of consumers to your product, explain what it does and let them test it out, says Ross Evans, national sales manager for Saniflo Canada, who exhibited at The Home Renovations Show in Ottawa, ON, earlier this year.

When it comes to how valuable exhibiting at consumers’ shows is for Saniflo, Evans gives the overall experience a nine out of 10. “These shows are a great opportunity to talk one-on-one with consumers and gauge their needs so that we can better tailor our offering to what they’re looking for,” he says. “Exhibiting at consumer trade shows gets us in front of the end-user and provides us with valuable insights into what they are looking for, as well as what is going on in the industry as a whole.”

The key challenge, he continues, is to present the product information in a quick and simple manner, which is why all of Saniflo’s representatives receive extensive training on the company’s entire product line. Only the most senior staff attends the shows to ensure customers can speak directly with one of their product experts, he adds.

Depending on the theme of the consumer show, Saniflo will showcase different products based on the audience. At a home show, Saniflo will feature products designed to fit in smaller spaces and areas where traditional plumbing would not work, like condos, apartments and basements. But for cottage shows, they will highlight products that can be installed without the need for a septic tank, which are ideal for off-the-grid renovations, says Evans.

Saniflo’s booth design is also catered to the theme of the show and the target audience. For a consumers show, Saniflo will focus on the overall experience, product benefits, return on investment, eco-friendly attributes, as well as ease of installation and maintenance. However, at a trade show, the focus is more on the technical product specifications.

Travel and attendance costs vary from trade shows to consumer shows and part of the budget is set aside for a product giveaway – which has been a big hit at large consumer shows like The National Home Show. “It’s one of the best ways to raise awareness, get products directly into the hands of consumers, and get feedback from our end-users,” explains Evans.

You will also want to let existing and potential customers know you will be exhibiting at a consumer show before the actual event takes place, adds Catherine Macnutt, marketing and operations manager for Master Promotions Ltd. “Exhibitors are encouraged to work with show managers to provide product and educational information that is included in marketing collateral, such as show programs, website opportunities, social media and press releases,” she says.

Master Promotions produces more than 25 events per year across Canada, 65 per cent of which are consumers shows and 35 per cent trade shows, including the Mechanical, Electrical, Electronic and Technology (MEET) show every second year in Moncton, NB.

Macnutt says there are many benefits for HVAC/R and plumbing companies to exhibit in both categories, such as sales opportunities, education, disseminating new technology, as well as product awareness, education and distribution.

“The difference is that in a consumer show, the opportunity exists to exhibit, demonstrate and sell directly to the customer,” she says. “Consumer home shows offer an exhibitor the opportunity to speak to the end user face-to-face to market their products and services to the people who want to purchase these products.”

Master Promotions has seen an increase in the number of HVAC and plumbing exhibitors at consumer shows in recent years – especially with rising household expenses. Macnutt says HVAC companies offer viable solutions for consumers looking to heat and cool their homes efficiently. But with all the information available at our fingertips these days, educating the general public becomes the biggest challenge. However, consumer shows provide an excellent opportunity for exhibitors as it allows them to clarify and provide direct education right at the source, contends Macnutt.

“Exhibitors have told us that home shows have become one of the best ways to educate consumers on the benefits of their products,” she says. “Home heating and cooling is a fast-paced and competitive business, and consumers want to know the facts so they can make a sound decision on their purchase.”

When asked for advice companies should keep in mind if they are considering exhibiting at a consumer show, Macnutt says be sure to have a pre-event meeting with your exhibit team to ensure the appropriate staff are available. Having knowledgeable staff on hand will instill confidence and ultimately lead to more sales.

“Exhibitors need to understand how important it is to be able to provide the correct answers, appropriate pricing and collateral to the consumer. Consumers these days are very savvy and have usually researched the product options prior to the event,” explains Macnutt. 



Stories continue below