Three Lessons from the Minneapolis Home + Garden Show

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To kick off the unofficial start of home improvement season, the Bellmont Partners team ventured to the Minneapolis Home + Garden Show last week. We wanted to get a pulse on not only what’s hot in the home and garden space, but to also take note of what companies and brands were doing to break through the clutter and stand out to potential customers at this year’s show.

We all know that trade shows can be an essential part of the marketing mix, but they need to be done well in order to capture attention, and dollars, from attendees. We saw a lot of great examples at this year’s show, and of course, some not-so-great examples, too. We had three main takeaways from the show:

1. Seeing is believing. One of the most important things for companies to remember is that for consumers, there is something about actually seeing and feeling your product in a real-life setting that allows them to say, “Wow, I need that!” But while some companies spend countless hours and dollars ensuring that show rooms or retail displays are just right, sadly, it seems that many don’t give the same thought to their trade show displays – missing a huge opportunity to leave their customers with a lasting impression that will make them wanting more. It’s important to remember that trade shows are a great opportunity to showcase your product or service in ways that you can’t necessarily do in a brochure or online, so how you approach a trade show must be given the same time and attention as you give the other areas of your marketing efforts.

A great example we saw of this at the show was a company called Techo Bloc, which sells landscaping products, including concrete pavers and slabs. As a self-proclaimed home improvement junkie, I can say that concrete pavers were not even on my radar until I ventured to their booth. They had clearly thought out their plan for the show and decided to focus on just one product line and to focus on it in a big way. As such, they built an outdoor patio, made from one of their more unique patterns that mimicked hardwood — and they did their whole booth in that one paver (vs. trying to show everything they offer in one space). This caught my attention right away, so naturally I decided to grab a catalog to learn more. While the products were still pretty, the pictures did not do them justice the way that seeing them in real life did. By making the decision to focus on just this one product—these pavers are now on my dream home wish list.

Even if you are not able to afford a large booth like this example, there are still creative things you can do in a small space to demonstrate why your product stands out from the pack. For the paver example, perhaps you partner with another booth that sells a non-competitive product (such as lawn furniture) to display your product and offer to have their product in yours. Or, if you have a product that is stronger and more durable than the competition, perhaps displaying a cross-sample of your product alongside the competitors’ would do the trick. In short, if you can use your booth to capture attention and demonstrate why attendees need or want this product in an impactful way, you’re already one step ahead than your competitor down the aisle with a cardboard table filled with brochures.

2. Limit the freebies. It’s a well-known fact—people love free stuff. And while giveaways may draw a crowd, they likely do very little to draw in actual customers. At the Home and Garden show last week, I cannot tell you how many times we walked down an aisle to hear, “Come and get a free keychain! Want a free chip clip? Guess the number of jelly beans and win this handy tape measure.” While, yes, I might in fact want a free chip clip or tape measure, I may not have any interest in your product or service. So while you got me to stop at your booth to grab your tchotchke, you also wasted valuable time interacting with someone who is not a potential lead. Instead, draw people in by asking the right questions to gauge their interest and have meaningful conversations on how your product can help solve their problem. If you do have freebies at your booth, limit them to something you give after you’ve had a conversation.

One great giveaway example we saw was Lucy Interior Design, which was situated at the end of the Tiny Home Village tour outside the main show floor. After attendees walked through all of the beautifully decorated tiny houses they were given a “tiny ruler” – a 6-inch ruler – from Lucy and the Tiny House Village. This was a great tie-in to the exhibitor’s location on the floor, and a good reminder of what their services entailed.

3. Don’t forget about social. This may seem like an obvious one, but it is probably the most overlooked. While at a show it is important to be actively posting on social media to let your potential customers know you are there (by using the show’s designated hashtags of course), and to demonstrate your leadership within the space. While at the show, the main purpose for being there is always to sell, so taking a picture of the people gathered around your product to post on Facebook is probably the furthest thing from your mind. However, this is exactly the type of content you should be capturing and sharing socially. In our experience, it helps to assign one person in your booth to be in charge of capturing and posting content. Many times, the easiest and most effective way to do this is to have that person send pictures back to someone at the office who can post for you. Working with clients who attend many trade shows and events, if we can’t physically be there with them, we encourage them to send the images back to us so that we can post on their behalf. This helps ensure that the correct hashtags are used, and, most importantly, that the content is on-brand. Having this system in place ensures that you’re not only posting consistently from the show, but also that there are no embarrassing typos from being distracted while on the show floor!

One exhibitor really capitalizing on social media usage was Village Lawn Service. They did an excellent job of posting to Twitter, Instagram, Periscope and more, using the @HomeShowMPLS handle, and jumping on hashtags as they happened – including the #PropertyBrothers visit, and the popular #VetTogether highlighting their employment of veterans.

In short, done right, trade shows can be a very effective and efficient way to reach your end-user in a way that is meaningful and leaves a good, lasting impression. By keeping these pointers in mind, it won’t be long until your product or service is on the “must have” list of your potential customers as well!

Happy home improvement season!



  1. As the new Show Manager for the Minneapolis Home and Garden Show, I loved your lessons from the recent Show! Thank you for sharing these and your excitement – love it!

    • Megan Derkey says:

      Thanks, Julianne – and congratulations on your new role. We’re excited to visit the show again next year, it’s always a treat!

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