What led you to build a mobile showroom?
Mike Muller: We started out as a fire and water damage restoration company. About a year and a half ago, we entered into full remodeling work because most of our restoration jobs involve substantial remodeling as well. Probably 95 percent of the restoration work we did, the homeowners took the opportunity to do upgrades. Our jobs are spread out all over Houston, and we found it difficult to get the homeowners over to our suppliers. The mobile showroom is a way to bring the selections to the homeowner as well as showcase the quality work that we do.
We have a bathroom mock-up, a shower, some wood flooring and some tile work as well. We have samples of all of the countertops, cabinet doors, carpet, tile, as well as cabinetry, crown molding and assorted trim-outs. This allows us to expedite the selection process and reduce the inconvenience level.
How did you design the layout?
We chose to focus our remodeling efforts on kitchens and baths, so we selected those items for the showroom. We bounced ideas around back and forth, and met with our suppliers, and we built it right here at our facility. We bought the trailer brand new ? a stripped-down model with slick walls on it. And the offer was made to our suppliers to give them free advertising on the side ofthe trailer if they would work with us on the installation and the material that would go into the trailer. All of the materials were donated. We used our own labor.
How much did the showroom cost?
We paid a little over $14,000 for the trailer. We put a generator on for the air conditioning. We lettered it and then there were a few other odds and ends so that it is approaching $20,000.
How has the response to it been?
It has been a very positive response. It is one thing to go in and make selections without seeing an installation, having our selections there, having them place the tile down on the floor, having the carpeting next to the cabinetry, etc. It has been very helpful to the homeowner who actually sees a complete unit and will put their selections next to that built unit. It has been very beneficial to them. They also love it from a convenience standpoint. We can park that trailer outside their house and have them walk out there and make all their selections. We are not 100 percent on it. It does not keep them completely out of our suppliers. About 50 or 60 percent of them do not have to go to our suppliers.
The principal benefit is a time savings for the customer?
Yes, and it is also a big savings for us. We can set the trailer out there and leave it for three or four days while the homeowner has access to it, and it gives us an opportunity for us to market the company because we have a giant billboard sitting in their driveway.
When you bring the mobile showroom out to a public function, how do you staff it, etc.? Do you have literature available?
Absolutely. We have manufacturer specifications sheets. We have our business cards. We have a customer survey and Ramon, who is our remodeling manger, always accompanies the trailer.
What is nice is that most of our functions happen in the summer when it is about 95 degrees outside, so the air conditioning becomes an enticement for customers to go in there.
Have you been able to quantify the results of the trailer?
We track every lead that we get from our functions. They are leads that we would not have had. And every function, we get between six and 12 leads. In addition to that it increases our name recognition substantially.
What is the mobile barbeque pit all about?
That is our smoker barbeque pit. We use that pit for community and charity functions, where we will cook the various foods that the function provides to us. If it is a true charity function, we will provide the food. We anticipate it running every weekend going through September. We’ve got it manned and we use it as an opportunity to market. And if there are space provisions, we will request to bring our remodeling trailer with the pit. In those cases we get a double bang for the buck on that.
We’ve had the pit here for three or four years for personal stuff; then we added it to the mix with lettering and it hit the ground running about the same time as the showroom trailer.
Are they mostly on weekends?
Probably 75 percent are on weekends. We are very active in the chambers of commerce here in Houston; we are members of five of them. And we will go out and cook for all of their functions and bring the showroom as well. So we stay very active.
In terms of staffing, how do you manage that?
We do all the cooking. We have a pretty close-knit staff here and it is an extension of everybody’s family. Everybody does it on their own time. Our employees donate their time to it. They bring husbands, wives and children. It is work, but we always seem to have a good time when we do it.
How does it get booked for other functions?
We have two ladies who do full-time marketing, and we offer it up for any event that they attend. The pit can go to small, homeowner functions. Our two marketing ladies go out in the chambers of commerce and we offer it to them. The first year we would get calls a week or two before they needed it; now we are booked up through mid-June on the weekends. So as the word spreads, we find ourselves busier and busier.
Is the mobile showroom something that you would recommend?
Absolutely. They pay for themselves four or five times over.