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IBS 2018 – The Good, The Bad and The Scary

  |  Posted in Builders, Trade Shows

IBS 2018 – The Good, The Bad and The Scary

Let me start by sharing that, with a show this large, I was not able to see every exhibit. So when I say the best or the worst, these were the best and worst of what I was able to see. There may very well have been better or worse exhibits.

Because construction activity is up, most exhibitors thought this was a very good show. They may not have had as much traffic as they have seen at past shows, but they felt they had valuable discussions with the builders who came to their booth.

Here’s What I Saw at IBS

Key Builder Message – Moisture

IBS Moisture Issue

Builder’s are still very interested in how to control moisture and prevent future problems. Whether it is for the building envelope or anywhere else moisture can cause problems; many exhibitors had messages that were effectively talking to the builders.

Second Key Builder Message – Labor Savings

IBS Labor Savings

Builders will tell you that they could sell more homes if only they could build them. Homebuyers, financing, products, and land are all available. Labor shortages are the problem. Smart exhibitors let builders know they have labor saving solutions. This is also a big appeal of Katerra, “let us solve your labor problems so you can get back to selling houses.”

Cold Was Another Theme

Cold at IBSI saw references to low-temperature installation and several freezers with samples.

Demos Are Always a Good Idea

IBS Demos

Many companies had demos.  As they usually do, they drew a lot of traffic.  This type of traffic is very high value as these people have a high interest in your product if they take the time to sit through or participate in a demo.

I didn’t see any of these companies making a proactive effort to scan the badges of these high-value leads. I would offer to send or email them something that ties into the demo.  For example, “Let us send you our white paper on 5 ways to improve job site productivity.”

Messages I Was Looking For But Didn’t See.

Code Changes – Continuous Insulation – Healthy – Sound Control – Quiet -Resilient – Green – Differentiate – Homebuyers are Looking For ……. – Successful Builders Are …. – Biggest Mistakes Builders Make When They ………

LP Does Some Great Things

LP had a large attractive, well laid out booth. They had their attention-getting and very effective baseball pitching machine demo that shows how much more impact resistant Smart Side is compared to fiber cement.


LP also had the best video I saw at IBS.

They have a new wood product that is extremely water resistant. To make their point, they made of video of it being really beat up when they left it in a rapids. Very dramatic and effective.  It’s rare to see building materials companies being this creative.  No stats, no charts, and graphs such a simple video that tells the story and makes you a believer that this product really performs.


If you like the previous video, you’ll love this second video they created to show how tough their new product is with the use of mountain bikers.  Kayakers, mountain bikers, and building materials, now that’s creative.  It also helps that they didn’t nickel dime the budget.  You can see the whole campaign here.

Is this the same LP?

IBS LP Upside Down

Most companies either do a good job or a poor job on their exhibit.  They usually are consistently good or bad. That what was surprising when I saw both brilliance and mediocrity in the same booth.

Product installed upside down! Really! A missed and very obvious detail that leaves a negative impression. How can LP go from the excellence to these errors and missed opportunities?

They also blew it with several missed messaging opportunities.This is the most common mistake that I saw at IBS, relying on the wrong people for the “words”.

Trade show managers, exhibit companies, sales and product people should not be providing the “words”. Even with smaller companies, the owner, founder, inventor, CEO or President mistakenly thinks they know best, but they really have no clue what the “words” on the booth should be.

Your best marketing people or agency should be in charge of the “words”!
Here’s an example of a missing and very important message.

IBS Mistake

This is an impressive new product from LP and Drivit. The sales person gave me a great sales presentation. Only he forgot the most important message, and even worse there is no sign to grab the builder’s attention with a message he really wants to hear.

I said to the sales person, “That’s a really impressive product story you just told me, but I have a question. If the old way of finishing this wall is the on the right and your new way is on the left, it looks to me like your way would save me labor. Isn’t it faster to install fewer layers?”

Don’t expect the builder to connect the dots. Give them a big, fat, easy to read sign, “New Labor Saving Method”.
Words are Important

We all glance at things and make a split second decision about it what it is. We are then able to quickly decide if we are interested in learning more or taking some action. If you confuse me, I will not take the time to figure it out.

Here’s an example of how one word can really hurt you.

IBS Foundation

I walked up to this display, and the first word I saw was “Foundation.” I probably noticed it because it was incongruent with the image I was seeing.

While LP was trying to tell, me that this is a foundation for my exterior walls, I was confused. The word foundation only means one thing to me, below grade construction. I was so confused that I grabbed a sales person and told him, I don’t understand what this product is. Why are you showing me the picture of the above grade portion of a house when you are trying to sell me a below-grade product for the foundation?

He quickly explained that this is an above grade product that is a better “foundation” for your exterior. How many builders saw the word “foundation” and kept on walking?

This also says to me that LP really doesn’t understand how a house is built. I know that they do, but having the wrong person write the “words” can be very costly.

What Are These Guys Selling?

IBS Underlayment Display

Are they selling supersize handkerchiefs? Can’t you just see the planning meeting, “We’ll wow them with all our colors, it will be a show stopper!” Really?  I would never have guessed that they were yet another company selling roof underlayment.

More Ineffective Messages

IBS Weak Message

No one cares where your locations are today. You are either available, or you are not. And no one cares about or believes your mission statement. I’m sure someone also made the mistake of showing a photo of their plant.

Huber Gets Their Messaging Right

IBS Huber Message

Sure Huber had an attractive, well-designed booth, but they took the time to get the words right that made their booth the best one that I saw at IBS. All the messages are focused on a need or pain point for the builder. Most companies could learn a lot by watching Huber.

Rockwool Also Had A Very Effective Booth

IBS Rockwool

Rockwool used demonstrations very effectively to show the advantages of their product. They also had a very effective sound control demonstration.

GAF Honors The American Worker


GAF goes in a very creative and timely direction. Honoring the American worker and making the connection between a GAF worker and their counterpart on the job site. Statements like “Providing Exceptional Service”are usually worthless as the customer decides if you provide it. When you present this message worker to worker it is a lot more believable.

IBS Norbord

Norbord also got on the American Worker theme with their Thank a Framer program.  You can view their well-done video here.  Perhaps GAF and Norbord will inspire you to get closer to your installer customers.

Pretty is Pretty

IBS Faucets

Most products that are chosen because of how pretty or attractive they are almost always miss an opportunity to grow their builder sales. When everything is based on appearance, the purchase decision is left up to the subjective tastes of the builder or his designer. My product is prettier than yours is not a very effective way to grow your business.

Metrie Combines Pretty With Business

IBS Metrie

Metrie sells very pretty products, but they connect with the builder better than most other companies selling pretty. Something as simple as Builder Central makes a real statement to the builder. Metrie wants your business, and we’re talking to you. They also back it up with some strong reasons why the builder will benefit from better moulding.

With many pretty products, it’s like it’s beneath them to talk to a builder. They only want to talk to designers who are cool like they are.

Amazon at IBS?

Amazon IBS

Will we see a new exhibitor next year?  What will it mean to you? They are coming; it’s just a matter of how soon.

Final Observations

IBS Models

Talk to the builders – not to each other. Just like your salespeople shouldn’t be talking to each other, neither should the eye candy that you hire!

IBS Loyalty

Loyalty programs are dead. Will someone tell these guys to stop wasting their money? You don’t want people buying you because you have better prizes. There are so many more effective ways to make your customers more loyal.

IBS Chinese Displays

Why do Chinese companies exhibit at IBS?  I never see any customers in their booths.  Is it really just a government-funded vacation in the US?

Chinese Video

Maybe they are at the show for “research and development:)”  I remember when cameras weren’t allowed at the show. Now you can just video whatever you want to make it easier capture (copy) the idea.

IBS Lit Bags

No More Literature. No More Literature Bags. Over 50% of the literature you hand out ends up in the hotel room trash can. When you hand someone a piece of your literature, you have now missed an opportunity for a second contact by sending it after the show. Many people today would also prefer to have it emailed to them which is a lot cheaper than mailing it. With email, you can know if they opened it. When you mail it, you have no idea what happened.

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About The Author

I am the leading sales growth consultant in the building materials industry, I identify the blind spots that enable building materials companies to grow their sales and retain more customers.  As I am not an ad agency, my recommendations are focused on your sales growth and not my future income.

My mission is to help building materials companies be the preferred supplier of their customers and to turn those customers into their best salespeople. Contact me to discuss your situation.