What to do when there are great services to offer but the market is oblivious to their existence? For example, let's say there's a drywall company that offers a wide range of artistic applications for higher-end residential customers. Let's say the customers are of a geographic disadvantage (rural Minnesota) when it comes to awareness of the various wonders of drywall.

Todd Olson, owner of Olson's Do-It-All Drywall, of Hawley, Minn., grew weary of this situation. His company offers many custom hand textures but it became quickly obvious that a lot of folks in the upper Midwest have never seen them.

"They know orange peel walls and acoustic spray ceilings," Todd says. "They don't know (what's possible) because up here, no one has taken the time to show them."

Todd was used to doing a lot of custom work in Phoenix, where he'd moved from but after coming to Hawley, it was like he "went back in time."

These Walls Will Talk

Todd wanted to offer something different to his market.

"We wanted to expand and do more custom high-end housing, more artistic, hand textures," Holly Olson, Todd's wife and first officer, explains.

His first strategy was to carry sample boards that showed his textures but of course, one has to carry them around and keep them intact. Inevitably, they get beat up and Olson always had to make new ones.

"Homeowners did not know what was out there," Holly continues, "and Todd would spend a lot of time putting samples on walls, taking them off, and it was very time consuming. We were surprised how many people didn't know what was available."

The first step on the journey toward a showroom came in the form of a similar concept: Fully constructed walls with the textures on them, showing the textures in a realistic setting rather than on sample boards.

"We'd done a bunch of big custom homes and we'd use these as samples," Todd says. "When people would call, we'd show them these houses and models as tangible things they could go see and touch, and get a visual."

However, sending potential customers out to look at houses' walls also had its limits in terms of practicality.

Legitimacy rules

There's a second reason for having a showroom offering customers real-world samples of services available.

"We decided to have a physical office and put our textures on the wall of the office," Todd says. But there was an additional advantage to a physical location for his company: "It would give us legitimacy. We're in the country and many businesses are just cell phones or signs on the side of a vehicle. A customer doesn't know if he can ever find them again. This makes homeowners nervous about whom they're hiring and if they would ever see them again if needed. Putting in an office was to make us legitimate as well as show our work."

Another advantage to having a legitimate space was for the storage and maintenance of the company's equipment and stock.

The actual showroom displays samples of what is offered: various styles of corner bead, arches, faux finishes, nooks, entertainment centers, and more. Since opening the showroom in September, Todd feels it has been very effective.

"We sell a lot of the manufactured stone and that's hard to sell out of the back of a pickup," he adds. "People see our sign, that we have a drywall showroom, pull in, and look at everything. We get a lot of walk-ins, not just people who need drywall work done but also people thinking about building, remodeling, whether they use us or not. It has been a great addition as a sales tool. People come in and freak out, ‘What a great idea.' Nobody has done this before."