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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Canvassing works, but . . . (3)

Doug Hillyard of American Dream Vinyl in central Pennsylvania phoned me in response to my last post about canvassing. He told me how well the door-knocking is working for his business.

"We're having great success," he said. "We have people standing outside our showroom in the morning, with the fliers (from the canvassing), and setting appointments with us."

"I spend so much money on advertising -- newspaper ads, home shows, fliers and direct mail, and I've never had response like this, where I'm at right now."

Hillyard says his city isn't that big -- but he isn't worried about saturating his market. In the immediate area, the population is only about 100,000, he said. When the canvassers he is using complete their work, "I'll widen my circle" -- and he will have the canvassers return for another go-around.

Hillyard noted that years ago canvassing was common but, in part with the advent of telemarketing, "we got lazy". Now may be the time to revisit the old tried-and-true, in-your-face marketing.

Not that his canvassers are pushy, he says. "We train our canvassers so well that people call in and say our canvassers are professionals and nice. " In fact, he calls his canvassers "field executives".

But he acknowledges that canvassers may wear out their welcome if there are too many of them, and the methodology is overused. "I don't want to see the market over saturated."

Has Hillyard changed my own opinion about canvassing, as a resource for marketing construction services? Not one bit. I've always believed that canvassing can be extremely effective for mass consumer services, and is probably the best way to find business if you are in a survival crisis (I don't think Hillyard is in that situation -- he is doing just fine.)

But for me and many other people canvassing is an irritant, just like telemarketing. I will screen out and avoid doing business with anyone who tries to canvass me. And I expect, if the practice becomes prevalent, more and more people will feel the same, and do what they can to express their revulsion. There can be nice telemarketers and well trained canvassers, but in all, they succeed because they effectively intrude into people's private and personal spaces. No one invites a canvasser to your home and I don't want to see any approaching my doorstep.

I accept of course that if the practice works for your business, and is legal, you can and should be free to use it. Just don't do it on me!

Instead, perhaps we can turn the tables and look more closely at Permission Marketing and Brand Harmony: That is, creating a situation where people welcome and invite your marketing initiatives -- and we respect them by turning off the marketing machine when they are not interested in hearing our message.

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