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Itty Bitty, Teeny Tiny Canvassing.

No! I’m Not Talking About Hiring Dwarves To Canvass For You! I’m Talking About A Small-Scale Project That Pays Huge Dividends.

No! I’m Not Talking About Hiring Dwarves To Canvass For You! I’m Talking About A Small-Scale Project That Pays Huge Dividends.

You Don’t Have To Hire And Manage A Van Full Of Sketchy Door Knockers To Have Success With Canvassing.

Just Start (And Finish) With One Guy.

By Rich Harshaw

Read to the end of this article for a challenge. It’s limited to the first three companies… so hurry.

About five years ago I had a client in Washington D.C. that had built his entire business on canvassing. You know what I’m talking about—old school, pavement-pounding, number-crunching, knock-till-your-fingers-bleed canvassing.

His secret weapon was the University of Maryland, which was about five minutes from his office. Back in the days before online message boards, he’d post notices around campus on real life bulletin boards and telephone poles advertising high paying part-time jobs for college students. He’d get a virtually unlimited stream of kids willing to pound doors… and in return, he’d pay them $10 to $20 an hour depending on their production. This was back when minimum wage was in the $3 to $5 range. On the strength of those college kids, he built a solid company that always had an abundant lead flow and healthy sales.

Then when the century changed, a funny thing started to happen—the university students stopped responding to those bulletin board notices. Promises of signing bonuses, spiffs, and higher starting salaries did little to change the tide, so he started looking elsewhere, including Craigslist, miscellaneous job boards, and even street-corner day laborers. Suffice it to say, the quality of the canvassers went down… to the point where he abandoned canvassing altogether and got serious about advertising instead. That’s how and when I met him.

I’ve heard this same story—or close facsimiles of it—from remodelers all over the country. Traditional canvassing, while still possible, is definitely a lot harder than it used to be.

Which is why the Washington D.C. remodeling company dismissed my suggestion that they start canvassing again out of hand. Been there; done that; got the T-shirt he said. Not interested.

But then I explained to him the concept of MICRO-CANVASSING.

Micro-Canvassing requires no vans full of sketchy guys who quit without notice. It requires no drill sergeant canvassing manager to corral the troops and ride them hard like Kentucky Derby thoroughbreds. It requires no perpetual hiring machine to keep your vans full.

Disclaimer: If you’re one of the remaining relics that has a good handle on running a full-blown canvassing program, good for you. I’m not saying it’s impossible; and I’m not saying it can’t be profitable. I’m simply saying that it’s extremely difficult to pull off. If you’re in that minority, more power to you. But you could probably still benefit from Micro-Canvassing ON TOP OF your regular canvassing efforts. Even though both entail knocking on doors, think of them as completely separate marketing activities.

Back to the article: Micro-Canvassing isn’t a home improvement lead generating activity in and of itself. Instead, it’s always the final crescendo of a bigger plan. It’s the hammer that pounds in the last nail. It’s the last straw that breaks the camel’s back. It’s the last piece of the puzzle that makes everything else work.

To make Micro-Canvassing work, first you have to run a hyper-concentrated mailing campaign. Hyper-concentrated as in fifty to 300 people on the list—no more. To make Micro-Canvassing work, first you have to run a hyper-concentrated mailing campaign. Hyper-concentrated as in fifty to 300 people on the list—no more. The campaign should have no less than three touches per prospect, and (hopefully obviously) the more the better. I recommend five to ten if at all possible. Here are some examples:

  • Radius Mailings: Send three postcards, one “testimonial letter,” and one check mailer to 100 addresses in a radius around a jobsite.
  • New Move-Ins: Send five postcards to people who have just moved into your area with home values that match your customer profile.
  • Specific Need: Send a series of ten postcards to homeowners who are very likely to need what you sell… like homes with old, builder-grade windows, or homes built twenty to twenty-five years ago that probably need kitchen upgrades.
  • Home Show Attendees: Gather a list of prospects at home shows then mail a geographically targeted segment of them three to ten mailers over the next four weeks.

When the last mailer is at the mail house, it’s time to start your Micro-Canvassing. Print out a list of the people you’ve sending all this mail to, put it on a clipboard, the prepare the following elements:

  • Fanned-Out Mailers: Take one of each of the mailers you’ve sent to the list, fan them out, then staple them together at the end—like you’re trying to create a handheld fan. You’ll show this to people when you knock on their door as a way give them a glimmer of an idea of who you are (anticipating that some of the people you show it to will recognize those mailers).
  • Big Bill: This is the real key—what makes all the difference in the world. Create an oversized bill—17” x 7.3”—that mimics the look and feel of real currency, just much bigger. With the wonder of Photoshop (or a competent graphic designer), you can make the big bill whatever denomination you want. It should be consistent with some kind of discount or perk you are offering. For instance, you might create a $1,000 bill that is consistent with an offer for 10% off a window purchase up to a maximum of $1,000. The opposite side of the bill should have IDENTITY information—to explain to people who you are, why you’re different & better, and why they should do business with you. The big bill is the key to this whole thing working because it’s the piece that has the INTERRUPT value; it causes people to forget that they hate your guts and want you off their porch for a split second—long enough for you to start your script.
  • Script: The days of “hey we want to give you a quote” as an effective opening line are as over as “what’s your sign?” You should create a script that plays off the big bill. Something like this:

“Hey, would you like $1,000? (extend hand with big bill; person will usually automatically reflexively take it). I don’t know if you’ve heard of us or not, but we’re (Your Company Name), and we’re the (IDENTITY GOES HERE; example: The window company that gives quotes in five minutes and never requires a dime until the windows are installed and you’re happy.) Maybe you’ve seen some of the mailers we’ve sent to you recently (hold out fanned mailers; see if a hint of recognition registers). We’re giving away $1,000 right now to homeowners who want to upgrade their inefficient builder-grade windows for ones that will regulate the temperature of your home better and save you money on your energy bills.”

  • Qualification Questions: These are questions that you immediately start to ask them after your opening script… unless they’ve slammed the door in your face or sicced their dog on you. (In those cases you should leave the house.) These are questions that will allow you to discern if the homeowner has any interest in talking to you. They should be pre-scripted, and asked IN ORDER:

o   How old is your home?

o   Are the windows original to the home?

o   What kind of windows are they (wood, aluminum, vinyl, etc.)?

o   Are there any problems you’ve noticed with your windows—sticking, fogging, etc.?

o   Do you experience drafts in the winter?

o   Do you think your energy bill is too high?

o   Have you ever considered replacing your windows?

The idea is to simply get in a conversation about their windows—if you’re doing that, they have less time to hate you and throw you out. If they seem interested, then you can attempt to set a time to give them a quote. If they seem disinterested, thank them and move on. If they seem interested, move to set an appointment.

You will notice something interesting when you use this method. First, more people than you think will have seen and recognized your mailers. The ground will be a little soft. Not always, but in more cases that you expect. Second, the big bill will distract more people than you think from hating your guts. With one or both of those hurdles overcome, you’re on your way to appointment setting!

Your canvasser should take detailed notes about what happens. If somebody tells you to get lost, make a note. If they set an appointment, note it on the clipboard. If they’re not home, hang one of the big bills on their door and make a note. Since there are only fifty to 300 names on the list, they’ll be able to manage the clipboard pretty easily. Once they’ve knocked on every door on the list, they can turn around and start back at the top of the list and knock the doors of those who didn’t answer the first time again. I recommend you do this three or four times—at different times of the day and week—until you’ve reached over 50% of the people face to face.

But to make this work, you’ve got to find that one right person. I recommend somebody young and eager to make money. Pay them a wage based on number of doors knocked (some types of lists will take longer to reach than others if driving is required)… and on appointments set and sales made. Make sure they are tied into the success of the lead. You can find this person still in high school, in college, or just after college. If you get stuck, call your local Mormon Church and ask them if they know any recently returned missionaries (these guys have just spent two years getting really, really good at door knocking).

All of this requires some foresight and hard work, of course. But that means that your competitors probably won’t be doing it any time soon. But you will find that you will set tons of leads with qualified buyers… and you will convert these leads at higher-than-average ratios and margins.

So here’s the Micro-Canvassing challenge: So here’s the Micro-Canvassing challenge: I’d like to find three companies willing to implement this method into their contractor marketing efforts. All you have to do is contact me at, subject line: Micro-Canvassing. Tell me you’d like to participate, and be ready and willing to spend the following money:

  • $1,000 to develop all the needed materials for you.
  • Whatever it costs to actually send the mailers.
  • Whatever it costs to find and pay your micro-canvasser.

If that’s you, then I’ll create the materials you need (mailers, big bill, scripting) for the $1,000—and in exchange, you’ll actually run the program exactly the way I tell you to do it. Then I’ll report what happens on a future blog. That’s it. The first three qualified responses I get will be the companies I work with, no exceptions.

Remember, the first three only!!

Talk to you soon!

© 2014 – 2016, Rich Harshaw. All rights reserved.

  1. We currently use radius mailers and have had very good success. We send out 500 to 1000
    Mailers , staggered by product , call to action, and time We then load list into 5-9 predictive dialer and start calling. It’s a constant lead source.
    I connected ms with 5-9 and we are attempting to work the bugs out so each interface works efficiently. Any assistance with this would be much appreciated. The phone software I believe is the final piece of the puzzle for MS to be the most powerful marketing CRM in the marketplace. Please contact me at 864-735-5052.
    Richard Logan

  2. Have a plumbing business. We have no marketing plan for the business. How can you help and how much.

  3. Robert Broome

    I’m not sure that these methods are right for lower ticket home improvements. Sending 5 postcards to random prospects would result in a very high lead cost unless you have a ridiculously high response rate. Let’s say that I have 30 new installs in March. In April, I want to send a postcard to 100 of their neighbors. That’s 3k mail pieces. 5 touches each and we are at 15k post cards sent. I’m wondering what a typical response rate would be. I’d say that 2% would be considered very strong. The math just doesn’t work for me because my typical lead cost is much lower than this is projecting. Might be great for roofers, siding guys or remodelers with tickets of $5k plus.

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