You may have seen this term used in conjunction with political campaigns, and in fact that’s one of the most common reasons to employ canvassing. However, this technique can also be used effectively for guerrilla marketing.
What is it?
Canvassing refers to advertising that reaches out to a group of target consumers, usually in the same geographic location, on an individual level. A simple example of a canvassing campaign would be a new pizza place sending its employees out with stacks of flyers, to be left on or under as many doors in their delivery area as possible.
Other canvassing techniques include:
- Door to door introductions (think Jehovah’s Witness here).
- Parking lot flyer distribution.
- Sidewalk or mall sampling.
- Telephone campaigns.
How do you do it?
Though there is some monetary expense involved in most canvassing campaigns (usually to print the materials you plan to distribute), this type of marketing can be both inexpensive and effective. There are three stages to a successful canvassing campaign: planning, preparation, and distribution.
Planning: This, of course, is the most important. You have to plan the materials themselves, and you also have to determine the distribution area or method that will be most effective for you and your business.
For a local business, you will of course be interested in canvassing locally. You can distribute flyers door to door (be sure to check your area laws before you start passing out material this way), hang them on community bulletin boards or telephone poles (again, check with local ordinances here), or plan an area mailing campaign.
You can also make arrangements with other local businesses to hand out your materials (flyers, business cards, brochures, and bookmarks, to name a few) in exchange for advertising for them. If you have materials available, be sure to stay alert in regards to community events that may attract your target market.
If your business is primarily online, your canvassing area will consist of websites and forums your target customers frequent, as well as individual e-mails. Be sure to do your research and have a list of these places, along with the methods you can use to attract interest there (banner ads, forum memberships, guest blogging, articles, newsletters, and the like).
When planning your materials, make sure you spend some time getting them as attractive and interesting as possible. Comb your wording for spelling and grammatical errors — not only can these make for a bad first impression to customers, but they can also end up with some unintended consequences. As an extreme example, imagine what would happen if the Motel Six chain missed a typo, and launched an advertising campaign for Motel Sex!
Your mistakes may not be as outrageous, but if you make a mistake in your advertising materials, your customers will be more likely to remember you for your mistakes than the quality of your products or services.
Also, make sure your material is exciting and compelling. Remember your USP? Take the aspect of your business that sets it apart from your competitors and emphasize it in your marketing copy. If you can come up with a catchy phrase or slogan, a recognizable icon, or a fun play on words that describes your business, this short and sweet message can go a long way on your materials.
Preparation: Once you’ve decided on your materials, you have to create them. If you are sending out a small batch of flyers, business cards, or brochures, you may be able to make them yourself with a high-quality printer. A commercial printer is usually more economical for larger quantities. Places like Staples and Kinko’s have become more affordable than ever, and there are several competitive online companies like VistaPrint.com to choose from as well.
You will need to supply the printer with a file to print from. With the proliferation of desktop publishing software, you will likely be able to design the materials yourself. However, be sure to invest a lot of time and make it a professional presentation. If you don’t feel confident in creating great-looking and sounding promotional material, you may want to consider hiring a freelance designer or copywriter — you’ll pay a one-time price for material you can use over and over.
Distribution: This refers to actually getting the material to your customers. You can distribute flyers yourself, or enlist volunteers to help. Volunteers, partners, or anyone who’s willing to spend some time helping you promote may be willing to stand in high-traffic areas like malls or transportation terminals and hand out your material.
You may be mailing out your materials, in which case your distribution involves a trip to the post office. If you’re partnering with another local business, you’ll simply have to drop off a stack of materials with them.
If you plan an online canvassing campaign, it’s a good idea to try and coordinate the various venues and have them hit within the same time frame. Multiple banners, ads, articles, forum posts, blog entries, and e-mails that reach your target audience more than once will help to reinforce your business in their minds, and help them remember you the next time they need your product or service.
- Canvassing is any marketing method that reaches multiple consumers on an individual basis
- There are many forms of canvassing, including flyer and brochure distribution, sampling, telephone or door-to-door marketing, and online campaigns
- Canvassing is most effective when you have researched your target market demographic and can access a number of them in the same area
- Other businesses make excellent canvassing partners, since you can reach all of their customers without much effort
- Canvassing relies on a strong message and well-written material to achieve results
- Distribution, the final step of canvassing, can take place in person, online, or through a third party