Canvassing may well become one of the better marketing methods for companies large and small in this decade. Yet, modern canvassing bears little relation to the canvassing programs of two decades ago, or perhaps even to those of three years ago. Canvassing is a challenge, and requires that you think about the kind of people you hire, how they'll be supervised, and when and where to canvass. You also need to devise a system of goals and quotas, as well as set compensation that's motivating yet structured for control.

First off, get someone with specific skills in hiring, training, and supervising to manage your canvassing crews. Make it the crew's responsibility to fulfill your goals (number of leads) and the supervisor's responsibility to see that the goals are met.

Research we've conducted indicates that the people who work best in the canvasser role are college students who fit a designated behavior profile. They should work 18 to 20 hours a week, yet put in less than a thousand hours per year. (Note: The best hours for canvassing are between 3:30 and 7:30 p.m. daily and, for those who work Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.)

BENCHMARKS When all components of a good canvassing program are in place, the average canvasser develops 10 leads per week, with the goal of an 80% confirmation rate, a 70% sit rate, a minimum 33% closing rate, and a 70% retention rate, which in turn produces volume sufficient to compensate for the total cost of a supervisor and earnings high enough to attract the best people. Executed properly, the program will support canvassers who earn $400 to $450 for a 20-hour week, a supervisor who can earn $45,000-plus annually, and the cost of a company van.

When all components are in place, the fully-loaded marketing costs of the canvassing program will be 10% or less. Obviously, situations such as pre-canvass marketing (door hangers) or brand recognition through various types of advertising would work to strengthen the canvass program. —Dave Yoho ( is president of the oldest and largest consulting group serving the home improvement industry. His newest book, Have A Great Year Every Year, is available in bookstores or by calling his office at 703.591.2490.