A Career of Canvassing | Knock Knock Who’s There?

You hear a knock on the door. You choose to either answer it or ignore it. If you ignore it, life goes on as per normal. If you answer it, you are in for a surprise.

A man or woman knocks on a door. It is one of the many doors he or she has knocked on today. He wonders if the person on the other side will answer. He wonders if the household will let him in. It is not an easy life–to knock on doors that may never be answered.

But once someone opens that door, a new beginning awaits.

Social media has promised us that it can put the whole marketing world at our literal fingertips. They try to convince us that just a few clicks can put your campaign in front of the eyes of a highly targeted audience. But if you ask me, that’s no different to putting a flyer in a mailbox. Who in the world looks at those?

No matter how clever and colourful the campaign, even the most carefully crafted messages are failing to bring the expected results because of… indifference. It is not so much that the things that worked well in the past no longer work. It is that we have only replaced one form of technology with a more ‘advanced’ one.

My very first door-to-door job was as a field researcher for the government. I was not selling anything. No, seriously, I really wasn’t. I wasn’t even trying to get votes. The job required me to get one participant from every X number of households to fill out a confidential survey regarding a study that was going on at the time. I had a badge and I looked perfectly respectable even though I was not wearing a suit. The data collected from this study would go on to form government policy regarding what was, and what continues to be, a very important and ongoing social issue and problem.

But the door was still shut in my face. Why? I wasn’t asking for money. I wasn’t even asking for a cup of tea. In fact, I was giving them a say regarding the future of their children and grandchildren. And yet, people slammed the door in my face… and that was if they even opened it.

Knocking on doors is a really old-school way of getting things done. Door to door begins with prospecting not the individual, but the neighbourhood. Each field researcher on my team was assigned a particular neighbourhood and our pathways did not overlap. Over time, you get to know the neighbourhood, what the houses look like, the general demographic of the area and what their hobbies are. You also get to find out whether they’re a cat or dog person. Familiarising yourself with the neighbourhood is essentially a good start because you have to have new information coming in to grow. This is a crucial part of the door-knocking process.

Once you’ve gotten to know the neighbourhood, you start getting to know the people who are living there. You can begin by observing them from afar like a tiger or you can get started with your knocking straight away. Either way, you’ll have to learn if you want to live.

And then you knock, knock. Someone answers and says, “Who’s there?”

You begin by explaining who you are, who you represent and you gauge whether or not they’re interested in participating. You will meet some people who are highly enthusiastic and you will meet people who are… indifferent. You will also meet people who are downright rude. Regardless of the personality of the individual that one encounters–some will want to transact with you and some won’t. It has nothing to do with manners. Some people will have the decency to politely show you the door. Better than bad manners, I say, but either way, the outcome is the same–they don’t want to transact with you. I have never judged whether or not someone wants to transact with me based on their manners. That has nothing to do with anything.

In the study I was referring to, the main reasons for the door getting shut in my face was: people didn’t care about the study and wouldn’t care no matter what I said simply because they didn’t feel it had anything to do with them. They just didn’t feel compelled to take the time out to answer the survey. There was no sense of urgency. There was no sense that this was something important. And sometimes, even if they were interested, they were not the decision-maker. They would have to ask someone if they could participate.

In the instance where one does get an ‘in’, I would explain the purpose of the study and how it would benefit society in both the short and long term. For a prospect to translate into a response, I had to communicate what a wonderful opportunity it was for them to get their voices heard. I also had to guarantee that their responses would remain confidential.

Once they were agreeable, I would leave the survey with them and let them know that I would be back to collect their responses on a certain date and time. Sometimes, they wouldn’t answer the second time around. I would leave a notice. Sometimes, they would respond after a reminder and sometimes they wouldn’t.

Maybe they thought the survey was too long. Maybe they were interrupted while they were completing it. And maybe they grew indifferent to it.

Either way, if I had never knocked, their lives would have gone on as per normal and we would never have met.

As for me, even if they did or didn’t answer–they would be yet another door. And yet another knock.

Knock, knock, who’s there, you wonder.


Destiny who?

Destiny’s child.


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