Wait, What? … You’re going door-to-door?

We hear or feel this every time we describe our data collection effort, Harvester.

So yeah, that’s right, we’re running this old-school.

There’s a huge Data Divide in SE Asia. We’re solving a BIG problem, creating something foundational. That means doing tough, intensive work.

“Growth-hacks” and improvements on existing technology are all fine and fun, but it requires that something to exist. What if you need to create that something from scratch?

Recruiting Harvesters, pounding pavement.

It’s time to take it to the streets.

We are manually collecting data.

We might have a slick, dedicated mobile app instead of clipboards , but the pavement is being pounded just the same.

Yes, the old-fashioned way: business-to-business, shop-to-shop, door-to-door. People talking to people, walking the streets, in-person.

There’s a strong reason to believe in this method. It goes back to my career before “startups” and technology.

Most associate an endless curiosity, risk-taking, thicker skin, and wanderlust with the frantic juggling of the startup scene. Trust me, the world of politics and political campaigns is no less weird or demanding. Campaigns are spun up overnight, launched, messages continuously tested and iterated, and then shut-down or converted when the election hits. It’s like a startup with a set expiration date, and some pre-vetted tactics.

Dream job: Running outreach for the man himself in 1960. Image credit: JFK Library

When you run a field campaign, there are known realities you have to face. As I remember, communication and effectiveness in outreach were ranked like this:

  1. Door-to-door canvassing — high quality, effective, honest responses from in-person surveys
  2. Phones — a distant 2nd (telemarketing sucks, whether selling a product or a person’s policies)
  3. Literature drops — annoying flyers stuck in your door, handed to unsuspecting yard workers and porch residents
  4. Direct Mail — some people still look at their mail
  5. Email — straight to the spam folder

Does this sound much different than the typical engagement results seen from marketing and sales efforts in the tech world?

The further you get from the human connection to the customer or user, the less they care.

The highest conversion rates, the top quality marketing and user experience, the best communication- they happen when you invest in the most direct methods. As a team, we’ve adapted this approach to ensure the highest-quality information for our users, build a new foundation for the region, and learn loads in the process.

People worry about scalability. I get it.

You know what’s not scalable? Shoddy, weak data/content/product and frustrated end users.

Want to run lean? Learn as much as you can, as fast as you can? Spend an afternoon on the streets, in the trenches. Not at an industry trade show or a “startup” event — you need to take it to the streets, to the users, to the customers.

Imagine creating a UX based on the rawest data and feedback available. Whatever you “have to” get done in the office can be scheduled around this regular outreach. No matter how many collectors we bring onboard, I will make this a regular, personal, ongoing process — listening, observing, directly engaging, analyzing, generating pages of notes in-between the stops. We can maintain that elusive human connection in our tech with this knowledge.

You see the pain and opinions for yourself, forcing you to solve them on the fly, under pressure. You understand your team deeply, the struggle of the frontline efforts, the true grind.

It can be inspiring. It can be disheartening. Either way, it’s real and it works. You will learn, adapt, and find a better way.

Living in or traveling to SE Asia? How about Bangkok? We want to help you fulfill your intentions, find what you need. Check us out on the App Store, and look for our web and Android versions coming soon.