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Is leaflet marketing effective?

That’s the question a guy on one of my favorite marketing forums asked recently.

The conversation that followed was chock full of marketing lessons

Responses ranged from rude to right-on.

This response is rude: “Leaflets are good for starting fires in my wood stove.”

That’s not helpful. And it’s misleading.

This response is right-on: “Are posters effective? Are billboards effective? Is radio effective? No one can answer without any context. What are you marketing? Where? What’s the goal? Sales? Leads? Awareness? All marketing channels are effective for the right thing. You need to be asking ‘What marketing strategy works best for my situation?’”

Then another person weighed in with a specific situation: “At our university we posted flyers around campus with tear off coupons. This was for a nearby restaurant and we tracked a decent ROI for them.”

That’s good stuff, loaded with context.

Back to the crash course. What are the lessons?

As I’ve written in this column before, marketing is a three-legged stool: target market, message and media (delivery method).

Leafleting is just another delivery method, another medium.

Asking whether leaflet marketing is effective is like asking, “Is charcoal grilling effective?”

Not if you’re making some oatmeal (wrong method for that content). Not if you’re cooking for my Aunt Sarah (she hates grilled food; don’t ask me why).

But if you’re cooking a steak or chicken or corn-on-the-cob for my family and me, grilling is a very effective cooking/delivery method.

Put yourself in the shoes of the person who owns that restaurant near that college campus.

Who’s your target audience? College students who don’t want to drive long distances for a good meal.

What’s the message? Good food, nearby...and cheap (coupon attached).

What’s a good way to deliver that message to that market? How about leaflets?

Sounds like a reasonable idea, more reasonable than it sounded when I asked whether leaflets work (with no context).

But how do I know it will work? Count how many coupons land in the restaurant. Then you can measure return on investment (ROI).

Identify your target audience. Consider where they reside. Develop compelling content, with a clear call-to-action. Give yourself a way to measure response. Deliver it via a medium that fits the context.

That’s a formula that works for any small business marketer and can apply to any potential medium.

Before you declare that such-and-such medium is good for nothing except the wood stove, before you declare that so-and-so medium is the greatest thing since sliced bread, consider the context. Consider your target market. Consider your message. Then choose (and test) various delivery methods.

This post first appeared in St. Louis Small Business Monthly

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