Is handing out leaflets a waste of time and paper?

Is handing out leaflets a waste of time and paper?

Last week I published a blog about a Pilates teacher who stood out on the street handing out leaflets. I admit to posting about it on LinkedIn without much background to entice people to make a snap judgment and say that it was an outright bad idea. Most didn’t. (Curses! An evil plot foiled again…)

The Pilates teacher in question, didn’t know whether it was the right thing to do or not, so I thought I would do a quick and dirty return on investment calculation.

What I like about this example is that it seems so cut and dry. Someone spending hours hanging around randomly giving out leaflets? Shelling out money on designing and printing leaflets in the first place? Surely social media is cheaper and saves trees! Let us delve in…

Investment in the activity

The Pilates teacher stands outside handing out leaflets for 8 hours.

She charges £40 an hour for one-on-one Pilates sessions.

8 x £40= opportunity cost of £320 for her time

Let’s say the leaflets were self-designed and cost £50 to print.

Total cost of activity: £320 + £50 = £370

Return on the investment

Scenario 1

It is generally assumed that door dropping leaflets gets a response rate of 1%. If the Pilates teacher managed to give out 100 flyers in that 8 hours (that’s 13 an hour), and one person signs up to a course of 6 Pilates sessions, that would bring in £240. A shortfall of £130. Yuck.

Scenario 2

The Pilates teacher turns out to be an intelligent and charismatic individual and she had positioned herself in an area with lots of people in her target audience; affluent 30-50 year olds who are interested in keeping healthy. She isn’t handing the leaflets out randomly, she is targeting people who look like they might be interested in Pilates. She approaches people, she talks to them. They get a feel of what she’d be like as a teacher and she gets to explain the benefits of her brand of Pilates. They take a leaflet home. They keep the leaflet. They stick it on their fridge with their kids’ drawings. They procrastinate. Then they see a piece in the local paper about her or hear a friend say that they’ve had an amazing session with her and boom, they want to book a session. Now to find her contact details… oh yes, it’s stuck to the fridge!

In this case, it is reasonable to assume that fewer leaflets had been given out but the conversion rate would be much higher.

Let’s assume she gave out 50 flyers that day, and 3 people ended up booking 6 one-on-one sessions, that’s £720 of income, £350 profit after costs. Nearly a 100% return on investment.  Some of the people who received the leaflet may end up being customers for years and referring friends to her. Obviously, she wouldn’t want to carry out this activity everyday, or she wouldn’t have time to do her actual work, but as an occasional boost, perhaps at local events and festivals, it appears that it is a worthwhile part of her marketing toolkit.

Ok, I’ve been a bit naughty embellishing the second scenario, but I do it to show the value of the personal touch. It provides extra, relevant information to the customers. The leafleting has turned into a personal selling activity. The flyer lives on in the recipient’s house and acts as ‘physical evidence’ of the Pilates teacher’s company. Equivalent exposure and engagement on social media could take months of diligent effort to build up if the Pilates teacher didn’t yet have a presence on any of the main platforms.

As for saving the trees, she used recycled paper and her flyers were compostable. So there.
Note: I mentioned in last week’s blog that you do need permission from your local council if you’re thinking of leafleting outdoors, click here for more info.