Do leaflet drops still work?

There was a time, about 10 years ago, when small businesses used leaflets as one of their primary marketing tools.  Leaflets would fall out of local newspapers and magazines.  Leaflets would be given out in the street and pushed through letterboxes.  Leafleting worked for businesses selling to the public, so-called B2C marketing.

Leafleting has also helped salespeople to get their foot into companies of all sizes.  It was simple, relatively cheap and reasonably effective as a marketing tool.

After that came a groundswell against “junk mail” and the use of leaflets by suppliers dropped significantly.  There were some stalwarts who continued to put their leaflets inside newspapers and magazines, so leafleting never went away completely.  Its effectiveness diminished as recipients simply threw leaflets away without a second glance.

Leafleting can, once again, be an effective marketing tool for small businesses, provided it is executed professionally.  Leaflets falling out of newspapers are still likely to be summarily dispatched to the waste bin but those delivered singly will get glanced at.  This means you have one or two seconds to capture the person’s attention.

There are five steps to follow to give your leaflet the best chance of remaining outside the waste bin.

  1. It should state your line of business clearly.  People need to know what you do and what you offer so if it is not relevant to their situation, they can throw away your leaflet and get on with their lives.  Request they give the leaflet to someone else they know who might find your products/services of interest.
  2. It should provide an offer that can only be redeemed by showing or quoting a code printed on the leaflet.  The offer should be attractive enough to keep the leaflet out of the waste bin.  It is always worth having an expiry date on your offer to avoid someone using a very old leaflet.  Add a statement confirming it can only be used once.
  3. It should contain a number of (positive) testimonials from your existing clients to demonstrate you deliver what you promise and have done so a number of times in the past.
  4. It should contain a “call to action” that will not put people off.  I like to see a suggestion for readers to “visit our website” – this is low key and non-threatening.  Avoid a call to action that puts the reader on the spot, such as “phone now to arrange an appointment” or “phone to speak to one of our advisors”.  These will frighten off embryonic prospects.
  5. Make sure your leaflet has your full contact details so people can research your company and make contact with you when they are ready.  If you provide just your mobile phone number, it will be treated suspiciously and nobody will respond.

If you leaflet drop to houses, just do that – don’t be tempted to ring the doorbell and pitch your product/service to whoever answers the door.  When you leaflet drop to other companies, ask the receptionist to pass it onto the correct person (you could also leave a business card).

Under no circumstances start trying to persuade the receptionist to contact the relevant buyer in order to hold an impromptu meeting.  Some may offer, but I think you are best to refuse this opportunity to meet – the prospect won’t be properly prepared and may think it was your suggestion that the Receptionist check on their availability for an immediate meeting.

Rushing to meet the prospect won’t bring you a sale any quicker and it might blow your chances completely.  Hand over your leaflet and business card, let the prospect review your website and when the time is right for them, they will get back in touch.

Of course, nothing will happen if they have no need for your product/service or if your leaflet and website fail to communicate the benefits of buying from you.  It is essential that your website contains sufficient material to answer all the basic questions the prospect might have about your company and its products/services.


  1. If your business lends itself to leafleting, consider creating a trial campaign to validate its effectiveness.  Keep accurate records of both costs and results so a decision can be made regarding follow on campaigns.
  2. Continue with your “normal” marketing activities so you can compare the effectiveness of leafleting against your traditional marketing.
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