The pros and cons of printing: Do you really need a leaflet?

One of the most common requests we get at Matchstick is to design a leaflet or flyer. Somehow, over the years, businesses have come to assume that having a suite of printed marketing materials is a necessity and SMEs have stopped asking themselves what benefits these brochures, leaflets and flyers really offer to their bottom line.

As part of a professional service, it’s our job to question our clients to find out if print is perfect for them, or if there are alternatives which would work better or as well for their business. So, how can you work out what the options are for your business?

Know your audience

If you know who you are trying to communicate with, you’ll be able to identify the best ways to reach them. If it’s a business to consumer company, generate a profile of the type of person, or people, you are trying to engage with.

Consider age, sex, geographical location, demographic status, buying habits and the types of media, marketing material and people that influence them. Engaging with an 18 year old woman is going to need a different approach to a 50-something year old man. They will make their purchasing decisions in different ways, using different information sources – so narrow down what will work for your target audience.

If you’re marketing to other businesses, then identify sectors, job roles/positions, industry norms and the practicalities of operating in the target sector. In the property sector for example, a luxurious printed brochure might be a basic expectation, but in the IT sector digital may be the only effective way to communicate.

Consider what you’re trying to achieve

Once you know your audience, you need to consider the specific objectives of your marketing campaign. Is it a re-branding exercise? Or maybe a specific project? Take the example of raising awareness of an event with the objective of getting people to the local (consumer) event. The traditional method of a leaflet drop in local footfall hotspots, and a few cleverly placed posters, is often the staple choice but is that really the most effective way of spreading the word?

The success of the leaflets and posters relies on consumers taking the predicted route and stopping at the shop/business centre/visitor attraction where you have left your event leaflets. If the leaflet drop has gone door to door, it requires the resident to notice – and read – a flyer on their door mat, which will often be hidden amongst numerous envelopes and other direct marketing mail. This approach, therefore, might not always be as successful as you had hoped. Add to this the proven low response rate to leaflet drops, (often around 3 per cent enquiry and 1 per cent conversion rates), plus the cost of the print, and the whole exercise can prove quite pricey.

Interact with your prospects: Adding a digital dimension

Sharing a message via your marketing materials is a very one-sided approach. If you are able to engage your target audience and encourage them to interact with you, then not only will they be far more likely to remember you, but you will also have the opportunity to communicate your values and brand though this interaction.

Keeping with the event example, posting one of those leaflets as a digital image on your social media page and asking people to share it, may have a much more successful reach. It enables people to interact with you, ask questions and make comments and suggestions, all of which will help to raise the profile of the event and your company.

And what about during the event? Social media allows you to promote the event in real-time – while it is happening. You can encourage others to post their experiences and pictures and, then following the event, you can re-live the experience and even ask people to sign up for next year’s event, ensuring you capture potential business.

Bearing in mind that social media is usually free, then it is hard to see why you wouldn’t use it either as the sole driver of any campaign, or to support one. You should always remember though, as with any other route to market, it will only be successful if it is appropriate for your target audience. There’s no point Tweeting about something if none (or very few) of your prospects are on Twitter to receive it!

Pick print – if it works

It might sound from the above that I’m anti-print, but I’m not. Personally I love print. I love the fact you can hold it in your hand, have it on your desk and keep picking it up as and when you like. I like the quality of images, the ability to read text in a traditional way, rather than it being so small you have to zoom in and scroll around the page in order to read it.

Print still has a place and plays an important role in the whole marketing mix. Remember not everyone uses social media, not everyone goes online to look for events. A clever design and targeted delivery can still give you good results.

And if you’re at your event, people are likely to want to take something away with them. Who doesn’t love a carrier bag full of promotional goodies or balloons? It creates visual impact and a personal touch that can be lacking with digital methods.

Business cards, brochures, postcards detailing special offers or money off vouchers – and if you’ve got banner stands, those are considered print too.

With the popularity of digital media, print often takes a back seat but it still has its place and a cleverly thought through campaign delivered to a targeted audience really can make an impact.

Image: printing via Shutterstock