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What Makes a Successful Leaflet Distribution Campaign?
Every day, I assist a wide range of business owners, marketing managers and advertising planners to devise successful leaflet distribution campaigns. Over the past ten years, I have helped to develop, project manage and deliver literally thousands of leafleting campaigns. A large part of my job role as MD of Link Communication is to work with the client, finding out a little about their aims and objectives, educate them to the possibilities and identify the best strategy which will generate results for each business which we work with.
Half of the time, our clients come to us with a vague end goal of what they want to achieve and who they want to reach. We then offer up a bespoke solution to tap into their target audience in the most cost efficient way. Conversely, some of our newer clients come to us with a very set idea of what they want to do, which at times does not match either their target audience or product offering. When this happens, I listen to their rationale fully and offer up some ideas on how it might be done differently. It’s amazing how frequently I get experienced marketing managers to fully re-consider their preconceived ideas about leaflet distribution, by educating them on the possibilities of how it can and should be done.
This article is a whistle stop tour of the key factors you should consider before you finalise your leaflet distribution activity.
1. Leaflet Distribution Method
The first consideration I always try to determine is what type of leaflet distribution is going to yield the highest results. There are two main methods which I will review in this article; door to door and hand to hand.
1.1 Door to Door Leaflet Distribution
Door to door leaflet distribution is one of the most popular methods of delivery. So many of our customers have only ever considered door to door leafleting before they speak to us. For some businesses which rely on residential houses within a designated area (e.g: take-aways), this is a valid method if done correctly, but for almost all other businesses, there are far more targeted, higher impact methods which can be executed for a similar budget which I will review later in this article.
If you are geographically bound by targeting residential accommodation and are planning a door to door leafleting campaign, the first question you need to answer is shared or solus distribution? Shared means your leaflet is delivered at the same time as a number of others, solus means your leaflet is delivered by itself. In terms of impact and measuring results, solus will generally generate a multiple of about ten to one in comparison with the cheaper shared distribution.
As such, I would recommend that you should only ever consider solus distribution, even if you are working with minuscule budgets. Shared door to door leaflet distribution is a false economy, as the campaign impact is reduced by a multiple of how many other pieces of print are received by the potential customer at the same time. News share goes one worse than shared leaflet distribution, as it hides the leaflet inside a copy of a free newspaper; an item in itself which is already regarded as junk mail. The leaflet does not even get an airing until the small percentage of customers who actually manage to receive the paper, then bother to read it, then actually find the page where it is hiding, then find it to be the most interesting thing on the page amongst all of the local news articles, before it even has the first glimpse of opportunity of being absorbed as a piece of promotional collateral by the recipient, who given the random nature of the paper’s distribution is most likely to be completely inappropriate for the products or services being offered! Cheap it maybe, but throwing your money straight into a bin is cheaper still.
So how much should you pay for solus door to door distribution? As little as possible seems like it should be the obvious answer, until that if you take a look at the math. Those of you who have attempted to take any of the leg work on yourselves will know that to properly deliver one thousand leaflets into an average suburban residential housing area, it takes a full day of about eight hours. When you do the math, that works out to be one house every 30 seconds. So you need to ask yourself, if I am being charged just £30 per thousand for solus distribution, does that mean that some diligent, reliable hard working person is undertaking all of the hard work, for just £3.75 per hour!? While an amazing amount of customers kid themselves into thinking they have found a real bargain, the actual reality is not as pretty. Like anything in life, you get what you pay for. It will generally mean that you are only getting a small proportion of your print delivered. If you are not paying for an appropriate amount of man hours, location mapping, team management, print logistics and activity reporting, the chances are, you are not going to get it! Again, if saving money is what you are after, it is cheaper to either throw your money straight into the bin, or just not to do anything at all!
Costs do vary massively from company to company, so do shop around looking not only for fair price which allows the distribution company to do a proper job, but for a professional approach, which offers proper team management, activity reporting, full accountability and flexibility in terms of targeting. If the above hasn’t scared you off door to door completely and you are going to run a door to door campaign you should give yourself the best possible opportunity to make it pay, by finding a distribution company who are able to map the areas to identify the most suitable locations in terms of average income levels, age ranges, ethnicity or even housing type (terraces, semis, detached, with or without gardens, driveways or whatever else is relevant for what you do).
It’s amazing how many customers come to us after being burnt by the temptation of finding the very cheapest option but have come away very dissatisfied. Expect to pay anything between £50 to £79 per thousand and upwards, depending on the volume, the size and format of your print material for a decent job to be done.
1.2 Hand to Hand Leaflet Distribution
Hand to hand leaflet distribution allows you to select the exact activity locations which have the highest yield of your target audience, the most opportune timing for the leaflet delivery and a well presented introduction to the nature of the promotion. As such, distributing your print material directly into the hands of your customer is generally the most targeted method of delivery which will produce the greatest results for the majority of businesses, products or services; so is often the method of leaflet distribution I will generally ask you to consider first.
Hand to hand leaflet distribution has a range of advantages over door to door, which you should consider before finalising your distribution plans:
1.2.1 Location Selection
The locations for your leaflet distribution can be matched to suit your target audience. In simple terms, you do not have to wait for them to come to you, but you can deploy leafleting teams wherever is going to be most beneficial for who you are trying to reach. You can target professionals in busy office area walkways, outside commuter stations during rush hours or at lunch times. Shoppers can be reached on the high streets or close to the stores which attract similar customer base as the one you are trying to reach. Students on their university campuses, drinkers in city centre pubs, theatre goers outside of the theatres, football fans outside of their local stadiums on match days, etc, etc. If you can identify who your target demographic approximately is, you should be able to identify a number of leaflet distribution locations which will benefit you the most.
The extent of your coverage is then only really limited by your budgets and the extent of your service delivery. Most cities are able to offer a similar mix of targeted locations, from train stations, office areas, high streets, universities, sports grounds, concert halls, ethnic suburbs, farmers markets, etc – so your distribution can be carried out simultaneously in multiple cities at the same time multiplying your potential audience reach proportionately.
1.2.2 Activity Timing
Unlike most door to door campaigns, the timing of your hand to hand leafleting can be precisely timed to maximise impact. If you are handing out a leaflet for a new office area eatery, you should be reaching potential customers on their way into work, or before they make their purchases during lunch times. If you are promoting a high street fashion store, you might reach customers while they are already in the city centre, browsing for clothes on a busy weekend.
For lower price tag or impulse buy items this can have a massive impact on the take up of your campaigns, by negating the need for the potential customer to have made a premeditated decision or to take the leaflet with them. For some higher value items or you might consider giving it to recipients before they get on a train, or as they make their way home from work so it is taken back home for a lengthier review.
2. Customer Incentivisation
Potential customers are exposed to hundreds of adverts across a wide array of media every day. Leaflets have a slight advantage over most other types of media as they are tangible. You can hold it, read it, absorb the information and put it either in the bin, or keep it in your pocket for when you need it. The chances of a potential customer putting it in their pocket and keeping it for when they actually do need it are multiplied massively if they have an incentivised reason to do so, such as a voucher.
Adding a voucher suddenly transforms a simple piece of paper into a potentially valuable piece of paper! If the recipient who has been reached does not have an immediate and active need for the products and services being offered, then a proportion of the print will not make it beyond the first available bin. A voucher should make a potential customer think that the leaflet might come in handy in the future and that they have a financially worthwhile reason to keep the leaflet, until it is needed. Please note that offering a £5 discount when spending £1,000 does not do this! That said, a voucher doesn’t have to directly cost you a large proportion of your profit margin. You need to identify the range of low cost offerings you can provide which sound very generous to the customer, but are actually very low cost for yourself.
An additional free bonus for yourself when providing a voucher is that it provides you with an accurate measurement mechanic to gauge the success of your campaign. You can count up the amount of vouchers which have been redeemed through each of the distribution locations and methods to see what works best for you, which should help refine your strategy for future leaflet distribution campaigns. Our most regular customers are the ones who know that the leafleting campaign that cost £5,000 last month has actually generated a total of £100,000 worth of business!
3. Print Design
I recommend a general two second rule, that if your potential customers are not interested in your leaflet within the first two seconds of looking at it, the chances are it will end up in the bin. Ask yourself, roughly how many poorly designed leaflets from all types of businesses have you taken one glance at before throwing it straight in the bin!?
I would suggest that take-away menus are often amongst the worst designed types of marketing material which are distributed. Most fall into the trap of being made as cheaply as possible, without any consideration for company individuality, eye catching design or attractive headline offers. In an extremely crowded, competitive market place this means that the majority of actually what makes it into potential customers’ hands is just wasted.
When I pick a restaurant or a take-away, I must have complete confidence in the quality of ingredients, the authenticity of the cooking and ability of the chefs. If the print fails to do this in the first few seconds, I am unlikely to become a customer. Similarly, when customers pick any product or service from any industry, they need to be persuaded to become your customer.
An eye catching headline which informs the recipient of why they should become a customer is a good starting point. This should be followed by some summary info detailing why they should buy from you. What makes you so good at what you do? Convince me; and do it quickly, before I get bored of reading it!
4. Staff Uniforms
“First impressions count” is a very well known expression because it is so true. Credibility is critical, and a low cost branded uniform can make a massive difference to the acceptance rates of both your print material and the success of your overall promotion. This is especially true if your target audience can be found in busy high footfall locations such as outside of train stations, on high streets, sport stadiums, or anywhere where stand out and impact is important.
A smart jacket with full colour logos can be made from as little as £25, and a T shirt (suitable for warmer times of year) can be half that cost. If you can allow yourself to get a little creative, you can also think about themeing the uniforms to match in with your product offering. Fancy dress costumes can be hired at very low cost locally, or even added to with banded garments, both of which provide real stand out and often extend the opportunity for customer dialogue by breaking down any barriers and making the leafleting activity light hearted and fun.
5. Legal Requirements
Since the introduction of the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act in 2006, you run the risk of receiving fines upwards for £1,500 for leafleting without the appropriate permits in most major cities across the UK. Permits can be purchased in advance, but will can cost anywhere from £50 each to over £250 per permit (depending on which city) and you’ll need one for each member of staff in every location! The more professional leaflet distribution companies will advise you of which locations you will need them for and will already own them for their leaflet distribution teams.
Part of the reasoning behind the permit schemes is to ensure that leafleting doesn’t result in littering. This is best achieved by following the guidance above; pick your target audience, match in your activity locations, design your print well, add in an incentivised offer, present the print well using high calibre promotion teams in branded uniforms – and straight away, you’ll find that you won’t generally have any litter! For the little that may still occur, it is absolutely essential that the leafleting teams are constantly on top of it, taking it as their responsibility to pick up any dropped leaflets within a few hundred meters of where they have been working. Failure to do so results in your brand being trodden on by passers-by and the possibility of heavy fines. Make sure the company you chose to distribute your leaflets have a policy in place to ensure this does not happen and that it is properly enforced.
Some businesses think that if you don’t have big marketing budgets, you just have to make do with second rate leaflet distribution being done as cheaply as possible. I would suggest that if you are starting small, it is more important than ever to give yourself the best possible opportunity in order to grow. Similarly, when you are working with larger budgets, there is far more financially at stake if it is not done correctly. In either situation, it is absolutely vital that leaflet distribution is planned intelligently and executed effectively, or you might as well not do it at all. With all of the above taken into account, your leaflet distribution campaigns can and should be a very powerful marketing tool, which can be utilised by almost any type of business.
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